With the season going into full-swing as of Sunday night, this will be the last look at some of the recent and relevant ADP trends for those of you who still need to draft. Earlier in the week, we looked at some nice late-round bargains and then Friday we took a final look at how the top-50 overall were shaping up, so it’s only fitting that we wrap things up with a look at the middle. Your first six to eight picks usually set the tone for your draft while your last few are usually reserved for late-round fliers or potential sleeper picks. The middle, however, is the meat of your draft and can be the battleground where your season is won or lost.
If you’ve read through the entire series, you know my concerns with the outfield and how many come flying off the board early. While I’ve recommended filling a significant number of starters at that position, I’ve never elaborated on where you go from there. Obviously if you grab three or four outfielders early, chances are you’re going to want to grab some pitching as you see most, if not all, the elite starters disappearing as well. There’s nothing wrong with that. Grab a starter or two. Pick up a high-end closer as well. By the time you’ve reached the eighth round you probably have three outfielders, two starters, one closer and either a first or a third baseman. That’s usually the way it goes. Personally, I’d rather grab the first baseman as there are more bargains at the hot corner than there are at first. But obviously, to each his own and it also depends on how the rest of the league is drafting.
So let’s start from the eighth inning and move on from there, stopping somewhere around the 15th round (picks 96 through 180 in a 12-team league) where you usually begin rounding out your pitching staff because, like a wise man once told you, it’s ok to wait on starting pitching. Again, the ADP for these players hasn’t really changed much over the past month or two, so it doesn’t look like you’ll need to reach for any of them. Some of them could even slip through for an even better bargain price.
Jason Castro, C HOU (Current ADP: 158.79) – It’s not that he’s an under-the-radar type guy, but with so much hype going the way of guys like Wilson Ramos and Salvador Perez, Castro and his 15-20 home run power often get overlooked and he seems to slip through the cracks regularly. While you’ve been bulking up on power and laying a foundation for your pitching staff, those who wasted early picks on catchers are now scrambling to build their outfield with the likes of Coco Crisp and Curtis Granderson. Meanwhile, you’ve just grabbed a backstop in the 13th or 14th round who will produce close to the same, if not maybe better than their fifth or sixth-round choice.
Brandon Belt, 1B SF (131.20) – Let’s say you waited on the first base position and grabbed a different infielder with one of your early picks. Nothing wrong with that, but remember that you need to land a guy who sees consistent playing time and has at least 20-homer potential. Belt is just that guy. He had a nice breakout season last year with 17 home runs and a .289 average, but best of all, it followed his growth trajectory which remains on the rise. He’ll turn 26-years-old by the end of April and has steadily improved both his plate discipline and his batter’s eye. His second full year at first could be an explosive one and you’ll be getting him at a major discount. Just make sure you don’t wait too long as someone will likely go after him as a corner infielder.
Aaron Hill, 2B ARI (114.52) – Believe it or not, shortstop is actually deeper, so when building up the rest of your roster, you might want to tackle the keystone first. People seem to be focused on Jedd Gyorko and Brian Dozier this year, so hang out in the middle and grab Hill in the ninth or tenth round. His injury last year and history from back when he was with Toronto seem to be sticking in everyone’s mind and Hill, who has done nothing but hit over .300 since joining the Diamondbacks, makes for a great option for power at a thin position. A full season of health should net you 15-20 home runs with an average over .285 for the year.
J.J. Hardy, SS BAL (145.55) – How in the world is everyone forgetting about this guy? They’re so focused on guys like Andrelton Simmons and Xander Boegarts that they keep overlooking consistent 20-25 home run power with 70-80 RBI potential. Why? Because the average sits around .260? Puh-leeeeze! Your high-end outfield will likely have one or two guys whose average(s) is/are outstanding and should balance Hardy’s out. If the average is the biggest of your concerns here, then you’re probably over-thinking the category.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B SF (146.01) – The weight and the injury history are sending fantasy owners running for cover, but I say buy, buy, buy! He started to eat better and lose weight during the second half of last year, continued to eat right and workout all winter while playing ball in the Venezuelan League, and came into camp in…wait for it…the best shape of his life! But seriously, his weight is a much more manageable right now, he’s got no more hamate bones to break and he’s in the walk year of his contract. We saw him come into camp in great shape back to open 2011 and he raked right up until he got hurt. Now with that health, shape and a contract incentive, it’s going to get even better.
Nelson Cruz, OF BAL (152.64) – Let’s say your league starts six outfielders and you only grabbed the three up top and want to secure one more big bat. A little Cruz action certainly fits the bill. Some might be scared of the post-Biogenesis power drop-off, but Cruz stays in a hitter-friendly park, is still more than capable of 20-plus home runs, and even if his ISO takes a slight hit, he’ll still be above-average against the league. He’ll never steal bases like he used to, but the power and a potentially decent average are more than enough here.
Andrew Cashner, SP SD (146.62) – While everyone is reaching for Gerrit Cole, Danny Salazar, and Michael Wacha, guys who are projected to pitch real well but could get shut down early due to pitch counts and innings limits, I’m settling in with Cashner as a likely No. 3 starter for my fantasy rotation. He should pitch between 190 and 200 innings this year, have a K/9 that sits somewhere between 7.00 and 8.00, throws mid-90’s heat, has a new developing curve, and isn’t afraid to throw strikes because the dimensions of Petco are still like a warm, fuzzy blanket wrapping him up all snug and secure. Some will point out that his peripherals last year didn’t look so good matching up against a 46.1-inning season the year before, but please…..he’s a work in progress with a strong skill set as a base. Last year was a great learning experience for him but this year he takes charge.
Steve Cishek, RP MIA (143.36) – Often overlooked by buffoons who think that closers on bad teams are unproductive. Ho hum. Boooooring! Cishek notched 34 saves for a terrible Marlins team last year and had the best season of his career. He posted strong strikeout numbers, great rations, a heavy dose of ground balls and a solid three-pitch arsenal. He’s 27-years old this year and while his spring numbers don’t look so hot, it was due to a sore neck to open the spring. Since three rough-and-tumble outings to open the Grapefruit League, he’s posted a 1.29 ERA over his last seven innings. And don’t sweat Carter Capps being in the bullpen. He’ll settle in for the eighth inning, most likely. Is he insurance in case something happens? Of course. But he’s not stealing the job for no reason.