Reshuffling the Top Five

On, there have been more than 450 drafts completed to date, while there is plenty of disagreement on who should get taken when, there is a clear break between the top five and everyone else. The five guys atop the list are the only five to have garnered a number one overall pick (other than an over-aggressive Robinson Cano selection) and the only five who haven’t fallen outside the top 10. All five have an average draft position (ADP) below 4.75 and no one else is below 8.5.

Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Troy Tulowitzki have established themselves as the top options in the minds of the populace. I am not one to argue with the populace, and if I had a top five pick, I would use it one of these five – but I do think the masses have drafted these five in the wrong order.

Before diving in to each player, here is the data on the ADP of the fab five:

Player ADP Latest Pick Earliest Pick
Matt Kemp 1.56 5 1
Albert Pujols 2.43 8 1
Miguel Cabrera 3.12 9 1
Jose Bautista 4.21 9 1
Troy Tulowitzki 4.72 10 1

The agreement on the order is pretty strong – there is almost a full-draft-spot drop between each pair, other than Joey-Bats-to-Tulo, which is closer to have a spot. It seems that, on average, fantasy owners are excited by Kemp’s 50-50 guarantee and believe Prince Albert will adjust well to the AL. But what order do I think these five should go?

Here are their 5×5 roto stats, as provided by the Bill James projections on the FanGraphs player pages:

Matt Kemp 0.293 103 104 31 32
Albert Pujols 0.316 115 120 41 10
Miguel Cabrera 0.329 108 120 35 2
Jose Bautista 0.262 103 108 38 7
Troy Tulowitzki 0.299 94 99 29 10

1) Troy Tulowitzki – Double digit stolen base potential, 30 HR, a high AVG (or OBP, if that’s your thing), in a lineup with a lot of speed up top and solid hitters behind him, and he plays the weakest position on the diamond. If you don’t get him as your SS, you are looking at Hanley Ramirez coming off a brutal season or Jose Reyes no longer in a contract year. And of course if you are picking #1 overall, you have no shot to get those guys coming back around. The fourth and fifth SS off the board? Starlin Castro and Elvis Andrus. The drop from Tulo is just too big to pass him up. If your choice for OF-SS is Kemp+Castro or Tulo+Andrew McCutchen or Mike Stanton? I’ll take Tulo every single time.

2) Matt Kemp – I really wanted to put Kemp lower. I am just not that big a believer. I don’t think he breaks 100 runs and 100 RBI in what will likely be a terrible lineup. As Eno Sarris taught us two weeks ago, HR-power begins to drop off earlier than other skills, suggesting that the 39 HR was less a sign of things to come and more a one-year peak. I actually think the projections are optimistic in almost all categories. I think the AVG is reasonable, but I would expect Kemp to put up a 25/25 season rather than a 30/30. But I am probably being overly pessimistic, and there just aren’t that many guys who stuff the stat sheet like Kemp. I wanted to drop him lower…but if I am picking second, and Tulo isn’t on the board, Kemp’s my guy.

3) Jose Bautista – He doesn’t provide the same average as the two guys behind him (or the two below him), but his counting stats are on par and, despite the projections, I expect him to out-homer Pujols, as well. You could argue that Cabrera and Bautista will both be best used at 3B, but, positional eligibility is a difference-maker again, and this time flexibility plays in. Neither OF nor 3B are particularly deep this year. You could argue that Cabrera and Bautista will both be best used at 3B, but taking Bautista allows you to wait and see what options come up for your picks later in the draft. Maybe you catch lightning in a bottle with a youngster who breaks out at 3B, and want to use your top pick in the OF. Maybe you grab Ja(y)sons Werth and Heyward and both bounce back in a big way, and need that top pick for 3B. Taking Bautista gives you top five production without committing you to a filled slot on your lineup card.

