The top three picks in fantasy baseball have been pretty established since the end of the 2012 season. It's been Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout in just about every off-season draft, even though the order of the three has been mixed. Braun could go first, second or third and the same could be said for Miggy or Trout.
But once Braun's name appeared on the Biogenesis monies owed ledger – not on the PEDs side, but on the accounting ledger that said he and his lawyer owed $20,000-$30,000 – fantasy owners panicked. They truly panicked. On Twitter and industry Message Boards, you are seeing things like "I'd never draft Braun now" or "I wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole."
And in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship, owners are talking with their wallets. In our pay NFBC Draft Champions Leagues, Braun has gone 4th, 4th, 4th and 5th in the drafts that followed this announcement. Robinson Cano was picked ahead of him in those drafts and even Matt Kemp went ahead of him once.
That's just crazy. For one thing, Braun isn't likely to be suspended over this latest news. His alibi of paying Anthony Bosch as a consultant last year over his appeal with Major League Baseball hasn't been disproven. It seems odd to use Bosch as a consultant, but no matter what his lawyers did to find evidence in his favor the bottom line is that it worked and he won his fight with MLB over his positive test.
Still, he is proven guilty now in the court of public opinion and that could work to your advantage. Braun was clearly the top pick over the last few weeks and before the news he went No. 1 in four of six previous NFBC drafts. He was the No. 1 player on our Average Draft Position lists, ahead of Cabrera and Trout. Now he's dropped to 4th or 5th,? Take him.
Please realize that Braun is one of only three players all-time (Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero are the others) to put together multiple seasons with 30+ HR, 30+ SB, 100+ runs, 100+ RBI and a batting average of at least .300. Guerrero (2001-02) and Braun (2011-12) are the only ones to achieve that in back-to-back seasons. Braun would be the first ever to do that in three straight seasons if he does it again in 2013.
If you look at his last two seasons, is there any difference at all?
2011: .332-33-111-33, 109 runs, .397 OBP
2012: .319-41-112-30, 108 runs, .391 OBP
The answer is NO. He's the same player he ever was, and maybe better. Heck, he continues to pound left-handers (.363 last year, .350 in 2011) as he hit an MLB-high 17 HRs against lefties last season, after hitting a total of just 13 vs. lefties in 2010-11 combined.
Braun is getting BETTER and you don't want to miss out on another 30-30 season just because of this latest news. You know better.
In other news, Chris Carpenter will miss all of 2013 and his career is likely finished. That's a blow to the Cardinals and to fantasy owners. His ADP had been 225 before this week's announcement. NFBC owners have been targeting rookie Shelby Miller for weeks now and his ADP is up to 274. He could fill that 5th spot sooner than expected. Lance Lynn also is assured of being in the rotation now and his ADP has risen to 192. Trevor Rosenthal is another one to keep an eye on, but his ADP is only 426.
Another player moving down in the first round is Josh Hamilton, whose ADP in the NFBC was 10 last week. But he's fallen into the second round recently and he's been going more around 18, 19 and 20 than in the first round. Keep an eye on that. Buster Posey also has been falling to 16, 17 and 18 after having an ADP of 13 earlier this year.
One player who hasn't been suspected of PEDs, but yet the power surge last year was unbelievable, is Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion. Last year, he set career highs in HRs (42 after hitting 17 in 2011), RBIs (110, previous high was 76), Runs (93) and Stolen Bases (13). His .384 OBP was 50 points higher than the previous season. He also qualifies only at first base this year as he was a DH for 82 games and played third base only once.
So what's up with Encarnacion? Can you justify the power and take him in the second round? His ADP is 26, but can he really duplicate last year's numbers?
It's hard to imagine a repeat, but Encanarcion did tweak his swing slightly last year and it definitely led to more fly balls. The distance on his 42 homers last year was second only to Josh Hamilton, averaging 413.2 feet per homer. Still, a shorter swing kept his strikeouts to a reasonable level (94 compared to 84 walks), and he actually led the majors last year with 161 fly balls in play. So his swing is now conducive to home runs and when he hits 'em they go out at a 25% clip.
Still, there are factors to consider. 1) He's no longer 3B-eligible. 2) He's now 30. 3) It's hard to forget 2008-10 when he hit a combined .242 with 4 SBs. What turned this guy from a huge disappointment to Superman? Let's hope it was just a swing adjustment and maturity, but in today's baseball world it's hard to believe.
Interestingly, for the first time in a long time more Blue Jays are being drafted in the early rounds than Yankees or Red Sox. Heck, even in our New York NFBC drafts the East Coast bias won't help these aging Yankees or floundering Red Sox. Look at the ADPs of each team:
Jose Bautista 20
Jose Reyes 22
Edwin Encarnacion 26
R.A. Dickey 63
Brett Lawrie 67
Melky Cabrera 111
Brandon Morrow 119
Josh Johnson 137
Robinson Cano 4
Curtis Granderson 38
Mark Teixeira 61
CC Sabathia 71
Mariano Rivera 136
Derek Jeter 139
Dustin Pedroia 25
Jacoby Ellsbury 33
Mike Napoli 105
Shane Victorino 108
Will Middlebrooks 113
David Ortiz 130
Jon Lester 142
It's a crazy year, as we've learned this off-season from the Blue Jays and from Braun. And the good news is, it's only just beginning!
(Greg Ambrosius is the founder of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship, the industry's premier pay-to-play contest. For more details on the NFBC, which will award over $2 million in prize money this year, go to nfbc.stats.com or contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org)