Fantasy baseball ADP watch: Cole Ragans on the rise, Vaughn Grissom takes a tumble and more



What have you done for me lately?

We’ve seen that phrase come into play too often when it comes to fantasy baseball, as we react — rather, overreact — positively or negatively to what a player does in a tiny sample. A lot of it is confirmation bias, and a lot of it is FOMO (do the kids say this still?).

Take, for instance, Jackson Chourio.

Friend of the program Chris Clegg makes a great call on how quickly our perceptions of players change. It’s especially funny when it happens in spring training. A full season of data? Nah. A 10 plate appearance sample? The truth shall set you free!

That’s why Adam Ronis and I decided to look at some movers and shakers in ADP since spring training games started. It’s easy to react to what a player is doing and get off a hot take. But it’s better to look at the actual reasoning for why a player is a riser or a faller.

We looked at NFBC draft data from February 1-24, and then from February 25 to March 4, to account for the shift in ADP before and after spring training games started to see why certain players were rising or falling down boards.

  • NFBC ADP from 2/1-2/24: 103
  • NFBC ADP from 2/25-3/4: 85

Michael Waterloo: Do you know who everyone liked this year? Cole Ragans. He went from a trendy offseason sleeper to one of the — if not the — most wide-awake sleeper for the season.

Ragans was the promising arm who the Rangers gave up in the deal to acquire Aroldis Chapman en route to their World Series title last year. Flags fly forever and all of that jazz, but Ragans showed the immediate impact that he can provide for a franchise like the Royals, who have notoriously struggled to develop pitchers of their own.

The Rangers used Ragans as a reliever last year, where he posted a 5.92 ERA. But with the Royals, Ragans was a full-on starter, lowering his ERA to 2.64 and raising his K% to 31.1 percent, up from 22.6 percent with the Rangers.

Instead of seeing top velocity as a reliever, Ragans actually saw an increase in his pitch velocity across the board when he came over to Kansas City and joined the rotation. What’s more, Ragans introduced a slider when he came to Kansas City — a pitch the organization has emphasized over the past couple of years — and it worked wonders for him.

With the pitch, Ragans had a 40.0 Whiff%, 30.0 PutAway%, held the opposition to a .180 average, and a 33.3 CSW%,  putting him in the 80th percentile in the league.

Another fun note about Ragans is that he only threw 164 sliders last year since he introduced the pitch after coming over to Kansas City in July. No pitcher threw fewer sliders last year with a higher Run Value (7) than Ragans did. To put it into further context, the pitch graded higher than the sliders of  Tyler Glasnow and George Kirby, and they threw 660 and 558, respectively.

Could he continue the success? That’s what fantasy managers wanted to see. So in his first spring training outing, he had five strikeouts in two innings, touching 100 mph with ease.

The community continued to buy in, as he moved up from No. 103 overall to No. 85 in 53 NFBC drafts that took place after his first spring outing.

The price is only going to rise.

  • NFBC ADP from 2/1-2/24: 272
  • NFBC ADP from 2/25-3/4: 254

Adam Ronis: Rizzo has been one of the best bargains in drafts so far. This is a case of people looking at the final stats from last season, or recalling his abysmal finish to 2023. There is a reason why he struggled before his season ended early.

On May 28th, Rizzo suffered a concussion. He played through it and clearly the stats back it up. Before the concussion, Rizzo was hitting .304 with 11 home runs, 32 RBIs and an .881 OPS in 53 games. After the concussion, over 47 games, Rizzo hit .172 with a home run and 9 RBIs and a .496 OPS. He was on pace for 25-30 home runs before the concussion.

While the Yankees were one of the worst offenses in baseball last season, that won’t happen this year. Injuries were a big factor, and with the addition of Juan Soto and Aaron Judge back healthy, this lineup will be potent. Rizzo will have a lot of runners on base in front of him and the left-handed bat is a great fit for power at Yankee Stadium. Rizzo hit 32 home runs in 2022. The average will be in the .240-.250 range, but he gets a boost in on-base percentage leagues.

If you need power late, Rizzo is a good fit as a corner infielder.

