Throughout the next three months, the FOX Sports fantasy department will publish its 2017 fantasy baseball draft guide strategy, rankings and advice features. In this series of galleries, we highlight American League players to watch or avoid come draft day.
Raise your hand if Pollock’s April elbow injury ruined at least one of your fantasy teams last season? Yeah, me too. Just remember that Pollock was outstanding in 2015, batting .315 with 20 homers, 76 RBI, 111 runs and 39 steals to rank as fantasy’s third-best outfielder.
We shouldn’t count on a full repeat of that breakout season, but as a late third-round pick, Pollock will probably be worth it. FanGraphs’ Steamer projections have him pegged for 16 homers with 25 stolen bases, and his career BA is .293. Grabbing Pollock’s diverse skillset will require confidence about adding big power or starting pitching later.
Robbie Ray – Diamondbacks – SP
I already wrote about Ray in this “9 Things to Know” fantasy baseball primer. He struck out a ton of batters last season, with a K/9 rate higher than anyone except Jose Fernandez. Maybe Ray won’t repeat that level of performance, but since he’s being drafted outside the top 60 starters, he’s one of the more obvious late-round pitching targets.
Ian Desmond – OF – Rockies
Desmond posted his fourth 20-20 season in 2016, and ranked 22nd among outfielders in FOXSports.com fantasy scoring (OBP, not BA). Now he’ll play half his games at Coors Field, which usually multiplies offensive numbers by 243 percent, give or take a homer or two.
OK, that’s an exaggeration. But Desmond is primed for another strong season in his cozy, new mile-high home. With an ADP on the Round 5/6 cusp, his floor is very high.
Jon Gray – SP – Rockies
Hey, a Rockies’ starter that you can actually consider drafting in a mixed league! IT’S A MIRACLE!
Gray had a 4.61 ERA in 29 starts last season, but his 3.60 FIP suggests that he was a better pitcher than the ERA showed. Part of being successful at Coors is keeping the ball out of play, and Gray did that with 185 strikeouts in 168 innings. He’s a talented young starter, and if he can post an ERA below four with all those whiffs, you’ll be happy you drafted him in Round 15 or so.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Yasmani Grandal – Dodgers – C
Grandal was second among catchers last season with 27 home runs, and tied for fifth with 72 RBI. He also ranked 23rd at the position with a .228 batting average among those with 250 or more plate appearances.
Unfortunately, while Grandal’s BA shouldn’t be expected to get much better (he’s at .238 career), his homer total will probably drop. His homer-to-fly-ball percentage was 25.2, a seemingly unsustainable number that ranked sixth in MLB. FanGraphs’ Steamer projections have Grandal pegged for 19 homers, which makes his current status as a top-10 fantasy catcher (ner ADP) a bit pricey. You can get similar guys if you wait.
Getty ImagesRob Tringali/Sportschrome
Julio Urias – Dodgers – SP
Excited about Urias’ potential? You’re not alone, as he’s being drafted among the top 40 starting pitchers after just 15 big-league starts. His rookie season was extremely impressive, with a 3.39 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 77 innings. I’m usually cautious about rookie pitchers, but at this draft price I’m in on the Dodgers’ 20-year-old potential star.
Warning: Urias pitched 122 innings in 2016, and will probably have a limit – think 160-170 until we hear more from the Dodgers. And with his team likely to be a postseason contender, Urias might be a candidate to be skipped occasionally rather than shut down in September, which would limit your ability to plan around him late in the season.
Hunter Renfroe – Padres – OF
The good thing about terrible teams is that they’ll let their kids play. Renfroe had an impressive late-season stint in 2016, hitting four homers and slashing .371/.389/.800 in 36 plate appearances after a 30-homer season at Triple A. But as we know, Pacific Coast League power numbers should always be viewed with skepticism.
Scouts think Renfroe has big-time power, but a terrible walk rate (23 BB in 599 PA last season) makes you wonder if pitchers will make him look bad. Renfroe’s power upside as a mixed-league OF5 should come with a “could be demoted by May 15” warning label.
Luis Perdomo – Padres – SP
Do we HAVE to include a Padre pitcher? OK, let’s go with Perdomo, who had a 5.71 ERA last season. He induces a ton of ground balls, and could have a 4.00 ERA if things break just right.
More importantly, we’ll use this section to suggest stacking DFS lineups against the Padres every chance you get.
Eduardo Nunez – Giants – 3B/SS
Nunez batted .288 with 16 homers and 40 steals last season … but nobody believes in him. His ADP (as of January 18) is 120, making him a Round 10/11 pick and the seventh shortstop off the board (though he’ll play third base again with the Giants). The skepticism is understandable, as Nunez seemingly came out of nowhere in his age 29 season. How do we deal with this breakout?
Nunez didn’t really have such a breakout season, as his .757 OPS essentially matched his part-time performance in 2015, and he’s always been speedy. Projections seem to have him settling in at a dozen homers with 25 steals and a good BA, which are solid numbers for a mid-round middle infielder. The risk with Nunez is that he’s been a bad defender for most of his career. If he starts chucking balls into the seats behind first base, he could spend more time on the bench than you’d like. Still, the ADP price is probably right, as he starts the season with the third-base job.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Matt Moore – Giants – SP
I saw a 21-year-old Moore strike out 11 Charlotte Knights in five innings of a Triple-A game in 2011. He was dominant, like the big kid blowing away smaller kids in a Little League game. Since then, I’ve always been a sucker for his talents. With that said …
Moore had identical ERAs of 4.08 with the Rays and Giants last season. But his FIP was 3.53 with the Giants, and he whiffed more than a batter per inning in nine starts after his trade to the Bay Area. Also, he’s a fly-ball pitcher who will start home games in a ballpark that’s been more hostile to home runs than any other in the majors in each of the last three seasons. Count me in on Moore at or near his SP45 ADP.