2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Debating rankings on ADP outliers

We use Slack to communicate internally, and now we're going to use it to communicate with you guys. Every other Wednesday through the offseason and into the season, we're going to have Scott White and Heath Cummings discuss (and maybe debate, a little) their rankings. We're talking outliers this week. Here is the full (lightly edited) transcript of our chat: 

chris.towers: We finished our last position preview podcast today, and I got to talk about one of my favorite topics: Why I don't like Jose Berrios.

It's not that I don't like Berrios, of course, but I just think he's being overdrafted at his current price. It's one of the most obvious mis-valuations by the industry at large this season, and I won't let it stand.

So, I wanted to do that with you guys this week: Why don't you like [Player X?]

It's a question we get all of the time, when readers or listeners are looking through our rankings, so I want to go position by position and find out why you have certain guys lower than their ADP. Ready?

scott.white: Nope!

heath.cummings: Still ready.

chris.towers: Good, @scott.white, because we're starting with you.

Scott: Why do you hate Mike Zunino? You have him 15th in Roto at catcher, while he's being drafted 8th right now.

heath.cummings:  BABIP.

chris.towers: He's coming off a .251 average and 25 HR in 2017, to set the stage.

heath.cummings:  BABIP.

scott.white: I feel like the Zunino we saw last year, the one who hit .251, was the best possible Zunino. The strikeout rate was among the worst in baseball -- always has been -- so he needs an unusually high BABIP for the batting average to be anywhere close to respectable. And the Mariners have always been quick to pull the plug on him if things are going poorly.

chris.towers: I think his framing numbers are really positive, so I don't know if they'll pull the plug this time unless things get really bad. For what it's worth.

heath.cummings: It's funny, his breakout year was actually his worst K rate (36.8 percent) of his career.

Is under the Mendoza line really bad?

chris.towers: And he did need a .355 BABIP to get to .251, but why can't he be a high BABIP guy moving forward? Line drive rate was 22.4 percent, nearly four points higher than his career rate. 38.6 percent hard-hit rate. He was a different hitter!

scott.white: It's possible, but it's not where I want my picks/dollars to go.

heath.cummings: Catcher is awful. He will help you in a category, maybe two. I'm fine with him in a Roto league but I'm not seeking him out.

chris.towers: OK, Heath, now it's time to focus on you at first base: Why do you hate Eric Hosmer, the handsome, clutch face of the World Series Royals? He's 17th in your rankings at the position, compared to 11th in ADP.

Career .284 hitter, 93+ RBI three straight years, 80 R ... He's pretty good!

heath.cummings: Eric Hosmer is a handsome man. A clutch hitter. A prototype of sorts. He will make the city of San Diego very happy, I'm sure. But he's also just "fine" in Fantasy baseball.

If he was a catcher he'd be awesome.

But at first base? He's "fine." 

scott.white: I guess it's just a question of at what point in the first base rankings the other options are also "fine."

And what "fine" even means!

chris.towers: Scott, you've got him 12th, would you like to come to his defense?

heath.cummings: Carlos Santana, Matt Carpenter, Miguel Cabrera ....we all know they're better hitters than Hosmer.

scott.white: Do we?

heath.cummings: Also, he's terrible in even years

scott.white: There is the superstition angle, yes.

heath.cummings: Steamer has him at .285 with 25 home runs, 75 runs and 85 RBI. Isn't that the most first-base line you've seen? And it's probably too high on home runs.

scott.white: Hosmer's biggest problem is he doesn't elevate the ball enough, and I was willing to push back on the Hosmer enthusiasm last year because of it. But for the second straight year, he had roughly the same home run-to-fly ball percentage. It's really high -- like, elite high -- but he has shown twice over that he's capable of it. And then you figure he's one of the better bets for batting average in the middle rounds, and I don't know. If we're assuming 25 home runs is the more likely outcome than 15, maybe he really is worth the price tag.

heath.cummings: He had a 29.5 percent hard-contact rate. It was not elite.

scott.white: Different percentage you're citing there, but sure. Maybe it was a two-year fluke.

We'll see!

chris.towers: Heath, we'll stick with you for second base, because we might have our biggest outlier here: Jonathan Schoop, who is the sixth 2B off the board on average, and 14th in your rankings. A 26-year-old who established a high floor with a .267-25-82-82-1 season in 2016, and then built off of it. Do you think he'll fall all the way down below his 2016 pace?

In 2016, he was 13th at the position, but behind guys like Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Villar and Jason Kipnis, who we don't expect to be anywhere close to him.

heath.cummings: I think his 2016 pace is very reasonable. But he was 13th playing all 162 games. And that was before Ozzie Albies, Ian Happ and Paul DeJong

chris.towers: None of whom were better than him last year.

heath.cummings: Correct, I thought we were assuming 2016 was more real than 2017, when he had career-high numbers across the board.

If he repeats 2017, I'll look stupid. I don't think he will. I think he's a .270 hitter who could reach 2016 again if his reliability continues.

scott.white: My thing with Jonathan Schoop is ... no, I don't want to pay for what looks like a career either, but who else am I going to rank fifth but the guy who hit .293 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI last year? I think a dozen or so second baseman could compete with the kind of numbers Schoop puts up if he takes a step back, but the only one who has done it before (Robinson Cano) is old.

