There's a tendency for Fantasy Baseballers, particularly the most plugged in, to fall in line with ADP, selecting players because it's "the right time" or "a good value."
But where does the heart fit in all of this? What is it you actually want? I'm not suggesting you abandon all reason and give in to your base desires, but enthusiasm isn't best reflected by ADP -- which, as I've already suggested, has a degree of self-fulfillment to it.
My goal here is to measure matters of the heart, to take the pulse of the Fantasy Baseball world via eight very open-ended questions. Responses were tallied from Twitter and Facebook.
Who's the one player you have to have this year?
Oneil Cruz isn't exactly cheap, but the upside is so tantalizing that I'm not at all surprised he's tied for first on this list. The Corbin Carroll love was a little more unexpected, possibly we haven't been pushing him so hard on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, but I find myself gravitating more and more to him the deeper we go into draft season. Vinnie Pasquantino is one of my most talked-up players and a popular breakout choice, and I'm beginning to understand why I'm never able to draft Cristian Javier. It's also clear Jordan Walker has aaaaall the helium right now (for good reason).
One surprising omission is Lars Nootbaar, who's been flying up draft boards and seems to be every Fantasy analyst's darling pick at a weak position. He did receive three votes, but not enough to appear on the graphic. My pick is Miguel Vargas, who's a good bet to contribute in batting average (and maybe steals as well) in a deep lineup. He's disciplined enough for Head-to-Head points leagues and could wind up being one of the most versatile players, capable of manning third base and the outfield in addition to second base.
Corbin Carroll. Dudes going to be swiping 40 bags this year while hitting for average and scoring runs. Can get him after my infield is built as well…— RiseUp (@RiseUpDubz) March 7, 2023
Received three votes: Pete Alonso, NYM; Mookie Betts, LAD; Hunter Brown, HOU; Jarred Kelenic, SEA; Manny Machado, SD; Lars Nootbaar, STL; Kyle Schwarber, PHI; Spencer Strider, ATL; Bobby Witt, KC
My choice: Miguel Vargas, LAD
Which starting pitcher is the best bet to break out?
I can't tell you how many years in a row now Jesus Luzardo has been among the top vote-getters here, but I have news for you: I think the breakout already came. He had a 3.32 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 10.8 K/9 in his 18 starts last year, so getting to the next level would simply mean sustaining it over 30 starts. Cristian Javier is kind of in the same boat, already offering premium ratios with the hope of taking on more innings. I get where respondents are coming from in both cases, but it's not what I had in mind.
I think the most obvious breakout candidates at starting pitcher this year are Nick Lodolo, George Kirby, Dustin May and Hunter Greene, and among them, I have the most confidence in Lodolo, who put together a 2.92 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 10.9 K/9 over his final 13 starts. A sneaky choice, though, would be Reid Detmers, who delivered a 3.04 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 13 starts after revamping his slider in the minors. That's compared to a 4.66 ERA and 6.8 K/9 in 12 starts previously.
Joe Ryan’s set for the third year big innings increase, his WHIP is ridiculously good and he K’s a batter per inning. He should be a 180IP/180K guy with health in 2023.— Dave Diamond (@AlwaysDiamond19) March 7, 2023
Received two votes: Luis Castillo, SEA; Zach Eflin, TB; Zac Gallen, ARI; Josiah Gray, WAS; Triston McKenzie, CLE; Andrew Painter, PHI; Chris Sale, BOS; Spencer Strider, ATL; Ricky Tiedemann, TOR; Garrett Whitlock, BOS
My choice: Lodolo
Which early-rounder do you want nothing to do with?
Yeah, Jacob deGrom is a tough one. His ratios are so good that if he just makes it 100 innings, he'll have a substantive impact on your team. Still, he hasn't reached even that modest total since 2019, and because his inability to stay healthy coincides with a velocity spike (that hasn't abated thus far), I'm not confident it's going to change. You have to rank him in a way that respects the upside, but I'm not sinking a third-round pick into a player who I don't think will be available to me for even half the season.
I agree Bobby Witt and Michael Harris are being over-drafted, with Harris also looking like a candidate for regression, so they do make for reasonable selections here. But they at least meet significant positional and categorical needs, so while I'd like to avoid them, they have their place. I can understand the concerns over Fernando Tatis, but I believe the reward exceeds the risk there. And as for Aaron Judge, well, here's why he's still my No. 1 overall player.
