Know your league.
There's a lot of useful analysis to be found about preparing for your Fantasy Baseball drafts, but the most useful might be the most basic: Know your league. Before you draft, make sure you know what scoring format you're using -- Rotisserie or H2H or H2H points -- and how many lineup spots you need to fill. Know how many IL spots you'll have throughout the season, and what your league's roster eligibility is like.
And get to know the website you're drafting on. Peek into the draft room ahead of time and familiarize yourself with the player pool. The default rankings are going to drive a lot of the decision making in your drafts, and they can have a huge impact on which players get taken where and when. Even in 2023, when there is so much data out there and there are so few outliers in the rankings anymore, you can still gain an edge on your opponents simply by knowing which players are more or less valued in your given league type.
I went to FantasyPros.com's Consensus ADP Friday afternoon and pulled their latest data to compare the three biggest Fantasy Baseball league providers -- CBS Fantasy, of course, plus Yahoo and ESPN -- to try to find which players are ranked higher or lower in each site's ADP compared to the consensus. Here are those standouts:
Best values at CBS
|Seiya Suzuki (CHC - RF)||179||138|
|MJ Melendez (KC - C,LF,RF,DH)||143||112.8|
|Brady Singer (KC - SP)||211||183.8|
|Eugenio Suarez (SEA - 3B)||167||145.2|
|Scott Barlow (KC - RP)||175||153.6|
|Tyler Glasnow (TB - SP)||148||127|
|Alex Verdugo (BOS - LF,RF)||210||190.6|
|Jordan Montgomery (STL - SP)||188||168.6|
|Tony Gonsolin (LAD - SP)||184||168|
|Ian Happ (CHC - LF)||180||164|
We are, collectively, pretty skeptical of Melendez around these parts, and a lot of CBS leagues are points leagues, where strikeouts hurt and you only have one catcher spot to fill. That being said, while I do think there's enough risk with Melendez that I included him in my Busts 2.0 column, I don't want to write him off entirely. I'm playing a whole bunch of leagues, and Melendez will be on a few of them, because the potential upside is huge; if he's any good at all he has a chance to really make a huge impact at catcher precisely because he's likely to play everyday somewhere other than catcher. If he plays 150 games and hits even .240, Melendez is likely to be a pretty nice value even at his overall price.
The rest of the names here are mostly pretty defensible to be lower on -- guys like Barlow, Singer, Verdugo, Montgomery, and Happ are pretty useful Fantasy options, but I think it's unlikely anyone will really regret passing on them if someone in their league reaches. I don't think any of them have much upside. At least the likes of Gonsolin, Glasnow, and Suzuki have plenty of upside if they can get healthy relatively quickly and live up to their potential. You probably shouldn't draft too many players who are currently on the IL, especially in leagues with relatively small benches or limited IL spots, but snagging a one or two can pay off. You'll have roster flexibility to take chances on early-season breakout types, and if the injured guys get something like a best-case scenario outcome, you could profit in a big way. Suzuki is especially compelling, seeing as he's already progressed enough in his recovery from an oblique injury to taking batting practice in recent days. He should only miss a few weeks of the season.
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Biggest overpays at CBS
|Jordan Walker (STL - 3B) NRI||145||185.6|
|Javier Baez (DET - SS)||151||189.8|
|Ketel Marte (ARI - 2B,DH)||161||197|
|Pete Fairbanks (TB - RP)||141||176.8|
|Chris Sale (BOS - SP)||126||151|
|Whit Merrifield (TOR - 2B,CF,RF)||134||159|
|Max Muncy (LAD - 2B,3B,DH)||99||123.8|
|Ezequiel Tovar (COL - SS)||207||231.2|
|Anthony Rizzo (NYY - 1B)||116||136.8|
|Oneil Cruz (PIT - SS)||60||79|
Yeah, we're all-in on Walker; if you could filter out all drafts but the last week or so, you'd see Walker even higher, both in the consensus and in our drafts. In our final 12-team Rotisserie mock draft this week, Frank Stampfl took Walker at 101 overall; Walker went 95th in our H2H points league with our Fantasy Baseball Today podcast listeners. If you want a chance at Walker, you have to completely ignore ADP.
