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Fantasy Stars: Top of the Second (Round)

After covering the top and bottom of the first round of a standard fantasy draft, we're charging ahead into the second. In a standard draft, picks 13-18 represent the second choice of the last six teams to draft. Thanks to the quick turnaround here, the differences in the value of the picks starts out pretty low. Actually, it starts out at nil, since the twelfth team in draft order gets to take pick number 13 as well.

As always on Fantasy Stars, the Average Draft Position (ADP) numbers come from MockDraftCentral and come from 110 qualifying drafts. The stats shown with the players are the Big 5:  AVG/HR/R/RBI/SB for position players and IP/W/K/ERA/WHIP for starting pitchers. 

13. Jose Bautista OF             ADP 13.97
14. Justin Upton OF             ADP 14.65
15. Justin Verlander SP       ADP 15.27
16. Adrian Beltre 3B             ADP 15.99
17. Troy Tulowitzki SS        ADP 17.01
18. Bryce Harper OF            ADP 19.85

Technically speaking, Bautista is getting drafted 12th and Prince Fielder is going 13th, but since they'd both be going to the same team, there isn't a valuation change to analyze for Fielder. So, let's just call Bautista number 13.

13. Jose Bautista OF.241/27/64/65/5
So far, the news coming out about Bautista is that he's healing well and is performing baseball activities, and he looks to be ready for the start of the season, after last season's catastrophic wrist injury. Watch him and the news about him in Spring Training of course, but for the moment let's assume that everything knowable is fine. If that changes, so will this valuation.

Even a healthy Bautista isn't a perfect player. Not only is he not a five-category player, he's not even a four-category guy: last year's low batting average can be traced to an awful .215 BABIP, which should recover plenty. However, the best BABIP of his career was just .309 (in 2011), and that netted him just a .302 average. Something in the .270-ish range seems most likely for him, but I'd probably take the low on that.

But I'd still take Bautista with this pick. (I might not pair him with Prince, but that isn't the point.) The three categories in which he produces, he excels. He's got a ton of power, in a way that's more reminiscent of the late 90's and early 2000's than it is this age of pitchers and speedsters. He doesn't just have heavy power, but so few other players have even medium power these days that his homers are a lot more valuable than they once were. On top of that, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, and maybe even Melky Cabrera and Brett Lowrie should give him plenty of runners to hit in, and give him plenty of pitches to hit. Expect to see him among the league's leaders in RBI's and Runs. Too bad he doesn't retain his 3B eligiblity.

14. Justin Upton OF .280/17/107/67/18
Pass. Upton's stock hasn't taken much of a hit after his dismal 2012, and I'm pretty surprised. All right, I know he was going in the second half of the first round in a lot of drafts last year, but let's face it, the second half of the first round is basically the same as the first half of the second. I don't know if it's denial, wishful thinking, or what, but it seems like if you're gonna draft someone who was this disappointing last year, you should only do so at a discount. What if he repeats and the power doesn't return? This is two seasons out of the last three in which he's hit fewer than 20 homers, so I don't think that possibility is all that shocking. Using an early second-round pick on a pick with as high a downside as Upton just isn't worth it.

It isn't just Upton's downside that makes me want to pass, though. It's that I'm not that thrilled with his upside. As a Mariner fan, I was downright grateful he turned down a trade to Seattle, actually. Upton possesses that mythical "power/speed" combo in theory, but he didn't exactly do either last year. In fact, his career high in steals is just 21. In the old days, that was big news. Not so much anymore. He's less like Mike Trout and more like Mike Cameron (but without jumping over outfield walls). He strikes out a ton (at least 121 every year since 2008) and it takes a BABIP miracle to give him a quality batting average. He hits homers (some years), but not as many as potentially comparable outfielders being drafted behind him like Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones, Giancarlo Stanton, and Curtis Granderson.

I suppose the argument to be made in his favor is his age: he's still just 25. Adam Jones took the Big Step this past year, and Upton himself seemed to do so in 2011. But what if he didn't? What if disappointing expectations runs in the family? That doesn't make him a useless fantasy player, but the risk of it is enough to make him a bad fantasy pick as long as their are lower-risk options with similar upside available. If he lights the world on fire next year, that will be exactly what his owners pay for. Anything less than greatness and this pick could have been better spent.

