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Fantasy Baseball 2017: ADP Hitter Targets

Have you been targeting Tyler Naquin, Eric Thames and Tommy Joseph? If the answer is no, find out why you could be missing out on a ton of production and at a price that is more than fair.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Last week we ran through the reasons why an owner would use ADP. We also covered the varying levels that an owner could decide to incorporate the data into their draft planning. At the end of the day, more information is better, especially when that information is something you can use to help map out a process that can be as chaotic as assembling a fantasy baseball roster with limited time on the clock.

Through the process we discovered a large number of players who had variance between where I personally had them ranked and where the market is currently drafting them. Some might say “follow the wisdom of the crowd” and while you should acknowledge where a large group of people are all in somewhat agreement to make sure your projecting/ranking process is not flawed, simply following the crowd when it comes to a fantasy baseball draft will more than likely put you in the middle of the pack (or lower).

Winners win because they are able to think for themselves. They’re able to identify certain markers or indicators that could mean additional skill, playing time and at the end of the day, production on the baseball field. This turns into more counting statistics or better ratios for the game we all enjoy playing.

Today I want to refer back to my initial ADP article from last week and break down some of the larger variance players we uncovered. What are the major projection systems saying about these players? What are similar players in the draft projected to bring to the table statistically? Why such a difference in opinion? Let’s touch on a few of the notable high variance hitters now.

Tyler Naquin

After finishing 3rd in the American League Rookie of the Year voting last season, Tyler Naquin is looking to take another step forward in 2017. Many fantasy owners are worried Naquin could be part of a strict platoon, which could be the leading reason why his ADP currently sits at 314.

Manager Terry Francona has recently stated that he likes what he sees from Naquin, including the fact that Naquin showed up to Arizona in January to begin his 2017 training. Francona’s hope is that someday soon Naquin can become the everyday centerfielder for the Indians.

Last season Naquin slashed .301/.372/.526 against right-handed pitchers and .250/.368/.406 against left-handed pitchers (32 at-bats). It will be interesting to see if that patient/higher-contact approach against same-handed pitching carries over to the 2017 season. If so, it could help to stabilize his ratios on the days that Naquin does start against southpaws. Naquin is currently hitting .458 this spring over 24 at-bats.

Eric Thames

What to do with Eric Thames. Who knows, right? Well, someone has to draft him and that someone might just be me. In fact, I’ve already selected him once, way back in January for an NFBC 50-Round Draft and Hold league.

That said, with someone like Thames, attempting to drill down on an exact projection seems silly. Instead, here’s what we know: Thames struggled in the big leagues when given a chance between 2011 and 2013. Thames went to Korea and absolutely mashed, including a 2015 season where Thames hit 47 homers, stole 40 bags and slashed .381/.497/.790 - that’s ridiculous.

Things really got interesting for Thames when the projection systems took their first run at his 2017 projected production. Both Steamer and Zips (found at FanGraphs) have Thames projected to hit between 25-30 home runs, steal 10-15 bags, while not crushing your team’s batting average (.245-.260). Not many players, especially 1b/OF types, can offer that type of production. Sure, it could all go wrong for Thames and perhaps he’s a KBO all-star and an MLB dud.

That said, if he comes close to those projections he’s a top-100 player without doubt. Thames is currently being selected around pick 178, which means you don’t need to take him in the top-100 to find out. Wait until 150 or so, throw him at your corner infield spot or UTIL and hope he reaches the 80th percentile of the projections above. Even then he’ll be a profit center for your fantasy squad.

Tommy Joseph

When it comes to first basemen, everyone wants power. Back in the day, the position had plenty of options spread throughout the draft board that could provide the upside of 30+ home runs. As we saw this last off-season however, Major League teams are no longer valuing the single skill, power only, first basemen, both on the free agent market and also with how much playing time they’re given (due to platoons, etc).

This is where Tommy Joseph begins to get interesting.

Last season Joseph split time with the veteran slugger Ryan Howard. In part-time work, Joseph hit 21 home runs to go along with an .813 OPS over 315 at-bats. With Ryan Howard out of the picture, Joseph is in line to receive the majority of at-bats for the Phillies at first base in 2017. The skills line up perfectly for a run at 30 home runs and there could be room for more.

Joseph’s ability to make contact sat around 76% last season, which for a slugger, is more than acceptable. For comparison sake, similar power bats such as Mike Napoli (65% contact), Mark Trumbo (72%) & Nelson Cruz (73%), all make their game work with contact rates lower than what Joseph displayed last season.

We also want to find a slugger who puts the ball in the air as often as possible. Last season Joseph hit 45% of his balls in play into the air. Among batters with at least 300 plate appearances in 2016, Joseph ranked 16th in fly ball percentage. The names around him include: David Ortiz, Napoli, Kris Bryant and Miguel Sano. With the well above-average power he displayed, coupled with his home ballpark, this is a recipe for a massive power season. With an ADP currently just outside the top-200, there isn’t a reason to miss out on a Tommy Joseph breakout. Jump aboard, the train is about to leave the station.

While we could continue this exercise for hours or even days, we’ve reached the 1000+ word mark. Instead of jumping into pitchers today, we’ll cover them in a separate article. For now, consider taking a chance or two on Naquin, Thames and Joseph. The price isn’t high, but the payoff could be massive.

Let me know if you’ve been targeting these guys, or similar players according to ADP in the comments below.