Finally, only nine long and grueling days left. We are finally in the home stretch until baseball is finally officially back. That means a lot of people are nearing their drafts and looking for some help. Here at Six Man Rotation, we’ve participated in many drafts already and Jason (JG) and Austin (AP) wanted to highlight some of the guys they have been targeting this draft season, and on the other side of the fence, the players they have been avoiding

All ADP data is from FantasyPros which aggregates it from all the major fantasy websites (ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, RT Sports, NFBC, FanTrax)

This is based on ADP, but players tend to fall in drafts. Our opinions typically change as players fall. For example, I (AP) say I’m avoiding Blackmon at his 7 ADP, but if he is there at 12? I’m back in. So take these with a grain of salt and be open to adapting. Unless it is noted, we are typically talking with H2H in mind since that is our “preferred” format to play.

 

Now let’s get into what you came for:

Round 1

 

Target: Mookie Betts (7.7) – AP

The Red Sox All-Star produced his second straight 20-20 season in 2017 with 100 Runs/100RBI and is one of the few 5 category superstars we have in fantasy. I expect a rebound in Betts’ .264 BA from 2017, it was fueled by a .268 BABIP (.300+ in his first two seasons). He had a xAVG of .302 and I would expect him to push in the .290+ range for the 2018 season. Betts floor is very high, but we still may not have seen his ceiling yet. He will be hitting at the top or in the middle of an already good Red Sox lineup that added one of the best hitters in the MLB in JD Martinez.

Target: Nolan Arenado (3.3) – JG

It feels like cheating to say that you should be targeting a guy who is already a top 5 pick, but from my conversations with people this offseason, it seems like somehow Arenado is still being undervalued. Arenado is the only hitter in baseball with 350 RBIs over the past three seasons. He’s one of only two hitters with 120 home runs over the past three seasons. He’s one of just 10 players with 300 runs over the past three seasons. And Nolan Arenado is the only hitter who has hit all three of those figures. After Mike Trout, Arenado should be the next guy off the board in almost all formats.

 

Avoid: Charlie Blackmon (7.7) – AP

Full disclosure, this is hard for me to find a first round player to avoid. All of them have their strengths, but some have just a few more question marks than others. While looking back at Blackmon’s 2017 season, it is easy to forget just how good he was. His .331/134R/37HR/104RBI/14SB reads like a slash you get when you play Road to the Show on Rookie mode. Blackmon is heading into 2018 at 31 years old (which is surprising in itself), and his stolen base numbers have been declining rapidly from 43 in 2015 to a career-low 14 in 2017. If the trend continues, Blackmon soon might only be adding a little over 10 SB to your team. His Home/Road splits are also quite scary. He becomes a league average hitter (98 career road wRC+) away from Coors field. It gives me a slight pause to draft a player 7 overall who becomes league average in half of his games. Blackmon is a very good fantasy player, and I will not be fully fading him in my draft.  But, if given the option, I will be taking Betts over Blackmon.

 

Avoid: Trea Turner (5.5) – JG

Full disclosure, it’s easy to find a first round player to avoid, and his name is Trea Turner, unless you’re playing roto like an idiot then feel free to take Turner first overall. In any other format, Turner will not be worth the high price he requires. You can read a detailed explanation of why I’m low on Trea Turner here(http://sixmanrotation.com/trea-turner-overvalued/) but to summarize:

  1. 20 home runs is likely his absolute ceiling for power
  2. Steals are not as hard to come by as the fantasy community thinks
  3. In the top 10, you’re better off grabbing someone who will solidly contribute in all five categories rather than someone who will only be elite in two categories
  4. Turner has yet to play a full season in the majors and there are still some small sample size concerns

 

Round 2

Target: Freddie Freeman (20.3) – AP

Freeman has taken “that” step these past two seasons. From solid fantasy player to an elite, must have bat.  He went from a 15-25 HR first-basemen to a monster 30+ HR player. He has always shown an ability to hit for a high average and produced two straight .300 average seasons now. Prior to his wrist fracture last season Freeman was producing like a top-5 overall player, he hit 14 HR before June even began. He finished 2017 producing .307/84R/28HR/71RBI/8SB in only 117 games. Even when he returned from his fractured wrist, Freeman was never fully healthy claiming it felt like he was swinging a “wet newspaper”. Without the injury, we are looking at Freeman as a first-round caliber player but now he comes at a reduced price and is ripe for the plucking.

