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Fantasy Stars: Leapfroggers

Welcome to a very special episode of Fantasy Stars. See, a funny thing happened to MockDraftCentral this week--everyone's ADP seemed to be bouncing around like crazy.  As in, players I didn't get the chance to discuss before have leapfrogged their way into draft positions I discussed a month ago. Others have fallen similarly far or altered the order within their own positions. With so many players moving up, down, or sideways, this seemed to be a perfect time to catch up on the changes that have ruined the continuity of this series. 

Whether big risers or fallers, I'll discuss them below before getting to the real bottom of the third. If I've written about a player in this space before, expect their comments to be pretty short, for the sake of everyone's sanity. If you missed it, check out last week's edition of Fantasy Stars to place everyone in context. 

As you can see below, basically the entire first half of the third round consists of new faces. Great. More work for me, more analysis for you.

As always on Fantasy Stars, the Average Draft Position (ADP) numbers come from MockDraftCentral and come from 154 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. Curtis Granderson, OF (Top of the Second, Riser) .232/43/102/106/10

He's a riser, and wow, did he rise! From somewhere in the depths of the fourth round (I had thought I wouldn't get to profile him), Granderson has risen to the very doorstep of the first round. Unfortunately, that means I don't get to talk about what a great value he is in the fourth, or what a worthwhile risk he is in the third. Instead, I have to say mean things about a guy that hit 43 homers. Thanks a lot, mock drafters.

In all seriousness, this is an overpay. I can understand it, and I can sort of understand taking him with Giancarlo Stanton still on the board--their supporting casts couldn't be more different. The crux of the issue with Granderson is this: was his horrific .260 BABIP last year bad luck, or the harbinger of imminent decline? Moreover, he's never been good with the BABIP, and usually been bad with the batting average. If he's launching 43 bombs in New Yankee Stadium, I don't really care. But if his batspeed is slowing with age (he'll be 32) it could take enough of that power with it to really hurt his value. I like Granderson. I like the risk, and I think he'll pan out next year. But when I can choose to risk the thirteenth pick of the draft, I want the 23-year-old who keeps getting better, not the 32 year-old who just slipped a lot.

14. Buster Posey, C (Top of the Second, Faller) .336/24/78/103/1 

I wrote more extensively about Posey when he was a first-rounder and I didn't totally oppose him there. I did think that the first round was a bit too early for a catcher, but here, only a few picks later, I feel a lot more comfortable. For the team using this pick, there's no way Posey lasts until their next selection, and if he's your guy, don't let him slip by. That said, he isn't my guy at this point in the second round, mostly because catchers don't hit like that every year, even the very best ones. Plus, catcher remains deeper than usual this year. 

16. Clayton Kershaw, SP (Top of the Second, Faller) 227.2/14/229/2.53/1.02

Another first-rounder from January, Kershaw has retained his spot at the top of pitching's pecking order. I still like him, but he's still too reminiscent of other pitchers that you can get later--lots later. If you're taking a pitcher this early, you know who I want you to take.  

24. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B (Bottom of the Second, Riser) .280/42/93/110/13

I've been an Encarnacion proponent for a long time, and 2012 was the year I finally let him go to someone else in all of my leagues. So, yeah. Anyways, I don't see anything in what he did that makes me think that he isn't for real. Forty-two long balls is a lot--more than I'd usually project for anyone--so don't be surprised if they go down a bit. Fortunately, he plays in a great lineup, in a helpful park, and the standard at first base is lower this year than at any time in recent memory. He's not a sure thing, but with the 24th overall pick, he doesn't have to be. I predict that he'll be going in the first round next year. Sounds like the same path as a teammate of his once took.... 

26. Evan Longoria, 3B (Top of the Third, Riser) .289/17/39/55/2

In just 79 games, Longoria hit as many homers as Justin Upton did. Consider also that he plays a premium position, and has a longer track record of consistency than Upton the Younger. So, why, exactly is Longoria going two rounds later?

Yes, he was hurt last year, but no, he doesn't appear to be hurt anymore. It looks like mock drafters have gotten that message and I expect Longoria's stock to continue to rise. As a bottom of the first/top of the second guy just a year ago, I think you'll be able to get that kind of production at a mild bargain. Of course, if he stays here in the third round, it will be a pretty big bargain. He's worth the early risk--the reward is huge.

27. B.J. Upton, OF (Top of the Third, Riser) .246/28/79/78/31

I like the elder Upton better than his over-hyped brother, but that batting average really is a killer. His low OBP (.298 last year) keeps his Runs Scored down too. You can't even blame it on his BABIP, because he posted an average-looking .294 last year, and he's been within ten points of that mark for three years in a row.

Luckily for Upton, I secretly hate Batting Average, so I'd draft him towards the beginning of the third (depending on the other OF's out there) for the power, speed, and the chance to move into a weaker league and a friendlier home park. I like him better than most of the OF's getting drafted behind him. The only one I feel strongly about is Matt Holliday, but their skills don't overlap enough for an apples-to-apples comparison. I might take Jason Heyward over Upton too, but I might not.

28. Stephen Strasburg, SP (Top of the Third, Faller) 159.1/15/197/3.16/1.15

He's a great value here. Grab him. Use your second-round pick on him. If you don't think you'll be able to get him in the second, pull the trigger in the first. He's got all the makings of being that one great pitcher in baseball that's worth the extra price.  

29. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (Top of the Third, Riser) .299/18/75/108/2

Gonzalez dipped a bit going from the Padres to the Red Sox in 2011, though you'd never know it without looking at the .380 BABIP that powered a .338 average and .410 OBP. The decline he hit in 2012 was a lot steeper, and it's definitely more worrisome in the context of a possible change in skills. (Gonzalez is 31.)

All that said, I'd take a risk on him here, in the third round. I'd rather place my bet on a bounceback with the Dodgers than on players new to the scene like Paul Goldschmidt, Allen Craig, or Anthony Rizzo. Looking down the list of first basemen, Mark Teixeira, Paul Konerko, and Ryan Howard are all older and even more likely to naturally decline. That leaves Billy Butler and Freddie Freeman to compare him to, and neither of those guys has the elite ceiling that Gonzalez does. I say go for it. (But make your CI a first baseman just in case.)

30. Jay Bruce, OF (Top of the Third, Riser) .252/34/89/99/9

Bruce's low average and OBP keep him from being an elite performer, in fantasy baseball as well as real. Fortunately, Dusty Baker's New Red Machine (can I call them that yet, because this lineup is gonna be really, really good) doesn't care about OBP and I don't care about BA. So Bruce is as entrenched in my fantasy rankings as he is in Baker's lineup card.

The case against--batting average--is simple. He hurts you in that category, and he does it without having low BABIP's. The case for him is just as simple: he has serious power, in a great lineup, in a great park. He'll rack up points in three categories. He could even throw in double-digit steals, because that's how they roll in Cincy.

Expect more big shifts in ADP as we get closer and closer to the start of the season. Spring Training will provide real information for all of us, and drafters will be responding to expert rankings as they come out. Say, speaking of expert rankings, ours are starting next week on Wednesday. We'll get to the last real episode of Fantasy Stars next Monday.


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