A lot of the hitters you’ll find on this list aren’t necessarily going to be God awful, fall off the face of the Earth, undraftable players — they’re just guys who had explosive 2018’s who you shouldn’t draft at their 2018 end of season value. Something I’m noticing is that there a lot more players who I’m high on (might have to do a part 2 of that series!) Maybe I’m too optimistic of a person, but I’m hoping every player is working on improving themselves in the off-season. Eric Hosmer HAS to be in his backyard taking golf swings to improve that 60.4% ground ball rate, right? Brian Dozier is definitely at the batting cage with a stance so closed the pitcher will be able to read his full name on the back of his jersey to improve his 49.9% pull rate, right? Billy Hamilton has to be working on his bunting so he can reach first base more than 30% of the time right?

J.D. Martinez (ADP: 5.8): This one is all about risk for me. J.D. was swinging out of his shoes in 2018 finishing in the top-5 in 4 of the 5 standard fantasy categories. He’ll still be solid, but part of my concern is more how deep he played into the season. A player who turns 32 this season, has a history of injuries and played meaningful games until almost Halloween gives me a little pause. I think we saw it a bit in 2018 with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa — both played until November 1st winning the World Series in 2017 and took steps backward and suffered through injuries in 2018. His .330 batting average should come down a bit, but he’ll still flirt with .300 as he did the past two seasons. The runs and RBI should still be there but I think the HRs will be closer to 35 than they will 45 and while the 6 bonus SBs are nice, they’re mostly meaningless and probably won’t be there in 2019. Why take a 4-category performer with some risk attached to him with your 5th or 6th overall pick when you could get the same production and risk in the second round with one of the big Yankee boys?

 

Christian Yelich (ADP: 9.8): With an ADP in the first round you are definitely going to be overpaying in 2019 for the best season of Yelich’s career. Yelich’s 35% HR/FB was very close to Aaron Judge’s 35.6% in his breakout 2017. No fantasy owner would ever mistake Christian Yelich for Aaron Judge however, especially when you compare their GB/FB rates: Judge: 0.81; Yelich: 2.20. Yelich has a career ground ball rate of 57.7% and has never had a ground ball rate under 50% in his career. Granted his 51.8% in 2018 was the lowest of his career — I think expecting over 30 HRs again this season is a mistake considering he doubled his HR total from 2017 to 2018 and his fly ball rate was 8th worst in the league. Yelich’s speed is something we’ve all been hoping would develop, but again, his 22 in 2018 was a career high. Like his power I think 22-25 stolen bases could be his peak and he’s more likely to fall in the 15-20 stolen base range that he showed the past 4 seasons. Let’s take a look at what Steamer-almighty has to say for Yelich’s 2019: 92/26/82/15/.297. Steamer is typically conservative, but even it agrees that paying for Yelich’s 2018 in 2019 is a fool’s errand.

Whit Merrifield (ADP: 35): As it pertains to steals I prefer to compile them across multiple players than rely on one or two players to win me the category. All it takes is one May sprained ankle to take you from first to worst in steals and that’s what I fear with Whit Merrifield. He lead the AL in steals in 2017 and 2018 and could very well lead again even if he only steals 35 — that’s how scarce stolen bases are. However, if Merrifield were on any other team I wouldn’t be low on him because his runs and RBI would still support his 35 ADP. Unfortunately, Merrifield will find himself in the top-3rd of the Royals lineup surrounded by Adalberto Mondesi, (more on him below)  and what’s left of Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez. Regardless of which spot he ends up in I think he’ll be lucky to reach 80 runs and 60 RBI. As for power, Merrifield will also be lucky to top 12 HRs again in 2019. His 86.5 mph exit velocity was 255th in the entire league — 1 spot below Joe “Singles Only” Panik and his 35.3% fly ball percentage was only 0.1% higher than Billy Hamilton. Then there’s that .304 average in 2018. That was accomplished with a .352 BABIP. With a .308 BABIP in 2017 his average was .288. My projections for him are 75/10/60/35/.290 — hardly worthy of a 35 ADP — but that’s mostly not his fault.

George Springer (ADP: 50.4): We have to put the 40/40 George Springer we all hoped for after his 2013 minor league season to bed for good. First off, he’s only totalled 30 SBs in his entire major league career. After smacking 34 HRs in 140 games in 2017 Springer took a step back with only 22 in 140 games last year. You have to wonder if he was suffering from the same bit of playoff exhaustion as Altuve and Correa in 2018. I think we can expect some power to come back, but what if he caps out at 30 HR power? As a lead-off man Springer won’t hit more than 70 RBI even in the Astros lineup, but at least 100 runs should be a lock. His .265 career average seems to be about the norm for him (that’s exactly what he hit in 2018.) So let’s look at those projections. 170 runs + RBI, 27 HR, 5 SB, .265 average? Take the name value away and you can get essentially those numbers with an ADP of around 123 from Aaron Hicks.