4) Miguel Cabrera – Assuming he gets 3B eligibility, Cabrera becomes an absolute monster, and I could see an argument for taking him before Bautista. But 1B/3B isn’t as valuable as 3B/OF, and there is always a chance he doesn’t get that 3B eligibility. He projects to hit for a higher average than Pujols, and while his rate stats aren’t quite as high, I think both the HR and R totals will be closer than the prediction suggests. On top of that, Cabrera is more than three years younger – and it is a big three years. Cabrera might be leaving his prime, but Pujols is definitely at the age where we should expect him to enter his decline phase. Do I think Prince Albert will fall off a cliff? Of course not. But the risk is there, and anticipating some regression is perfectly reasonable. I trust Cabrera’s projection more than I trust Pujols’s. If the Tigers move forward with Cabrera at 3B, taking him over Pujols is a no-brainer – the choice is more difficult if they back off that plan. But either way, I’ll take my chances with Miggy.

5) Albert Pujols – Before the commenters bring out the pitchforks (and I am sure it will happen), let’s remember that I am saying Pujols is a clear top-five pick. I am not saying he is done. I am not saying I would avoid him like the plague. If you take him #3 or #1 or #4, I do not think you need to seek psychiatric help. Albert is one of the five best players in the game. He will provide you terrific fantasy numbers, even stealing you a handful of bases. But he will do it all at the least valuable position for fantasy (unless you count the David Ortiz‘s of the world, I suppose). If you are picking above this slot, Mark Teixeira, Paul Konerko, and others will be available well after you come up to pick in the second round. Prince Fielder could even slip to you in some drafts. And if you can grab one of those guys, you are better off pairing him with Cabrera, Bautista, Kemp, or Tulowitzki than you are leaving the draft with Pujols at first and a late second round pick filling one of those slots.

I fully expect some argument on these picks – everyone has their own opinions on this stuff and that is what makes fantasy baseball great. So…have at it. Am I overvaluing positional eligibility? Am I undervaluing Kemp’s power-speed combination? Looking forward to the debate!

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48 Responses to “Reshuffling the Top Five”

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  1. theeiffeltower says:

    Could you explain how 1B/3B isn’t as valuable as 3B only?

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    • Chad Young says:

      I don’t think anyone on this list is 3B only. I have these as expected eligibility in most formats:

      Tulo – SS
      Kemp – OF
      Bautista – 3B/OF
      Miggy – 1B/3B
      Pujols – 1B

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      • Dingbat says:

        But 1B/3B isn’t as valuable as 3B only,

        I assume you meant not as valuable as 3B/OF. But even that point is kind of weak. Even if you grant that 3B/OF > 3B/1B, I don’t think that small difference in value due to position flexibility is enough to overcome the huge difference in projected AVG between the two players.

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      • Chad Young says:

        Ah, I see my error now. I’ll correct that in the article.

        As for whether OF eligibility makes enough of a difference (OF eligibility plus a bunch of HR, really), I think that is up for debate. I also think you have to factor in some probability that Miggy never gets 3B eligibility. He sucks in Spring Training, they decide to DH Prince, etc. I think he is 1B/3B more than likely, but it is far from guaranteed.

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      • Matt C says:

        How many games does it take to gain eligibility in standard leagues? I thought it was only like 5 games? If that’s the case I think it is extremely unlikely that Cabrera doesn’t gain 3B eligibility. I mean the Tigers threw 200+ million at Fielder and still owe Martinez over 30 million because they planned on Cabrera playing 3B. Even if he sucks during spring training they”re gonna atleast give him a month or so in the regular season before making a change.

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  2. JimNYC says:

    I can’t see picking Tulowitzki #1 overall; the likelihood of a serious injury and a 70 game season is just way too high. I’d put him at only a 15% or so chance of avoiding the DL all season… that’s not #1 material.

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    • David C. says:

      Where are you getting this idea of a 70 game season? He’s played over 100 games in every major league season. I understand the injury risk as he has had his issues in the past, but the guy is a complete gamer and will play until the medical staff physically holds him off the field.

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    • NBH says:

      I agree with JimNYC. Tulo would be my pick if you could guarantee 150 games, but when making first round picks – especially early first round picks – you really need to focus on downside risk and health. I think the 1Bs have the least downside risk and even if Pujols/Miggy get dinged up, they can DH. I would take either Miggy or Pujols first – largely because of the plus health and low downside risk – followed by Kemp or Tulo and then Joey Bats (because of the AVG).

