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Draft Strategy

Abusing the Default Rankings

by D.J. Short
Updated On: February 14, 2019, 12:25 pm ET

Follow @djshort and @Rotoworld_BB on Twitter.

On draft day, fantasy owners are at the mercy of the pre-draft rankings for a particular site. This often works out just fine, with the appropriate players in the correct places, but it also can lead you in the wrong direction at times. That's why I decided to set out and look at Yahoo and ESPN pre-draft rankings to uncover potential bargains and busts while identifying some nice value plays and where you might be able to grab them.

This concept has been very popular on the football side, so I decided to borrow it this year. Hopefully, it will help some of you for your upcoming drafts this weekend and next week. At the very least, I learned a lot just combing through these rankings. I recommend you do the same with wherever you draft. It helps a lot with mapping out strategy and developing contingency plans.

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A quick note before we get started with the Yahoo observations: As my colleague Matthew Pouliot pointed out earlier this week in his starting pitcher breakdown, there seems to be a really solid consensus on who the top 10-12 starters are in fantasy leagues. You can obviously nitpick a little bit. Maybe David Price should be a little bit higher and Zack Greinke a bit lower, but it's a good group and the Yahoo pre-draft ranks for starting pitchers won't lead you astray early.

Note: These rankings are from the morning of Thursday, March 26.

Yahoo rankings:

Players listed lower overall than expected:

6. Giancarlo Stanton
20. Hanley Ramirez
56. Yoenis Cespedes
84. Jay Bruce
91. Sonny Gray
97. Carlos Santana
100. Chris Davis
104. Kolten Wong
110. Jonathan Lucroy
113. Carlos Carrasco
138. Doug Fister
142. Starlin Castro

Observations: Stanton was on his way to leading the majors in both home runs and RBI before he was hit in the face by a pitch last September, so letting him fall to sixth feels like a mistake…Ramirez has the injury history and will play left field in Boston, but he's still shortstop-eligible and finally gets to play in a hitter-friendly ballpark…We like Cespedes in his new digs and Bruce and Davis are two really solid power values … If you purchased the 2015 Online Rotoworld Draft Guide, you would know that we expect Gray to take another step forward this year … Santana is catcher-eligible in Yahoo, which should move him up at least a few rounds on your board, especially in on-base percentage leagues…Wong had 12 homers and 20 steals in 113 games last year and the best is likely still to come…Lucroy is coming off a hamstring injury, but I just don't see how Yan Gomes is ranked higher. In general, I think catchers are undervalued on Yahoo's board, so keep this in mind if you play in a two-catcher league…Carrasco has ace potential and Fister continues to be undervalued…Castro is coming off a nice bounceback year, yet he's ranked below Elvis Andrus

Players listed higher than expected:

10. Adam Jones
33. Justin Upton
35. Freddie Freeman
51. Matt Kemp
58. Ian Kinsler
68. Julio Teheran
71. Charlie Blackmon
76. David Robertson
86. Dellin Betances
78. Pablo Sandoval
106. Brett Gardner
118. Phil Hughes

Observations: Jones is consistent with his average and power production, but he never walks (be careful in OBP leagues) and didn't run as much last year…Upton is in a tough park with shaky tablesetters while his former teammate Freeman might not top the 78 RBI he had last year…Kemp remains an injury risk and his career numbers at PETCO Park aren't going to sway me…Kinsler was awful during the second half last year and turns 33 in June, so I prefer other options at a position which is surprisingly deep…Including Teheran here isn't really a slight as much as it is a matter of context. The Braves aren't going to be very good this year, so that hurts his win potential and if I don't get one of those top 10-12 starters, I'd rather wait for better values later. The same could be said with Hisashi Iwakuma (No. 74) …Blackmon still has Coors Field going for him, but his hot April inflated his overall numbers last year and he could lose at-bats to Drew Stubbs vs. left-handers…Robertson is coming off a fine year and landed a big contract in Chicago, but we don't him as the No. 4 fantasy closer … Betances hasn't been named the closer in New York yet and hasn't had his electric stuff this spring … Sandoval's 162-game average over the past three seasons checks in at 17 home runs and 86 RBI. Fenway Park should help him, but there are better values at this stage…You can't count on Gardner to hit 17 home runs again and he hasn't run as much over the past two years…The Twins' lousy outfield defense could hurt Hughes' chances of a repeat…