Fernando Tatis - because there are at least 5 things that could derail his season. He has multiple different injuries, hasn’t played in a year and a half, doesn’t fit with his team, playing a new position, coming off of roids, might do something weird again, the list is endless— David Callaghan (@dtcallaghan) March 7, 2023
Kyle Tucker. I prefer my 1st round pick give my team an identity that I can build around for the remainder of the draft. Out of all the 1st rounders, I don't feel Tucker does that. He's just solid everywhere but isn't great anywhere to think I have a good head start on a cat.— ChrisCarnage94 (@ChrisCarnage94) March 7, 2023
Received three votes: Ozzie Albies, ATL; Sandy Alcantara, MIA; Mookie Betts, LAD; Rafael Devers, BOS; Vladimir Guerrero, TOR; Julio Rodriguez, SEA; Spencer Strider, ATL; Trea Turner, PHI
My choice: deGrom
Who's your go-to for cheap power?
Oh, it's not just me? Rowdy Tellez seems like a perfect choice here, being one of just 10 players to hit 35-plus homers last year and going by far the latest of them (outside the top 150 overall). I think drafters shy away because he batted only .219, but by all estimates, he figures to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the shift ban this year and is likely to come closer to .240 or .250. I also like Hunter Renfroe to contribute something in the neighborhood of 30 homers, and he's one of my last outfield targets before the big drop-off at the position.
Some might argue those two aren't cheap enough, but I guess my counter would be that you shouldn't be looking to meet your power needs so late. Now that the juiced ball is gone, any bargain basement power plays come with major viability concerns, as is true for Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Joey Gallo. For Duvall and Gallo in particular, the best-case scenario has them being a major drain on batting average still. It doesn't mean they have no utility -- I kind of like Duvall in deeper five-outfielder leagues -- but I'd rather just address my power needs early.
Wil Myers. Very cheap, and no way cincy doesn't boost his power numbers.— Small Beefy Baseball Boy (@aqualitycontact) March 7, 2023
Received two votes: Matt Carpenter, SD; Triston Casas, BOS; Matt Chapman, TOR; Joey Meneses, WAS; Tyler O'Neill, STL; Marcell Ozuna, ATL; Franmil Reyes, KC; Anthony Rizzo, NYY; Anthony Santander, BAL
My choice: Tellez
Who's your go-to for cheap speed?
In all the drafts I've done so far, I haven't detected an ounce of enthusiasm for last year's stolen base leader, Jon Berti. It's true he's an excellent base-stealer, but he provides nothing else and isn't in line to play much as things currently stand. So ... enjoy, y'all. I prefer base-stealers who aren't going to sink me in everything else, which basically takes Jorge Mateo, Adalberto Mondesi, Bubba Thompson, Myles Straw and maybe Esteury Ruiz (though the jury's still out) off the table. You guys really know how to pick 'em.
As with the previous question, a point of contention here is what exactly "cheap" means. Results will vary not just by league size but also what you're willing to sacrifice for stolen bases. In that context, Jake McCarthy makes for a reasonable response. He's one of the top 120 players drafted, on average, but he represents sort of the last bastion of acceptable base-stealers for many.
Jake McCarthy - not that he’s necessarily “cheap” but I’m not willing to sacrifice what I’d need to in other categories to draft speed from anyone past McCarthy— Zachary Blain (@Zachman285) March 7, 2023
if you think i'm gonna quit garrett hampson just because he is non-rostered in miami, well you don't know me at all.— Nathan Metcalfe (@nathanametcalfe) March 7, 2023
Received two votes: Whit Merrifield, TOR; Josh Rojas, ARI; Jose Siri, TB; Bryson Stott, PHI; Leody Taveras, TEX
My choice: Garrett Mitchell (fingers crossed on the hamstring)
Which position is the most critical to fill early?
Position scarcity is a major factor this year, an old relic of Fantasy Baseball analysis brought back to life by the end of the juiced ball era. I think the phrasing is important here. Outfield is, mathematically speaking, the scarcest position, at least going by 2022 numbers. But is it the most critical to fill early? There's only one outfielder that's even worth taking in Round 2 (Mike Trout), with several promising choices available in Rounds 3-6. Third base, on the other hand, you pretty much have to fill by the end of Round 2 (and maybe more like the Round 1-2 turn). Because the only surefire first-rounder at the position is Jose Ramirez, I'm usually going outfield in Round 1 and third base in Round 2. But of those two, third base is more important.