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  3. adohaj says:

    “But he will do it all at the least valuable position for fantasy (unless you count the David Ortiz‘s of the world, I suppose). ”

    Why is DH less valuable than 1B. 1B is a way deeper position. Unless you assume there is no DH positional slot on the fantasy team.

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    • Chad Young says:

      I’m assuming there is a Util slot. If that is the case, a guy like Ortiz who is Util-only is less valuable than a guy with 1B eligibility.

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  4. scot shields says:

    i’m thrilled to see the lack of love for miggy. hopefully my competitors are reading this!

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  5. Sterling says:

    I too worry about Tulo’s health as a #1 overall. And, I am still mad at Kemp for what he did to my top pick in 2010. I think Bautista is for real, but he’s a little aged for someone with only two good seasons.

    Those ARE my top 5, but I go Cabrera if I had #1 overall.

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  6. Dave Shovein says:

    I assume that you are assuming a 12 team league when writing this? In 15 team leagues, I see the order at the top of the draft being very different.

    The players that you count on pairing the top guys with here, surely aren’t available at the 2/3 turn in 15 team drafts.

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  7. In terms of dollar values, assuming a 12 team league, the SS eligibility isn’t nearly enough to make up for the statistical inferiority of Tulo versus the others (maybe against Bautista though because of the low avg, but can’t be sure until I run my values). I would also argue that comparing the pair that includes Starlin Castro is unfair, because I believe Castro himself is very overvalued!

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    • Chad Young says:

      Castro might be a bad comp, but I think the positional scarcity and flexibility are generally undervalued and are a good market inefficiency to take advantage of. Although, to be fair, you have probably done better analysis on this than I have, so maybe I should reconsider. In general, I feel like I can fill certain positions rather easily late in a draft, but others I get stuck with a black hole. I think those black holes are where fantasy seasons are lost.

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  8. jim says:

    in what league did someone let tulo drop to #10?

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    • jimbo says:

      IMO you have to be pro-position scarcity to take Tulo that early.

      Using bill james’ projections, pujols beats him by ~ 17 points in avg, 20 runs, 20 rbi and 12 hr.

      I’m not obsessed with scarcity (based on league roster requirements), so I’ll take the far better stats and worry about SS after round one.

      Although this year I’ll be at the end of the snake…more concerned with Hanley’s outlook than these top 5. (actually not a bad year to be at the end, given my rankings I’m guaranteed at worst two of Votto, Longoria, Upton, Hanley.)

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  9. kid says:

    Fully endorse Tulo at #1 overall. He owns a .397 wOBA over the past three seasons, and can ably fill every single category. Injuries? I guess they happen, but if we cede that durability is questionable with all shortstops, does it matter? It’s not necessarily the case that you get 120 or 140 games of Tulo and 158 games of shortstop X; shortstop X has a pretty decent chance of getting injured, too.

    I won’t be taking Kemp early because his ’11 is such an outlier. Look at his ’11/career comparisons: ISO – .262/.203, SLG – .586/.496, HR/FB – 21.4%/15.9%. For him to be worth the #1 overall pick he basically needs to do a carbon copy of ’11 in ’12, which isn’t likely.

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  10. dannyrangers32 says:

    love the phrase “before the commenters bring out the pitchforks”
    I almost did, but i restrained myself and understand what you think based on your explanation

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  11. Congo Hammer says:

    Would this affect their value the same way in leagues with an auction draft instead of snake draft?

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    • Chad Young says:

      I think auctions (and I primarily participate in auctions) are different because you can focus more on value than position. For example, if I get stuck with a weak SS, but I am only paying him a couple dollars, that may allow me to grab two “first round” talents. If people are overpaying Tulo because he is the only premier SS (I’d say Hanley and Reyes are at least CLOSE to premier, but others aren’t buying), I might prefer to pay a lot less for a Hardy/Peralta type and spend big on both Kemp and another first round talent. Basically, in auctions I shift most of my focus to the market and undervalued players, rather than focusing quite so much on positional issues.

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  12. Lefty Longfoot says:

    I get a big smile on my face when I look at my keepers for this season and see both Kemp and Pujols.

    Articles like this just make that smile a bit wider.

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  13. Chris M says:

    “Am I overvaluing positional eligibility?”

    Hell No! A player’s true value is how much better he’ll do compared to a waiver wire pickup of the same position.

