We are 48 hours away from the first pitch of the 2018 season. Most drafts have already been completed, and a few stragglers are in the midst of getting their drafts completed. I went overboard and participated in six drafts. Two were keeper leagues, three were public leagues, and one was the Major League Fantasy Sports staff draft. Overall, I’m happy with all six drafts. I was one of the unfortunate owners that selected Madison Bumgarner and this will be the second consecutive season where he missed 30+ starts. Still, I feel confident in all of my leagues, and I found some picks interesting while numerous owners made sure to grab a guy like Ronald Acuña early so they can stash him away until his much anticipated arrival. This week I want to zero in on the first base position. The position is filled with talent, and there are a few players I feel were drafted much higher than they should’ve been, and one specific player that either went late in drafts, or went undrafted. This week, I bring you “That’s Amore!” First Base: Overpaid & Missed Opportunity.
Matt Olson – Oakland Athletics ADP: 123 (7th Round)
First basemen went off the board fairly quick in all of my drafts. I understand owners scrambling around to get a first baseman, but the seventh round seemed a bit early for Olson. Don’t get me wrong, the power is real, and the potential for 40 home runs is there, but I feel there were other players that would get you more all-around production other than Olson. Player such as Carlos Santana and Justin Smoak were available after Olson as well as Josh Bell and Matt Carpenter. What makes me timid of drafting Olson this early is the low batting average and 60 strikeouts in 189 at-bats (31%). This is coming from a career-.249 hitter in the minors with a near 30% K-rate. I understand we’ve seen players like Chris Davis and Adam Dunn sport similar numbers, but the average can kill teams where it’s one of the statistical categories accounted for. Who were better options? Josh Bell is an upcoming star who will have a better average, and guys such as Justin Smoak, Carlos Santana, and Trey Mancini were available past the seventh round. Given his outfield eligibility, Olson was desirable, but Mancini and Bell carry the same outfield eligibility. Assuming Olson doesn’t hit 30+ and hit close to .250 there could be buyer’s remorse.
Edwin Encarnacion – Cleveland Indians ADP: 43 (End of 2nd Round)
I understand the track record, and I understand he played designated hitter a majority of the season. We are talking about a player who’s strung together six consecutive seasons of 30+ home runs. Entering his age 35 season, we’ve started to see signs of decline. The first two months of the 2017 season were not looking good. Encarnacion slashed .200/.343/.353 with four home runs and nine RBI in April. He accumulated strikeouts in 41% of his at-bats. May was better as he slashed .263/.354/.475 six home runs, 13 RBI, and a 25% K-rate. The power was there as was the swing and miss tendency. Still, Encarnacion did manage to slash .263/.374/.481 with 18 HR and 48 RBI to the All-Star break. I’d suggest Encarnacion has lost some of his reflexes as he’s accumulated 100+ strikeouts in two consecutive seasons after not reaching 100 from 2009-2015. Still, Encarnacion is destined to reach the 30+ home run plateau, but there are other first basemen who will reach the same totals while sporting a better average. These players include: Jose Abreú, Justin Smoak, Trey Mancini, Josh Bell, and the aforementioned Matt Olson. Personally, I would’ve gone after other positions while passing on Encarnacion and grabbing a first baseman in rounds after the second. It’s hard for me to argue against a player than will push for 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI, but it is hard for me to reach for a player 35 years of age that’s on the decline.
Yonder Alonso – Cleveland Indians ADP: 232 (14th Round in 16-Team Leagues)
2017 was a coming out party for Alonso. He’d only accumulated 400+ at-bats twice before, and he never reached the 20 home run plateau. He’d never reached double-digit home runs for that matter. Starting the season in Oakland was the perfect situation for Alonso, and he’s newly defined swing with more loft was a godsend. He set personal bests in nearly all statistical categories and was a waiver wire gem. In nearly all of my 2018 drafts, Alonso fell to the later-rounds and went undrafted in two of my six. We’ve all heard the name Yonder Alonso, but at 30 years-old he still has at least three solid season left in his prime. While the power never presented itself, 2017 was a surprise. Alonso finds himself playing for the Indians in 2017. We are talking about a team that will not only push for their division, but a team that represented the American League in the World Series in 2016. Alonso did all of his 2017 damage playing his home games in Oakland and Seattle. Fast-forward to 2018 and he will be playing his home games in the hitter-friendly Progressive Field, and face mediocre pitchers playing for the White Sox, Royals, and Tigers. The new home ballpark, and AL Central make Alonso and immediate target. I understand there was a gap between Pre All-Star (.275/.372/.562/20 HR/43 RBI) and Post All-Star (.254/.354/.420/8 HR/24 RBI), but if Alonso has finally found his power-stroke, 2018 could be another solid season for a first baseman that is going in the later rounds or undrafted. If Alonso is available in your leagues, I’d keep tabs on him. He could be in for another solid season, and could yet again be a waiver wire All-Star.
Yuli Gurriel – Houston Astros: ADP: 281 (Middle of 17th Round in 16-Team Leagues)
Gurriel is set to miss Opening Day after undergoing hand surgery, but reports suggest rehab has gone better than expected, and the Astros are not placing Gurriel on the disabled list. Still, we are a few days away form Opening Day, and it remains to be seen when the exact return date is for the Astros first baseman. Coming out of Cuba, 2017 was his rookie season at age 32. The beginning of June will see Gurriel turn 34, and this could be a factor as to why Gurriel is being drafted at the end of drafts. Still, no one can argue that fact that his numbers will extremely impressive Pre All-Star (.297/.321/.491/11 HR/44 RBI) and Post All-Star (.301/.344/.479/7 HR/31 RBI). What was even more fascinating was the fact that Gurriel only accumulated 62 strikeouts in 529 at-bats. The guy knew what to do in the batter’s box, and very rarely was he left guessing. Other than age, and surgery, Gurriel could easily be drafted a few rounds earlier than the 17th round we are seeing him drafted in. Naturally, he’s not going to be your starting first baseman, but if he posts stats similar, or better, than last season he will be the perfect player to have locked into a utility spot on your roster. Of course, there is a case to be wary of a World Series hangover.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday March 25th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #109 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. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Coach Andy Macuga. Andy is the Head Coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in the San Diego area. He has been an owner in our leagues for 6+ years, and also contributes to our football shows as well. He is also the Head Football Coach for Borrego Springs.