Fantasy Baseball: Where Should We Draft Greg Bird and Aaron Judge?
The New York Yankees have never really undergone a full rebuild over the last quarter century, and they probably never will again. Armed with a new stadium and a cable TV deal that is worth so much money you could buy and sell Paraguay 10 times over, the Bronx Bombers are always going to have enough cash on hand to put a somewhat decent baseball team on the field.
What we are seeing right now is the closest they will probably ever come. At last year's trade deadline, they were sellers for the first time in recent memory, cashing in big by accumulating a number of top prospects for relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.
Both guys have big power potential, but neither are proven. So what are fair expectations for this season, and where should you consider drafting them in season-long fantasy baseball leagues?
Projecting Bird's 2017 Season
Scouts have always loved Bird and his sweet left-handed swing, one that should definitely play well at Yankee Stadium. The guy has tremendous power, as he displayed in his first career home run back in 2015.
He had quite a productive cup of coffee with New York that season, hitting .261/.343/.529 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in just 46 games (178 plate appearances). He had an OPS+ of 135 (league average is 100), and although his strikeout rate was close to 30%, he also walked in 10.7% of the time.
Those were exciting numbers for a then-22-year-old, but a shoulder injury last spring derailed Bird's 2016 before it even began. Based on some of the swings he's had so far this spring, it appears that shoulder has fully healed.
Bird is 5-for-12 with 3 dingers and 2 doubles down in the Sunshine State, with just two strikeouts thus far. Simply put, he's been one of the hottest hitters in the Grapefruit League.
Our projections see Bird with a batting average of .251 and an OPS of .814 this year to go along with 21 homers, 53 RBI and 45 runs scored in 402 plate appearances. His nF score (numberFire fantasy number) of 0.96 means that a lineup full of Greg Birds would score 0.96 runs more during a standard game than a lineup full of league-average players.
Can Aaron Judge Avoid The K's?
First of all, Aaron Judge is a monstrously huge human being. He's the dude on the far right.
Aaron Judge is that create-a-player you'd make with maxed-out everything pic.twitter.com/VHy1VytLzg
— Rich (@RAKcity27) March 1, 2017
And the guy's raw power is simply off the charts, as he showed this spring in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Still just 24 years old, Judge has the makings of one of the game's great power hitters. There is one thing he has to do before achieving that kind of status, though.
He's got to strike out less than 44.2% of the time.
In 95 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2016, Judge struck out at that incredibly high clip, and has averaged a K-rate of around 25% during his minor league career. He did also hit 29 homers in 410 plate appearances in Triple-A last season, and totaled 20 bombs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015.
NumberFire's projections are not as high on Judge's abilities as they are on Bird's. We see Judge hitting .239 with a .762 OPS in 383 plate appearances, with 19 homers, 48 RBI and 39 runs scored, which would be worth 2.27 runs per game worse than a league-average player.
Where Should They Be Drafted?
In numberFire's recent 14-team mock draft, Bird was the 23rd first baseman taken at 249th overall. In a 12-team draft, that would be in the middle of the 20th round. The average average draft position (ADP) according to FantasyPros has him as the 31st first baseman going off the board, which is pick 263.
As for Judge, he went just a little later in the numberFire draft 257th overall as the 66th outfielder selected. His ADP, according to FantasyPros, is much lower (344th overall, the 88th outfielder taken).
There is more volatility in the outfield market because there are so many of them, but Judge is also a particularly volatile player, too. He's either going to be a monster masher or a huge bust, so it might be best to wait on him as a waiver-wire option.
Bird appears to be a safer choice and would be an intriguing target as either your team's backup first baseman or as a stash on smaller teams.
Yankees fans should be very excited about these two young sluggers, but for fantasy purposes, caution is warranted until we see what they're capable of at the big league level.