I have no special attachment to Tim Anderson. I’m not a White Sox fan, and I don’t have much history with the player.
But if the market is going to pan Anderson, then my ears perk up. I’m not trying to a scouting superhero here. I just want to make reasonable guesses on where the marketplace might be wrong, and try to exploit those opportunities.
Anderson, as you probably know, has a hacker’s mentality at the plate. He struck out 27.1 percent of the time during his rookie year of 2016, with a walk rate of just three percent. Last year the strikeouts were essentially the same and the walks actually decreased — a thin needle to thread, but somehow Anderson did it.
This does not make Anderson a bad fantasy player, however. He’s shown category juice in the majors — 26 home runs and 25 steals over 245 games. And while the poor plate discipline could be and maybe even should be a drain to Anderson’s batting average, that hasn’t taken him down yet. He batted .283 as a rookie — a helpful average — and last year’s .257 average, while a negative, wasn’t enough to negate the positive contributions he made.
Anderson is an unusual commodity in that he’s a blind spot more likely to be found with a skilled fantasy owner. Plate discipline is an important fantasy tool. Walks and strikeouts tell a reliable story for so many hitters and pitchers; as wonderful as advanced metrics are, it’s remarkable how much we can still glean from these two basic counting stats. But given how Anderson has filled the actual scoring categories of 5×5, I think some sharps are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
In many rooms, the fear of Anderson’s average is collapsing the price. Anderson’s ADP in Yahoo is a tidy 225. Consider, that’s just 10 spots ahead Troy Tulowitzki, who’s hurt and might be cooked. Ronald Torreyes has an ADP of 233. J.P. Crawford, who’s never done a thing in the majors, has an ADP of 236. Anderson went after Pick 200 in the LABR Mixed Draft. When you’re taking someone this late, I don’t even care about what the downside is. All I want to see is plausible upside, and Anderson has already illustrated that.
I’m not telling anyone to get into a knife fight over Anderson. I’m saying to be ready for a possible giveaway price, when the smart guys in your room outsmart themselves. It’s happened often this spring, at least in some rooms I’ve been in. (If you want the Con Argument to Anderson, Dalton Del Don has you covered.)
With Anderson out of the way, let’s quickly go through some other common threads on my 2018 fantasy rosters. A bunch of great players will never find their way on this list simply because of luck — I haven’t been landing any No. 1 overall picks, so I don’t have any Mike Trout. (Some of my leagues are auctions, but not all of them.) It’s not a perfect way of framing everything, but right now these are My Guys for 2018.
• Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant: I lump them together because they’re similar — star players who had modest dips last year, excused absences. Betts played through an injury and I suspect Bryant may have, too. The key is that they still played. Betts’s batting average was unlucky, Bryant’s RBIs unlucky. I have no problem taking either at cost, and I think you might get a tiny discount (there are no major discounts where they are selected).
• Xander Bogaerts: He was a star in 2016. Last year’s season collapsed after Jake Faria hit him with a pitch. I find it completely irresponsible that some pundits will discuss Bogaerts and not mention the injury at all. The lineup and park provide buoyancy.
• Byron Buxton: If you want a daily Internet argument — heck, an hourly one — Buxton is your talking point. He was a mess in the first half of 2017, then he went off in the final two months, perhaps sparked by some mechanical changes and a brief demotion. Is this the light going on for a touted prospect? Statistical noise? I’m willing to bet on the former, thinking that if Buxton maintains his overall 2017 line, you’re only accepting a small loss, but if the spike was actual growth, you’re swinging at a monster upside. A perfect fifth-round pick.
• Cameron Maybin: Despite a slew of injuries, he’s grabbed 71 steals and 24 homers over the last three years, and the Marlins probably need to play him. The cost is dirt (Yahoo: 241). The average will need some managing, but that’s part of the 2018 frame of baseball.
• Whit Merrifield: Late bloomer who produced a $30 season out of nowhere, and I get why people don’t want to chase that again. But it’s a case where many of your opponents will scream “Regression!” and drop the case completely, not considering just how far the regression will take hold. It’s possible you might land Merrifield at a price where he can give back a significant amount of his 2017 stats and still be worthwhile to you. Kansas City has to play him, and they’ll let him run as much as he wants.
• Avisail Garcia: Basically cut-and-paste the Merrifield graph. Sure, Garcia’s 2017 BABIP was a fluke. Yes, regression is a lock. But that doesn’t mean you cross him off your list, it means you try to stay realistic. So many fantasy players are deathly afraid of looking bad with this type of pick, to the point they they don’t consider it even when the price starts to make sense. Garcia’s Yahoo ADP is outside the Top 200.
• Dallas Keuchel: He’s good at so many hidden or semi-hidden things. The ground-ball rate is well known, but he also eliminates the running game and fields his position well. The home park is an advantage, his offense should support him, the Houston bullpen is good.
• Julio Teheran: He’s coming off his worst year and maybe the Atlanta park is going to crush him, but it’s just one year of data there. He’s still young, entering an age-27 season. Go look at those ratios from 2013, 2014, 2016. I’m not ready to give up on Teheran, even though he crushed me last year.
• Joey Gallo: His power has never been in question. He took a signifiant step up in his second year of Double-A and Triple-A, to the point that I don’t think he’s going to be a Mendoza Line guy his entire life. Some year Gallo will probably run into enough luck to bat .250-.260, and at minimum, I’d bet on an increase from last year’s .209. And you also get a few bags, some walks, maybe the No. 2 slot in the order, and three positions in Yahoo (1B, 3B, OF). Stay open-minded to what’s possible here. Should he be going 30-40 picks after Rafael Devers, or even with Mike Moustakas?
Brett Gardner: Another classic Ibanez All-Star, the boring value veteran, screened by so many famous teammates. The batting average isn’t great, but otherwise Gardner’s averaged 89 runs, 15 homers, 57 RBIs and 20 steals the last four years. I also have a lot of Dexter Fowler shares; a similar player, though more injury-prone.
• Lance Lynn: A boring middle-rotation guy, and someone who was especially cheap before he signed with Minnesota. Go run down those fly balls, Buxton.