If you are into fantasy baseball, then you’ll know exactly where my head is at. Draft season is upon us. As far the off-season goes, my fantasy draft is symbolically the final hurdle before we get back to baseball, Cardinals baseball, on Opening Day. But as a fan I always have to wonder how my St. Louis Cardinals stack up on the fantasy scene. Are my favorite players even fantasy relevant?
If you are a St. Louis area resident then you and most of your league are probably die-hard fans of the hometown Cardinals. If so then you have probably experienced this amazing phenomenon; the massive overvaluing of Cardinals’ players. I’ve seen it before, and not just in baseball. Back when the Lambs-AHEM, I mean Rams, called STL home, I saw gadget WR Tavon Austin go for $50 in an auction draft. For reference, elite QB’s Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees went for the same amount. I get it, your rooting interest tells you to grab a couple favorites for your team, but you get in the draft room and suddenly Kolten Wong is the first 2B off the board. Wait, WHAT?! At this point you realize that you may leave the draft Cardinal-less. Unless, of course, you want to jump the gun and reach on Randal Grichuk a little earlier than you really should.
What is a fan to do?
Where can we find the balance? I enlisted friend and colleague Adam Butler to help me take a pragmatic look at our favorite team. (Disclaimer: I will not claim to be a fantasy guru, these are merely opinions.) We won’t get carried away with in-depth analytics; instead we’ll speak mostly in generalities. Keep in mind; we’re talking strictly about fantasy value. Some very good, valuable players in real life have skill sets that don’t always translate into the fantasy arena. For that very reason, it’s good to think of this as a sensible look at players you may otherwise view through rose-colored glasses.
Today we will look only at the hitters, come back tomorrow for Part 2 – The Pitchers.
(Note: ADP = Average Draft Position, according to Fantasypros. Approximate round based on 12 team leagues)
Yadier Molina – C (ADP – #196, approx 16th round)
Rusty: Love the player, but not for fantasy. He will give you a solid batting average. He will give you a decent RBI total because he finds his way into the 6th spot in the lineup frequently. And that’s it. You can do much worse at catcher, but there are certainly 10-12 other guys that can provide better overall production.
Adam: Unless you’re investing an early round pick in a catcher you really can’t expect much from them. I like Yadi as a later round catcher simply because he won’t drain your batting average like many catchers will. He gets a pretty decent bump in production in points leagues because he plays so much more than other catchers.
Matt Carpenter – 1B (ADP – #70, approx 5th round)
Rusty: He is strong in every category except for SB. In most leagues he will be eligible at 1B, 2B, and 3B. He’s a top 10 player at all three.
Adam: Initially looking at the ADP I thought Carpenter was the most undervalued player in all of fantasy baseball. The back injury puts a damper on his draft stock but he is still likely worth it where he is being drafted. Invest a 5th round pick in him with confidence.
Kolten Wong – 2B (ADP – #322, undrafted)
Rusty: I like him in real life, but not so much in fantasy. Gyorko will cut into some of his playing time against LHP. DO NOT take him as your primary 2B. Around here he will get drafted late, but he probably should go undrafted. The 10 HR and 15 SB upside just isn’t enough to warrant using a pick on him.
Adam: I actually like Wong as a later round pick this year. I see 10-12 HR with 30 SB potential in him. If the Cardinals truly commit to him as their everyday second baseman like they should then I think Wong ends up being a solid late round pick. I’d feel comfortable with him in a middle infield spot.
Aledmys Diaz – SS (ADP – #130, approx 10th round)
Rusty: A guy that will probably go a couple rounds earlier than he should in local drafts. Regardless, his numbers should be solid all around at SS, making him a good pickup no matter where his is picked. Just try to hold out through 4 or 5 rounds before you pull the trigger.
Adam: Diaz has the makings of a guy that will be undervalued year after year in fantasy. The guys that are good across the board typically take a backseat to the guys that are great in one or two categories. If he slots into the lineup between Fowler and Carpenter he is in for some big counting stats. Feel free to reach a round or two before his ADP.
Johnny Peralta – 3B (ADP – #313, undrafted)
Rusty: Even if he returns to his old form he is just an OK fantasy 3B. Think Trevor Plouffe or Adonis Garcia production at best, but those guys will play every day. You would have to watch his playing time closely to get value. However, if Gyorko’s power forces him into the lineup and 3B becomes more of a 50/50 split, Peralta loses all value. He can be had on waivers.
Adam: There’s no real reason to draft Peralta. Use your late round picks on players with higher upside. The real appeal that he will have this season is as an injury replacement if your 3B gets injured. He can be had off waivers and likely won’t hurt you too badly.
Jedd Gyorko – 3B/2B (ADP – #231, approx 19th round)
Rusty: If he’s found his swing like he did in the 2nd half last year, you have to look at him. Multi-position eligibility will make him easy to work into a lineup. Like Peralta you would need to be on top of when he plays. If you can manage him like some did with Brandon Moss when he was a semi-regular for the A’s, then he could give you a power boost as a late round pick.
Adam: Gyorko only has real value in deep leagues or leagues where you can change your lineup daily. The playing time could be sporadic. Chances are there is some home run regression coming which is where he earned all of his fantasy value last season.
Stephen Piscotty – RF (ADP – #122, approx 10th round)
Rusty: Don’t take him super early, but he will provide solid numbers (20-25 HR, 75+ R, .280+ BA) in several categories and could be a boon for RBIs if he hits cleanup. Definitely worthy of one of your OF slots, somewhere in the middle rounds.
Adam: Piscotty falls into the same category as I mentioned with Diaz earlier. Good at a lot of things, not great at any. These players are typically seen as boring and can be a bargain in drafts. Invest with confidence.
Dexter Fowler – CF (ADP – #169, approx 14th round)
Rusty: If your league uses OPS, then you can take advantage of his OBP skills. With a touch of power and a touch of base stealing, he is a solid performer. Likely falls within 1-2 rounds of Piscotty, but probably not one of your top 3 OFs.
Adam: Fowler is a tough one for me. I typically like the players that contribute both home runs and stolen bases. He just doesn’t quite do enough of either for me to invest in him very heavily. He’d be a good guy to have as the first outfielder on your bench. In points leagues, his high walk rate makes him a good starting outfielder.
Randal Grichuk – LF (ADP – #211, approx 17th round)
Rusty: Don’t expect much in the way of batting average, but his HR, RBI, and OPS categories could be above average. Be opportunistic with him. If he is one of the best remaining OF’s and your roster is looking light on power, go for it.
Adam: This is an ideal late round breakout candidate. He showed last year that his floor will justify his late ADP, yet he has the upside to massively outproduce it. If he is available at the point of your draft where your roster is full and you’re looking for upside, take Grichuk and run.
Draft with your head, not with your heart. Thanks for reading!
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