  • NFBC ADP from 2/1-2/24: 148
  • NFBC ADP from 3/2-3/4: 107

Waterloo: OK, fine. I’ll take the low-hanging fruit here. If Ragans was the standout from the first week of spring games, his former teammate — kind of, since he was traded right after this guy was drafted, but I’m rolling with it! — is the latest shiny toy.

We’re talking Wyatt Langford.

Ronis went deeper — and boring, which is good for fantasy — with Rizzo, so I’ll go with the young kid who is the next Corbin Carroll, who was the new Julio Rodríguez, who was the new Fernando Tatís. We’ve had a good track record of late of rookies who come in and make an immediate impact.

At least, when we cherry pick we do. I remember Anthony Volpe last season. Do you?

Langford, who was drafted last year by the Rangers, is on the fast track to Texas, and it’s kind of hard to argue with it. The tools are extremely loud, and he offers a first-round profile — even if it’s not right away. But his spring training performance has people willing to reach high for him — he went 64th in an NFBC draft over the weekend — thanks to him hitting three spring home runs in a two-day span.

No. 64 overall is bananas. But 120 range? Yeah, I can get down with that.

Projections are typically conservative when it comes to rookies, and rightfully so, but a full season of Langford could look something like .265 with 25 home runs and 20 steals. He could be the next rookie who takes off and never looks back. Or he could be the next Jarred Kelenic.

Who’s to say?

  • NFBC ADP from 2/1-2/24: 139
  • NFBC ADP from 2/25-3/4: 119

Ronis: Langford is rapidly moving up and if he’s officially announced as making the opening day roster, watch out. This is the last chance to get him at a decent price. Many say the spring doesn’t matter, but it clearly does for some.

Sale is another player moving up based on spring performance. He pitched on Sunday (March 3) and struck out five, allowed three hits and two walks over 2.2 scoreless innings. He threw multiple fastballs at 96-97 miles per hour. In 4.2 spring innings, Sale has struck out nine. Most importantly, he is healthy.

Of course, health is the biggest question when it comes to Sale. He missed time last season with a shoulder strain and is in his age 35 campaign. Over the past three seasons, the left-hander has thrown 42.2, 5.2 and 102.2 innings, respectively. Last season, Sale had a 29.4% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate with a 4.30 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

Pitching for the Braves makes Sale more appealing since he will get a lot of run support. The most optimistic Sale backer can’t project him for more than 130-140 innings, but when he’s on the mound the strikeouts will be there and the stats should be good.

With the way baseball is now, we expect all our pitchers to miss time. Sale’s fit depends on team build. If you get elite pitchers early, Sale makes sense for the roster construction. If the price increases more, it will be a pass.

  • NFBC ADP from 2/1-2/24: 371
  • NFBC ADP from 3/2-3/4: 412

Waterloo: I like the call there, Ronis. I’m going to switch gears a bit here. We’ve focused on the positive movers so far, but I’m going to look at someone who has trended down over the past few weeks.

And, yes, I’m moving away from the players who will go in every single draft. Let’s look at Tyler Black from Milwaukee.

Early in draft season, he was going with pick No. 371, but since spring training started, he’s dropped down to 412. He’s one of the fallers whose value isn’t directly related to an injury.

Honestly, for Black, it’s less about him, and more about the hand that the Brewers have shown us so far this spring. First, they brought in Joey Ortiz in the Corbin Burnes deal. Then they signed Rhys Hoskins to play first base. But the one that matters the most here as the positions get filled is Sal Frelick.

Yes, the outfielder… but is that what he’s going to be? Milwaukee started off its spring training games with Frelick playing third base, the spot that was most likely to be occupied by Black.

Frelick worked out with Dustin Pedroia this offseason and his manager, Pat Murphy, indicates this change could be for good with the number of outfielders the Brewers have rising through the ranks.

“He wanted to do it, he embraced it. I think he can help his career,” Murphy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I think it can help the Brewers.”

Black has been playing some first base lately, but he’s a backup option there for Hoskins when the latter spells Christian Yelich at DH.