Adalberto Mondesi (ADP: 64.8): This is the one prediction that’s going to make or break me this season. I’ve seen the hype already warming up for Mondesi. Grey has A-Mon as his 20th ranked player overall with a 81/20/90/.249/40 projection. Grey and I might make good co-managers in some alternative universe because he’s a gun-slinging gambler and I’m very cautious, risk-averse Nancy-boy. A lot of what I said about Whit Merrifield above applies to Adalberto Mondesi as it pertains to the Royals lineup. 90 RBI for me is a bit ambitious for a guy who might be hitting in front of Billy Hamilton (career .298 OBP,) Hunter Dozier (.278 OBP last year) and Brian Goodwin (.315 career OBP) hitting in the bottom third of the Royals lineup. One of my biggest issues with Mondesi is his plate discipline. He’s never seen a pitch he didn’t want to swing at as evidenced by his 0.14 BB/K ratio last year. He swung at 38.4% of pitches outside the zone and only made contact on 44.5% of those pitches. Those numbers would’ve been bottom-20 in the league and worst in the league respectively over a full season. His 18.2% swinging strike percentage would’ve tied him for 2nd worst with Javier Baez last year.  He also only made contact on 67.4% of pitches he faced overall (would’ve been third-worst over the course of a full season.) Aggression at the plate like that can be taken advantage of by smart pitchers. The best/worst case scenario I would give for Mondesi are Javier Baez in 2018 and Jonathan Villar in 2017. If he hits like Baez — great. You’re winning your league! If he hits like Villar in 2017 after his 19 HR/62 SB season in 2016 — you’re a chump. The elite speed is there — but will he get on base enough to display it? The solid power is there — but will he touch the ball enough to show it?

Tim Anderson (ADP: 119.8): To hear Anderson talk about himself you’d be certain he’s an MVP candidate this year. However, promise me you won’t draft Tim Anderson as your shortstop in the 11th round? I know the 20/20 potential looks great and is a fun benchmark to say about a fantasy player, but 20 HRs means almost nothing today and you can get someone similar (let’s say Marcus Semien) around 100 picks later. His 30.3% hard contact rate was 125th in the league among qualified hitters and was somehow less than Alcides Escobar. ALCIDES ESCOBAR! His 85.6 mph exit velocity was even less than Whit Merrifield (see above.) His 10.6 degree average launch angle was 219th in the league. 20 HR power is possible — but improbable with those numbers. Anderson has a 49 stolen base season in Double-A back in 2015, but with a career OBP of .286 he’s not going to see many chances at stealing bases. The rotten cherry on top of this fish-flavored ice cream sundae is that Roster Resource has him projected to hit 7th for the Chicago White Sox. That means between 60-70 runs and 60-70 RBI. 65/15/65/15/.250 in the 11th round with downside abound as your starting shortstop? Be better.

  1. Skip Mcgillicuddy says:
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    Mondesi is the most controversial fantasy player i can remember. The range of outcomes for him are enormous. It really is difficult for re-drafters to gauge where he should go. Could be a top 20 overall, could be bench material.

    Agree on Yelich, i see him more as a top 25 rather than a top 10. Don’t think he will match his power output this year either.

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      @Skip Mcgillicuddy: There is no in between with him — you either think he’s a fantasy MVP — or will cost you your season.

      I have Yelich as a 1st round keeper in one league — he’ll still be a solid 5 category contributor — just not MVP level.

  2. I am the Walrus says:
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    I am also early round conservative and risk adverse. What you think of Bryant, Bregman and Ozuna?

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      @I am the Walrus: I have Bryant as my biggest bounceback candidate this year
      Bregman could challenge for MVP — IF IF IF he’s 100% healthy.
      Ozuna — low. He was on my short list of guys to write about here. However, he could rebound and surprise me.

  3. Harley Earl says:
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    You make some great observations on Mondesi! Well done!

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      @Harley Earl: Thanks man. I’ll either look like the smartest man in the room — or the biggest chump of all time.

      • Harley Earl says:
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        @Kerry Klug: At least you have the balls to say it.

        Nobody else will. So even if you’re wrong, you get respect in my book.

  4. Mark says:
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    I saw the same criticisms of Merrifield last year. Nearly every site said he wouldn’t repeat his 2017 numbers and had him ranked much lower than the 35th he achieved. R azzball had him ranked as the 11th 2nd baseman behind Chris Taylor, Dozier, Schoop and Odor etc.

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      @Mark: You may be right man. Whit-whit don’t quit. On any other team he’d be drafted as high as Trea Turner. I’m just a bit concerned he doesn’t live up to his 2018.

  5. Curious George says:
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    At what point are you willing to draft Mondesi for the upside? ESPN has his ADP at 133 which could obviously change with spring training and ESPN following suit with other fantasy hosts…

    • LenFuego says:
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      @Curious George: That’s not Mondesi’s ADP at ESPN – it is his ranking by their “experts”. His NFBC ADP (which is about as good a real world “where will he be drafted’ measure as you are going to find at this point of the year) is at 44, with him going anywhere from about 20 to 80. So if you do not pick him up by around pick 50 or so, you are probably not going to get him.

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      @Curious George: Yea — LenFuego has it right. these ESPN ADP’s are a bit wiggedy wiggedy whack right now. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder — if you are convinced that the potential for 20/40 is real and the warts aren’t there– then pull the trigger at 40. If you are in a league where he’s dangling past 50-60 — then take a shot.

  6. Tommy Herr says:
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    Merp. List every guy who had a great 2018. We get it. Need some new naratives moving forward in this preseason.

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      @Tommy Herr: I hear you — but that’s what this is all about. Guys who I’m not as high on in 2019. If someone was bad in 2018 of course I wouldn’t include them here because it would be obvious — OR I’d be saying that I think they’re going to bounce back.

  7. Bag Stealin Wheelin Dealin Son of a Guns says:
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    When are the commenter leagues going to open up?

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Not this Monday, following Monday

  8. Bob Sacamano says:
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    Ugh. I have to make a decision to keep 2 of 3 out of Ozuna, Springer & Paxton. Springer might be gone…

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