Marte, Cruz, and Sale are all FBT pod favorites, too; Scott White called Marte one of the most underrated players by ADP in a recent column, and Cruz is one of the most popular breakout picks in the game -- for good reason, as you can see in my Breakouts 2.0 column. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little bit worried about Sale's somewhat uninspiring spring -- 5.40 ERA with nine strikeouts in 10 innings, though by most accounts, his velocity has been in the 94-96 range, which is encouraging.
There are a few players who really benefit from the CBS Fantasy standard points format here, specifically Muncy and Rizzo. Rizzo averaged 3.17 points per game last season in that format, better than Matt Olson and just about in line with Vladimir Guerrero, while Muncy has historically been a standout thanks to his excellent plate discipline.
Best values at ESPN
|Max Muncy (LAD - 2B,3B,DH)||441||123.8|
|Jake McCarthy (ARI - LF,CF,RF)||191||118.2|
|Tyler O'Neill (STL - LF,CF)||172||102|
|Adolis Garcia (TEX - CF,RF,DH)||130||60.2|
|Mitch Haniger (SF - RF)||236||166.6|
|Tim Anderson (CWS - SS)||152||88.6|
|Byron Buxton (MIN - CF,DH)||147||86.4|
|Andres Gimenez (CLE - 2B,SS)||142||84.8|
|Grayson Rodriguez (BAL - SP)||245||189|
|Teoscar Hernandez (SEA - RF)||120||65.4|
Here's where you see the quirks of the scoring format in ESPN's default leagues. ESPN's standard format penalizes a full point for hitter strikeouts, while steals are only worth one point; in CBS Fantasy leagues, the standard is -0.5 for strikeouts, while steals are worth two. Given that, it's no surprise that whiff-prone power-speed guys like O'Neill, Garcia, Anderson, and Buxton are especially dinged here. I think those guys are mostly undervalued in standard Fantasy leagues this season -- O'Neill is the exception; he's a bust for me -- and I think they're all decent values here.
The other thing to keep in mind here is, just because that is the default for ESPN leagues doesn't mean every league will use that scoring format. You should always know your league's rules before you draft, but that's especially true at a site where one scoring format so clearly dominates the ADP data. Pretty much every player would be a steal in a more traditional points format and especially in Roto.
Rodriguez is an especially interesting case, because I think there's a decent chance he might just be undervalued across the board, but he's a tough player to value. He's never thrown more than 103 innings in a season, and got to just 75.2 last season, though thankfully his injury wasn't an elbow or shoulder injury. He's probably unlikely to give you much more than about 130 innings, which puts a ceiling on how much value he's likely to provide, but he might be good enough to be a top-36 pitcher at any given point in the season. It just depends on if they let him go six innings consistently but skip him in the rotation a few times throughout the season, or if they're going to try to have him start every turn but limit him to five innings more often than not.
Biggest overpays at ESPN
|Luis Arraez (MIA - 1B,2B,DH)||79||200.6|
|Yandy Diaz (TB - 1B,3B)||140||233.6|
|Josh Bell (CLE - 1B,DH)||85||177|
|Sean Manaea (SF - SP)||193||281.2|
|Jake Cronenworth (SD - 1B,2B,SS)||74||160.6|
|Jose Berrios (TOR - SP)||137||213.8|
|Tyler Mahle (MIN - SP)||158||234.6|
|Masataka Yoshida (BOS - LF)||98||173|
|Pablo Lopez (MIN - SP)||88||161.6|
|Merrill Kelly (ARI - SP)||151||216.6|
One note here: Ohtani is the No. 1 player in ESPN's ADP, but that is highly dependent on context obviously If you have daily lineup locks, Ohtani is easily the most valuable player in either Roto of H2H points, and that's true of any scoring format in points. In CBS Fantasy leagues. He scored over 1,000 points if you combine his hitting and pitching; in ESPN's scoring, he had 852, more than 200 points more than any other player. Now, it's not quite that simple -- in both CBS and ESPN, you have to decide whether to use him as a hitter or a pitcher in any given scoring period, so you don't get 100% of his points. But, the point still stands: Ohtani is the top player in daily lineup lock leagues.
