Fantasy baseball draft season is finally here.
As a Diamondbacks fan, it is important to try to separate fandom from making the right pick. Failure to do so results in over-drafting Robbie Ray 2 years in a row or ignoring all of Madison Bumgarner’s terrible advanced metrics. While being locked into the D-Backs gives you an edge on being a year early on Ketel Marte’s breakout, or properly ranking Eduardo Escobar entering his massive 2019 and fading an out of shape Escobar in 2020. With that, here is your guide to all your 2021 D-Backs centric fantasy baseball questions.
All ADP (Average Draft Position) comes from NFBC.
FAIR VALUE (ADP 40)
Zac Gallen has been nothing but dominant in his first 2 MLB seasons, and his ADP has caught up. In is 27 career starts Gallen has posted a 10.54 K/9 and 2.78 ERA. I’m a believer in Zac Gallen becoming a legit ace as more positive comments from Dbacks Spring Training continue to roll in. Merrill Kelly when asked who he looks to for advice on 98.7 KTAR this week, he raved about Zac Gallen baseball IQ and continued development of his nasty “stuff”. The only reason I don’t have a “buy” rating on Gallen is that his career FIP is 3.64, xFIP 3.90, and he struggled with walks at times in both MLB seasons. Id project a low 3 ERA, over 10 K/9 for 2021, getting the job done for fantasy owners by taking him around his 40 overall ADP.
BUY (ADP 81)
Ketel Marte was a legit MVP candidate in 2019, but a wrist injury sapped his power and caused some struggles in 2020. While at first glance Ketel’s 2019 power surge looks fluky, this stat from @Mike_Kurland on Twitter gives an explanation to the 2020 dip:
Ketel Marte has 2B-SS-OF eligibility in most leagues which gives you plenty of flexibility as the draft goes on. Fully healthy entering his age 27 season, Marte is primed to get back to his 2019 form (2019: 32 HR, .329 AVG, 10 SB, .981 OPS).
SELL (ADP 158)
Daulton Varsho is the most exciting offensive prospect the Dbacks have had in a long time. Varsho appeared at C and CF last season, and has an intriguing hit/speed tool set. While from a dynasty standpoint Varsho is a massive buy, I’m selling Varsho’s 2021 158 ADP due to the amount of red flags he possesses.
-Varsho doesn’t have a locked in everyday position as the Dbacks added Asdrubel Cabrera to play 2B thus sliding Ketel out to CF. Also, Tim Locastro has quietly put up back to back solid seasons while playing well in CF. Carson Kelly should continue to receive the lion’s share of starts at C, Vogt is still the backup, and no NL DH in 2021 takes away more AB’s opportunities for Varsho.
-Varsho struggled in 2020 to the tune of .188 AVG, .653 OPS while receiving every day AB’s in September.
-At this point I almost EXPECT Varsho to start in AAA. He’s still a young catcher developing at the position and allowing him to do so at AAA every day at least to start 2021 makes sense. Varsho has 108 games at AA but 0 at AAA, and with Kelly and Vogt at catcher, Ketel in CF when Cabrera plays or Locastro handling CF, the Dbacks can take it slow with Varsho.
Varsho’s 158 ADP is way too high. His skill set is juicy for a C with rare speed and a plus projectable hit tool, but I think drafters are a year early on Varsho.
BUY (ADP 195)
Christian Walker has done a tremendous job filling in for Goldy. Since 2019:
Goldy 40 HR, 128 R, 118 RBI, 4 SB, .837 OPS
C Walk 36 HR, 121 R, 107 RBI, 9 SB, .815 OPS
Paul Goldschmidt entering his age 34 season is going at ADP 97. Nearly 100 picks later you can grab C Walk. By putting up back to back strong seasons, Christian Walker is here to stay and is a buy at his ADP.
SELL (ADP 256)
Kole Calhoun is a “boring” high floor, low ceiling OF option that I would pass on here. While I give Calhoun a hat tip for his 49 dingers since the start of 2019, Calhoun is a low AVG, no SB who I would not target at this cost. Around his ADP I’d rather have Mark Canha (263), speedy 2B-OF Jon Berti (264), and finally healthy for now Mitch Haniger (274). Also, a potential “deaden” baseball in 2021 attacks Calhoun’s one fantasy tool, power.
SELL (ADP 262)
Kelly debuted for AZ in 2019 to a strong 18 HR, .826 OPS in 111 games, but Kelly was horrendous at the plate in 2020 (.649 OPS). Carson Kelly and Daulton Varsho in a way eat into each other’s value, and don’t forget veteran Stephen Vogt is still here too. Catcher wise Marlins Jorge Alfaro, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey are all options around Kelly and I’d rather take a consistent vet or Jorge Alfaro’s offensive upside over Kelly on draft day.
