As I mentioned last week, I did my first draft (a 15-team NFBC Draft & Hold league) way back in early October. It’s always a mixed bag drafting that early, but you know what you sign up for, and I won’t go into the sad details of my teams that will head into the season with a sense of things being over before they started due to injuries (note: and I wrote that before Edwin Diaz went down… so now I’m really in ‘don’t get me started’ mode, sigh). The flip side of that, though, is getting an early opportunity to play the fantasy baseball stock market, if you will, trying to get ahead of the curve. It’s always a satisfying feeling like you’ve gotten a great deal in the fall before a player’s value rises once offseason reports come in, spring training gets underway, and the rest of the world starts paying attention to player values. This week we’ll look at a few players, sticking with a relatively deep-league NFBC ADP outside the top 250 over the last two weeks, whose value has risen the most since that first draft I participated in — and consider whether or not they may still be worth their now-higher prices.
Austin Meadows (#406 off the board in October; current ADP #260) Meadows’ stock rose this spring with kind of a triple “best shape of his life” report. He arrived at spring training physically healthy (with an Achilles injury and vertigo hopefully in the rearview mirror), mentally healthy (he’s been refreshingly forthright about his battles with anxiety and mental health, and discussing how he feels better than ever on that front), and, to top it all off, he has a new trainer, a new diet, and has lost around 20 pounds. Who knows if all of this will lead to a return to fantasy relevance, but it certainly sounds like he’s done everything he can to make it happen, and he also has a clear path to low-pressure playing time in Detroit. I wish I’d drafted him in a league or two when I could get him around pick 400 and I would still draft him if he fell to me at the right spot, but I doubt that I’ll end up with any shares at his current ADP. I may regret it if Meadows really is in the best shape of his life, but I’m just not sure that he’ll help enough — either across the fantasy board or in any one single category — to justify a pick in the 250 range. (Well, lo and behold, I see that my buddy Son has done some investigating on how Mr. Meadows might fare in 2023… he’s higher on him than I’ve been thinking I am, so now I really wish I’d locked him up late on a couple rosters!)
Jake Fraley (#380 in October; current ADP #279). I took Fraley in the October draft and grabbed another share at about the same price in my next. When his ADP started quickly rising I backed off a bit as draft season continued, but I still like him around his current 300-ish price, given or take a round or two. I’ve already mentioned him in my outfielder’s post, and continue to like his chances to be a huge help in deep leagues and of potential use to stream, if nothing else, even in shallower leagues. He may sit against lefties, and probably should, given his splits (he hit .143 against them last year) but overall should have a fairly long leash while the Reds determine if he is a legitimate building block for their future. In case you missed it, he earned said opportunity with incredibly solid play late in 2022 (he hit .295/.377 OBP in 53 games after the all-star break, with 11 homers and 3 steals).
Craig Kimbrel (#475 in October; current ADP #287). Kimbrel’s stock obviously went way up when he signed with the Phillies, as folks are assuming he’ll get at least a large share of save opportunities. This assumption may prove correct, but I for one wasn’t interested in the late 400’s, let alone the top 300. I have to think the Phillies will have a true closer-by-committee situation, especially given how well it worked for them last year and throughout the playoffs. And even if Kimbrel is regularly pitching the 9th, I’ll leave that headache to someone else. He was someone I refused to draft in 2022 after watching him at the end of 2021, and I’m only doubling down on that notion this year after witnessing the ugly 2022 performance which culminated in the Dodgers leaving him off of their playoff roster.
Yandy Diaz (#399 in October; current ADP #297). I’m not really sure why Yandy has risen so much, though I suppose the Rays signing him to a multiyear deal a few months ago didn’t hurt, and any concerns that folks had about playing time were assuaged. I’ve always been a fan of Diaz, and he provided some stealthy batting average help at my corner infield spot in my AL-only league for the last couple of years. However, even with a power bump that some are predicting, (Steamer says he’ll hit 14 homers in the same number of at-bats that he hit 9 in during 2022), he feels like a late 300’s guy more than an early 300’s guy to me. I just don’t see him helping us in the fantasy game as much as he helps his real-life team (though I should mention that, in addition to being a late target to salvage some batting average woes, he should probably get a decent push up in OBP leagues as well).
Carlos Estevez (#731 in October; current ADP #309). I was the one that took Estevez in this draft, before he signed with the Angels and hoped he’d end up somewhere that might include a path to saves. Well, after landing in Southern California, it certainly sounds like he wants to close and that the team wants him to close… but he’s having a horrible spring so far, so this situation is far from resolved, and may not be for a while. Jimmy Herget was better closing in Anaheim late last year than most people noticed, plus the team has some solid young arms coming up. I’m glad I have a few cheap shares of Estevez and am looking forward to seeing what he can do outside of Colorado, but I’m not buying any more at his current price while we wait and see how this situation plays out. (Note: just drafted Estevez with my last pick of my $100 RCL last night, which was a brutally difficult draft BTW so a shout-out to my league mates if any of you are reading! I think Herget went the round before; Estevez is 50/50 to still be on my team when the season starts, but that late in a league with a large free agent pool I don’t mind either as a flier).
Adam Duvall (#686 in October; current ADP #382). I don’t have any shares of Duvall so I have to admit he was more or less off my radar and was surprised to see just how huge a jump his ADP has taken over the last few months. Folks clearly approve of the Red Sox as a 2023 destination for Duvall, both in terms of potential playing time as well as his home ballpark being a nice match for his power potential this season. Between his always-dangerous low batting average and the fact that he had offseason wrist surgery (to repair a tendon sheath), though, I don’t think I’m interested in committing to him at his current price in deeper leagues. I can, however, imagine him being a useful streamer, or a helpful draft and hold/best ball piece, right from the get-go this season.