Some of these make sense, given the scoring format. Arraez, Diaz, Cronenworth and Yoshida all figure to do a good job getting on base while avoiding strikeouts, which works well with the ESPN standard scoring format. Arraez was right around the 30th most valuable hitter in that format last season, for instance, so even baking in some regression, he very well may be worth this cost.
The group of pitchers who get a bump in ESPN leagues is a pretty interesting one, and I'm not sure I totally get it. Kelly wasn't more valuable in ESPN leagues last season than CBS leagues; he ranked 25th among starters in the former, 20th in the latter. At their prices here, I'd probably be fading each of these pitchers in ESPN leagues.
Best values at Yahoo
|Tyler Mahle (MIN - SP)||442||234.6|
|Reid Detmers (LAA - SP)||362||197|
|Christian Walker (ARI - 1B)||160||114.2|
|Rowdy Tellez (MIL - 1B)||199||158.4|
|Alejandro Kirk (TOR - C,DH)||139||105.2|
|Jordan Walker (STL - 3B) NRI||214||185.6|
|Hunter Greene (CIN - SP)||135||109.2|
|Alec Bohm (PHI - 1B,3B)||202||179.6|
|Will Smith (LAD - C,DH)||79||58.6|
|Hunter Renfroe (LAA - RF)||165||144.8|
One thing that's worth noting here is that Yahoo does split Shohei Ohtani up into two different players; the hitter version has a 14.0 ADP, while the pitcher version is at 44.4.
Having said that: Now this is a group of values I can get on board with. I like Mahle a lot as a sleeper now that he's healthy and away from Cincinnati, where he had a 5.02 ERA in his career. Detmers has become one of my absolute favorite players to draft -- he broke out in the final three months last season and now he's throwing harder than he did a year ago. He could give you ace production, albeit with fewer innings than your typical ace. Greene is a high variance pitcher with massive upside -- he made both my breakouts and busts columns initially, but I feel better about his breakout chances, so I took him out of Busts 2.0.
Otherwise, it's a bunch of pretty solid hitters who are weirdly undervalued. I'm not as excited about Tellez as my coworkers, but getting him around 140 overall seems like a win. Walker is one of my favorite first basemen to target in most leagues, let alone if he goes this early.
The presence of Kirk and Smith here tells me this is at least in part due to Yahoo being a one-catcher format. Catchers will tend to be a bit cheaper if you only need one, though I like the values on both either way here.
Biggest overpays at Yahoo
|David Robertson (NYM - RP)||174||229.2|
|Alex Lange (DET - RP)||198||247.2|
|DJ LeMahieu (NYY - 1B,2B,3B)||168||212.6|
|Alexis Diaz (CIN - RP)||120||150.8|
|Jhoan Duran (MIN - RP)||122||152|
|Tony Gonsolin (LAD - SP)||142||168|
|Bryce Harper (PHI - RF,DH)||123||147.2|
|Tyler Glasnow (TB - SP)||104||127|
|Daniel Bard (COL - RP)||132||153.6|
|Andres Munoz (SEA - RP)||149||169.6|
The presence of some late-inning relievers with shaky claims to the ninth-inning role for their respective teams could be a reflection of the Yahoo format, which allows more flexibility for pitching usage, and tends to prioritize daily lineups over weekly lineups. That means you'll see more people using non-closer relievers to help their ratios and potentially vulture a save or win. The so-called "Marmol Strategy" is probably used more in Yahoo leagues than anywhere else.