MLB barometer: curtain call

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge looks after a two-run homer during the third inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in New York. It was Judge's 49th home run, which ties the MLB rookie home run record. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel as we’ve now completed our final grueling Sunday night FAAB session and our squads are loaded for the final frontier. There’s less than one full week left in the season and, by far, this is the toughest one to project with teams clinching or about to clinch playoff spots. Some of our aces will be lifted early from their starts and many of our best hitters will certainly see some days off. Week 26 is a crapshoot for so many reasons, and every single hit and pitch is magnified, especially in leagues where certain categories are bunched up. I’m wishing you all the best for the final stretch in your pursuit of a fantasy championship.

Since we covered the pitching tiers last week, let’s take a look at hitters at each position respective to their performances and assumed ADPs. New additions in the top 100 are marked with an asterisk.

Catchers

In the top 100:

Gary Sanchez (NYY), Buster Posey (SF), Willson Contreras (CHC), *J.T. Realmuto (MIA)

This is essentially the same group as last season, except that Realmuto (2016 ADP: 112) replaces 2017 disappointment Jonathan Lucroy as the fourth member in the top 100. Though Realmuto’s average took a tumble after the All-Star break (.302 before, .248 after), he’s still Posey Lite, but with the stolen bases. Realmuto hit .303 in 2016 and should be a solid bet to top at least .280 next year, along with 15 HR and five to 10 bags.

Posey disappointed in the power department for the second year in a row (13 homers, on average, each of the last two seasons) but is hitting well over .300 once again (.316 to be exact). I avoided Posey at his 43 ADP this year and would be much more comfortable taking him somewhere around 70 to 80 overall. He is officially on the wrong side of 30 and has missed 20 games due to minor bumps and bruises this year, but certainly has a few more years of value in that bat of his.

Next Best:

Yadier Molina (STL), Salvador Perez (KC), Welington Castillo (BAL)

I wouldn’t be shocked to see Yadi sneak into the top 100 after his huge season. The 35-year-old Puerto Rican currently leads all catchers with nine steals, ranks second in RBI behind Sanchez with 82 and his 18 homers are the second best mark of his career (22 in 2012).

Always among the position leaders in RBI, Perez missed 30 games and would have easily topped the 30-HR mark. He will likely slide into the top five this year with an ADP in the eighth round of 12-teamers.

Castillo hit 20 homers despite playing in less than 100 games this season and has one of the league’s best batting averages (.285) among catchers. A .397 wOBA against southpaws is impressive. If you see his ADP past 200 overall, be sure to pounce on the discount.

Some of the guys I’d be interested in if I’m waiting on catcher include Christian Vazquez (.298 BA is second-best behind Posey), Mike Zunino and Yasmani Grandal for pop if I felt comfortable with my BA category at that point in the draft and Robinson Chirinos, who has developed into a solid hitter over the second half. A few of the vets I’d probably pass on altogether include Matt Wieters, Brian McCann and Russell Martin. I’d even be willing to get back on the TDA Train (Travis d’Arnaud) with one of the last picks of my draft.

First Basemen

In the Top 100:

Paul Goldschmidt (ARI), Joey Votto (CIN), Freddie Freeman (ATL), Anthony Rizzo (CHC), Edwin Encarnacion (CLE), Jose Abreu (CWS), *Cody Bellinger (LAD), *Eric Hosmer (KC), Wil Myers (SD), Miguel Cabrera (DET), *Justin Smoak (TOR), *Ryan Zimmerman (WAS)

Such a consistent position, isn’t it? There really aren’t many drop-offs from last year’s first basemen in the top 100 though projecting Cabrera’s ADP for next year now is a tough call. If he comes into camp without the back problems and is swinging the bat well, you’ll likely see his ADP rise quickly. For now, I’ll assume that he will be a late second, early third round pick.

Goldy, Votto, Freeman and Rizzo are the clear cut top four, Ency continues to mash (six straight seasons of 34 or more homers) and Abreu is Mr. Consistent.

Myers hurt fantasy team batting averages (.243) but followed up strong on his 28/28 season with 28 homers and 20 swipes in 2017.

Hosmer is the guy folks will likely be paying too high of a price on, unless you believe he repeats in the power (24 HR) and average (.321) again.

Smoak is much more likely to be a top 100 overall addition than Old Man Zimm, though I’d expect we see them both in the group come springtime.

