You can keep your hot dog, thank you very much.
You can keep your sixth-round Kris Bryant, too.
I know, I know, they're the oddest things you'd expect to hear a baseball writer say: I don't like a food that's been a ballpark staple for decades.
And I don't plan to draft a player who is destined -- guaranteed, I'm sure some claim -- to be the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year, the guy who is generating more excitement and chatter this spring than any player I can recall in quite some time.
Remember, this game is about finding value. I can envision scenarios by which I'll eat the hot dog or draft Bryant. But these are two places where my opinion differs greatly from the public perception; I'm not afraid to have a strong, seemingly negative take on something, just as you shouldn't.
When I attend my first regular-season game this season, I'll probably have a cheesesteak, or maybe an order of garlic fries, on my plate. And when I complete all my fantasy baseball drafts, I'll look at my third base (and/or corner infield) position and probably see a Josh Donaldson, a Kyle Seager, a Pedro Alvarez or a Jake Lamb filling it.
"Not on my team!"
Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
Tristan: 160th overall, No. 16 3B; ADP: 99th overall (102.0) and rising
So let's get right into it, the list's shocker, the first of nine such selections.
I'd be stunned if Kris Bryant winds up on a single one of my redraft teams. Consider what nine spring training home runs piled on top of pre-existing rookie hype does to a player's draft stock: His ADP has soared more than four rounds in the past week. That doesn't happen if the player isn't being routinely drafted significantly earlier than even his current number, and it's likely to improve in the coming days, to a point where I'd be surprised if he's not top-100 average selection by April 1.
I've got nothing against Bryant as a player, especially career-wise. I even own him -- have since the date he was drafted -- in my longtime keeper league. There's a pretty good chance he'll be a 500-career-homer slugger. But for a 2015-only draft, the threat of a big-league adjustment period -- or a lengthier-than-12-day minor league stint -- looms, and both are being utterly ignored at draft tables. So is the fact that he whiffed 27 percent of the time in the upper minors in 2014, fueling a threat of a 30-percent K rate as a rookie big leaguer. Even I'm warming to Bryant by the day, but there's no rate of interest I could have that can match his skyrocketing ADP ascent.
I'd project .250 and 25 homers for Bryant, which is, really, an outstanding rookie campaign. It's also almost exactly midway between what Marlon Byrd (105th overall on the 2014 Player Rater) and Carlos Santana (142nd) did. And if you play in a points-based league that penalizes for strikeouts, the price point should be even lower: Mind our 142-K projection, or ZiPS' 183.
I know, I know, my ranking and the ADP are almost spot-on, so Ventura's placement on this list seems oddly out of place. Hear me out: His 2014 accomplishments earn him the midrange ranking; I'm simply looking at other positions when the draft is at this stage. The reason is that I see Ventura's basement-level 2015 expectation as low, perhaps devastating.
First, he endured a massive workload increase last season: 183 innings during the regular season, 208⅓ if you add his playoff usage, which were 33 and 58⅓ more than he threw in 2013. Noticing this, the Royals eased off his winter throwing program; don't overlook that he recently told the Kansas City Star that he "doesn't feel ready" as he did in seasons past. Second, Ventura had his share of minor injuries in 2014, including one start apiece for elbow and back issues, and a shortened playoff outing with shoulder tightness. And third, while he continues to work on his secondary pitches, don't overlook how critical velocity is to his success: Opponents batted .183 against his fastballs clocked 98-plus mph, .294 against those clocked 96-97, and .333 against those 95 mph or slower.
Like Bryant, Ventura probably has a bright future. The problem is that 2015 might be more adjustment than step forward; backed up by pitching coach Dave Eiland's stated desire for Ventura to polish his off-speed pitches this spring.
There's nothing wrong with Rodney as a No. 2/3 mixed-league closer; he belongs in the 16-20 range, if only because his $7 million salary for 2015 extends his leash. There's also no chance I'm paying his ADP price; I'd rather roll the dice on a less-secure option with a better skill set. Besides his ghastly 1.34 WHIP last season, Rodney's walk rate was 12 and 10 percent the past two seasons; those are right in line with his career 1.36 and 11 percent numbers that were fueled by numerous 4-plus-ERA campaigns. He led the majors in saves in 2014 and I honestly don't know how, the danger being that people see the Mariners' offseason moves, judge them a more competitive team in 2015 and therefore assume Rodney's save total should repeat ... or even improve? He's now 38, and in the second half of 2014 his velocity dipped, while his rates of hard contact as well as line drives allowed rose. A competitive Mariners team cannot possibly sit back through poor closer outings if he indeed regresses.