Target: Carlos Correa (13.5) – JG

Correa may have won the AL MVP last season had he not missed significant time with an injury. He should be the top SS off the board (hopefully you listened to me above and didn’t reach for Trea Turner instead) because his upside as a hitter is as high as anyone else in the league. For fantasy, Correa is a legitimate 4 category superstar because of his talent and position in the middle of the most dynamic lineup in baseball. 120 RBIs with 40 HRs is well within his wheelhouse and that kind of production is a literal steal at his current ADP. This will be the last year you’ll be able to draft Correa outside the top 5.

Avoid: Jose Ramirez (22.0) – AP

Ramirez is here specifically because I’m just not fully buying his 29 HR output from last season. His contact skills, his speed are all as legit as they come and I fully expect him to his third straight .300+ average season. But his power has left me scratching my head questioning just how real it was. His xHR of 24.3 is nearly 5 HR shorter than the 29 he produced, his xwOBA of .355 (still good) was much lower than the .396 wOBA that he produced in 2017. His projections see him more as a .295 hitter and 40 HR+SB guy which can be found similarly with the likes of Yelich or Benintendi a few rounds later.

 

Avoid: JD Martinez (22.5) – JG

I love JD Martinez as much as anyone, but his ridiculous second half in 2017 is not the new norm for him. While he has been one of the premier power hitters in baseball over the past several seasons, his second half SLG in 2017 (.751) is the highest single half SLG in MLB in the past 25 years by a player not named Barry Bonds, and his full season .690 SLG in 2017 is more than 100 points higher than his previous career best. While plugging him into an underrated Red Sox lineup gives him some more opportunities to compile counting stats, I’m afraid that too many of his home runs will become hard doubles off the Green Monster instead.

 

Round 3

Target: Noah Syndergaard (30.3) – AP

This is the area I’m trying to get my first SP. If you have read my work before then you know I’m against taking a SP in the first two rounds. A healthy Syndergaard is an extraordinary talent (you could almost say superhero-like). In his young career the hulking right-hander owns a 2.89 ERA (2.6 FIP/2.75 xFIP) 28.4 K-rate. When healthy* Syndergaard can produce with the likes of Corey Kluber, and Chris Sale on a per inning basis. Health is the reason you can potentially get him at the ADP of 30, but health is really a question mark with any SP you draft. Thor may have a few more health risks, but it comes with a reduced ADP for a pitcher of his caliber.

 

Target: Brian Dozier (34.3) – JG

2B is easily the thinnest position in fantasy baseball right now. Jose Altuve will cost you a top 5 pick and then there is a massive drop in quality to the next group at the position, headlined by the always underrated Brian Dozier. While he failed to match the 42 home runs he hit in 2016, his 2017 was just as impressive as he posted new career bests in AVG and OBP to go along with 34 homers and 16 stolen bases. If the Twins lineup is as strong as projections think this season, Dozier could be a 5 category stud at a premium position, and you can get him in the third round of most drafts.

 

Avoid: Josh Donaldson (28.8) – AP

I’m literally wearing my Donaldson jersey while I’m writing about avoiding one of my favorite players in the MLB who even am I. I have no issue with what Donaldson brings to the table, but I do worry about what surrounds him. The Blue Jays offense has replaced the likes of Edwin Encarnación and 2015 Jose Bautista with an aging Curtis Granderson and not good Kendrys Morales. This new supporting cast hampers Donaldson from returning to his 2015-2016 numbers where he was driving in a 100 runs and scoring 120+.  He scored just 65 Runs last season (33 via his own HR) in 496 PA , extrapolating that to 700 PA and he is still under 100 runs scored. His power should still be there but surrounded by the likes of 37-year-old Curtis Granderson, Aledmys Diaz, Kendrys Morales, and Russell Martin, he may be lacking in other counting stats.

 

Avoid: Dee Gordon (34.0) – JG

I’m always wary of guys whose primary fantasy contribution is their speed. The problems I have with Trea Turner are the same as the problems I have with Dee Gordon, except that Gordon doesn’t even have an ounce of power to add to his value. At his current ADP, you’re paying too much for a guy who will only seriously contribute in two categories (SB and AVG) while hoping for the best of the Mariners lineup around him to help compile the counting stats. You can get similar players much later in your draft.

