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March 19, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Picking Fifth

by Mauricio Rubio

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Depending on what you value, there’s a distinct separation in 12-team 5x5 draft formats when it comes to the fifth pick. Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt,and Andrew McCutchen all deserve to go in the no. 1-4 spots, and I don’t think there can be much debate on that. The big question facing owners picking fifth is a value-based one. I was handed the no. 5 pick in a home league, so let’s take a look at some of the names that I thought about taking there. (Note: I’m concentrating solely on 12-team leagues, so your mileage may vary).

Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw is a popular choice here judging by the ADPs across a few different sites. The reasons are obvious: Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball right now; he’s a good bet to help across four categories again this year; and there’s a decent amount of uncertainty with the position players who would also be the fifth-overall pick.

PECOTA projects Kershaw to finish fifth in K’s and first in both ERA and WHIP among starting pitchers. Wins are a mess to project, but one would expect his value to hold there given that the Dodgers are a good team and Kershaw tends to pitch deep into games.

Carlos Gonzalez
CarGo is a category-filler when he’s playing. At this point I think we’ve made peace with the fact that Gonzalez is unlikely to produce like he did in 2010 again but he still helps out across all five categories at a near-elite level.

Last season, Gonzalez posted another 20-20 season and hit over .300. PECOTA expects more of the same in 2014 with a jump in plate appearances and the subsequent jump in RS/BI. There’s a huge health caveat when it comes to Gonzalez; his injury history section is depressingly long and he hasn’t crossed the 140-game threshold since 2010. Durability is a serious concern here.

Hanley Ramirez
Ramirez got hurt in the World Baseball Classic and only played in 86 games last year, but he still managed to be worth 4.8 WARP. Some of that is due to a thin SS crop, but a whole lot more has to do with the .345/.402/.638 line he posted. While I don’t expect the average to be over .330 in 2014, there’s a good chance he finds himself in the .290 range while posting a 20-20 season.

Ramirez is a gifted player with extreme short term potential despite turning 30 years old this year. It’s difficult to label him a breakout candidate, but I do think he has a great chance at producing at a fifth-overall-pick level of production.

Robinson Cano
Cano posted another superb season with a .314/.383/.516 slash line coupled with 27 HR and a career-high walk rate. Cano is projected to be a four-category player again this year, even though PECOTA thinks his power is trending downward. He hasn’t played less than 159 games since 2006 and you can’t put up stats if you’re sitting on the bench or the DL. That type of durability mixed in with his production make Cano a very attractive player in my mind.

Chris Davis
Look, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that Davis hits 50 HR again. Bold statement, I know. I do believe in the power, however, and while it’s not Ruthian, I think it has a chance to be Thome-esque at least. I think 35 HR is more than acceptable from a first-rounder, but for me the limiting factor on his value becomes his plate discipline. I doubt Davis can post another .280-plus average while carrying a near-30-percent strikeout Rate.

here are some other guys here that I considered. I briefly flirted with the idea of just popping Bryce Harper because I wanted to but 5 is just too early. I think Adam Jones has a small case but not enough to really make it compelling. I think Yu Darvish will earn some serious consideration for this spot in drafts next year when you consider his strikeout potential mixed in with his other numbers.

If you believe in building around an ace pitcher in fantasy formats, you should pop Kershaw at no. 5. Personally, I think there’s too much risk in that. I’m open to selecting Kershaw in the first round—I think right around pick seven is ideally where I’d take him in redrafts—with the understanding that he’s not likely going to fall that far in most leagues. I’m hesitant to tie in that sort of value to a player who doesn’t contribute every day. Kershaw’s dominance changes the equation a lot but I need everyday contributions from a top-five guy if I have that pick with rare exception.

I wanted to take Carlos Gonzalez there, but the injury history is scaring me off from investing a top-five pick for him. Gonzalez has a long and concerning habit of missing big chunks of seasons, and I’d rather let someone else assume the risk.

Robinson Cano was seriously considered because of his increased plate discipline and penchant for churning out 25-plus HR seasons with a good average. I think Cano can produce like a top-five player this year and earn his draft spot selection.

Hanley Ramirez was the player I targeted at no. 5, though. If Ramirez is healthy all year, I think he has 30 HR and 20 SB potential. Discard the position he plays for a second; .290 – 30 – 20 – 90 – 90 has all sorts of insane value. The shortstop eligibility is just gravy at this point.

I ended up taking Paul Goldschmidt, because Kershaw was selected at no. 3 and McCutchen was taken in front of me at no. 4. Every so often, you find yourself in a position in which, for all the pre-draft planning you did, your decision ends up being completely off your board.

Mauricio Rubio is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mauricio's other articles. You can contact Mauricio by clicking here

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Fantasy Article The Darkhorses: Runs B... (03/19)
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