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Josh Donaldson's Value in Atlanta

The Bringer of Rain™ is taking his talents to the Dirty South™. The question on everyone's mind for the next few months should be how to value the 32-year old slugger who has struggled staying on the field these past two years. There's no way to know whether his lingering calf issue is behind him. Perhaps it was caused by the artificial turf in Toronto, or it's just a result of age. Either way, the fact that he's been dealing with a soft tissue injury should immediately knock him down a few rungs. The best ability is availability after all. Just ask Le'Veon Bell owners (myself included)...

Donaldson is a former MVP but has seen a dip in production these past two seasons. Clearly, the injury played a part in his struggles, but given his age, it's fair to presume that there may be some decline as well. Donaldson turns 33 in December and is four years removed from his MVP season. Come draft day, you DEFINITELY shouldn't be expecting 2015 Josh Donaldson. However, 2019 Josh Donaldson may be a pleasant surprise.


Rainy Weather Ahead?

Donaldson started 2018 off well. With nine runs, nine RBI and three home runs over 46 at-bats, owners were breathing a sigh of relief. Donaldson was getting back to form by showing improvement in April. Then the first disabled list stint occurred. Donaldson was sidelined for the next three weeks and returned for most of May. He started off hot. Back-to-back games with a home run, four hits and four runs/RBI in 11 at-bats. Again, a sigh of relief from owners, Donaldson's back to save the day. This, unfortunately, was short lived. Donaldson played the rest of May (for the most part) and failed to go deep while slashing .231/.324/.404.

The silver lining that should keep you optimistic going into 2019 is how Donaldson ended the year. Prior to the waiver deadline, Donaldson was traded to Cleveland to act as a low-risk, high-reward bat. He didn't disappoint. Of the course of his 50 at-bats in Cleveland, Donaldson slashed .280/400/.520. He hit three home runs, drove in seven and scored eight times. The occasional rest day surely helped but it wasn't an every-other-day type situation. Although the sample is fairly small, Donaldson stringing together a good stretch of games like this should provide some hope.

Now, in Atlanta, Donaldson finds himself in another hitter-friendly ballpark with a great lineup surrounding him. Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, and Ender Inciarte are all talented hitters with different skillsets. Brian McCann's return will provide a boost to the lower half of the order as a power lefty. Donaldson's knack for getting on base will be huge for this club as they certainly lacked someone (not named Freeman) consistently drawing walks at the top of the order. Although Sun Trust Park isn't very friendly to home runs from right-handed hitters, Donaldson's bat is talented enough to play anywhere and he should be expected to accrue his fair share of runs and RBI next season.

A blessing and a curse that will come in Atlanta will be Johan Camargo. The Braves want to use him as a super-utility player who will surely spell Donaldson of his third base duties on occasion. The organization will prioritize having Donaldson healthy down the stretch and likely opt to rest him once or even twice weekly. This will come as a nuisance to owners but should be fine as long as he avoids the DL.

Ultimately, this all comes with the caveat of "if he stays healthy." If he stays healthy, he is capable of putting up top-25 numbers (particularly in OBP leagues). However, we are at a point where Donaldson will have to earn our trust back. There is bound to be an extreme discount on JD after these past two seasons. Former owners and skeptics are more than likely to be staying far away. While their actions are justifiable, savvy drafters will be in a position to poach him. His most recent ADP according to FantasyPros and ESPN is around 130, which is ridiculously low.

He is not someone to touch in the first six rounds just because that's where steady bread-winners should be drafted. After that, high-risk, high-reward players like him are in play. Somewhere after pick 70, Donaldson is a viable option. The batters in that range are solid, yet unreliable for a variety of reasons. Jonathan Villar, Marcell Ozuna, Nelson Cruz, Rougned Odor, Daniel Murphy and Wil Myers all come with similar flaws and lower ceilings (age, injury, decline). The track record for Donaldson is long enough that he deserves the benefit of the doubt to turn his career around, however, and a new environment makes him all the more intriguing given the young talent surrounding him in the lineup.

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