With another wild seven-game World Series in the books, it’s officially time to shift gears to the 2018 season (No, you don’t get any days off—why do you ask?). As usual, the World Series brought us drama, epic performances, and the opportunity to speculate wildly using the smallest of samples. While that’s certainly fun, allowing the results of one seven-game series to heavily cloud your judgment come draft day can be a recipe for disaster. At the same time, there are some real takeaways from watching teams on the biggest stage that could feasibly carry over to next season. Let’s dig a little deeper to determine whether the fluctuation in a player’s perceived value should affect your opinion when it’s time for 2018 roster building.
Because I’m nothing if not a glutton for shameless, self-promotion, I wrote about Verlander’s emergence with the Astros last week. Since then, the 34-year-old has tossed 12 innings, looking downright dominant at times en route to fanning 14 Dodgers to only two walks. His only real enemy has been the sixth inning, where he’s surrendered a pair of runs in both starts, ending his night early on two occasions. While the reigning ALCS MVP has been a stud throughout the entire playoffs, unearthing added velocity akin to us mere mortals finding a $5 bill in an old jacket pocket, it shouldn’t really change our perception of the Astros’ new ace. Verlander is really good, likely a top-10 option moving forward. Off the top of my head, it’s Kershaw, Sale, Scherzer, Kluber, and Strasburg in some order, followed by another cluster of Carrasco, Greinke, Syndergaard, and Bumgarner, a tier Verlander could easily find himself leading. In an era where getting 200 innings from a starter is becoming increasingly rare, premium production at that volume becomes extremely valuable.
Somewhere during the Dodgers’ layoff between the NLCS and World Series, Pederson turned into turn-of-the-millennium Barry Bonds, slashing .357/.438/1.143 heading into Game 7. The dude was allergic to singles, cashing in extra bases for each of his hits. Brace yourself for the hot take that is approaching: I don’t think Pederson will carry an OPS above 1.500 through next season. Having said that, the 25-year-old kind of, sort of improved this season, although a truly horrific month of August kept his final line from really showing it. Pederson again couldn’t hit lefties to save his life, but his role against southpaws already had been dwindling in the years previous. He actually cut down on his strikeouts by over 6 percentage points, and produced a better-than-average swinging-strike rate, all while maintaining an exceptional walk rate. Much has been made this week about some mechanical adjustments, focusing on Pederson’s lower half and driving the ball to the opposite field. If he can maintain that balance at the plate, to go along with his improving strikeout rate, Pederson could go from an undrafted afterthought to a strong-side platoon guy worthy of an OF4 spot, or potentially even better.
It’s easy to have missed Barnes’ 2017 mini-breakout. He was after all, a backup catcher and backup catchers are typically only a notch above middle relievers in the notability totem pole. The 27-year-old has always showed good discipline at the plate (aside from his 2016 cup of coffee), he just never seemed to get the opportunity to receive consistent at-bats. Barnes finally took over as the primary backup this season, and grabbed the proverbial brass ring (sorry Cesaro), hitting .289/.408/.486 with almost as many walks as strikeouts in 262 plate appearances. Now, he hasn’t been as good in the World Series, sure, but if you haven’t noticed, Barnes started all seven games. Despite Yasmani Grandal grading out as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball (thanks to his pitch-framing wizardry), manager Dave Roberts subtly implied that he preferred Barnes’ game-calling during the NLCS, and it’s proven to be especially true in the World Series.
I wouldn’t necessarily count on Barnes being the everyday starter in 2018, but it is reminiscent of last season’s Indians team, with Roberto Perez usurping some of Yan Gomes’s reps and creating a true timeshare behind the dish. Even as a primary backup, Barnes should have plenty of value next season. In Mike Gianella’s NL-Only valuations, he earned $13 in 2017, or $1 better than Jonathan Villar (not apples to apples, but still). With the state of the catcher position more ominous than the Upside Down in fantasy circles, it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see Barnes as a top-10-ish option next season, regardless of whether he sees a bump in playing time.
The short sample nature of the playoffs probably negatively affects relief pitchers more than any other player. Giles spent the 2017 season striking out everyone, fanning 83 batters in 63 2/3 innings, while registering 34 saves. However, after allowing 10 runs in 7 2/3 postseason innings before Game 7, it would appear that manager A.J. Hinch would rather let Orbit, the team mascot, throw in the highest-leverage situations than his “trusted” closer. Giles is still a top-tier closer, and I would treat him as such on draft day, however there are always injury concerns with young pitchers who throw as hard as he does. His Game 2 fastball topped out at “only” 97 mph, the lowest velocity he has had all year. As the playoffs progressed, he threw fewer sliders, and even had a couple of games where the pitch procured no whiffs. Look, I’m not a doctor. It’s entirely possible that Giles is just fatigued after a long season, but if there’s a reason to knock the flamethrower heading into 2018, I think it might be injury concerns rather than postseason performance.
First of all, I would like to take all the “Playoff Kershaw” narratives and toss them gently into the sun. That said, whether it’s due to injury concerns or playoff-related nonsense, Kershaw could very well not be the first starting pitcher off the board in the 2018 draft. While I’ll listen to the arguments against taking Kershaw No. 1 (and I even understand most of them), I’m likely going down with the ship, an event I don’t anticipate happening for several years down the line.
The playoff-news cycle is not a friend to the volatile slugger—just ask Aaron Judge. Bellinger looked lost at the plate early, later made an adjustment and was a world beater again, and finally struck out four times in Game 6. So, long story short, he’s been Cody Bellinger. The 22-year-old is going to strike out, yes, but the reason he’s so exciting is that he already has shown a knack for making adjustments during a major-league season. Bellinger is going to be fine, and if World Series strikeouts knock down his price a little, all the better.
I’ll keep this short and sweet. You don’t need me to tell you these guys are stars. But I will anyway: These guys are stars. And they combined for one of the most fun World Series in years. Baseball is cool sometimes.
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