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Where the buzz guys are ranked:

59. Matt Harvey
67. Mookie Betts
77. Jorge Soler
98. Kris Bryant
141. Masahiro Tanaka
169. Rusney Castillo
202. Yasmany Tomas
212. Steven Souza
225. Joc Pederson
240. Javier Baez
254. Dalton Pompey
262. Jesse Hahn
454. Taijuan Walker
598. Kendall Graveman
795. Daniel Norris
1492. Jung-ho Kang
1548. Micah Johnson

Observations: Harvey is going to have that innings limit coming back from Tommy John surgery, but it looks like that extra rehab time was beneficial. He could outdo this ADP… Betts appears likely to be Boston's starting center fielder and leadoff man and keep in mind that he's second-base eligible in Yahoo leagues … Soler should be with the Cubs from day one this season while Bryant keeps on climbing the board with his power exploits during spring training. He looks like the real deal and we should see him with the big club by the end of April, but I fear that expectations are getting out of control … Tomas, Souza, and Baez have all had rough springs while Pederson has been fantastic…Meanwhile, Pompey appears to have the starting center field job for the Jays on lock and offers plenty of speed … Hahn, Walker, Graveman, and Norris have done everything possible to secure rotation spots this spring. Graveman and Norris are deeper league targets for now … Kang is currently trying to adjust to major league pitching while Johnson has immense speed potential if he wins the second base job in Chicago …

Who to scroll down for:

167. Avisail Garcia
180. Gregory Polanco
189. Brandon McCarthy
200. Oswaldo Arcia
219. Michael Pineda
222. Matt Cain
231. Rougned Odor
253. Brett Cecil
256. Dallas Keuchel
266. Luke Gregerson
290. Andrew Miller
393. Jake Peavy
456. TJ House
922. Yasmani Grandal

Observations: Garcia, Polanco, and Arcia are three young players on the rise and should tell you that you can wait to fill out your outfield…McCarthy was great after coming over to the Yankees last year and now gets to spend a full season in the National League and a pitcher-friendly ballpark…I was surprised to see Pineda this low, as he has shown frontline potential when healthy...Cain is coming off an injury-plagued year, but he's a fine gamble at this stage…Odor held his own as a 20-year-old last season and should only get better…If you need saves late, don't forget about Cecil, Gregerson, and Miller…Keuchel is seemingly getting little respect off his breakout season and Peavy should benefit with a full year in the NL…House is one of my favorite sleepers now that he has a rotation spot locked up…Grandal hit 15 homers in 128 games last season and has sneaky potential as the Dodgers' primary catcher...

ESPN Rankings:

Players listed lower overall than expected:

11. Miguel Cabrera
29. Hanley Ramirez
32. Jacoby Ellsbury
33. David Price
49. Carlos Gonzalez
59. Prince Fielder
74. Nolan Arenado
86. Jay Bruce
94. Dee Gordon
116. Evan Gattis
124. David Wright
169. Drew Storen

Observations: With the recent reports on Cabrera, he looks like a tremendous bargain at No. 11 … Hanley is actually lower here than he was on Yahoo and I thought he was a great value there. Target him, injury-risk and all … Ellsbury appears to be getting docked because of his oblique injury, but he has five-category upside and still has a chance to be ready for the season … Price is a bit of a nitpick, but I think he's a better value than Corey Kluber and Chris Sale … ESPN is shying away from injury risks like CarGo and Fielder, but it's hard to pass up on their upside with reasonable ranks like this  … Arenado would likely be considered among the top fantasy third baseman if he played a full season last year, so he's definitely someone to target here … Bruce is ranked pretty much the same here as he was in Yahoo and remains a fine bounceback target … Gordon might have just had the best season of his life, but he still offers tremendous speed and should score plenty of runs with the Marlins … Gattis could hit 30 homers in Houston … Wright has looked healthy this spring and could potentially outperform this rank in a big way … Storen could easily be a top-10 closer this season…

