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Rookie ADP -- Beware the Hype

Ah, the rookies. They’re both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, there’s the hope, the promise, and the exhilarant trepidation that stems from relying on the unknown. On the other, there’s no proven track record and the potential for failure is actually greater than the chance of success. There’s that tantalizing excitement that comes from being the guy who saw him first and the narcissistic gratification that comes from everyone in the league praising you for unearthing such a gem. But should things not work out, your reliance on them can lead you right to the bottom of your standings.  

One of the biggest issues that we see is that prospecting in fantasy baseball isn’t what it used to be. It probably coincides with the boom the game got from the internet in the late 90’s but at some point, the love for the top-rated prospects went from a joy of the super-hardcore fantasy nerd to a mainstream obsession. The actual moment usually gets marked with the emergence of Albert Pujols. Those who knew who he was were able to pounce on him either just before or right at the moment he exploded onto the scene in 2001, and those who didn’t soon made it their mission to never let a player like that slip through their fingers ever again. Each and every year, the lists of prospects grow longer and longer while more and more fantasy owners seem hell-bent on being the one who discovers “the next big thing.” We see this most easily in the ADP numbers.

The following is a list of the top-25 fantasy rookies and their current ADP numbers from the NFBC. For the most part, there’s nothing too outlandish here. However, as spring training commences and we approach the start of the season, you’re going to start seeing a whole lot of movement. We’re always told not to put too much stock in spring numbers, but for some reason, the alluting hope that comes from a prospect’s strong spring becomes like an irresistible gravitational pull on many owners.

Rookie ADP – Top 25

Rank Player Team Pos ADP Min Pick Max Pick
74 Billy Hamilton Cin OF 77.05 46 108
108 Jose Abreu CWS 1B 110.19 51 181
128 Masahiro Tanaka NYY SP 136.51 48 321
135 Danny Salazar Cle SP 138.35 101 196
156 Sonny Gray Oak SP 155.42 126 200
162 Xander Bogaerts Bos SS 162.12 111 216
183 Christian Yelich Mia OF 188.05 73 234
185 George Springer Hou OF 188.91 151 270
201 Khris Davis Mil OF 206.44 156 315
224 Taijuan Walker Sea SP 220.91 126 265
245 Nick Castellanos Det 3B 254.02 182 303
251 Alexander Guerrero LAD 2B 261.74 174 342
252 Travis d'Arnaud NYM C 261.95 152 314
257 Kolten Wong StL 2B 266.77 165 327
262 Oscar Taveras StL OF 269.09 188 337
298 Archie Bradley Ari SP 303.09 214 395
305 Josmil Pinto Min C 307.93 226 381
313 James Paxton Sea SP 316.40 246 397
316 Yordano Ventura KC SP 317.56 211 406
325 Kevin Gausman Bal SP 333.05 258 434
349 Javier Baez ChC SS 359.21 264 479
350 Chris Owings Ari SS 359.51 227 506
365 Noah Syndergaard NYM SP 375.74 307 511
373 Gregory Polanco Pit OF 383.49 313 477
389 Jameson Taillon Pit SP 395.28 265 502

You might notice that this list includes two players who, technically, are no longer rookies. Both Danny Salazar and Sonny Gray have each exceeded the maximum number of innings to maintain standing as a rookie in Major League Baseball. However, neither exceeded the limit by that much. Each one received a late-season call-up last year and both dazzled with strong numbers – whether it was Salazar’s 11.25 K/9 or Gray’s 52.9-percent ground ball rate and 2.67 ERA – but if we’re supposed to take small sample-size into account, then these two should really be considered rookies from a fantasy standpoint as Salazar tossed just 52 innings at the big league level and Gray threw 64. Fewer than 65 innings hardly seems like a proven track record.

