When we last touched base, Ronald Acuña (Braves) was a pure, unadulterated Gem at #160 – an absolute STEAL – in our MLFS Staff Mock Draft two Sundays ago. As predicted over a month ago (I think Shamu would have gotten this one right, too), Atlanta is more than likely going to send this super-scintillating phenom down to AAA for “some seasoning.” [Insert laugh-track here.] Translated: the Braves just need to make sure that come September 30, Acuña’s service time “meter” reads 0.171 or less (days that constitute a year).
After absolutely laying waste to Spring Training pitching (19-for-44 with 4 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB and a triple-slash of 0.432/ 0.519/ 0.728), who can blame the Braves? If I didn’t know any better, I would swear this kid literally gets better every day. And there are times it feels that the improvement is exponential. Simply scary. (In finance, they reference comparisons in Year-over-Year (YoY), to measure how performance may have changed; hopefully, for the better. With Acuña’s development, we are forced to modify this measurement to DoD; yes, Day-over-Day.)
[I know that Mock Draft was just that, but I should have just stayed with my gut and drafted him in the 7th Round like I was planning. Flargenblurgen.]
Note: the above introduction was written Monday afternoon, March 19 at [1:00] PM, right before the Braves actually DID send Acuña down to the minor league camp. The internet immediately exploded with articles about why the baseball salary system is flawed and how the Braves are cheating their fans. There may be truth to both arguments, but we’re here to uncover more MiLB Outfield ADP Gems than just Acuña.
That is the key: MiLB Outfield. Seeking not to regurgitate past articles, save for heaping more praise on the best five-tool talent we have seen this decade since Mike Trout (and he turned out to be pretty dang special), I am focusing this article on locating players that you can have for next to nothing (we are talking last round draft picks, here) but that actually stand a chance to contribute to opening day rosters. Or if not opening day, at least make early-season contributions to the big club.
Brief interrupt to remind everyone that the ADP is an averaged value accumulated between draft data collected from six (6) different sources:
ESPN, CBS, Yahoo!, RealTime Fantasy Sports (RTS), Fantrax,
and the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC)*
*Additional note: these players were drafted so far outside the “normal player pool” that ESPN, Yahoo!, and RTS did not factor in the ADP value for any of them (and CBS only for 2 of the 5).
Now that we have the particulars out of the way, time is short; let’s get drafting.
Stop Number One: Potential Starter
We start our major-minor league tour in Oakland, with Dustin Fowler (Athletics). Having recovered from rupturing his patella tendon last season, Fowler is struggling at the plate this spring, batting an unsightly 6-for-33 (0.182). Of course, people will tell you Spring Training statistics do not mean anything. I’m not sure that’s wholly the case, but I do suspect that Fowler is pressing ever so slightly in trying to show the Athletics’ brass that not only is he healthy, but he should be the starting CF come March 29, 2018. I’ve seen Fowler’s name penciled in as the starting CF on several depth charts (so you know that’s gold, eh?), but I do believe that the vote of affirmation for Fowler would go a long way toward easing his mind and truly allowing him to settle in at center. Plus, there are no side-railings in center, just other hazards I pray he avoids.
With an ADP of 365.7, Fowler falls outside the range of nearly every 10-, 12-, and 14-team draft. So the question becomes, do you believe that his minor league career numbers (0.282/ 0.315/ 0.450) and swiftness with some pop (23 3Bs, 25 HRs, and 38 SBs in his last 202 MiLB games) translate at the MLB level, then this is a kid you draft with your last, or second-to-last, pick. You are looking at a soon-to-be starting CF who could easily help you in three categories (R, SB, AVG). To me, if you are lacking any OF depth, it is an easy yes.
Stop Number Two: Roadblock Ahead?
The next four ADP Gems that I have managed to dig up are all waiting for a chance. But they have all proven that they are ready to grab that opportunity (and not let go) when it presents itself.
Pacing this quartet is Mike Tauchman (Rockies). We have said it before, but it bears repeating: Spring Training stats do not a Hall of Famer make, but Tauchman is showing he is at least ready to make a case. Batting a crisp 0.358/ 0.426/ 0.623 in 53 ABs, he is making it difficult for the Rockies’ management to ignore him. With an ADP of 1.023 , nearly everyone drafting in 2018 did ignore him. But this sweet-swinging lefty who hit 0.331 in Albuquerque last year also managed to get on base at a 0.386 clip. Perhaps Tauchman’s 2018 spring is not a mirage and he is indeed ready to deliver the goods.
