Fantasy Baseball ADP Analysis: First Base, Third Base, Catcher
MLB opening day is fast approaching for what figures to be a once-in-a-lifetime season-long fantasy baseball season.
I took a look at how drafters are handling the first round under these unusual circumstances, so let's dig in a little deeper and see how specific positions are being drafted.
I'll be using average draft position (ADP) data from NFBC's 12-team Sprint - Rotowire Online Championship drafts and comparing it to what ADP looked like in March. This should give us an idea of how players are now being valued and whether that's changed over the last several months.
Today, let's take a look at first base, third base, and catcher. For reference, I've included consensus projections from FantasyPros, which includes numberFire's own model.
- Freddie Freeman predictably sees a dip after testing positive for COVID-19 and suffering from multiple symptoms. With the shortened campaign, we're greatly penalized by any amount of missed time, so tread with caution. It's still unclear when he will return, and players must test negative twice to get cleared. The good news is he's reportedly feeling better, so he could be worth snagging if he drops.
- DJ LeMahieu also tested positive but was asymptomatic, so his outlook is much more promising. However, from a player evaluation standpoint, much of his value comes from a high batting average, which is a stat that will be even more unpredictable in a shortened season since it takes forever to stabilize. On the bright side, he did back up his power boost with improved Statcast metrics last season, so he shouldn't be a one-trick pony. Additionally, while I don't normally lean too much into multi-position eligibility (LeMahieu qualifies at second and third base), it could become vital when surprise positive tests inevitably pop up in season.
- Everyone in the five through eight range projects rather similarly, so you could arguably wait and see if any of them fall. Paul Goldschmidt is coming off an elbow issue that bothered him in spring training but says his elbow is now 100%, making him a potential value.
- Max Muncy doesn't project quite as well as the above tier when accounting for average, but as noted before, batting average might be a category to devalue. The universal DH can only help Muncy's at-bats go up, and we know the power upside is there. As an added bonus, he also qualifies at second and third base.
- Josh Bell's median projection technically fits in the same grouping, too, but his lower ADP reflects the uncertainty of who the "real" Bell is following a rollercoaster breakout 2019 campaign.
- Note that the reason we see so many players dropping in this mid-range has to do with closers getting pushed up in NFBC drafts. The NFBC has an overall component that clearly factors into this, but keep in mind that in such a short season, we're going to have fewer opportunities to accumulate saves off the waiver wire. Therefore, grabbing elite closers early may be a necessary evil to compete in saves, though as we all know, rarely is anything guaranteed in the closer landscape.
- Yuli Gurriel is a poor bet to repeat last year's power surge after tallying just a 3.8% barrel rate, and July drafters appear to agree. Like LeMahieu, his value is tied to batting average, which is tough to bank on over the small sample.
- On the other hand, C.J. Cron moves up the ranks, and he's now more appropriately priced. He's shown nice pop over the last couple of seasons with the barrel rates to match. His 15.0% clip was 95th percentile in 2019.
- Howie Kendrick shoots up in relevancy between Ryan Zimmerman opting out and the 2020 universal DH rule. It isn't clear why he hasn't been in camp, but Kendrick slashed .344/.395/.572 in a utility role last season and was a Statcast beast pretty much across the board. Eric Thames just missed the above list at 1B31 (ADP 337) and also figures to benefit. (Update: Kendrick finally reported to camp on July 16th).
- Justin Smoak also sees a jump after being mostly an afterthought in March. He's another guy with a clearer path to playing time with the National League DH.
|6||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||55.4||4.7||196||27||9||33||1||.294|
- The depth of the position shows in all the power you can roster outside the top 10 between Eugenio Suarez, Max Muncy, Josh Donaldson, Matt Chapman, and Mike Moustakas. As the above projections show, Moustakas in particular sure looks undervalued, going just outside the top 100 picks.
- Miguel Sano would fall under the same category as the aforementioned group, but he hasn't been cleared since testing positive. Sano led the league in barrel rate last year, so he could be quite the asset when he gets the green light. (Update: Sano has been cleared to join camp.)
- Jeff McNeil is sandwiched in this power tier and is another guy who arguably should be dropped a few pegs for being more reliant on batting average. He does benefit from his position flexibility, though (outfield and second base).
- Eduardo Escobar sees one of the bigger drops, and this seems to just be a market correction. Escobar didn't show any noticeable changes in his Statcast metrics last season, so his jump in home runs likely had more to do with the juiced ball than anything else.
- The Mets should really be able to take advantage of the added DH spot, and J.D. Davis ought to be one of the beneficiaries. Following a promising 2019 campaign, hitting fewer ground balls could open up another power gear.
- The catcher position as a whole has taken a step back in July drafts, with Yasmani Grandal seeing the biggest drop among the top bats. The impact of grabbing an elite catcher early could be minimized in the 60-game format, and you're probably better off shooting for higher impact players at other positions and/or securing scarce categories like saves or stolen bases.
- Salvador Perez was an asymptomatic case, and he's already been cleared for camp. Perez missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, so all the extra time off probably hasn't hurt. Let's not forget he slugged 27 bombs in back-to-back seasons before that, so he could be a solid target.
- Isiah Kiner-Falefa is rising up the ranks as a potential sleeper, with the Rangers toying with the idea of giving him a starting job at third base. Kiner-Falefa was crushing it in spring training, and he's kept it up during summer camp. Crazier things have happened.