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  14. ChuckNChino says:

    Could you see Miggy play 1B (obviously), 3b (as Leyland said today in the Fielder presser) and eventually OF? I think he gets 10 games out there and qualifies at some point. He cant stay at 3B all year, imo. I take Miggy #1.

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    • Chad Young says:

      I think they are unlikely to stretch him that thin defensively, but if they do, he certainly jumps over Bautista, and may deserve to be #1 or #2. Watch ST news and see what they do with him.

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  15. Menthol says:

    I know Miggy is a hitting machine, but does anyone worry that trying to play 3rd again will be awkward enough for him that it will mess with his head and thus distract and undermine his offensive performance? Even a little?

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    • EarlSweatshirt says:

      Yes, the dreaded Kevin Youkilis syndrome.

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    • Will says:

      It’s a tough call since he actually prefers to play there and considers himself a thirdbasemen from everything I’ve seen. Being happier at a position could help him continue his domination. in 208 in his 14 game stint at third where he was horrible(5 errors) his OPS was within 10 points of his overall OPS that season

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  16. dscott says:

    Nobody believes in Asdrubal Cabrera this year. I have been able to pair him with Miggy when doing some mock drafts.. Castro by far is being overvalued, and this is coming from a Cubs fan that owns both the White jersey and Allstar jersey of my boy Castro.

    SS is weak this year, but I wouldn’t stress to hard about it some guys that could have bounceback and/or breakout seasons that you can get very late in a draft include:
    Alexi Ramirez, stephen drew, and Cliff Pennington.

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    • jim says:

      in what way is castro being overvalued? there’s nothing to suggest he won’t be able to hit near .300, given his speed and therefore ability to maintain high BABIP, his lack of Ks, and his position at the top of the cubs lineup. that same lineup is the same reason you shouldn’t project him for too many R or RBI, but he’s probably a safer bet than reyes to provide good value, and is up in the air with how might feel about hanley

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    • jimbo says:

      Is SS really that weak? Perhaps if you wait too long, my league will draft around 18 SS, yet I count 14 guys I’d be cool having on my team.

      Middle tier has some pop (peralta, hardy) and some decent values (aybar, alexei) and a couple sleepers I’d be okay with (gordon, cozart).

      Worst case I’ll grab some non-sexy avg/run production pretty late from Yunel.

      I guess I’m more concerned with 3B. Not only is it top-heavy, but I know my league over-drafts that position. So if you don’t strike early AND you don’t get caught up in position runs…you’re left with a reach for someone like Freese/Moustakas earlier than I’d like.

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  17. Jake says:

    Tulo/McCutchen vs Kemp/Castro is clearly a win for Tulo.

    But Tulo/Stanton vs Kemp/Castro is a win for Kemp… or at least a push.

    ……………….AVG/ R / RBI /HR/SB
    Tulo/Stanton 286/182/202/68/15

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  18. Randy says:

    Your draft strategy is one that centers on positional scarcity and flexibility, which is a perfectly reasonable strategy. The downside to that strategy is that you risk not taking the best player available early in the draft.

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  19. Chad Young says:

    Rather than trying to reply to all of the comments (many of which overlap), let me just say two things:

    1) Yes, I do rely heavily on positional scarcity and flexibility. I don’t think there is any guarantee that any of these five guys will be demonstrably better than the others this year, which means that taking the highest production potential is risky. I think keeping open my flexibility to see who falls at the most valuable positions outweighs this risk. I hate sitting late in a draft and seeing that a 1B I really like has somehow fallen and feeling like I have to let him drop further because I grabbed Pujols. Tulo locks me in at SS, but I don’t see any high value SS likely to drop and blow me away late in the draft. Bautista and Miggy both offer positional flexibility.

    2) I probably under-weighted Tulowitzki’s injury history. If you are projecting him for 120ish games, then I think he falls from that top spot. I expect more like 145 or 150, at which point I am totally fine with him as my top pick. But I was in the midst of trade talks for Tulo in one of my leagues yesterday and when I looked closer at the injury risk, I do see the downside a lot of folks are talking about. I think 70 games is extreme, but you want more than 120 out of your top pick. I could see bumping him down to 3 or even 4 if you are only guaranteed those 120 games.