Players listed higher than expected:

18. Freddie Freeman
34. Justin Upton
37. Starling Marte
40. Evan Longoria
41. Jon Lester
45. Victor Martinez
51. Ian Kinsler
54. Matt Kemp
58. Jeff Samardzija
66. Julio Teheran
68. Chris Carter
103. Leonys Martin
110. Homer Bailey
132. Mat Latos

Observations: I thought Freeman was a stretch at 35, so seeing him at 18 overall was very surprising. Let someone else have him …Upton, Kemp, Kinsler, and Teheran are all going at similar spots here and remain players to avoid at their current price … Marte is a valuable player, but hitting fifth for the Pirates this year could make him less interesting … Longoria still has the name recognition going for him, but he doesn't stand out as much anymore among a deep field of third basemen … No. 45 overall feels overly aggressive for Martinez, a 36-year-old coming off another knee surgery … We just don't see Samardzija as the No. 14 fantasy starter, as home runs could hurt him in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field … There's no question that Carter has power, but he won't hit for average and cheap pop can be found later … Hitting leadoff makes Martin more appealing, but he owns a .690 OPS in the majors, including a .575 OPS against southpaws. I wouldn't go overboard to get him … Bailey is coming off elbow surgery and will have a late start to the season while Latos is getting too much benefit of the doubt with the move to the Marlins …

Where the buzz guys are ranked:

75. Matt Harvey
99. Mookie Betts
101. Masahiro Tanaka
141. Jorge Soler
144. Rusney Castillo
160. Kris Bryant
217. Joc Pederson
247. Javier Baez
250. Steven Souza
255. Yasmany Tomas
282. Taijuan Walker
288. Dalton Pompey
317. Jesse Hahn
330. Jung-ho Kang
378. Micah Johnson
416. Daniel Norris
501. Kendall Graveman

Observations: Many of the buzz guys have more reasonable rankings here than they do in Yahoo. You see it with Harvey and also with Betts (likely because he's not 2B eligible in ESPN), but this is especially the case with Soler and Bryant. That being said, I'm sure Bryant will go off the board much earlier, anyway. Bryantmania is in full effect and there's nothing we can do to stop it … Tanaka is holding up fine so far this spring, but No. 101 is still way too early for me given the obvious risk involved with his elbow … Castillo has a generous ranking here despite no clear role in Boston's outfield … Pederson's strong spring has him ahead of Tomas and Souza, as it probably should … Walker has more momentum on ESPN's board, but you'll find Pompey and Hahn lower … Kang isn't someone to target right now in mixed leagues, but Johnson, Norris, and Graveman all make for nice late-round fliers…

Players to scroll down for:

172. Ben Zobrist
177. Ben Revere
183. Michael Pineda
187. Oswaldo Arcia
192. Rougned Odor
203. Justin Verlander
204. Hector Rondon
214. Drew Smyly
218. Danny Salazar
219. Brandon Belt
234. Adam Eaton
269. Brandon McCarthy
284. Avisail Garcia
299. Brett Cecil

Observations: I wouldn't let Zobrist fall this far, as his versatility is incredibly valuable. In case you haven't noticed, shortstop is a bit of a dumpster fire this year, so he's a fine option to plug in there … Revere doesn't have any power, but he consistently hits for average and is an elite speed option … Pineda is ranked a bit higher here than in Yahoo, but he's still a great value… As I said above, Arcia and Odor are two young players who could take a nice leap forward this season… I have no idea if Verlander will bounce back, but it won't hurt too much to find out with this ranking … I'd take Rondon over several closers with a higher spot on ESPN's board … Smyly will start the year on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, but he's a fine stash at this price and still has breakout potential this season … Salazar is actually a better value here than in Yahoo … Belt is a fine bounceback target going into his age-27 season while Eaton could score a ton of runs atop Chicago's bolstered lineup … I listed McCarthy among my "Players to scroll down for" at Yahoo and he's somehow ranked nearly 100 spots lower here … Garcia was one of my favorite sleepers prior to his shoulder injury last April and he's currently flying under the radar … Cecil could be had for a song if you are scrounging for saves late…