While we don't have average draft position data across the major sites yet, 55 drafts have already been conducted over at the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. The ADP isn't perfect because it's a mix of high stakes, Roto, best ball, and a few others formats, but it gives us an early idea of where players are being drafted. Not to mention, these are some of the best Fantasy Baseball players in the world, so I would lean towards trusting their judgment.
As we dive into the data, however, market inefficiencies have presented themselves. Perhaps as more people draft in the coming months, they'll be corrected. If not, take advantage. Considering it's the holiday season, I'm in the spirit of giving. I've found one player at each position that I consider a gift at their current cost. For some of these players, it's a matter of just not overthinking things. My famous example last season was Manny Machado. We all knew what his talent level and upside was yet he was being buried in the middle rounds. For others on this list, people are overreacting too much to the shortened season. Whatever the case, this is my gift to you. Happy Holidays!
Now, if you've been burned by Gary Sanchez at some point, this might be hard for you to read. I've never been one to draft catchers early so, as a result, he's never been on my roster. Statistics aside, you should be willing to give Sanchez a look this season based on his ADP alone. Over the past four years, we've seen Sanchez's ADP go from 45 to 19 to 53 to 78 and now all the way down to 195.
There's a lot of volatility in Sanchez's profile, mainly due to his strikeouts. In a 2020 season where he hit just .147, he posted a career-high 36% strikeout rate. There's a lot of movement in his batting stance where he needs to get his massive leg kick down in time to make contact. Speaking of contact, Sanchez was his usual self when he did connect with the ball, posting an average exit velocity, hard hit rate, and barrel rate all in the 89th percentile or better. That leads me to believe his career-low .159 BABIP is due for regression.
We've seen Sanchez do this before. He posted a .697 OPS in 2018 and then bounced back the following season with an .841 mark. I get it if you want to wash your hands of him, but based on his upside, I'll be in at this current cost.
There is a chance that, at 31 years old, Anthony Rizzo is just done. I'm willing to bet against that. Let's mark Rizzo under the "would have turned his season around if it was a normal 162 games" category. Rizzo batted just .222 in 2020 while posting a .755 OPS, his lowest since 2013.
If you look at Rizzo's profile, the only thing that changed was that he hit more popups than ever before. Rizzo posted a 17.7% infield fly ball rate this past season, a category in which he previously never exceeded 10.4%. You're probably yelling at me that his quality of contact went down as well. It's true, but goes back to the popups. If 17% of your batted balls are popups, of course it's going to affect your exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
Ultimately, this is what contributed to his career-low .218 BABIP. If Rizzo comes anywhere close to his .286 career BABIP in 2021 ... boom, jackpot. Like Sanchez, this is the latest Rizzo has ever gone. He may be boring but I'm all for it in 2021.
For reasons unknown, Mike Moustakas has dropped about 30-40 picks in ADP, and I'll be there to gobble up the discount. Like most, it was a weird season for Moustakas as he had a COVID scare and also dealt with a quad injury, which limited him to just 44 games.
Moustakas batted just .230 this season, and the career-high 22% strikeout rate could be pointed to as the main reason. I find that strikeout rate wonky, however, as he posted just a 10.1% swinging strike rate and a 31.4% chase rate, both four-year bests. Uncharacteristically, Moustakas also struggled against lefties in the shortened season. He posted just a .655 OPS against southpaws where he's been at a .716 mark for his career.
Just don't overthink this one. Moustakas is one year removed from 35 home runs with a career-best .845 OPS. He still hits in a great park in Cincinnati with a solid lineup around him.
Shortstop is a great position for gifts this season, and since I've already written about Carlos Correa a few times, I'll jump over to Dansby Swanson. The soon-to-be 27-year old continues to progress, posting career-highs in both batting average (.274) and OPS (.809) in 2020.
How's he making these improvements? Hitting line drives usually helps. Since the start of 2019, Swanson has a 25.3% line drive rate, third highest among qualified shortstops. I also like what he's done with his approach. According to a quote that Jeff Zimmerman found over at FanGraphs, Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer pointed out that Swanson was consciously trying to go up the middle and to the opposite field. Well, it worked. Swanson went to center field a career-best 38% of the time in 2020, which no doubt helped with the batting average and power.
If you needed any more confirmation that Swanson is awesome, he crushed it in the postseason. In 12 playoff games, Swanson hit three homers, two doubles and a triple, and stole two bases. Swanson looks like he's in store for a true breakout in 2021.
Recently on Twitter, the question was posed as to who could be this year's Trent Grisham, an outfielder being drafted outside the top 200 that will be a top-60 pick the following season. My answer was Nick Senzel.
You've heard it once, you've heard it a million times: it all comes down to health for Senzel. He's played in 127 games thus far and has batted .245 with 14 home runs and 16 steals. If he was ever able to stay healthy for 150-plus games, I think we're looking at a 20-20 player.
The evidence was there early in 2020 as well. In his first 14 games, Senzel batted .244 with two home runs, two steals and an .816 OPS. Accompanying that was an 11% walk rate, 25% line drive rate, and a 47% hard contact rate. Senzel then dealt with a COVID situation, missed a month, and wasn't the same after that. If he can replicate that early season plate discipline and batted ball data for a full season, a breakout is coming. We know the prospect pedigree is there and a burgeoning player is waiting to be unleashed. It just comes down to health for Senzel.
Senzel and Jameson Taillon have a lot in common. Most notably, they're both former first-round picks! Oh, and they can't stay healthy. I understand the argument against injury risks but I'm more cautious with those risks early in the draft. The further you go into your draft, the more risks you should be willing to take. With both Taillon and Senzel going outside the top 200 picks, it's a no-brainer.
The last time we saw Taillon was in 2019, pitching to a 4.10 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP. I was encouraged, however, by career-highs in his swinging strike rate (11.8%) and his chase rate (37.1%). He would go on to have Tommy John surgery in August 2019, which means he will be 18 months removed from surgery when pitchers and catchers report in February. About a month ago, I actually provided an update on Taillon and others, which you can read here.
One thing Taillon touched on recently is that he has added more spin and movement to his slider, which was more of a cutter back in 2019. There is a lot to be excited about with Taillon, assuming he makes it through spring training healthy. I'll be targeting him as a late-round flier in all of my drafts.