I think looking at average draft position data year-over-year is beneficial for Fantasy players for multiple reasons. The first (and most obvious) reason is to see which players have moved most from one year to the next. The next reason is to try and figure out why these things happened. Why has Trent Grisham climbed 245 spots? Why did Patrick Corbin drop 80 spots?
For Grisham's sake, it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play every day on a team that liked to run. For Corbin, well, it's not so simple. His fastball velocity took a dive while his swinging strike rate and ground ball rate also went the opposite direction. Was there a sign in 2019 that this would happen? It doesn't look like it. Sometimes players just get older and hit a wall. Corbin turned 31 last July. Or maybe 2020 was just a weird year. Scratch that, it definitely was a weird year.
Nonetheless, let's have some fun and make some picks with a little game called "Who is this year's (blank)?" Want to compared ADP year-over-year and make some categories for yourself? Here is 2020 ADP, courtesy of NFBC vs. 2021 ADP, courtesy of FantasyPros.
Who is this year's Marcell Ozuna, a hitter you're trusting to bounce-back solely because of Statcast data?
The pick: Nick Castellanos. Slam dunk. Layup. Alley oop. Whoops, wrong sport. Whatever you want to call it, Castellanos is the pick. His situation and underlying metrics are eerily similar to where Marcell Ozuna was at just one year ago. Ozuna was going at pick 93 in 2020 while Castellanos is currently being taken at pick 86. After finishing as the No. 1 outfielder in both Roto and H2H points last season, Ozuna has jumped 50 spots in drafts, which is well deserved. Aside from ADP similarities, we of course have the Statcast metrics. In 2019 we saw Ozuna hit .241 while slugging .472 with 29 home runs. All the while, Statcast said Ozuna deserved a .291 batting average and .548 slugging percentage based on the quality of contact he was making. Fast-forward to 2020 where Castellanos put up big power numbers with 14 home runs in 60 games, albeit while batting .225 and slugging .486. Like Ozuna, Statcast reveals Castellanos actually deserved a .273 batting average with a .542 slugging percentage. The talent has never been in question for Castellanos. He just got unlucky in the shortened season. I still think we have a .280+, 30-35 home run season out of Castellanos. Buy at his current cost.
Who is this year's Jose Abreu, a hitter going in the middle rounds that will return first-round value?
The pick: Yordan Alvarez. This one is pretty simple. Just. Stay. Healthy. We know the risks. Alvarez is a 23-year-old designated hitter who had surgery on both of his knees last August. The surgery on his right knee was to repair a torn patellar tendon while the surgery on his left was deemed a "routine cleanup". There is risk, no doubt. However, he was being drafted inside the first three rounds of drafts this time last year. Now you're getting him at ADP 79.7. If you're not willing to take a shot on a guy that can legitimately hit 50 home runs in the eighth round, I'd say you're playing Fantasy Baseball wrong. And for those who think 50 homers are a stretch, Alvarez did just that in 2019, hitting 23 in the minors and then 27 in the majors (in just 87 games). During his 2019 rookie campaign, Alvarez also batted .313 with a 14% walk rate and a 1.067 OPS ... at 22 years old! If he can stay on the field for 140 games, we could see a Nolan Arenado-esque season.
Who is this year's Patrick Corbin, a pitcher we expect to take a step back this season?
The pick: Zack Greinke. This one might seem obvious but every time we've doubted him in the past, he's laughed in our faces. This just feels a little different. Over his final seven starts last season, Greinke owned a 5.73 ERA with a 1.33 WHIP. Let's be fair, though. During this span, his xFIP was all the way down at 3.25. I'll let you decide. Maybe he was just unlucky. I'm looking at a 37-year-old with 2,939 innings on an arm that may be fading quickly. Remember how every spring training Greinke's fastball velocity starts off super low and then pretty much gets back on track by the time the season starts? Well, uhh, he averaged 87.1 MPH on his "fastball" last season after averaging 90 the year before. Greinke did get up over 88 MPH in each of his final two starts but even there, he's two ticks below where he normally is. If you want to go back to the well one more time inside the top 100 picks, feel free, but I'll be staying away in 2021.
Let's turn back the clocks to 2019. Who is this year's Kirby Yates, a reliever outside the top 10 closers in ADP who will lead baseball in saves?
The pick: Craig Kimbrel. The bearded one was not great in 2020. Scratch that. Kimbrel was not good in his first four appearances of 2020. He allowed seven earned runs over those appearances, which put his ERA at 23.63. Kimbrel was then given eight days off and over his final 14 appearances, he pitched to a 1.42 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. In September, specifically, Kimbrel struck out 13 while walking zero across 7.1 innings. To accomplish this feat and lead the league in saves, really all you need is opportunity. If you remain the closer for a team all season, you have just about as good a bet as anybody to lead the league in saves, especially in today's closer climate. The biggest argument against drafting Kimbrel is he could be traded. The Cubs are caught in this weird position whether to compete or not but seeing as how they sold off Yu Darvish, that may give you more of an idea where they're leaning. With that, we could see Kimbrel traded at some point this season. My counter would be that if he's pitching well enough to garner trade interest, he's probably going to be the closer for the next team he's one anyway. Overall, the closer position stinks and I hate it. Except for Kimbrel.
Who is this year's Trent Grisham or Corbin Burnes, a player going outside the top 300 who will return top-50 value?
The pick: Nate Lowe. This should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody. I've been a big fan of Lowe's (not the store but they're fine, too) for years. I just can't shake those massive seasons he put up in the minors. Back in 2018, Lowe hit .330 with 27 home runs and a .985 OPS in 130 games. In 2019, he followed that up by batting .289 with 16 homers and a .929 OPS. To this point Lowe only has 11 home runs in 71 career games but he was never given a fair shake with the Rays. Who knows, maybe they're just smarter than everybody else. I still think there's talent. We know that max exit velocity correlates well with power. In 2020 Lowe put up a 114.8 max exit velocity, which was 19th among all hitters. While the launch angle was a little lower than you'd like at 7.1 degrees, Lowe did have a 15.4% barrel rate. That would have been tied with Ozuna for 24th in all of baseball. There's talent here and he should play everyday with the Rangers. If everything works out, Lowe's 90th percentile outcome could look something like a .280 batting average, 30 home runs, and close to 100 RBI.