All too often, fantasy owners chase upside in the early rounds. Why take a guy like Gary Sanchez, who might develop into a top C option, when you can take the far safer Jonathan Lucroy instead? You need upside to win in fantasy baseball, but you do not need to take it in the first five rounds when similar ceilings are attached to higher floors.
Instead, upside should be your objective later on in the draft. The replacement level veterans you could take at this point will be available on waivers in season, so why waste draft picks on them? There are always values later on in the draft, including toolsy outfielders like Joc Pederson and Byron Buxton this year. Let's take a closer look at their fantasy prospects.
Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
The Fantasy Jury is Out
Joc Pederson (OF, LAD) ADP: 214
Pederson's .246/.352/.495 triple slash line was only useful in formats including OBP and/or SLG, but his 25 dingers would have commanded more fantasy attention in any other season. He also stole six bases against two CS, hinting at an aspect of his minor league career that has not yet translated to the majors.
Pederson swiped 29 bags with 14 CS in 2012, 31 with 8 CS in 2013, and 30 (13 CS) in 2014 across multiple levels of the minor leagues. His success rate in 2012 wasn't great, but it significantly improved thereafter. When Pederson debuted at the MLB level in 2015, his four steals in 11 attempts were quite bad. Last year's success rate was much better, opening up the possibility of 20+ steals in 2017.
I can also see him getting on base more often to rack up swipes. His 13.2% BB% is already good, but his 27.3% K% last year was alarmingly high. His SwStr% was league average at 10.3%, however, suggesting that he should strikeout much less often even without any additional skills improvement. He also brought his LD% to 20.6% after a 15.8% mark in 2015, so hopefully he will not be a guy who runs subpar LD% numbers his entire career. His line drives posted a BABIP of just .593, suggesting that Lady Luck robbed him of a few hits last year too.
Pederson also has some pop in his bat. While his FB% fell from 42.4% in 2015 to 39.7% last year, the new mark still represents plenty of fly balls. His IFFB% also declined (from 15.2% to 11.1%), indicating that his fly balls may have been of a higher quality. His 23.1% HR/FB may not totally repeat, but even 2015's 19.7% rate with Pederson's FB% would be excellent for fantasy. In sum, we have a guy with proven power, real SB upside, and enough positive indicators to suggest his batting average won't kill you. Sounds well worth his current ADP to me.
Byron Buxton (OF, MIN) ADP: 190
Buxton's .225/.284/.430 line with 10 homers and steals last year looks bad, but becomes even worse when you consider he hit .287/.357/.653 with nine homers in September. What the heck was he doing the rest of the year? While many see the hot September as a reason to invest in 2017, I usually discount the month where every team calls up 100 guys from Triple-A because they can. His 33.6% K% in September also suggests that he was still overmatched despite the positive results.
His overall 35.6% K% was amazingly horrid, but his 15% SwStr% suggests that he should K less often in 2017. Of course, a SwStr% that high still suggests that he is going to strikeout way too often for fantasy purposes this year. At age 23, Buxton still has plenty of time to figure it out. Owners in redraft leagues cannot afford the same patience, however.
His elite prospect pedigree is also unsupported by his minor league history. He stole 57 bases (20 CS) in 2013, but otherwise has a career best of 24 bags (five CS) in any single season. He has also had durability concerns in recent years, as 2013 was the last and only time he managed to compile 600 PAs. When a guy is just trying to stay on the field, SB numbers often decline as every attempt is an injury risk.
Last season's 21 homers combined between the majors and Triple-A were also a professional best, so elite power is not guaranteed either. He does have some nice indicators in this regard, as his 43.3% FB% was great. He also pulled 32.4% of his flies, setting himself up for great HR/FB rates in the future. Still, it is quite possible that Buxton fails to capitalize on this potential in 2017. Even if he does, his counting stats will not be great on what is quite possibly the worst team in the majors. Buxton is a great keeper asset, but redraft owners may want to find their upside elsewhere.