Fantasy Baseball: Players That Owners Fall in Love With

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Fantasy Baseball: Players That Owners Fall in Love With
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Every once in a while, you fall in love.

And no, it’s not the type of love Jake felt towards Vienna on The Bachelor.

This type of love is much more…passionate.

I’d equate it to the type of love that Theo Epstein felt towards Marco Scutaro after he stalked and eventually signed the journeyman utility player to a two-year, $12.5 million dollar contract after he recorded a career year at age 35.

It’s that unmistakable feeling you get about a player whom you just know is going to have a break out year.  While the stats may not always back it up, there’s something special about that player which makes one think, “come hell or high water, I need this man on my fantasy team.”  

This desperation leads to many owners reaching two or three rounds too early for some players, because there’s nothing more gut-wrenching than passing up on a player you love only to see him snatched up by somebody else in the next round.  

Below are the players who, based on mockdraftcentral.com's ADP differential, are being reached for the most in drafts this year.

Because as we all know, love has no boundaries. 

For the purposes of space, we’re only going to look at players whose earliest draft position was 100 or under.  Because reaching for players beyond that point is a crapshoot anyway. 

 

Joe Nathan – ADP: 90.28/Earliest: 61/Reach Differential:  -29

There’s a reason why it’s foolish to draft before late March.

 

Gordon Beckham - ADP: 88.04/Earliest: 58/Reach Differential:  -30 

Hard to tell how early is too early for Beckham, because even with his sparkling stats in limited ABs in 2009 (.270/14/63/7 in 378 ABs), the sample size may be too small to project fifth round value. 

But then again, the 3B pool is so thin this season, it’s not surprising that many are willing to reach outside of the accepted range to potentially snag the next David Wright.

The drop-off in talent after Beckham and the aging Michael Young (ADP 94.34) is reason enough to jump the gun to avoid having to chose between Adrian Beltre and Edwin Encarnacion as your starter at the hot corner (cue the depressing trumpet of “Taps” and kiss your fantasy season goodbye).

 

Wandy Rodriguez – ADP:  120.64/Earliest: 86/Reach Differential: - 34

Wand-Rod still flies under the radar behind Roy Oswalt in Houston, despite the fact that he’s become the clear cut ace of the rotation. 

He entered the elite last season with a 2.71 ERA and has finally figured out how to succeed outside of Minute-Maid Park, although his splits (2.08 at home, 4.05 away) are still less than encouraging. 

What does this mean for fantasy owners?  You’re getting an absolute steal if Wandy falls to you at his expected ADP, but you shouldn’t feel guilty about reaching a few rounds earlier for him, which would land him in Clayton Kershaw/Yovani Gallardo territory, players who are his relative equals numbers-wise. 

 

Matt Wieters – ADP: 93.56/Earliest: 57/Reach Differential: - 36

The culprit here may be his tantalizing upside, or league settings (leagues where two catchers are required may mean catchers are at a premium). 

Certainly Wieters has the “it” factor—he’s the next big thing in the catcher universe.  Plus he’s younger than Jorge Posada, has yet to break down like Russell Martin, and hasn’t yet burned fantasy owners like Geovany Soto.  So there’s really no downside to drafting Wieters if you feel the need to draft a catcher that early, especially after his .301/7/36 second half. 

Just beware that despite the hype, some more growing pains may still be in order.  His batting eye is still subpar, and he finished 2009 with an xBA of just .236, which could spell trouble this year once AL pitchers face him enough to exploit his weaknesses.   

 

Jason Bartlett – ADP:  106.99/Earliest: 70/Reach Differential:  -36

A classic example of a player with nowhere to go but down.  His HR totals increased from a mere one in 2008 to a “steroidian” 14 in 2009, which, along with his yearly 25-plus steals, catapulted him to the top of the second-tier shortstops, ahead of proven 15-15 guys like Alexei Ramirez. 

Maybe some people are simply getting tired of drafting Derek Jeter.  Who knows.  If Bartlett were five years younger I’d say invest, but at age 30, it’s unlikely he’s reinvented himself into a legitimate power threat, and all indications point to 2009 being an outlier rather than a trend. 

Expect his ground ball rate to return to 2008 levels, and his year-end totals to look more similar to Elvis Andrus or Asdrubal Cabrera—both of whom are going five rounds later. 

 

Howie Kendrick – ADP: 139.81/Earliest: 97/Reach Differential: -42

Why are people reaching for Kendrick?  The man is more brittle than most grandmothers, and was demoted to AAA ball last season after an uninspired first half. 

But Kendrick still oozes with potential, and at age 27, still has time to fulfill it.  His dazzling second half (.351/6/39/5) are what owners will remember and what they’ll be bidding on.  And for what it’s worth, Kendrick has seen an upward trend in games played in each of his past four seasons (with a high of 105 last year). 

On the downside, this is a player who still has yet to crack the 400 AB plateau, and Mike Scioscia may be looking to get utility freak Macier Izturis some extra at-bats, which would cut into Kendrick’s role as an everyday player. 

Would I still take Kendrick over someone like batting average butcher Dan Uggla (ADP: 87.83)?  Yes.  But be prepared with a competent backup in case Kendrick so much as sneezes the wrong way. 

 

Elvis Andrus – ADP:  151.76/Earliest: 99/Reach Differential:  -52

Of every player drafted in the top 100, Andrus is being reached for the most by fantasy owners. 

Why?  Maybe it’s strangely satisfying to draft a player named Elvis.  Or maybe because he put up numbers comparable to Jacoby Ellsbury in his first full MLB season. 

Only the 22-year old Andrus is a shortstop, and could easily out-produce two members of the older guard (Rafael Furcal and Miguel Tejada) who are being taken before him. 

Runs should be plentiful for Andrus, who will hit ninth in the Rangers order.  So should he get on base, fellow speedster and leadoff hitter Julio Borbon may be bunting him over more often than he might like.  The meat of the Rangers order follows, and everything after that is gravy. 

 

Matt is also a contributor at rotowire.com and mockdraftcentral.com, you can view more of his rankings and analysis here.

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