With Zobrist, you're paying for the label: That being the "multi-position eligible" labels you see there next to his name. There's value in that; I've characterized this previously as "brilliant roster filler protecting you at multiple spots." Skills-wise, though, Zobrist is surprisingly ordinary. Let's make some comparisons:
Zobrist's 2014: 654 PAs, .272 AVG, 10 HR, 52 RBIs, .331 wOBA
2014 MLB average 2B (per 654 PAs): .256 AVG, 11 HR, 60 RBIs, .300 wOBA
2014 MLB average SS (per 654 PAs): .255 AVG, 11 HR, 57 RBIs, .297 wOBA
2014 MLB average OF (per 654 PAs): .261 AVG, 15 HR, 65 RBIs, .317 wOBA
The weighted on-base average (wOBA) numbers identify Zobrist's fantasy-related strength: His keen batting eye makes him more valuable in points-based leagues, but in traditional Rotisserie, all it does is narrow his batting-average range to a fairly safe, gonna-be-between-.260-and-.280. Zobrist was the No. 124 player overall on the 2013 Player Rater, and No. 146 in 2014; but his ground ball rate rose and his stolen-base-attempt rate dropped, to the point that he might be merely the safest .265-AVG, 10/10 guy in baseball. There's nothing wrong with those numbers from a roster safety net at three positions, but isn't it wiser to take a chance on a single-position player with a chance to exceed them?
I want Wainwright to succeed; he's a favorite of mine. But after his strikeout rate dropped precipitously during 2014's second half -- it fell more than 7 percent from half to half -- followed by his requiring Oct. 24 surgery to trim cartilage in his elbow, Wainwright is in a risky spot this spring. Though his curveball was every bit as sharp last season as in 2012-13, his fastball regressed and he couldn't keep his cutter down; and the decreased effectiveness of those two pitches took some of the bite off his curve. And with Wainwright still working his way back from his surgery early this spring, we've only had one opportunity to see whether these pitches have rebounded. We're left guessing, which is something I prefer not to do with a guy being priced a top-15 starter.
His BABIP last season was .405; the last time any player had a number at least that high in a year with at least as many as Santana's 430 PAs, Paul Molitor was the Twins' DH rather than their manager. Santana does have the speed to fuel a higher-than-league-average BABIP, and he'll lead off, meaning an inflated run total. But last season, pitchers were more apt to challenge him, and this year, they might test his impatience. He chased breaking pitches outside the strike zone 13 percent more often than the league average (and all pitches eight percent more); he walked three times less often than the league average; and he had a wOBA 64 points beneath the league average when he swung at a non-strike. Readers know I'm wary of investing in speedsters who don't draw a walk. With Santana, I fear he might be a .270-hitting, .300-on-base, 20-steal type, but everywhere I look, he's not being drafted as such a candidate.
Though his ranking is actually higher than his ADP, like Santana, Blackmon is a player I know I'm not going to draft in any league because of what his price points are everywhere else in the industry. He has his fans; I'm unfortunately a believer that he's closer to fourth-outfielder material than a star in the making. After a scorching start to 2014, he slipped to .264/.314/.384 second-half rates, and in neither the first nor second halves did he display a patient approach against left-handers (1.3 percent walk rate, .267 average). This is a problem, because Drew Stubbs needs a platoon role somewhere in the Rockies' outfield, and center field ahead of Blackmon might be it.
Call me a pessimist, but no matter how optimistic I am that Zimmerman's move across the diamond to first base will help improve his chances at staying healthy, his injury past says he's being overrated at the draft table. He has spent time on the DL in each of the past four seasons, for a total of five stints, and he averaged 119 games played per year from 2010-14. Zimmerman is also 30, meaning that it's not additional growth that should be expecting. He averaged .279-26 homer numbers per 162 games played from ages 27-29; those are Kyle Seager-esque stats, except that Seager has missed 121 fewer games the past three years.
Again, these numbers are within range, but the additional wrinkle is that Weaver is even less attractive pick in specialty leagues, points-based scoring most obviously. Consider this:
• From 2012 to 2014, Weaver ranked fourth in wins (49) and 21st in ERA (3.24).
• He also ranked 66th of 131 qualifiers in FIP (3.94).
The reason for the disparity is that Weaver's BABIP was the lowest (.260) and his left-on-base percentage eighth-highest (78.6 percent), so it's fair to suggest he might've been a bit of a magician. In a way, he's to 2015 what Jack Morris was to the 1980s: a pitcher less fit to sabermetrically oriented scoring. Look at Weaver's 2014 second half: 3.78 ERA, 1.32 WHIP.