The one guy I like who I believe will return top 10 value at 1B but will be drafted outside of the top 100 is Justin Bour. I wouldn’t expect him to repeat or come close to his .299 average this year, but 25 homers in just 100 games makes me think he can make a run at 40 with a full season of health.

Second Basemen

In the Top 100:

Jose Altuve (HOU), Jose Ramirez (CLE), Brian Dozier (MIN), *Jonathan Schoop (BAL), Dee Gordon (MIA), Daniel Murphy (WAS), *Whit Merrifield (KC), Robinson Cano (SEA), DJ LeMahieu (COL), Rougned Odor (TEX)

Only two new additions to this group (Merrifeld, Schoop) as both deserve to be drafted among the top 100 after their remarkable seasons. Schoop is the Orioles’ best all-around hitter not named Machado. Merrifield was a waiver wire darling who proved to be incredibly valuable to our squads with his shocking output (76-18-76-33-.290).

Bags McDee will always be in the third to fourth-round mix for those who like their SBs early.

American League MVP candidate Jose Ramirez is my clear number two behind Altuve due to his all-around contributions. Last season, JoRam was drafted just inside the top 100 (ADP: 98) but we should expect to see him shoot up to the mid/late-second round in drafts next season.

I would expect 2017 being the last time we see Kinsler in the top 100, but he may stake his claim yet again, on name value alone. Some second basemen outside of the top 100 I’d be interested in drafting if the price was right include Yoan Moncada (though he won’t be 3B eligible in 2018) and multi-position eligible players Josh Harrison and Javier Baez. Expect Harrison to be devalued because of his season-ending injury (more so, because of the lighter year-end stats next to his name). If we see his ADP greater than 175 or so, we’ve got a nice little market inefficiency on our hands.

Third Basemen

In the Top 100:

Nolan Arenado (COL), Kris Bryant (CHC), Manny Machado (BAL), Josh Donaldson (TOR), Anthony Rendon (WAS), Alex Bregman (HOU), *Miguel Sano (MIN), *Justin Turner (LAD), *Mike Moustakas (KC), Kyle Seager (SEA)

Last year’s glut of stud third basemen in the first round are all back in the mix this year, though we’ll likely see Donaldson fall to the second round. I’d be ecstatic starting a draft from the sixth pick with Arenado this year — a spot that’s certainly a possibility since his teammate Chuck Nasty has clearly hit himself into a top five overall pick this year.

Bregman was looking like a top 100 bust earlier this year, but turned his season around and is returning value on that 92 ADP.

We welcome Sano, Turner and Moustakas to the 100-Club, and should all tip our caps to Mighty Mous for his breakout season. Only Joey Gallo has more homers among third basemen than Moustakas’ 38, and it’s just a couple more than Arenado and Machado have hit so far this year.

We might see Travis Shaw reach the club this spring as well, but he’ll more than likely get the Justin Turner ‘can he do it again’ treatment (aka, doubt reflected in a lower ADP).

Jake Lamb was well on his way to being an easy selection in the top 100, but fell off the proverbial cliff over the second half of the season and is more ‘platooning corner infielder’ than ‘trusty everyday third baseman’ in our fantasy lineups.

On the bubble: Travis Shaw (MIL), Eduardo Nunez (BOS), Jake Lamb (ARI), Nick Castellanos (DET), Joey Gallo (TEX)

Shortstop

In the Top 100:

Trea Turner (WAS), Francisco Lindor (CLE), Carlos Correa (HOU), Corey Seager (LAD), *Elvis Andrus (TEX), Xander Bogaerts (BOS), Trevor Story (COL), *Didi Gregorius (NYY)

Turner has essentially stolen a base once every two games (42 in 91 games). It’s scary to imagine what that number would be in a full season. He’s a virtual lock for the first round again and should be able to beat out Billy Hamilton as king of the hill in stolen bases next season.

Lindor vs. Correa will be an interesting discussion come next February. Don’t be surprised to see them close to one another in early ADP lists. You really can’t go wrong with either of them, but Lindor will be most folks’ preference given his insane power surge, leading all shortstops with 33 homers. Not to mention whatever additional attention he may receive if the Indians reach the World Series instead of the Astros.

Speaking of power surges, only Lindor has more homers at the position than Gregorius, who overtook Derek Jeter for the best single-season home run mark by a Yankee shortstop.

Story has turned the corner over the last few weeks, but he’s a clear bust this year (22 HR, .232 BA) and he’ll be ‘punished’ for it with a more reasonable ADP in 2018.