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  20. Eminor3rd says:

    Kemp as #1 overall seems insane

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  21. Bryan says:

    I think Cabrera has got to be the pick at #1. He will surely qualify at 3B at the beginning of the year. They will give him a chance to suck first before changing things up (if he does).
    I wonder how Bill James projects Bautista to hit .262 this year. I think with a better offense around him this year his numbers may even increase this year, especially RBI.
    My order:
    1) Cabrera
    2) Bautista
    3) Pujols
    4) Tulowitzki
    5) Kemp

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  22. Ender says:

    To me the least safe guy in the bunch is Tulo so I’d take him 5th. He has been hurt 2 of the past 4 seasons, he hasn’t displayed 35 HR power yet so 30 seems sort of the cap for him and he is running less as he gets older so I can’t even pencil him in for 10 SB. I also just don’t see elite R+RBI from him, good numbers for sure but not elite like say Cabrera.

    Obviously the fact he plays for the Rockies is a huge boon for him. If he played on another team I don’t think he even belongs in the top 5.

    I’d also mention that if Braun gets cleared he belongs in this discussion for sure and we should know one way or the other before most people draft.

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  23. Ender says:

    Worked on my cheat sheet some more tonight and to be honest Tulo isn’t in my top 8 and might not end up in the top 10. I think picking him #1 would be horrible.

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  24. Jason says:

    If I have the #1 pick, I’m taking Miguel Cabrera and laughing all the way to the bank.

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  25. Ben Spidale says:

    I think to say taking kemp at #1 is insane, is insane. When you look at the numbers after seeing what he did in 2011 as part of a terrible lineup, you have to realize that 2010 is the outlier in his career. He is a guy that will carry you in all five categories. His .380 BABIP from 2011 is certainly high, but his walk rate increased dramatically from 7.9% to 10.7%. He has stated several times in the media that 2010 was a year where he lost his focus on baseball and admittedly relied on his skills to carry him. With a renowned focus in 2011, he put up exactly the type of numbers that we knew he was capable of after the 2009 season. The 40/40 skills are legit and I could easily see him putting up very similar numbers in all 4 counting categories (R, RBI, HR, SB). I would admit that the AVG probably will regress due to the high BABIP, but he’ll still hit right around .300. Taking the OF in the 1st round allows you to catch undervalued players at every position moving forward. I also took Kemp with my 1st pick in 2010 and he burned me, but i’m confident that the 2010 season was his outlier. That said, I wouldn’t argue with Cabrera at #1 especially with the dual eligibility. He’s been so consistent through his career and is entering his prime years.

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  26. Ivdown says:

    “2) Matt Kemp – I really wanted to put Kemp lower. I am just not that big a believer. I don’t think he breaks 100 runs and 100 RBI in what will likely be a terrible lineup.”

    I think, just like everyone else the last year, you underestimate something on the Dodgers. Kemp likely won’t be as good, but Ethier won’t be as bad. Loney is poised for a career best season (which who knows what it will be, but if it’s his career averages or better I’d be fine), Uribe is bound to improve upon that shit heap of a season, if Rivera sucks Sands should be able to put up numbers like last year, probably with more power, and I will not give up the thought that later in the season David Wright will make a perfect trade addition for the Dodgers.

    Kemp will get over 100 RBI, I have no doubt, I’m worried a bit about the runs.

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  27. Nick says:

    I think the biggest problem with drafting position scarcity is that the generally scarce positions (C, SS, 2b) are the least consistent. THAT’S WHY THEY ARE SCARCE.

    so if you choose to grab utley and mauer, well, you get the idea. things can go downhill real fast.

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  28. OzzieGuillen says:

    It makes more sense to measure the drop from Tulowitzki to the 12th or 13th ranked SS, not the 4th or 5th. Value over replacement level should be the relevant measure when assessing positional scarcity. With that in mind, Tulowitzki’s value is nowhere close to that of Cabrera, Kemp, or Pujols.

    Add Freddie Freeman + Tulowitzki’s projected stats together and compare them to Pujols + Jhonny Peralta’s stats. The Pujols/Peralta duo easily comes out best.

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