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More like cold corner, right guys?
Kris Bryant, Cubs
In case you were wondering, writing an “avoid” piece on a major-league ready, all-world prospect who just got done hitting .325 with 43 home runs, 118 runs batted in, 110 runs scored, 15 stolen bases, and a 14.5 percent walk rate over 594 evenly split plate appearances across Double-A and Triple-A is absolutely terrifying. Sure, Bryant has a lot of swing and miss in his game, but I am not going down that road because Bryant is awesome and that swing and miss, when combined with his approach, will most likely be awesome at the major-league level someday.
The issue with Bryant for redraft leagues is that he is being valued as if he is definitely going to be awesome at the major league level in 2015. His current NFBC ADP is 100. Obviously, if drafters were not hedging their bets at all, Bryant would be a top-50 pick, but I think Bryant’s floor is being overstated because we have never seen him fail. By underrating negative possibilities we are therefore overrating positive possibilities. So while Bryan is a fun player and a fun player for fantasy, I would be much happier grabbing David Wright a round earlier or Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Carpenter, or Manny Machado two to four rounds later, because their downsides are being more accurately priced into their ADPs.
Again, this is not saying that Bryant cannot be amazing (that is certainly a possibility and depending on the depth and waiver activity of your league Bryant’s upside might be the right play); rather, this is saying that we are better off taking the values that come to us rather than reaching for premiums. —Jeff Quinton, a man who shouldn’t read the comments
Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians
I know we're not really supposed to pick on the low-hanging fruit here, but Chisenhall was a very strong hitter last year, hitting .280 with 13 homers in his age-25 season. Well, let's correct that. He was a really strong hitter during the first three months of the season, and then the Lonnie Chisenhall we all expected in the last three months. Predicting which version we'll see in 2015 is not quite as easy as saying "he stunk down the stretch" and leave it at that, but it's an important fact to remember in the overall picture.
On July 1st, the Indians third baseman was sitting on a .345/.399/.555 line with eight homers in 67 games—and while no one thought that pace would continue, he cratered beyond expectation the rest of the way. He settled with a .225/.295/.318 line from that day on. The batting average fluctuation is overblown, since despite striking out a little more in the second half, there wasn't a huge difference between his underlying stats. The bigger issue is the step back in power, as Chisenhall settled for just 14 extra-base hits over the last three months of the season, compared to 28 in the first three months, despite about 30 more at-bats.
The other problem Chisenhall is going to have in 2015 is contextual stats, while likely hitting down lineup in a below-average Indians offense. He spent the most amount of time hitting fifth last season, but with Brandon Moss coming over from Oakland and Yan Gomes slotting in ahead of him, Chisenhall looks like he'll be hitting seventh or eight this year–decreasing his run potential severely (Jose Ramirez won't do a great job of driving him in). With that already as a problem, he will likely have to repeat the batting average, while taking a step forward in power just to be playable in mixed leagues–and that's not something I'm going to be counting on. —Bret Sayre
Josh Harrison, Pirates
Everybody loves a good story, and Harrison certainly represented one in 2014. The 27-year-old emerged from relative obscurity to solidify himself as an everyday player for the Pirates, hitting .315/.347/.490 in 550 MLB PA, swiping 18 bags and even hitting 13 homers. That was good enough to rank as the sixth-best fantasy third baseman in 5×5 leagues, and it was good enough for the Pirates to view Harrison as their everyday third baseman for 2015, too.
I’m here to remind you that we can’t have nice things, and that good stories don’t always have happy endings. Harrison’s 2014 was mighty impressive, but what reason do we have to believe it’s sustainable? His BABIP was .353, and while he’s fast, I’m not ready to assume he can repeat such a number when his career average is .313. He hit 13 homers after never hitting more than seven in any one season in his MiLB career. Harrison walked just 4.0 percent of the time, meaning much of his value is tied up in his probably unrepeatable AVG. And finally, Harrison is going to lose his second base eligibility in leagues with a 20-game threshold, putting a damper on his value.
I buy that Harrison is a legit major leaguer now, and I buy that he’s going to be useful in fantasy leagues. But according to FantasyPros.com, his aggregate ADP 87th overall right now, and that I don’t buy at all. Even if Harrison hits well enough to keep his job, his true talent level is probably more along the lines of a .270 hitter with about 10 homers and about 15 steals, and unless he learns to take a walk it’s tough to see him matching his 77-run mark from last year. If he falls to you, take him. But right now he’s being drafted ahead of Matt Carpenter, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Zimmerman, and Manny Machado. That’s not smart. – Ben Carsley
Mike Moustakas, Royals
Looking past last October, Moustakas has struggled to live up to the lofty praise heaped upon him by the baseball community around the time he was drafted. The second overall pick in 2007, Moustakas appeared to be one of the best power hitters in the minor leagues after hitting 36 home runs in 118 games between two levels in 2010. He also struck out just 67 times in 534 plate appearances that season, but has never approached that kind of power in the major leagues. Moustakas’ best ISO (.171), SLG (.412), and home-run totals (20) with the Royals all came in 2012, his first full season in the majors.
Since making it to the major leagues, his poor approach at the plate has hindered his ability to hit, both for average and power. His .212 AVG from last year should improve because it came with a .220 BABIP and his career BABIP is .260, but Moustakas has never played at least 90 games and hit above .242 in the majors. PECOTA projects him to hit .243. Moustakas, who I chose not to mention as an interesting deep target in my AL–only league landscape column, hit 17 home runs last year and it’s safe to pencil him in once again for 15-20 home runs.
While Moustakas isn’t on the mind of most fantasy owners—his current NFBC ADP is 307 and he earned -$2 in standard 5×5 mixed leagues last year—he’s still being taken ahead of Casey McGehee, Juan Uribe, Luis Valbuena, David Freese, and Marcus Semien. Each of those guys except Semien, who was really only productive in September, earned at least $5 more than Moustakas in those leagues. Unless Moustakas shows that he can hit for more than just average power over a full season, there’s no reason to take him before even guys like that. I’m really unsure of what Alex Rodriguez will earn this year, but if he outdoes Moustakas too, I’ll laugh. —Nick Shlain
Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
When writing this piece, I found myself doing a double take; was this me actually putting negative thoughts in print about a third baseman I had coveted for years in my multiple fantasy leagues? I have been an A-Ram fan for years—he’s a player I always targeted in my auctions for the stability he brought to the position from an earnings perspective. Ramirez has certainly been a consistent source of profitable seasons over the course of a stellar career, but the last couple of seasons have raised some red flags that his days of being an upper-tier option at the hot corner are numbered.
Ramirez will be 37 this June, and the veteran third baseman has missed 99 games the past two seasons with various injuries. During these injury-plagued campaigns, Ramirez has seen significant drops in his slugging percentage and HR:FB rates. Last year, Ramirez suffered through one of his worst overall seasons, posting his lowest slugging numbers since 2002 and the worst K:BB rate of his career. His 6.7 percent HR:FB ratio in 2014 was well below league average, raising legitimate concerns his 20-plus-HR days could be over.
There are plenty of strong 3B options to choose from this year, which makes targeting Ramirez for his services less desirable. While Ramirez could very well put up last year’s numbers, and a .285/.330/.427 season is not terrible, it’s just a season you could find from a handful of lesser third base options like a Juan Uribe (.311/.337/.440) and Casey McGehee (.287/.355/.357). Unfortunately, Ramirez no longer holds upper-tier relevance in mixed leagues, and if the last two years are any indication, the dropoff in fantasy production could be rather quick. —Keith Cromer
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