15. Justin Verlander SP 238.1/17/239/2.64/1.06
It isn't relevant, but is it weird to draft consecutive Justins? Either way, I don't like either pick. For different reasons, though. Verlander is among the least risky pitchers I can think of (but that's what I thought about Roy Halladay, so...) and he's very clearly at the top of his game. He's even consistent with the wins, which is hard for any great pitcher.

No, my disagreement with taking Verlander here is simply one of opportunity-cost. As long as Stephen Strasburg is out there, I think other starters are second-best. He just generates so many more whiffs than the next-greatest. On the flip side of things, I do agree that Verlander (with Clayton Kershaw) represents the clear next best ace pitchers. But the difference between him and other aces isn't so large that I want to get Verlander an entire round earlier than I can get, say, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, or David Price. The differences between Verlander and those types of pitchers are real, but small. Much smaller than the differences that still exist between position players at this point in the draft.

16. Adrian Beltre 3B .321/36/95/102/1
I admitted above to being a Mariners fan, and I honestly have had to overcome some anti-Beltre bias. But I'm over now, and I guess he can be as excellent as he wants with Texas and leave me to ponder just how much a player's home park can matter. Interestingly enough, he hit 16 of his 36 homers away from the Ballpark in Arlington and he batted just under .300 on the road, so you won't need to bench him during away games to enjoy his home greatness.

Beltre has become a beast, and there's little reason not to draft him like one. He's a four-category star, he hits in a dangerous lineup and he fields a thin position. He was significantly better than the next 3B getting drafted--David Wright--and significantly healthier than the one after that--Evan Longoria. Beltre is a safe choice in the second round, but a good one, a quality anchor at a position that will be a black hole on many fantasy teams.

17. Troy Tulowitzki SS .287/8/33/27/2
I always imagine myself as having this rule about never drafting anyone remotely fragile in the early rounds. The trouble is, that rule comes in direct conflict with my other rule about getting the best value I can. Since 2007, when Tulo powered the Rockies into the World Series, he's had one totally lost season (last year), one mostly lost season (2008, when his injuries presumptively hit his productivity and his playing time), and three All Star seasons (in two of which he still hit the DL). So he's all about risk and reward.

Few players even could be worth this kind of risk, but before the season I took him first overall in the RotoAuthority mock draft because he is so much more valuable in the power categories than any of his peers. He's basically a mashing first baseman with a slick glove for shortstop. For a player like that, this kind of discount is understandable. Assuming he looks healthy in Spring Training, I wouldn't have anything to say against someone who took Tulo here. It's a risk, even big one, but it has enormous upside. For what it's worth, I'd understand anyone who preferred to stay away.

18. Bryce Harper OF .270/22/98/59/18
This is a pick that puzzles me a little. Harper was the best prospect in baseball before last year, and he had a great year for any rookie (except, of course, Mike Trout) at just 19 years old. He showed a little bit of everything, and there's all the reason in the world to think that he'll improve into a truly great player of any age. I think he's likely to be a great fantasy player for 2013.

But I don't think that's certain. His line wasn't overwhelmingly good and he is still just 20 years old. Picking him in the second round is, to me, basically assuming the best-case scenario--that he'll develop in a linear way and make big improvements. He might. You could say he probably will, but he also might not. Plenty of other great prospects have taken steps other than directly into greatness in their second season. Harper could improve just a little, he could slip a bit, he could stay basically the same player, and in all cases he'll be a good player next year. In none of those cases, though, would Harper be worth a second round pick. Like Upton, there are several players who carry lower risk than he does. Unlike Upton, however, his upside doesn't seem to be limited by much at all. I'd pick Harper, but I'd wait another round and I wouldn't worry if he wasn't still there.

Here's how I'd reorder these picks: Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Troy Tulowitzki, Verlander, Harper, Upton. The only three that I'd consider taking in the top of the second round are Bautista, Beltre, and Tulo.

 

 




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