Still, I'm surprised by the gap between the top two responses here. Outfield is dreadfully thin, and many would have responded with it instead of third base if I had specified a five-outfielder league (their words, not mine). Presumption of format likely factored into the responses in other ways, too. For example, in a shallow 10-team leagues with no extra middle infield spot, second base might come across as the weakest position because it's so lacking in high-end upside. Meanwhile, in deeper Rotisserie leagues -- say, 15 teams or more -- position scarcity might hardly factor at all because, shoot, you're bound to be weak somewhere. Then again, I would think relief pitcher would get more votes in that format given the shortage of surefire closers.
*(Anything other than 3rd Base won't be counted as responses.)— MagicOriole (@MagicOriole) March 7, 2023
Definitely OF. There's drop offs early at 2B and 3B but still decent fall back options if you wait. I'm not thrilled with any OF beyond the top 30.— Jortz 🐕 🇺🇦 (@BrianEToon) March 7, 2023
My choice: Third base
Which closer are you most confident will lose his job?
It was fun to watch people squirm over this one. The truth is nobody knows what a closer is anymore. So many teams never bother to declare one, either waiting for it to become self-evident or relying on more of a committee approach. The trend may soon make this question not even worth asking. I don't have a clue who's closing for about 10 of the 30 teams, and for another 10, it's more like an educated guess.
It's why, for example, two of the top responses are members of the Royals bullpen. We clearly don't have a great deal of confidence in what's going on there. For what it's worth, GM J.J. Picollo has outright said Scott Barlow is the Royals closer, and I'll believe him ... for now. But why else would a non-contender like the Royals sign Aroldis Chapman to a one-year deal if not to flip him at the deadline? And the best way to resuscitate his value is by having him close, provided he proves capable.
Among those who appear more secure in the role, Clay Holmes was the top vote-getter, with some suggesting that the Yankees are likely to trade for someone better. Many are doubting a big follow-up for Daniel Bard, a 37-year-old who pitches half his games at Coors Field. Kenley Jansen is a perennial favorite here, but he just keeps on keeping on.
I think I’m only reasonably confident who the closer is on about 10 teams, so I don’t really have an answer right now.— This Is The Darkest Timeline (@apendygraft) March 8, 2023
Received two votes: Alexis Diaz, CIN; Dylan Floro, MIA; Ryan Helsley, STL; Raisel Iglesias, ATL; Mark Melancon, ARI; Ryan Pressly, HOU
My choice: Barlow
Which prospect who isn't already in line for a job will have the biggest impact this year?
In retrospect, I could have phrased this one better so as not to pollute the results. I have no doubt (and the responses show) that Walker would be a runaway winner (instead of just barely) if everyone was sure he met the criteria. But since he's making inroads toward winning a big-league job, many shied away. The other top vote-getters, Anthony Volpe and Brandon Pfaadt, have at least an outside shot of making the opening day roster, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand might have more than that. Perhaps they also would have gotten more votes if not for the uncertainty of what it means to be "in line" for a job.
What I should have asked -- and what's probably more interesting -- is which prospect with no chance of winning a job will have the most impact. It's still a judgment call, but one we can answer with a little more confidence. Matt Mervis and Kyle Manzardo would seem to fit the bill, as would Zac Veen, Elly De La Cruz and Francisco Alvarez (among others). There's a strong argument to make for each. My choice, though, is Sal Frelick, not because his ceiling is so high but because he'll offer easy batting average and speed once he's patrolling the Brewers outfield, which should come sooner than later.
Always hard to parse where the line is, does Grayson Rodriguez count? Anthony Volpe?— McNya (@longmichael_) March 7, 2023
The deepest name I know counts is Michael Busch. Lux injury and he's already 25, it is time
Received two votes: Addison Barger, TOR; Michael Busch, TOR; Sal Frelick, MIL; Connor Norby, BAL; Ricky Tiedemann, TOR; Masyn Winn, STL
My choice: Frelick