Chasing Amy (1997), folks, get with my 1990’s program.
ADP is a beautiful, terrible thing. We as humans love to rank things and it can cloud our judgement to see an arbitrary list. ADP is an incredibly useful tool, as it pools and averages where others are taking players you might be thinking of taking. You know and I know that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right. ADP is a barometer, not law. You know this, I know this… but that doesn’t mean every jabroney in your league knows that. There’s at least one in every draft. Someone who takes Chone Figgins in the 4th round. Who asks if Martin Russell is still available. Who tries to draft a retired player. Even the smartest fantasy owners fall victim to ADP (Hand raised. That sentence makes it sound like a virus). Between the bimbos and the braniacs drafting with you, you’re all going to at one point rely on ADP as some kind of deciding/tie-breaking factor. So here are some players not to forget about in 2012. It’s crazy to think everyone can get a superstud to start at first,it’s a matter of numbers- everyone can’t have Pujols or Votto – just as it’s crazy chasing Amy– it’s just a matter of statistics (and gender preference, but I mean, just watch the movie. C’mon.). We don’t all get what we want, just ask the Rolling Stones, but sometimes, just sometimes, we get what we need. And what you need is good value. And to watch Chasing Amy. Don’t try to attain the un-attainable, you low pickers, you. You’re chasing the unnecessary. Settle. So go. Go now, and be ready for the alternative to fall into your lap.
As always, much love to Mock Draft Central, where you can get all kinds of ADP reports by signing up.
First Base is a solid, deep position in fantasy this year. 4 of the top ten players in fantasy are first basemen, with Prince Fielder just outside the top ten list. That’s a strong showing. There is a lull, then another cluster of really solid options with upside in the mid-rounds (helllllllo Ike Davis ADP 175). This is a position that even a fantasy noob can pick. ‘Names’ like Carlos Pena and Aubrey Huff, Todd Helton and Derek Lee litter the later rounds- all known entities in various stages of decline. Though you may miss the big guns through either draft position or human error (Egads! You passed on Paul Konerko? For shame, sir or madame), there are a bevvy of players to put your faith behind, for a variety of reasons. Some are older guys coming off down years, some are coming off injury, some are simply too boring to really stand out- there are lots of first basemen to have faith in in 2012, depending on your rationale. I’m here to remind you of a few guys you already knew about, because they’re simply going to outperform their draft slots.
Freddie Freeman (ATL) – ADP 122
The thing with first base, as I said, is that it is loaded with draftable players. Therefore, this game of value is more comparison shopping than dumpster diving. Freeman is an excellent example. Mike Morse (ADP 77) and his tantalizing power is being drafted several rounds earlier than the young Bravo, yet there is an argument to be made that Freeman is the more desirable player (in keeper leagues, this is a common sense, as Freeman is 7 years younger).
50 spots later is a lot. I will admit to two things; 1) I distrust Mike Morse. It might be his late breakthrough, I may just have a healthy skepticism of late-onset power hitters maintaining a high average. 2) The sophomore slump is very real and very relevant. It happens. The fear with Freeman is that his production will take that all-too-familiar sophomore stink. Here’s where the projections get helpful/interesting. Bill James, Rotochamp, and ZiPS all foresee Freeman maintaining a similar level of production. This rarely happens, in my experience. Clearly, the prognosticators believe in his consistency. The three options, to get obvious, for Freeman’s 2012 season are to regress, remain close to the same, or improve. Overly simple, sure, but true. He could regress- but the experts don’t seem to be worried about that. He might remain neutral, which is what the projections point to. Or he may improve, as good young players often do.
So here’s how I see it- normally, I would be more concerned with a rookie’s second season. Even the best players experience those year two blues. The experts (much more intelligent and invested in projecting in both James’ and Szymborski’s case) seem confident in his ability to maintain that 20 homer – 80 RBI – .285-ish average. So there’s our baseline. Given that, and playing the hypothetical that Morse’s power drops slightly, an owner could get an equally valuable player 50 slots later. Not bad, in my book, and that’s assuming Freeman remains as-is, not taking that next step towards his potential (.300 average, 20-25 homers, 80-90 RBI, .375+ OBP) his minor league numbers suggest.
Gaby Sanchez (MIA)- ADP 198
Sanchez is a classic example of the fantasy/reality divide. A manager would greatly his durable, if unexhilarating numbers. Who wouldn’t want a guy who will play 150-160 games, hit 20-ish homers, knock in 70-80 runs, and hit around .275? The fact that these numbers come from relatively uneven monthly splits and he plays solid defense mean absolutely nothing to us in fantasy baseball. Wait, scratch that. Have you looked at the splits? His months jump all over the place! No wonder he’s not consistently owned! Thinking back on the Marlins teams for the last two years, however, that’s not entirely his fault- the team itself was up and down offensively. So the new-look team in Miami could be the best thing that happened to Sanchez since his parents gave him an ambiguous name. Jose Reyes completely alters the dynamics of that offense. Hitting behind Reyes, Han-Ram, and Mike Stanton (throw in Emilio Bonifacio and Logan Morrison too), with proven 20 homer power, Sanchez is bound to fall into ample RBI opportunities and that team will put up more than a few crooked numbers on the board.
