All ADP data is from FantasyPros. All end of season rankings will come from ESPN’s Player Rater.
1) Maikel Franco finishes as a top 8 3B
Franco is currently going as the 17th 3B. The Phillies should be an improved team on offense with the addition of Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick and a full season of Tommy Joseph. Franco should see a bump in R and RBI and I’m confident that he is going to set career highs in both categories. Franco should be in line for an average bump as well after his BABIP dropped to .271 in 2016. If he can drop his IFFB rate (16.4% career) he could jump his average 30+ points compared to the .255 in 2016. Statcast doesn’t love Franco which is a concern but there are a lot of signs pointing to a breakout fantasy season from Franco.
2) Tim Anderson beats Addison Russell on the player rater for standard leagues
Both are gaining momentum as fantasy assets but Russell is going over 80 spots higher in drafts (123 for Russel and 207 for Anderson). The only categories I’m confident that Russell can win are HR and RBI and I think the HRs might be closer than most think. Anderson should have a sizeable lead in R (due to leading off the White Sox lineup) and SB and he figures to beat Russell by 20-30 points in AVG. Anderson has 15/25 upside with a .270 AVG and a healthy R total while Russell remains a negative in two categories (SB and AVG).
3) At least two of Keon Broxton, Eric Thames and Domingo Santana crack the top 35 for OF
There is major risk with all three players but there is also major upside. Currently all three are going outside of the top 50: Broxton 51st, Thames 58th and Santana 80th. Broxton ranked 5th in the majors last year in exit velocity for players who had at least 200 pitches recorded. Domingo Santana was 14th on the same list. Both pummel the ball when they make contact. Broxton is an AVG risk but if it comes with 20 HR and 30 SB it’s not as big of a deal. He also figures to chip in a solid R and RBI total if he can hold the #2 spot in the lineup. Santana had 11 dingers in 281 PA last year. The power is real and he could have 30 HR upside in Miller. He should have a full time slot this year and I think a breakout is coming. The AVG might not be pretty but a good RBI total and potentially even a few SBs make him a worthy late round gamble.
Thames is the total wildcard here with a very mediocre MLB track record but a Barry Bonds-esque stint in the KBO. He’ll likely be the 1B for the Brewers but will qualify in the OF. Thames obviously won’t repeat his KBO numbers but hitting 4th in what figures to be a decent lineup should give him decent contextual stats at the very least with the upside for a lot more if that power carries over
4) Jacob deGrom and Carlos Carrasco are the most valuable SPs on their respective teams
Another way to phrase this is that I think deGrom (14th) beats Syndergaard (4th) and Carrasco (15th) beats Kluber (6th). deGrom appears to be healthy after an up and down 2016. His 3.47 xFIP doesn’t point to much upside but deGrom pitched with elbow discomfort for a lot of 2016 and that certainly affected his output. I think deGrom bounces back to near 2015 levels. Syndergaard is an excellent pitcher but I’m worried about the arm. He throws so hard that his risk has to be higher for injury and given the multiple scares last year I’m trying to stay away. If Syndergaard stays healthy he’ll win this battle but I really can’t see him pitching 180+ IP again.
Corey Kluber is a beast and I see him putting up numbers similar to last year when he was the 8th overall SP but I think this is finally the year Carrasco makes it to 190 IP and turns in a Cy Young-level performance. His xFIP increased to 3.32 last year and his SwStr rate decreased but he’s still a very good pitcher and could make adjustments to return both of those numbers to pre-2016 levels.
5) The Cubs won’t have a single SP crack the top 12.
Last year the Cubs had three pitchers in the top 11: Lester 3rd, Hendricks 7th and Arrieta 11th. These three are currently going 7th (Arrieta), 8th (Lester) and 17th (Hendricks). I don’t think any of the three have repeats of 2016. The Cubs defense is still amazing but can they be otherworldly two years in a row? Willson Contreras is a decent framer but he’s far behind what Miguel Montero did in 2016. Does Jon Lester struggle without David Ross? Not to mention that each SP greatly outperformed their FIPs and xFIPs last year.
I think all three will be useable SPs, in particular with their W upside, but I wouldn’t draft any of the three at their current rate.
Just so this doesn’t come off as Cardinals bias, here is a positive prediction for the Cubs. Mike Montgomery is at least the 4th best Cubs SP on the player rater this year.
6) Brad Hand leads the Padres in saves
Brad Hand gets no love for the closer job. Brandon Maurer has the job currently, Ryan Buchter is considered next in line and Carter Capps is widely considered to grab the CP job as soon as he’s healthy. Why no love for Brad Hand? His 2016 stats were excellent.
Brad Hand is a lefty and has the worst HR rate but he also has the best stuff now that he’s a full-time reliever. I think Hand is the best pitcher on this team now that Carter Capps’s delivery is outlawed. We don’t know for sure how much that will affect Capps. Releasing the ball 4-6 inches closer to the plate with his old delivery was a major advantage. Don’t sleep on Brad Hand. He’s the guy I want in the SD pen especially in SVHLD leagues.
7) Either Michael Pineda or Robbie Ray finish as a top 20 SP
I’m going down with the ship on Pineda. Yes, he’s a two-pitch guy at this point but his slider is absolutely filthy and hitters can’t get good wood on it. The whiffs/swing on the Slider last year was 46.2%. Forty freaking six. Nearly every other swing missed the ball. Robbie Ray’s slider was just as good at 43.5%. Both of these two have incredible stuff but have yet to be able to fully harness it. Pineda is currently the 48th SP off the board and Ray is the 57th. Both possess incredible upside.
Both have a HR problem and a bit of a BB problem but they do everything else so well. HR/FB isn’t a stable number so any positive regression could lead to a major improvement in ERA. I love both of these guys this year.
8) Corey Seager finishes outside the top 25 on the hitter player rater
I love Corey Seager but I think the expectations have grown a bit too much. Seager was the 36th overall hitter last year with a fantasy line of 26 HR/ 105 R/ 72 RBI/ 3 SB and a .308 AVG. How much do we realistically think he can improve those numbers? He’s currently going as the 15th overall hitter who finished 21 spots lower than that last year with numbers that are going to be hard to increase. If Seager is really going to be a top 15 overall hitter he either has to run more or has to bump his HR output by 5-10 HR. I’m not sure either of those are likely given his past. He may see a bump in RBI this year but that’s certainly going to come with a loss in R. Seager is pretty safe but I don’t think he’s going to finish close to where he’s going.
9) Josh Reddick out earns his draft spot (91st) by at least 40 spots
Reddick is currently going as the 91st OF which seems crazy given how good the Astros offense could be this year. Reddick is projected to bat 8th but the Astros are so good top to bottom that it might not be a major ding to his R and RBI totals. Reddick has always been a good base stealer and that shouldn’t change. Where Reddick truly has upside is in power. The 32 HR season from 2012 isn’t happening again but Reddick is going from the 4th worst LH HR park to the 10th best. He could easily get to 25 with 8 SB and decent R and RBI totals. If he adds in a 270 AVG he should easily make the top 50 for OF.
10) Trevor Story leads all SS in HR
This is basically a prediction that Story beats Machado who had 37 HR last year. Story led all of MLB in average fly ball distance last year. His 23.7% HR/FB is probably not a sustainable rate but he should get a full seasons worth of PA so a drop in HR/FB shouldn’t reduce his actual HR output. I think Story can get into the mid 30s this year (maybe getting all 30 when SD comes to Coors) which puts him a small dip in power from Machado away from holding the SS dinger crown.