Despite the amazing depth of starting pitching, both will likely see increases in their ADP over the next month and a half. If you’ve done any mock drafting yet, then you’re already aware of the debate that ensues in every chat room once owners start drafting the likes of Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller. All three are being drafted at least 20 picks prior, but both Salazar and Gray have been lumped together with them in each debate. Outside of the NFBC, we’ve even seen them go before the big three in some drafts. The more this occurs and the more we start seeing writers bring this debate to the forefront of mainstream web sites, the ADP will start to shoot north. Once the casual fantasy owner is “in-the-know” the players start coming off the board earlier and earlier.

And that tends to be where the biggest problem lies. Prospects go from hidden gems to mainstream picks and tend to lose their real value on draft day. Much like the “trendy” picks we’ve discussed in the past, hot prospects who should be great values in the later rounds lose something when they’re taken two or three rounds earlier by some owner who reaches out of fear of missing out on them. Take Xander Bogaerts for example. The Red Sox rookie shortstop has looked good throughout his time in the minor leagues. He’s shown strong defense, good power and some improving plate discipline. But his numbers haven’t been outrageous by any means and with the decrease in ISO we’ve seen with each increase in level he’s made, it hardly seems like he’s going to be some .300-hitting, 20-homer guy who commands a high draft pick. Yet his ADP has him as the 13th shortstop off the board and climbing higher and higher the more people talk about him. The Boston media is already parading him around as the next big shortstop and he's gradually becoming much more of a household name. As a 14th round pick, he’s a great value. As an 11th-rounder though, not so much.

Here are a few others whose ADP bears watching this spring:

Billy Hamilton, OF CIN – Yes, he’s fast. Super-fast even. But he’s already a sixth –round pick in the NFBC and as you can see by his minimum pick, he’s being taken as early as 46th overall. The more enamored people become with his potential to steal 100 bases in a year, the higher his ADP will climb. But be careful here. He posted a .306 OBP in the Arizona Fall League in 2012 and then followed that up with a .308 OBP in Triple-A. If he can’t get on-base, there’s a chance the Reds choose to send him back down until he does. There’s also the arbitration clock to take into account. Do they want the clock to start ticking early and risk losing a year of control? If he hits well this spring, then his ADP should spike again, but if he doesn’t and we get more talk of his on-base struggles and arbitration, we could also see a potential drop.

Jose Abreu, 1B CHW – The scouting reports from him in Cuba make him sound like he’s Casey Jones incarnate. He’s won MVP awards, broken home run records, and swings a bat like Paul Bunyan swings an axe. We’ve already heard that the White Sox want him as their primary first baseman with Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn sharing the DH role. If Abreu starts to hit this spring the way everyone hears he can, then look for his ADP to climb even higher. It’s gone up by 20 picks in just over a week’s time already, so look out once he starts swinging the lumber.

George Springer, OF HOU – Technically, he doesn’t have a starting job just yet, but the speculation is that even the budget-conscious Astros will forgo the arbitration clock concerns and give Springer a spot on Opening Day if he hits well this spring. He’s easily got 20-20 potential right now, but the strikeouts could be a big problem. If he’s whiffing 30-percent of the time again, then he could be sent down to continue working on his plate discipline. If he doesn’t though, look out.

Khris Davis, OF MIL – We’ve already heard him referred to as Khrush Davis, so the buzz is obviously out. He had a nice showing while replacing Ryan Braun last season with his 11 home runs and 10 doubles in just 136 at-bats (.316 ISO) and now it looks as if he should have himself a starting job on Opening Day, though nothing has been made official. That is likely holding his ADP where it’s at right now, but once the team makes an official announcement, we should start to see a spike in his draft position.

Chris Owings, SS ARI – His .330 average with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases over 575 plate appearances at Triple-A last year earned him a late season call-up in which he outplayed incumbent Didi Gregorius. Now Arizona GM Kevin Towers wants the two to compete for the starting shortstop gig this spring. Should Owings continue his ascension, his ADP is going to shoot way up, especially given the lack of real depth at the position.

Plenty more to cover with the rookies, so we’ll be re-visiting this group much sooner than later. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than 10 days, the hype is going to be even more prevalent. We’ll be tracking all the ADP trends so we can figure out who the bargains still are and who should be left to your competition.


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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for nearly two decades on a variety of web sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him directly at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

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