Who Should Be Picked Second Overall in 2015 Fantasy Baseball Drafts?
If you're fortunate enough to have the first pick in your MLB fantasy draft this year, no matter the format, enjoy Mike Trout. He's going to make you very happy.
The draft really doesn't start until pick number two this year, with multiple candidates vying for second best. A few weeks ago, I participated in a fantasy draft in which I had the number-two overall pick, and it wasn't easy deciding whom to select.
Should I go with the best pitcher in the game, Clayton Kershaw? Do I go with the guy who won the Triple Crown two years ago, Miguel Cabrera? How about the all-around brilliance of Andrew McCutchen? Or the powerful Giancarlo Stanton, the game's best power hitter in a league with very little power to go around? Or a powerful first baseman like Paul Goldschmidt, who plays in one of the better hitters' parks in baseball? Or perhaps I take the best player at a position of scarcity, like shortstop Troy Tulowitzki?
So many choices. Let's break them down, from lowest-ranking-to-highest. Standard 5x5 scoring values will be used here, as well as that player's nERD for 2014.
I wrote about Cabrera's prospects for 2015 last week and noted that the chief worry for the former MVP is his health. While he managed to play a full season last year, it was far from his best. His .313 average was his lowest since 2008, his home run total was his lowest since 2006, and his RBI were the third lowest of his career. He did keep pace with his normal amount of runs scored and, of course, RBI are most a team-based stat and could easily rebound even if Cabrera does nothing different at all.
Like I said last week, most notable was his home run-per-fly ball percentage (HR/FB) last season, which was a career low 14.0%, way down from his career high of 25.4% in 2013 and his career average of 19.0%. He also walked in just 8.8% of his plate appearances last year, down from 13.8% the year before, the lowest total since 8.2% in 2008. And he struck out in 17.1% of his plate appearances, up from 14.4% the year before, and the highest total since that '08 season, when he struck out 18.4% of the time.
And there's his foot, which is still healing from surgery to repair a bone spur in his ankle and a stress fracture in his right foot. Those injuries likely hindered Cabrera from generating the kind of power from the lower body that he was used to last year, resulting in a dip in his numbers. He finally shed his walking boot about three weeks ago, but hadn't been able to put any weight on it the entire off-season.
Those are a lot of red flags for me, even though a hurting Miguel Cabrera is still better than most other players. In this case, though, he's not even the best at his own position to be considered at number-two overall.
Because he got hurt, people forget what a ridiculous tear Tulo was on last year. For the first half of the season, Tulowitzki was far and away the best player in baseball, and had he played the whole season, he could have challenged Trout for top overall pick in virtually every fantasy draft. His nERD of 2.99 -- which means a lineup full of Tulos would generate 2.99 runs a game more than a league average player -- was still ninth best in all of baseball.
That's in just half a season.
Tulo also plays a position that simply doesn't have the offensive star power it once did. Among players with at least 375 plate appearances last year, Tulowitzki led all MLB shortstops in batting average at .340 (next closest was Minnesota's Danny Santana at .319), was tied for second in home runs (tied with Jhonny Peralta and behind Ian Desmond), was tied for 11th in RBI and was 9th in runs scored. He also added one stolen base for good measure.
The problem with Tulo is he can't stay healthy. In eight full seasons in the Majors, the 30-year-old has played in at least 150 games in a season only twice. And over the last three seasons, he's played in just 47, 126 and 91 games. If he's not on the field, he cannot help you, and he's just not dependable enough to count on for an entire season.
Tulowitzki is far and away the best offensive player at a position in dire need of offense. But injury concerns knock him down the list.
Kershaw is undoubtedly the best pitching option available. As a starter, the saves category doesn't apply to him, and frankly, I will never play in another fantasy league that uses pitcher's wins as a real category. However, most fantasy leagues are 5x5, and one of the stats in most 5x5 leagues is wins, so, here we are.
If you're going to use pitcher's wins as a category, then you want the guy who happens to be the best pitcher in baseball who also happens to be pitching on a team that is expected to win a whole lot of baseball games.
When it comes to the other categories, no pitcher gives you as much as Kershaw does. You can be relatively certain that, going into every week, he will give you at least one or two wins.
But scarcity has to be taken into account. There are a plethora of extremely good pitchers out there, and truly valuable arms that can be had later in the draft. However, really good hitters are at a premium, so using up an early first-round pick on a starting pitcher seems like a waste to me. So, while I think he deserves consideration here and would put him above Tulowitzki and Cabrera, this is as far up as I'd take him.
The NL MVP runner-up in 2013 has emerged as one of the best overall hitters in the National League. He hits for average, power, knocks in runs and scores a bunch. He also knows how to steal a bag or two, tallying 18 thefts in 2012 and 15 in '13. Last year, it was down to 9, as injuries allowed him to play in only 109 games.
Goldy's season ended when he was hit on his left hand by a pitch, breaking it, forcing him to miss the last eight weeks of the season. But he'll be just 27 years old this year and should be fully recovered from the freak injury.
While Cabrera may fill up the stat sheet in some areas, I think Goldschmidt offers elite power to go along with a high batting average. The RBI and runs will, once again, largely be teammate-dependent, but he should still be able to rack those up as well. And the stolen base element makes him enticing as well.
Not only that, I think he'll be healthier this season than Cabrera or Tulowitzki, which is why I'm putting him ahead of those two. But there are a lot of power bats from which to choose at first base, and so I'd rather take someone at a position with fewer offensive options.
For the first time since 2011, Stanton played in at least 145 games last year. He probably would have made it to the finish line had he not gotten drilled in the face by a fastball in the final month of the season. Still, even though he missed the last two weeks of the year, he led the National League in homers and was among the league leaders in RBIs as well. He also added 13 steals, which is always nice to get from your best power hitter.
If Stanton can stay healthy, there's no reason why he can't be number two. He is a ridiculously good player, and if you picked him at number two, I could not quibble. His raw power in unmatched in the game, and at just 25 years old, might only be getting better.
However, there are concerns over how well he'll respond to Major League pitching after taking that beanball to the face last season. Will he feel as aggressive at the plate and be the same player he was? Staying healthy is a concern, and is the only reason why there is just one player I'd pick ahead of him at number-two in my fantasy draft.
Outside of Trout, "Cutch" is the most complete player in baseball. In standard 5x5 leagues, he gives you above average-to-excellent production in every single category, and in leagues that use other stats, like doubles and triples, on-base percentage, and weighted on base average (wOBA), he's even more valuable.
McCutchen also provides fewer strikeouts than Stanton, and is a better bet to stay healthy for an entire season. Last year's 146 games was the first time he'd played in less than 154 games since his rookie season of 2009. He also plays on a young, dynamic offense that will almost certainly allow him to pile up the counting stats that matter, like runs and RBI.
It's a very close race between McCutchen and Stanton as the second-best fantasy player in baseball this year. But I went with McCutchen, because he's the most Trout-like player available at the number-two spot in the draft.