Black was a high-upside pick later in deeper drafts as it was, but drafters are — rightfully so — moving away from him.

Take a shot on upside elsewhere.

  • NFBC ADP from 2/1-2/24: 233
  • NFBC ADP from 3/2-3/4: 201

Ronis: Buxton has been an easy fade for many people over the past few years because the price was high. Durability has been a major issue for him. He has played more than 92 games once in his career and that was 140 games in 2017. Buxton played through pain last season and couldn’t play the outfield. He played 85 games and still had 17 home runs and 42 RBIs with 9 stolen bases, but it came with a .207/.294/.438 line. He’s had a 31.4% and 30.4% strikeout rate, respectively, the past two seasons.

Why is he rising? He’s healthy now and is going to play center field. Last season, Buxton would arrive at the ballpark seven hours before the game for treatment from the trainer and even went there after at-bats due to pain in his knee. He underwent an arthroscopic procedure in October, and now Buxton said his knee feels so good he wants to steal 30 bases. That’s great. I would like to date Ashanti. If only we could get everything we wished for.

Over his past 238 games, Buxton has scored 160 runs with 64 home runs, 125 RBIs and 24 steals, but that’s over a three-year span. The average was .207 last season and .224 the year before that. If Buxton is able to play the outfield, he will get eligibility there in most leagues in the first two weeks. Buxton cost way more the past few seasons, but with the price this low, it makes sense to take a shot. I likely won’t, but in 10- or 12-team leagues, it’s easier to do because the replacement value is easier — it’s more challenging in 15-team leagues. Based on his history, and at 30 years old, it’s unlikely he plays 125 games.

  • NFBC ADP from 2/1-2/24: 224
  • NFBC ADP from 2/25-3/4: 243

Waterloo: Buxton remains one of the more polarizing players in this silly game we play. He’s like fetch — stop trying to make it happen. It’s not going to happen.

What may happen, though, is Vaughn Grissom. At least, eventually.

Grissom seemed primed to be the perfect post-hype sleeper after he was dealt from Atlanta to Boston for Chris Sale (full circle in this column, folks). There was some chatter about him around the industry, but not as much as expected after he was everyone’s darling last year.

We know what happened last year. Everything went wrong for him, and I blame it on the Braves playing him out of position constantly. Well, that and the fact that he’s only 23 years old.

It was the perfect time to draft him, but the reason his stock is going down — I expected his ADP to have dropped more than this, honestly — is because it was announced that Grissom will likely miss opening day with a groin injury.

Damn.

Enmanuel Valdez would take over for Grissom if he does, in fact, miss opening day, which would be yet another setback for him. But I’m still in on him. Maybe it’s blind faith. Maybe it’s stubbornness. Or maybe it’s identifying the value of a potential 15/15 guy who can hit for a high average at his lowest cost?

Yeah, it’s the third one.

Christopher Morel (OF — CHC)

  • NFBC ADP from 2/1-2/24: 192
  • NFBC ADP from 2/25-3/4: 173

Ronis: While Morel strikes out often, he flashed big power last season. He slashed .247/.313/.508 with 62 runs, 26 home runs, 70 RBIs and 6 SB over 388 at-bats.

Some might have some concern about playing time. Morel has been getting time at third base in the spring, and Cubs manager Craig Counsell said he has been pleased with Morel’s work at third, but the position is not going to be solved in spring training. Nick Madrigal and Patrick Wisdom are other options for the Cubs at the hot corner and they have been dealing with injuries. Even if the third base experiment fails, the Cubs are likely to give Morel time at designated hitter and can mix him in at other positions.

There’s no doubt Morel makes hard contact. He was in the 95th percentile in barrel percentage, 92nd in hard-hit rate and 91st in average exit velocity, but he was in the second percentile of whiff rate. Being more selective at the plate will help him. Deciding on taking Morel depends on the roster construction. If you’re light on power and good on average, Morel is a fit. Morel appeared in 19 games at second base, five at third, two at shortstop and 28 in the outfield last year, so in some leagues he is eligible at multiple positions.

(Top photo of Cole Ragans: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)





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