The last two weeks we’ve talked about fantasy baseball from more of a mixed-league perspective, but this week I’m ready to start swimming back to the slightly deeper end of the pool as we continue to look at ADP and how it may affect early drafts. Even with ADP readily available, it’s tricky to know just how high you’ll need to grab ‘sleeper’ targets when there’s little to no ADP information out there. If you start drafting in November, as I do annually, it really can feel like a complete crapshoot. What I’m going to look at this week is a handful of players who I had at least loosely targeted and figured I could get very late, but have recently been going off the draft board earlier than I originally expected or hoped they would. Getting back to the deep league theme: while these players could ultimately prove to be options in shallower leagues, they all had an NFBC ADP outside the top 250 for the months of October and November combined. As you’ll see, some of them have already creeped significantly higher up the ADP ranks now that we have an additional two months of draft data (i.e. numbers from December and January combined) to compare to the original October/November marks. Obviously a solid spring (should spring training be a thing that ever happens again) could propel any of them even further up the draft board.
Lane Thomas: I grabbed Thomas in a late November draft at pick 251, which I actually thought might be a slight overpay as his NFBC ADP for October and November was 272. I confidently sailed into my next few drafts expecting to be able to continue taking Thomas around pick 250, but it was not to be – and it was not even close to being in one of my drafts, where he went off the board with pick 193 (in other leagues, he was #221 and #234). His NFBC ADP for December and January combined was 252, a 23-spot rise from the earlier 2-month period. I think the range of 2022 outcomes for Thomas is fairly wide. While I don’t want to worry about batting average too much at this point, his .235 mark in 77 games last year doesn’t exactly excite me – if pitchers make adjustments to him faster than he can adjust back, things could get ugly. But Thomas is fast, he draws walks, he’s already shown some pop at the major league level, and he should get plenty of playing time with the Nationals unless they do something really stupid. I have already taken him in two leagues and will continue to be in on him in the 225-250 range, but for now I’m not going to jump him up 80 spots in ADP to grab him like the guy in my league who took him at 193 did.
Elias Diaz: Diaz’s October/November ADP was 291. He was taken at #283 in my first draft of the season, and I was more than happy to target him in the 280-295 range as my draft season progressed. Cut to three months later, and I don’t own him anywhere: after that first draft, Diaz went off the board with picks 256, 229, and 207. He’s had a significant ADP jump, going from that 291 number all the way to 252 in the December/January period. Obviously catchers are tricky to predict since they are particularly susceptible to positional runs, but in my leagues Diaz has been getting drafted ahead of many catchers who are ahead of him on some “expert” rankings. Grey has Diaz ranked as catcher #11, which is about where I’d put him, but for comparison one of the guys at Fangraphs has him at #23. I dream of being in a league with people who’d draft 22 other MLB catchers ahead of Diaz, who upped his fly ball percentage significantly last year, hit 18 bombs in 338 ABs, and is now locked in as a Rockie for a few years. If you want him – and I think you should want him — just know you may have to pay up a bit more than you’d expected to.
Oneil Cruz: I’ve never considered predicting prospect performance one of the stronger parts of my fantasy game, and it’s even harder to project a player who has a grand total of 9 major league at bats and plays for what could arguably be the worst team in baseball this season. Of course, a good or bad spring coupled with information on whether the Pirates plan to throw him into the major league fire to open the season could send Cruz skyrocketing upwards or spiraling downwards in terms of ADP and fantasy stock. For the time being, though, in our maddening lockout news vacuum, that stock is rising even without new incoming information: Cruz’s ADP jumped over 40 spots, from 263 to 221, from the October/November to the December/January period. If you’re intrigued by the combination of speed and legit power to all fields, and why wouldn’t you be, it might already be time to move him up your draft board a few notches.
Alex Cobb: Cobb is yet another player whose ADP has jumped considerably: from #326 in October/November, up to #261 in December/January. Folks are clearly daydreaming about the Giants getting everything that could be expected and then some out him, a la what they did with Kevin Gausman, Alex Wood, and Anthony DeSclafani recently. I’m interested enough to have rostered Cobb in my first draft of the season, taking him close to his ADP at the time, with pick 320. In my most recent draft he went at pick 267, also in line with his more recent — and more inflated — ADP. Cobb staying healthy is a big if, and he’s never been the most consistent pitcher or a strikeout machine even when healthy, but you’re usually going to have to gamble in one way or another outside the top 250 picks. I think Cobb makes an interesting target for 2022: he had the best K-BB% of his career last year and gets a lot of grounders, and count me solidly in the group that is anxious to see how far his skill set will take him in San Francisco. I just have to keep in mind when planning my drafts that I am unlikely to see Cobb hanging around at pick 320 again.
Lucas Sims: Why not close this post with a (potential) closer? (Though I suppose if I was going to end with a closer, I should have begun with a starter, but working out the kinks is what the pre-season is for, right?) Anyhow, Sims’ ADP intrigues me for a few reasons, one of which is that no other player has been drafted as far apart from highest to lowest in my drafts so far: as high as 159 in one, and as low as 292 in another. Similar to catchers as mentioned above, it can be a fool’s errand to pay attention to closer ADP because of runs, but a 133-spot difference is going to get my attention. His overall NFBC ADP is rising as well, from 296 in October/November to 258 in December/January (that 292 mark was from my first draft, and in addition to the 159 pick, he’s also been taken at 174 and 180). I am enamored of the strikeout potential (he had 76 in 47 innings last year), and his almost perfect September. Then I remember the four times that Sims gave up 3 runs in an inning last year, how ugly a bad relief appearance in Great American Ball Park can be, and that the Reds might be awful this season. And also that, while I would hand Sims the closer gig out of the gate to see what he can do, the Reds might have no intention of doing so. So I guess I’m saying that while I kind of love Sims as a flier at the right time and price, but I’m not going to get caught up in a panicked closer run and reach like the #159 guy did.