Creeping ever closer to the long-awaited opening day, fantasy teams all over are wringing their hands and preparing for their draft day. In those first few rounds there is very little discrepancy and few choices outshine others. Taking players like Mike Trout and Max Scherzer are no-brainers, but the real questions come in finding those mid to late round diamond in the roughs and avoiding wasting higher picks on players destined to disappoint and ending up with a lump of coal in your baseball stocking. With that in mind I’ve compiled my list of the three diamonds in the rough and three lumps of coal to help you through those difficult draft picks.
Diamonds in the Rough:
1. Dansby Swanson
Coming into the 2017 campaign, Swanson was riding the wave of hype that swelled from his ranking as a top 5 prospect and a short Major League stint that saw him post a 107 wRC+ in 38 games. He fell flat on his face in 2017, struggling to a slash of .232/.312/.324 and an abysmal -22 Offensive Runs. While last year would put him more on the bust side of things, his peripherals suggest that he is much better than his number appear and he may be poised for a breakout season.
One of the most sustainable aspects of hitting in the approach. If a hitter has a good approach at the plate, a good plan, everything else will fall into place. Bad luck and good luck may come into play, but in the end, a good approach at the plate will win out. Swanson has an excellent approach, especially so for a 24 year old hitter. His 10.7% walk rate in 2017 suggests he has the patience to succeed at the Major League level. His 27% O-Swing is 3% better than league average, and his SwStr of 9.4% also surpassed league average. Swanson’s poor slash can be somewhat attributed to bad luck, as he posted a below average .294 BABIP. His .094 ISO is also a likely anomaly; he hit with much more power in the Minor Leagues, only once hitting an ISO below .140.
Hiis superior pitch selection, combined with some bad luck, points to an elevated level of maturity at the plate that will translate into a much batter 2018 season. I’d look for Swanson to perform more in the .270/.340/.400 range. Boosted by some very nice defensive play at shortstop could spell a 2-3 WAR season for this young Atlanta Brave.
This may seem like an odd pick for a sleeper, since the powerful 23 year old slugged 24 home runs in just 216 PA last season, but I think we are in for an even more incredible ride in 2018. Olson impressed with his power, but there are other aspects of his game that were overlooked and could skyrocket him to an All-Star performance this season. Like Swanson, Olson has a keen eye at the plate, walking at a 10.2% clip last season; and while his slash of .259/.352/.651 was good enough to help propel him to a 162 wRC+, he did it in the back of a very low .228 BABIP.
Olson has the power to slug 50 homes runs in a full season, and while I wouldn’t expect him to win a batting title any time soon, his patience should allow him a OBP that’s at least 100 points above his average. I’d expect the wRC+ to come back to Earth, maybe in the 120-130 range, but he has all the tools to bust out a huge 2018 season.
Glasnow is a very interesting case. On one side, he pitched terribly at the big league level in 2017, posting a 7.69 ERA and 6.4 BB/9 in 62 innings. On the other side, he pitched phenomenally at AAA with a 1.93 ERA and 12.5 K/9 in 93 innings. So which pitcher can we expect to emerge in the 2018 season?
His HR/FB rate of 18.1% is nearly 5 points above the league average of 13.7% suggesting that bad luck played a role in some of his inflated ERA. Further exacerbating his ERA was an astonishingly high .358 BABIP. One possible reason for the poor MLB numbers could be his new usage of his changeup. Prior to 2017, he used this offspeed pitch only 2.4% of the time; in 2017 that increase to 12.4%. The reason this is such an issue is that hitters posted a .368 ISO against the pitch. All these things point to a 2018 season that should move the needle back in the right direction. Glasnow should put up strikeout numbers in the 9 K/9 range, and while he always displayed some control issues, a HR/FB ratio that drops down to league average, and some better luck on balls in play should bring his FIP down into the 3s.
Lumps of Coal:
1. JD Martinez
The 5 year $110MM deal Martinez signed with Boston may come back to bite the Red Sox. Martinez put up some fine numbers in 2014-15, but over the other 5 years of his career he combined for only 4.5 WAR. He is not the most durable player either, he has managed 125 or more games in a season only once. Furthermore, while the 45 home runs he hit last season seems enticing, his .387 ISO is 150 points above his career average. As any good statistician knows, given enough samples, always expect regression towards the mean.
2. Corey Dickerson
Coming off of arguably his best season in 2017, Dickerson is poised to drop back down to league average in 2018. HIs career 6.2 walk rate shows very little plate discipline, and when displayed alongside his 23% strikeout rate shows his limited plate value. Dickerson has one of the worst approaches at the plate, in 2017 his 45.6% O-Swing was the worst in all of baseball among qualifying players. He’s also second among that group in total Swing% at 58.7%. This has lead to a ton of swings and misses; his 15.5% SwStr rate is the 4th lowes in baseball. All of these whiffs show that Dickerson just can’t be trusted to put up 2 WAR numbers on any consistent basis.
3. Drew Pomeranz
Pomeranz followed up his All-Star 2016 season with a very nice 2017 campaign that saw him win 17 games with a 3.32 ERA. That’s two straight seasons taking the hill as a starter after a shaky start to his career and a unclear role from starter to bullpen. Pomeranz doesn’t have the terrible peripherals that some other pitcher have, but there are a few things to be concerned about if you are a Pomeranz fan.
While he did only allow 3.32 runs per nine innings last season, his 4.15 xFIP suggest that at least some of that was a little luck. Since 2014 he has yet to have a season where his ERA finished below his xFIP. His groundball rate dropped from 46% in 2016 to 43% in 2017, not a significant fall but when looking at some other numbers could point to a steady trend. His BB/9 have increased every year for the last three years, going from 3.2 in 2015 to 3.6 in 2017. Again not a big move but a move in the wrong direction nonetheless. His strikeout rate moved down 3 points, and his LD% increased from 16.6% in 2016 to 21.9% in 2017. These numbers don’t necessarily point to a huge drop, but they do show that his luck will run out sometime. I’d expect his numbers to look more like his peripherals this season. He should finish with around a dozen wins and an ERA that looks more like his xFIP, around 4. He is also likely to see his K/BB move into the 2 range.
Author: Ronnie Tellalian (Twitter)