Everything about Sanchez is solid. Solid can be boring in fantasy baseball. But you need solid players to build a championship team (both in reality and fantasy) and it takes relatively minor improvements to go from solid to game-changer. For example, let us say the Miami Marlins turn out to be an improved offense, as many predict. Even if Sanchez treads water in his development, he’s hit 19 HR and scored 72 runs (that is weirdly consistent, right?) the past two years, so pencil him for about the same numbers there. In a better offense, it follows he’d score more runs AND with more men on base, see more pitchers from the stretch i.e. not at their best. Given his solid plate discipline, you would expect either more walks or a few more RBI. But be honest, you don’t want to hear about the boring. So let’s give him some minor, realistic improvements based on an improved lineup with improved consistency. His BABIP has been .299 & .287 in 2010 & 2011, respectively and his batting average was .273 and .266 those same years. Based off his minor league numbers, an uptick in BABIP of very reasonable proportions (say a shade over .300) could point Sanchez towards being a .300 hitter rather than a .270 one. That’s a start. His already excellent batting eye means he’ll walk, have a good OBP and generally swings at good pitches. Think about his line with minor improvements or, at the very least, improved consistency – 30-ish doubles, 20+ homers, 80-90 RBI, 80-ish runs, an OBP around .375 and a .290 average – none of these are ridiculous numbers. Doesn’t that sound like a pretty worthwhile player to own?
People are drafting Mark Trumbo, Paul Goldschmidt, and Ike Davis well ahead of Sanchez. I like Davis as a sleeper a bunch for 2012 and Trumbo/Goldschmidt have undeniable power upside. But when it comes to drafting this type of player, I like to think about both the basement and the ceiling. At best? You get an absolute steal of a first basemen at nearly pick 200. At worst? You have a guy on you bench who is going to have 2 or 3 hot months and likely end up with 17-20 HR, 70-80 RBI and a solid OBP. The risk is minimal, the reward is there. There’s little danger of Sanchez suddenly dropping off in a category or two making him a detriment to your team, but if you want to roll the dice and see Trumbo or Goldschmidt hit .211 with 20 homers and 200 K’s, by all means, ignore me. It’s all about being realistic, folks.
Aubrey Huff (SF) – ADP 256
Aubrey, Aubrey, Aubrey what are we going to do with you.? If we follow his career, he’s due for a nice bounceback year. His numbers since 2007, when he turned 30, yo-yo pretty reliably. For example, his HR totals from 2007 on? 15, 32, 15, 26, and a measly 12 last year (despite these ups and downs his 162-game average for homers is 24). You cannot deny the pattern of up and down, resulting in 2012 being an up year. As always, one must be reasonable about expectations. Admittedly, Huff is old. His numbers are not going to be what they once were and he will likely continue to lose at-bats to younger players (see; Belt, Brandon). However, over these past 5 yo-yo years, his advanced stats do not differ wildly, leading me to believe he’s a decent player who has often rode the wave of statistical fluctuation.
That was a fun phrase to write but really means very little, so let’s be more simple. I think Aubrey Huff is closer to a 20 homer guy than a 10 homer guy, closer to a .290 hitter than a .260 hitter. Given the opportunity in 2012, you could do worse fishing for a first baseman at the bottom of a draft/ top of the waiver wire. But OH, the at-bats. Bill James projects him at 391 AB. Rotochamp says 405 AB. These are not unlikely numbers. Huff is a guy to monitor in spring training, because if he genuinely looks old, those AB numbers may turn out to be overestimation. My point in including him on this list is the converse. If Huff has a solid, healthy camp and figures into a regular lineup rotation spot, he could end up with 450-500 AB very easily. With that many at-bats, he could provide 20-ish homers, right? Right? If this were a telecast, the producer would now be cutting to a room full of Giants fans slowly shaking their heads. Luckily, this is fantasy baseball, so the potential for snagging a 20-homer guy in the last round or off a waiver greatly outweighs the more realistic mindset of reality. Again, a nonsense sentence that only holds significance if you play fantasy.
All this being said, if you’re going into a baseball season with Aubrey Huff as your starting first baseman, you are in serious trouble. But it’s always nice to have a back up plan.
BONUS INJURY TWO-FER SPECIAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Justin Morneau (MIN – ADP 161) and Kendrys Morales (ANA – ADP 215)
This is merely a public service announcement. You all know Morneau and Morales were excellent, near-elite first basemen. They are also both attempting to overcome uniquely challenging situations but appear right on schedule. There is no game with their ADP, as caution is perfectly warranted. Morales faces not only recovery from that crazy-horrific leg injury but a logjam of big ol’ power hitters in Anaheim. Morneau has been battling concussion symptoms ever since he got his noodle rocked in 2010, in addition to the nagging injuries that have sprung up during his comeback(s). Morales will eventually be back in the lineup, it is just a matter of time and his comfort level. I will be watching closely and reading reports carefully as he makes his way back to the bigs, because he has serious pop in his bat, regardless of other categories. Morneau is a scarier case, as he has faced numbness in his fingers and surgeries on important parts of his body (neck, wrist, knee). I hope Morneau gets well, because he is not only a fantasy asset, but by all accounts a real good guy, but if I had to put money on who would have a more productive season, I’d pick Morales. having Pujols in your corner as you try to regain your swing can only help.
First Base is both top-heavy and deep. There are ample fill-ins, sleepers, and prospects who could step up big for whatever reason in 2012 (They always do.). I highlighted names I kept coming up with in fantasy drafts, but know that this is a very narrow list. Carlos Pena (ADP- 222) could hit you 30 bombs. James Loney (ADP-240, and often overlooked) could turn a corner. Anthony Rizzo (ADP – 330) could make Theo Epstein look like a genius for re-obtaining him. Heck, Chris Davis (ADP-300) could make the leap to 40-homer superstar. That last one will truly be the sign of the 2012 apocalypse and I’d love to see the Vegas odds, but you get my point; first base is crucial but also manageable. You can’t be frustrated if you don’t get a top-tier guy. You just have to dig a little deeper. There’s no sense lamenting over something you could have never had in the first place. Just ask Ben Affleck. And for god’s sake, go watch Chasing Amy.