It's the fantasy baseball draft season. To us baseball nerds, few things are more exciting than arguing about player rankings. Today, we'll discuss and compare Albert Pujols' RotoBaller staff rankings. He was ranked No. 98 overall by Nick Mariano and No. 158 by Brad Johnson.
Throughout this series, we'll be using our February Staff Rankings to debate where to draft certain players. In cases where our writers had discrepancies, we've asked them to explain their rankings. These debates will provide us with some well-rounded analysis, and help identify undervalued/overvalued draft picks.
Editor's note: Check out our previous debates on Jose Ramirez, Trea Turner, J.D Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Jose Abreu, Bryce Harper, Carlos Martinez, Kyle Schwarber, Jonathan Villar, Kenta Maeda, Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Marcus Stroman, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo.
2017 Draft Rankings Debate: Albert Pujols
Nick Mariano’s Rankings Analysis:
His Overall Ranking: 98
Albert Pujols, you know the name. “The Machine” has been a fantasy mainstay since his rookie season back in 2001. While he no longer crushes 40 homers per season with ease alongside a batting average in the mid-.300s and has declining health, he’s just had so high to fall from where he’s still a solid asset.
After struggling through an injury-riddled 2013 that saw him hit only .258 with a career-worst 7.9% swinging-strike rate, he has brought that rate down to 6.6% over the last two seasons as he’s mashed a combined 71 homers with 214 RBIs. Batting behind guys like Kole Calhoun and that Mike Trout guy has its benefits. He ended up finishing 60th overall in the Yahoo rankings (in a 5x5 league) last season.
I realize age and durability is the critique du jour, but last season he actually got stronger as the season wore on – including a monthly-high split in September/October with a .298 average. His second-half hard-hit rate of 39% was 25th best in the bigs, and he also hit at least five homers in five of the six relevant months, so it isn’t as though he went all Justin Upton on us.
I believe knocking him down roughly 40 slots toward the 100 mark bakes in a fair amount of the risk involved here. No. 158 just feels too far, that’s where folks like Brandon Crawford (No. 155) and Curtis Granderson (No. 157) finished last season. Hardly an exact science year-to-year, but I wager Pujols comes up bigger than they did in ’16. If you simply just don’t buy that he can deliver anywhere close to 600 plate appearances then I’ll understand, but I’m still in.
Brad Johnson’s Rankings Analysis
His Overall Ranking: 158
The difference between our rankings probably comes down to managerial preference. I doubt Nick and I really disagree about his value as a player. He's slowly getting older, has chronically unhealthy feet, and those low, luck neutral BABIPs. He'll hit for power, he'll drive in runs, and he won't really hurt you in the other categories. That's the extent of his fantasy value.
This is where rankings and team building get complicated. When I'm building a rankings sheet, I'm thinking about the guys I'm targeting and where I'd be willing to pick them in a vacuum. Aside from the first round, you're never actually drafting in a vacuum. There are scenarios when I would pick Pujols near Nick's ranking because the composition of my team or the draft pool merits that move. And there are times when I just don't have a place for Pujols on my roster. I expect those latter occasions to be more common - much more common - hence my bearish-seeming rank.
Look, if you need big support in home runs and RBI at first base around pick 100, Pujols will be one of the best options on the board. He definitely should be on your short list. There should also probably be a few better plays available. I happen to favor going for Tommy Joseph much later in the draft. When I build my rosters, I usually find myself in desperate need of pitching or speed or a skilled position around pick 100.