Maybe Whit Merrifield for the steals? Beyond that, it's a bunch of theoreticals ...

chris.towers: And Merrifield is, of course, coming off his own career year.

We'll talk about two guys who you are both lower on than their ADP next: Nick Castellanos at third base, and Javier Baez at shortstop. Who wants to make the case against Castellanos?

scott.white: I love Castellanos, so it should probably be Heath.

heath.cummings: You don't love him enough

scott.white: Who's to say how we love!?

chris.towers: Scott, you have Castellanos 17th at third; Heath, you have him at 19th. His ADP at third base is 13th. (10th if you take out Machado, Ramirez and Bregman, who will be used at different positions).

heath.cummings: I'm just saying, a lot of people love him more than you, and they're showing it.

chris.towers: Well, someone make the case for why the industry is too high on him.

Or, @scott.white, tell us why the likes of Gallo, Seager, Lamb, Nunez or Beltre should be above him -- he's ahead of all in ADP.

scott.white: I'll put it this way: I have been known to draft Castellanos and feel good about it. I'm not sure Heath has.

heath.cummings: I'm not sure the Tigers offense is going to be very good, I have no idea what Castellanos' batted-ball data says because of Comerica. I don't see the upside for him as the other guys.

He's a lot like Kyle Seager, except Seager has done it for longer, so I'm willing to rank him higher.

So I don't see a lot of upside above last year, I expect his RBI will fall, and I think his track record is spotty enough that he could be waiver wire-fodder again.

scott.white: Gallo's power ceiling is mostly unparalleled. Seager and Beltre are more proven. Nunez so uniquely meets categorical and position needs in the middle rounds. I'm not sure Lamb should be higher. Frankly I'm not *sure* any should be higher than Castellanos because there comes a point in drafts where it's easy to pass over a third baseman but not an outfielder. And pretty much every time I've drafted Castellanos, it's been to play the latter. 

chris.towers: What about Baez. Neither of you likes him much, but he keeps staying in the "starting-caliber" range in drafts. What is the rest of the industry missing?

heath.cummings: You don't get Fantasy points for no-look tags.

scott.white: He's not an everyday player, doesn't get on base enough and doesn't excel at any one thing. To me, he's like a worse version of Ian Kinsler, who the industry seems to despise.

chris.towers: One is 25 and the other is ... significantly older.

heath.cummings: I'd rather have Jose Peraza

chris.towers: 25-15 potential at shortstop is hard to argue with, no?

heath.cummings: Managers are generally pretty optimistic this time of year. Joe Maddon was more sober when talking about the playing time for Baez.

He has to change something to play more

chris.towers: Alright, Heath, you included Marcell Ozuna in your Busts 2.0, so make the short case for why you've got him nearly 10 spots lower at OF than his ADP. 

heath.cummings: Marcell Ozuna is going to be good, so I don't want this to come off wrong, but he is going to be significantly worse in four of five categories next year. The other category is SBs, and he had one of those.

chris.towers: Could improve in steals!


heath.cummings: Ozuna's BABIP was 28 points above his career average, his HR/FB rate was almost 50 percent higher than his previous career high. He won't produce 217 runs again

I'll give him .280, 28, 80, 95. I don't think that's a fourth-round pick from an outfielder

chris.towers: Reminds me of a tweet we got from a listener once, where he compared Billy Hamilton to a guy with those exact numbers -- his team would have been worse with the Ozuna comp than it was with Hamilton. Hamilton isn't a fourth-rounder.

And I know we're fighting a losing battle with this one, but let's finish it off with a big one: Shohei Ohtani is currently the No. 20 SP off the board, at 72nd overall. Neither of you have him in your top-120 overall, or top-30 at starting pitcher. Tell the readers why they need to pump the brakes on Ohtani – even though we know they won't listen.

scott.white: When there are known limits on a player's ceiling, those are known limits you're then putting on your team.

Ohtani could be really great, but because he'll be playing two ways and part of a six-man rotation, it's hard for me to imagine him pitching more than 160 innings -- and that's the ceiling.

Now, it's fair to wonder how many of the pitchers going in the same range will actually exceed 160 innings, given the way pitchers are managed these days, but most at least have the potential for more.

heath.cummings: Robbie Ray only threw 162 last year

scott.white: I like Ohtani in the Rich Hill range. I think they'll be similarly awesome inning for inning, but we know the innings will be limited.

chris.towers: Pitchers in his ADP range include Jose Quintana, Aaron Nola, James Paxton and Gerrit Cole. So, a lot of variance there.

heath.cummings: I like all of those guys ... a lot

scott.white: Some of those guys actually seem like *safe* bets to exceed 160 innings -- all but Nola and Paxton, actually -- which only furthers my point.

chris.towers: So, as good as Ohtani can be, he can't be that good?

scott.white: For Fantasy purposes, the ceiling is definitely lower than those pitchers being drafted alongside him. Innings matter!

chris.towers: Innings matter, indeed. Until next time, thanks for the chat, fellas.

Fantasy Writer

Though he can be found covering three different sports depending on the time of year, there is one unifying theme in how Chris Towers approaches sports; "Where's the evidence?" It doesn't matter how outlandish... Full Bio

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