 

Round 4

Targets: Jacob deGrom (36.7),  Zack Greinke (43.5) – AP

Like in Round 3, I want to get in on the last of the top starting pitchers. If you went Syndergaard in the third then it would be easy to pivot to a high-upside hitter like Benintendi or Upton. These are the last two pitchers within my Top-10. Jacob deGrom has been steadily rising up draft boards as he shows his health this spring, so if he is no longer available I’m perfectly fine with taking Zack Greinke. Greinke is falling slightly due to a groin injury coupled with velocity woes in Spring Training. He will be pitching in Chase Field this season that just installed a humidor and will look to build off his rebound in 2017. Don’t be scared away from the recent news, use it as an opportunity to buy at a slightly discounted rate

 

Target: Jose Abreu (36.8) – JG

Abreu has become mister consistency since his breakout rookie season with the ChiSox. Only Carlos Santana and Albert Pujols have played more games than Abreu since his debut and no matter what anyone tells you, staying healthy is an elite skill in fantasy baseball. In addition to consistent playing time, among all 1B since 2014, Abreu ranks 4th in HR, 7th in runs, 3rd in RBIs, and 4th in AVG all while hitting in the middle of an inconsistent-to-bad White Sox lineup. If you want essentially the same production as Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo but 15 picks later, then Abreu is your man. He’s not super exciting but he gets the job done.

Avoid: Alex Bregman (36.5) – AP

The World Series hero seems to be experiencing some playoff helium right now and is now bursting his way into the 3rd rounds in most drafts. A lot of the projection systems see him as a mid-20 HR player, and 10-15 SB with a .270-.280 average. That is lower than I expected based on his price. It seems his ADP is coming baked in with his potential, and people expecting him to jump up to a 20/20 guy (Even though 20/20 guy Andrew Benintendi could still be there). Bregman put together a delicious 2nd half last season hitting .315/.367/.536 with a jump in his contact rate, and hard contact. People are buying into 2nd half Bregman as the real deal, while I would love to as well, the price is just out of my comfort zone.

 

Avoid: Rhys Hoskins (44.7) – JG

Hoskins is the anti-Abreu for now, although his breakout rookie year is surprisingly reminiscent of Abreu’s 2014. For now, the small sample size concern is very real with Hoskins and a repeat of his insane power performance is a risky bet to make with a pick this high when the position is so deep with more proven talent. The Phillies lineup could surprise this year, stacking the odds more in favor of a Rhys Repeat but I value consistency over risk within the first five rounds and Hoskins has the risk alarm blaring at full volume right now.

 

Round 5

Target: Christian Yelich (48.8) – AP

The newly acquired Brewer is about as safe as a draft pick as they come. His floor may be around .280/70R/15HR/65RBI/15SB but after moving from a hitter’s nightmare in Miami to a hitter haven in Milwaukee the sky’s the limit for the 26-year-old. The Brewers as a team like to run and are tied for first with the Cincinnati Billy Hamilton’s in stolen bases at 393. We could see both an uptick in stolen bases and power from Yelich’s already plus approach at the plate.

 

Target: Willson Contreras (60.0) – JG

While everyone is busy fawning over El Gary at a way too high ADP, I’d suggest taking a look at the second-best catcher in baseball (Sorry Buster) three rounds later. Contreras already has serious value just by virtue of being a power bat in the middle of the dangerous Cubs lineup, but there are signs that he hasn’t even reached his full power yet. Over just 117 games in 2017, he managed to crush 21 home runs as well as 74 RBIs. For most catchers that is a full season of production, but if not for his August injury that sidelined him for nearly two months, Contreras would have almost certainly reached 600 PAs last season. That puts his full season pace at 30 HRs to go along with 100 RBIs and 75 runs. That’s excellent production from any position in the fifth round of your draft, let alone from your catcher.

Avoid: Craig Kimbrel (49.3) – AP

Do not get me wrong, Kimbrel is an elite relief pitcher. He and Kenley Jansen are 1A and 1B as far as fantasy closers go. I just hate paying such a costly price for saves. Instead of Kimbrel this point you could grab some excellent starting pitchers like Aaron Nola, Carlos Martinez or Chris Archer. Bats are also plentiful with the likes of Tommy Pham, Byron Buxton, or Jonathan Schoop. I much prefer to wait for a few rounds and grab a closer in the Giles, Osuna, Rivero range.

Avoid: Buster Posey (56.7) – JG

Buster Posey has been the clear top catcher in fantasy baseball for the better part of the past decade but the signs of age are clear to see. Some of the pop is gone from his bat, already deadened by the power trap that is AT&T Park. And while the Giants expect to compete in 2018, I am not nearly as confident that their ragtag group of AARP members from other teams will be enough to provide a solid, consistent lineup around Posey. The upside is that Buster is still absolutely elite in AVG and OBP, but 2017 saw him post his lowest HR and RBI totals since 2011. Posey will still be productive enough to be fantasy relevant in some capacity, but you’d be better off looking elsewhere at his current ADP

 

And just like that, the first 5 rounds are done. In the next installment, we will be going over rounds 6-10. If you have any questions or want to have a lovely conversation about the players you are avoiding or targeting, please feel free to contact me or Jason on twitter our twitters @Roto_perodeau or @ChopCityJason

 

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