But wait … Carlos Gonzalez has returned to town. And let’s not forget Ian Desmond’s awesome 5-year, $70.0M contract. There are reasons (plural!) why Gonzalez languished in Free Agency hell this off-season. ( I am still trying to figure out why Alex Cobb is unsigned, however, but I digress.) Or why the Rockies signed Desmond to that insane contract last season (12/12/2016), only to then add Mark Reynolds (01/31/2017) to play the same position a mere 50 days later. (For the record, Desmond did not endure his first 2017 injury until April 2. Yes, three different DL stints and only 95 games played.) “Jane, get me off this crazy thing!” exclaims George Jetson. (I feel like I’m beginning to crack open Pandora’s box on this … and understanding the Colorado GM’s moves is becoming increasingly difficult.)
Tauchman can flat-out hit and is decently outfitted for the cavernous Rockies’ outfield. I completely understand redundancy, but bringing in declining, aging talent when your younger, hungrier, in-house talent can get the job done – and is arguably better today – I just don’t understand the thinking. A better hit-tool than that of Fowler, and the power is developing, but the dude plays at Coors Field! What’s not to love?
Stop Number Three: Opportunities Abound(ed)
Speaking of love, Braxton Lee (Marlins) had to have run the gamut on emotions this past 12-months. Having a decent season at Montgomery (AA, Tampa), Lee is traded on June 26, 2017 to Miami in the deal for Adeiny Hecchavarria. Lee slowed a pinch for his new club Jacksonville (AA, Miami), but in the few categories that he dropped off, in others he picked up.
Now, I have been on record as saying that players with no AAA experience are not my favorite. I do believe they need to be exposed to that level for at least 50-100 ABs. Pitchers, not as much, as it is easier (in my opinion) to miss a swinging bat than it is to hit a moving ball. That being said, Lee, fresh off his 0.309/ 0.395/ 0.384 2017 AA performance had to be feeling great. Knowing that he could serve as a fourth outfielder to – and learn from – Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, and Giancarlo Stanton had to make him feel great. (And of course, getting sent down to AAA to get everyday ABs wouldn’t be the end of the world either.) It was win-win. Learn from Ozuna-Yelich-Stanton or get everyday playing time at AAA.
And then Jeffrey Loria sold the Marlins. And all three starting outfielders were traded. Lee had to have been thinking, “With a great Spring, I got this. Ownership just traded all my competition, I’m on the rise, one solid ST and a starting gig is mine.” Not so fast, my friend. Yelich returned a Top 30 prospect in Lewis Brinson, who is ready for The Show., Manager Don Mattingly names Derek Dietrich (he of 59 career games in the outfield over five years) the starting LF, and then the fait accompli; new Marlins management actually signed a free agent: Cameron Maybin. That signing, couple with Lee’s 0.219 average, is the death knell.
Which I believe to ultimately be in Lee’s best interest. I think 30-45 games in New Orleans will really help Lee’s development and when he’s called up in mid-May, he will be ready to rock. That ADP of 857.0 suggests that he will be there waiting for you, be it at the end of your draft or even as an in-season free agent. Once you have finally had enough of those 4-7 players you reached for in those middle rounds and are ready to jettison one of them for Lee. His 70-grade speed will be all yours.
A couple other one-liners about a few players, as I have prattled on enough about the three players above:
Alex Verdugo, Dodgers – a recent broken wrist for 3B Justin Turner may cause the Dodgers to shift players around, like Chris Taylor from CF back into the infield at 2B, 3B, or even SS (if Corey Seager continues with elbow pain). Verdugo has tremendous plate discipline and his 2018 spring performance is much more aligned to his career ascension, not the 4-for-23 hiccup that was his yo-yo’ed MLB debut in 2017. With an ADP of 490.0, adding Verdugo at that back-end of your draft is a winning play.
Franchy Cordero, Padres – is another player off to a semi-hot spring beginning. Another player biding his time as the Padres’ outfield is another crowded venue with three quality starters plus a fourth recently added when Wil Myers was pushed to the grass with the ridiculous signing of Eric Hosmer. (Did A.J. Preller owe Scott Boras a favor? If he did, they are square now! If not, Boras is in the bag for one to Preller.) I think Cordero makes the roster out of camp but will have to be a bench bat in the early going. But he is too good to sit long, and your patience will be rewarded, just like those who capitalized on his ADP of 543.0.
Thanks so very much for walking through the MiLB Outfields with me. These exercises are always enjoyable because I get to broaden my knowledge about these players and hopefully bring a little of that to you.
I’m already looking forward to next week, where we will talk about about the Shortstops we drafted/ acquired in 2018, and the Buyer’s Remorse (or lack thereof) we may be feeling.
Until then … thanks for reading!
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 22nd, 2018 from 7- 8pm EST for episode #108 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Professor Mark Rush. By day Mark is the well respected Law & Political Professor of Washington & Lee University and by night is the Chief Editor as well as a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles are published every Monday morning and his primary focus is starting pitching.