FAIR VALUE (ADP 273)
A healthy David Peralta is a productive David Peralta. Hampered by a nagging shoulder injury in 2019 eventually leading to late season surgery, Peralta entered 2020 fully healthy and he raked. With a .300 average, Peralta provided a strong AVG & OBP but id only hit 5 HR with a .773 OPS in 2020 dropping his ADP to the late 200’s. Drafting Peralta is definitely a roster construction choice. If you need a high average guy to balance out low average power guys, Peralta is perfect. I’d expect 15-20 HR, .290+ AVG, but Peralta has just 1 SB in the last 2 seasons brings down his ceiling.
BUY (ADP 295)
Eduardo Escobar is the ultimate buy low candidate. 2020 was an especially rough year for Escobar, as he was hospitalized by a “fainting spell” in the offseason, showed up to camp visibly out of shape, and struggled mightily at the plate. Entering 2021 though he’s the Dbacks “Best Shape of His Life” winner looking noticeably slimmer (Escobar claiming he’s down from 214 to 193) and reportedly has looked a lot better this Spring.
With 2B and 3B eligibility, it is important to remember EE was very consistent from 2017-2019. This run was topped off with a 35 HR, 118 RBI season in 2019. I think Escobar gets back to his 17’ and 18’ form hitting around .265 with 20+ HR while batting 3rd or 5th for the Dbacks in around C Walk and Peralta.
It is hard to gauge the ADP for Dbacks closing options due to their recent signings. Stefan Crichton’s ADP is 301 right now, but I expect Joakim Soria to close, making Tyler Clippard and Crichton set up guys. Closers are so format dependent so know your league settings, but I feel pretty comfortable calling Soria the closer.
Post 300 SP’s
Caleb Smith (330 ADP Sell)
Madison Bumgarner (379 ADP Sell)
Luke Weaver (420 ADP Buy)
Merrill Kelly (511 ADP Buy)
SELL (330 ADP)
In the same day the Dbacks traded Robbie Ray and got Robbie Ray 2.0 back. Caleb Smith is a high strike out, high HR and BB rate type SP. In 2019:
Ray 4.34 ERA, 12.13 K/9, 4.34 BB/9, 1.55 HR/9
Smith 4.52 ERA, 9.86 K/9, 3.52 BB/9, 1.94 HR/9
In 2020, Smith walked 11 guys 14 innings while Ray gave up an insane 2.26 HR/9. Caleb Smith will be a good matchup dependent pitcher in 2021, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see some bad blow up starts and Smith struggling to go deep into games too, making this ADP a little too high in the 330 range.
SELL (ADP 379)
Nope. Young intriguing arms like Casey Mize and Spencer Howard are going after Mad Bum and that’s insane. Mad Bum was terrible in 2020, and while I still have hope Mad Bum can eat innings with a low 4 ERA, there’s no fantasy value here. Entering his age 32 season, he hasn’t had a season with a K/9 over 9 since 2016 while also have appeared on the IL 3 of the last 4 seasons. His average fastball was 88.6 MPH last year despite being 91.3 to 91.7 between 16’-19’. Sell, sell, sell.
BUY (ADP 420)
Luke Weaver looked like a legit #2 SP in 2019 before going down with an elbow strain. With a strong 9.65 K/9, 1.96 BB/9, 2.94 ERA, 3.07 FIP, Weaver’s 11 starts to begin his Dbacks career showed there’s upside here. Unfortunately, Weaver struggled to get fully back post injury. His usage was weird in 2020 with some designed 2-3 IP starts. Weaver never got his groove back and posted a season long 6.58 ERA. While his FIP was 2 runs lower at 4.67 and his 9.52 K/9 in line with 2019 totals, a fully healthy Luke Weaver could be a massive steal at his ADP of 420. That’s the 3rd to last pick in TGFBI, likely undrafted in most redraft leagues. Weaver is the super late round player from the Dbacks I’m targeting.
BUY (ADP 511)
Merrill Kelly was the biggest surprise for the 2020 Dbacks. In 5 starts he looked awesome with a 2.59 ERA before a blood clot in his shoulder shut down his season. Entering camp fully healthy in 2021, in super deep leagues Kelly is a nice option as he made 32 starts in 2019, improved in 2020, and has an ADP over 500. Im higher on Weaver still, but keep Kelly in mind as an in season waiver option too.
With an ADP around 700, if you’re looking for SB dart throw with your last pick, you can do worse than Tim Locastro who hit .290 last year, .395 OBP, 21 SB over his last 124 games.
Written by Todd Williams (@Goldyhappens on Twitter)
Photo Credit: USATSI
Special thanks to @Mike_Kurland for the Ketel Marte tweet/stat