On the bubble: Jean Segura (SEA), Zack Cozart (CIN), Chris Taylor (LAD – no longer a SS but will have SS, 2B and OF eligibility next year)

Outfielders

In the Top 100:

Tier 1 (top 50 overall picks)

Mike Trout (LAA), Bryce Harper (WAS), Charlie Blackmon (COL), Giancarlo Stanton (MIA), Mookie Betts (BOS), J.D. Martinez (ARI), *Aaron Judge (NYY), Nelson Cruz (SEA), George Springer (HOU), *Rhys Hoskins (PHI), *Marcell Ozuna (MIA), Justin Upton (LAA)

What a tremendous and fun group of hitters we have here. Trout, Harper, Blackmon, Stanton and Betts will easily soak up a good chunk of the first round and I’d assume we see a few drafts this year with people taking Blackmon number one overall (with Trout backers calling those folks crazy).

There will always be people who think that Stanton is injury prone and won’t draft him despite his run at Maris and Aaron. I’d have no problem starting my draft off with Stanton with a mid-first round pick.

Mookie Betts is no longer a top-three pick after having somewhat of a down year (for him) with drop-offs in his front-four roto categories. If his ADP came in around pick 10 next spring, I’d grab him in that spot in a heartbeat with expectations of a nice bounce back, and possibly top-three season.

Martinez is your second or early-third round power pick if you’re bearish on Stanton. Let’s see where he lands in 2018.

Who knows if Hoskins deserves to be a top 50 player in his first full season, but you can be sure high stakes players around the country are going to want a piece of him this year, which will inevitably cause draft month helium and possibly a third round pick if you want his services. The 37-year-old Cruz from Las Matas de Santa Cruz needs just three more dingers for his fourth straight 40 home run season.

Last but not least, let’s not forget the massive season Ozuna is having. Thirty-six homers with a .309 average, ranking fourth in baseball in RBI (118) behind Arenado, Stanton and Goldschmidt.

Tier 2 (51-120)

Starling Marte (PIT), Ryan Braun (MIL), Khris Davis (OAK), Christian Yelich (MIA), Yoenis Cespedes (NYM), Billy Hamilton (CIN), A.J. Pollock (ARI), Tommy Pham (STL), Domingo Santana (MIL), Andrew Benintendi (BOS), Lorenzo Cain (KC), Jay Bruce (CLE), Byron Buxton (MIN)

A fun tier to discuss as there are likely some players in the group that you may not agree with. As is often the case, unexciting players with light power who produce in other ways fly under the radar (Cain, Ender Inciarte) because nobody consciously drafts players for runs (runs is fantasy’s most underrated, yet equally important category).

I’m starting to move off of Braun and don’t believe he is an elite hitter anymore. He’s not someone I’d be targeting unless he falls outside the top 100. He’s not a guy I believe can stay healthy for a full season and I’d rather he be someone else’s problem. The new Hanley, if you will.

Starling Marte’s ADP will surely fall a couple of rounds because of his 80-game suspension. Not because of the actual suspension, but because of the drop-off in his numbers across the board in the games he did play. Expect an ADP drop from Marte from the third round down to the fifth or sixth. Another potential market inefficiency to take advantage of.

Expect to see Tommy Pham jump up to a fourth-rounder in 12-team leagues after his monster .310/20+/20+ season while Lorenzo Cain will get much less respect for his equally valuable .300/15/25 effort.

Tier 3: Yasiel Puig (LAD), Adam Duvall (CIN), Ender Inciarte (ATL), Corey Dickerson (TB), Kevin Kiermaier (TB), Josh Reddick (HOU), Shin Soo Choo (TEX), Avisail Garcia (CWS), Eddie Rosario (MIN), Michael Conforto (NYM)

That concludes my third season as the writer of this column, and please allow me to say that it’s just as fun to research and put together now as it was when I first started. No matter how much I venture into the DFS world, season-long baseball will always be my first and true love. There is no better month of the year than March, and I hope to see and meet some of you at NFBC live events or this November at BaseballHQ’s First Pitch Arizona. Wishing you all the best to finish the season strong…and may the gut be with you.

Vlad Sedler covers baseball and football for RotoWire. He is a veteran NFBC player and CDM Hall of Famer, winning the Football Super Challenge in 2013. A native Angeleno, Vlad loves the Dodgers and Kings and is quite possibly the world’s only Packers/Raiders fan. You can follow him @RotoGut.

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