We're in the middle of Super Bowl week, so perhaps it's a little early to take fantasy baseball ADP (Average Draft Position) data seriously. After all, we're still a little over two months away from the start of the season. But when it's 65 degrees outside on February 1, it's difficult to resist the temptation to look toward spring and examine some early outliers.
I did a column similar to this one just about a year ago, in which I detailed some of my issues with ADP data in general. It's important to remember that each site's ADP information is slightly different, so be sure to participate in mocks in multiple places to get a feel of where certain players are going. If you are drafting in an ESPN or Yahoo! format, to use two common examples, do mock drafts on their sites in order to get a gauge on their default player rankings. It's one of the easiest ways to find undervalued and overvalued players.
For the purposes of this column, I used ADP data from Couch Managers, the same place where we conducted our annual experts' mock draft. By the way, you can find results and analysis of that particular mock draft in Rotoworld's Online Draft Guide, which is available now.
If you have never purchased the Rotoworld Draft Guide before, there's no better time to get started than right now. This thing is packed with nearly 1,000 player profiles and projections, printable cheat sheets, tiered rankings at each position, customizable scoring features, keeper rankings, ADP data and oh-so-much more. It's quite simply the best way to get fantasy baseball on the brain.
And now, on with the outliers.
Ian Kennedy (SP, Diamondbacks) Current ADP: 62.2
It's amazing what 21 wins can do, huh? Kennedy currently finds himself as the 14th starting pitcher off the board, just ahead of the likes of David Price, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo and Matt Cain. The 27-year-old right-hander made some nice strides en route to a 2.88 ERA last season by averaging 8.03 K/9 and 2.23 BB/9, so there's plenty of reason to believe he'll be a solid fantasy option moving forward, but don't let the shiny win total lead you astray. His teammate Daniel Hudson (ADP: 87.8) could end up being the better value this season.
Brandon Beachy (SP, Braves) Current ADP: 123.2
Beachy continues to fly under the radar in fantasy leagues, despite coming out of nowhere in his rookie season to lead all starters (with at least 140 innings pitched) by averaging 10.74 K/9. Not only that, only nine starters were better than his 3.16 xFIP. Granted, it's unlikely Beachy will be able to maintain the same strikeout rate for the long haul, but he looks like a great value if you compare him to Jeremy Hellickson (ADP: 121.7), who won the AL Rookie of the Year last season behind a 4.44 FIP and 4.72 xFIP.
Josh Hamilton (OF, Rangers) Current ADP: 25.0
It might be a bit of a surprise to see Hamilton on this list, as he is obviously one of the game's best hitters when he's actually in the lineup. But the problem is that the 30-year-old (turns 31 in May) has missed an average of 48 games over the past three seasons and hasn't appeared in more than 133 games in a season since 2008. Perhaps he'll have some extra motivation to stay on the field in what looks to be his contract year, but fantasy owners should build some missed time into their expectations. Speaking of missed time, I wouldn't hesitate taking Ryan Braun (29.2) ahead of him right now.
Brett Lawrie (3B, Blue Jays) Current ADP: 87.7
Lawrie made quite a first impression on fantasy owners last season by batting .293 with nine homers, 25 RBI, seven stolen bases and a .953 OPS over his first 43 games in the majors, yet he's currently being drafted a couple rounds after the increasingly injury-prone Kevin Youkilis. Really now? Let others worry about the small sample size of success, but the potential of 20-plus homers and steals from the third base position should vault Lawrie on the draft board in the coming days and weeks.
Ivan Nova (SP, Yankees) Current ADP: 138.9
This one might be too easy. Nova has all the makings of someone who will be overvalued this season, as he pitches in New York and had a lofty 16-4 record to go along with a 3.70 ERA during his rookie campaign. The 25-year-old at least induced ground balls 52.7 percent of the time last season, but he also averaged just 5.3 K/9, which means he'll be at the mercy of the defense behind him. Nova didn't give up a single home run with a runner on base last season, so assuming he doesn't have the same luck in 2012, his ERA is much more likely to end up closer to his 4.16 xFIP from 2011. Let someone else make the mistake of reaching for him.
Hiroki Kuroda (SP, Yankees) Current ADP: 224.7
Last season's ugly 13-16 record and his wavering about returning to Japan likely contributed, but Kuroda surprisingly finds himself as the 68th starter of the board. Look for his draft position to take a healthy jump now that he's a member of the Yankees. Moving to the American League East and hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium means a repeat of his 3.07 ERA from last season is highly unlikely, but he has shown excellent command (2.10 BB/9) and a penchant for inducing ground balls (48.6 percent) over his four seasons in the majors. With the run support he's likely to receive, there's top-40 starter potential here.
Jhonny Peralta (SS, Tigers) Current ADP: 94.5
Peralta is coming off his most productive offensive season since 2007, so naturally his draft position is much-improved relative to this time last year. But why take him inside the top 100 players when quality alternatives like Derek Jeter (116.3), J.J. Hardy (125.3), Erick Aybar (130.8), Stephen Drew (142.3), Ian Desmond (174), Dee Gordon (189.6) and Yunel Escobar (198.1) are available in the next several rounds? Peralta's pop should continue to make him useful in most mixed leagues, but look for some correction with his ADP as draft day approaches.
Cameron Maybin (OF, Padres) Current ADP: 191.1
Just in case you didn't think there was a stigma attached to making an investment in a hitter from the Padres, consider that Maybin is currently being drafted after the likes of Melky Cabrera (167.8), Jeff Francoeur (164.1), Brennan Boesch (180.8) and new teammate Carlos Quentin (184.3). Meanwhile, Maybin has already shown that he can be valuable in fantasy leagues without big-time power production. The 24-year-old collected 41 extra-base hits (nine homers) last season to go along with 40 stolen bases, 40 RBI and 82 runs scored. He could be a top-25 outfielder with even modest improvement.
Ryan Madson (RP, Reds) Current ADP: 167.9
Madson's ADP took a bit of a beating in early mock drafts, as he was still looking for a team after his reported four-year, $44 million deal with the Phillies fell apart, but expect him to move up on draft boards now that he has landed in a pretty good situation with the contending Reds. The 31-year-old right-hander proved doubters wrong last season by saving 32 games in 34 chances and owns a quality 2.89 ERA over the past five seasons, so he's an easy top-10 closer in mixed formats.
Alex Avila (C, Tigers) Current ADP: 89.7
Avila unexpectedly broke out in his sophomore campaign by batting .295 with 19 homers, 82 RBI and an .895 OPS, but his .366 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was sixth-highest among qualified batters. The 25-year-old hit a bunch of line drives last season and we probably need more information before learning his true BABIP baseline, but factoring in his 23 percent career strikeout rate, it's fair to say that some batting average regression is likely in his future. Matt Wieters (102.5) is a superior pick at this stage and he figures to leap Avila on most draft boards.