MLB Best Ball is live on DraftKings and that means it’s time to start dissecting rankings and ADP like it’s the Zapruder film. My colleague Zach Thompson finished releasing his positional rankings, but in this space we’ll be venturing to the always exciting world of busts and sleepers.
Disclaimer: Not every “bust” is the worst player on Earth. Not every “sleeper” was a farmer in Iowa who only discovered he could throw a baseball last week. They’re just words that the Google SEO Gods like. In fact, I like to think of these players more in terms of being either overvalued or undervalued, so that’s how I’m going to sort them. Sue me.
Let’s get into it.
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Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves
DraftKings ADP: 2.6 (OF2)
Acuna is one of the most exciting baseball players in the world, yet if he’s your second outfielder off the board in this format, you’re doing it wrong. First and foremost, as I’ve said time and time again in this series, stolen bases simply do not carry the same weight as home runs in Best Ball, as there’s no such thing as statistical scarcity. So while it’s certainly notable — and maybe even likely — that Acuna swipes 40 bags in 2023 with the augmented rules, that feat isn’t enough to offset some of the concerns I have with the 25-year-old heading into April.
More so than any laments about Acuna’s availability in recent seasons, it’s his shocking loss of power in 2022 that has me nervous for the outfielder’s current price tag. Give me any excuse you want, but that fact of the matter is that in the second-largest plate appearance sample of Acuna’s career, he posted underwhelming marks in both ISO (.148) and wRC+ (114). I assume Acuna will improve upon those figures this coming campaign, even if it’s just raising a .335 wOBA closer towards his .366 expected wOBA from last season; however, at this point, I’d rather hitch myself to the relative safety of Mookie Betts or Yordan Alvarez. Heck, there’s some guy named Mike Trout with a higher ADP than Acuna. Give me his risk over the risk of the Braves’ young star.
Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles
DraftKings ADP: 43.3 (OF15)
Yet another asset who loses steam due to the way stolen bases are valued in Best Ball, though let’s not completely blame the scorekeepers on this one. Looking back at Mullins’ 2022, we’re starting to see some evidence that maybe suggests the 28-year-old’s breakout 2021 campaign was a bit of a fluke. For the sake of comparison, Mullins slashed .291/.360/.518 in his first full season at the MLB level, but followed that up with a .258/.318/.403 slash line last season. Even more terrifying? Mullins might have been “lucky” to even reach those pedestrian thresholds, as he sat below the 25th percentile in expected batting average (.232), expected slugging (.349), expected wOBA (.288) and barrel rate (4.9%).
The other thing to think about here, somewhat ironically, is lineup. While fantasy baseball is generally a situation where a rising tide lifts all boats, the Orioles’ recent influx of young talent might actually work against Mullins’ value. Towards the end of 2022, Mullins was already getting moved out of Baltimore’s leadoff spot against left-handed opponents — thanks primarily to a paltry 66 wRC+ in 197 plate appearances within the split — and that decision is the beginning of a slippery slope. It’s unclear if the Orioles would want Gunnar Henderson hitting atop their batting order instead of in the middle of it, yet with high walk rates and a sterling OBP throughout his time in the minors, he’d be a wonderful option. Could Mullins lose the role entirely if he gets off to a slow start?
Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros
DraftKings ADP: 11.5 (OF8)
I’m certainly not here to advocate for taking someone aside from Aaron Judge as the No. 1 pick in Best Ball; however, if there were a player where you could at least make the case, it’s probably Alvarez. It’s a long-held misconception that Bulls can see the color red, but I think even cattle would be able to appreciate the marvel that is Alvarez’s Baseball Savant page from 2022. Though a couple ailments held the 25-year-old to just 135 games and 561 plate appearances, Alvarez finished in the 100th percentile in the league in average exit velocity (95.2), expected batting average (.329), expected wOBA (.462) and hard hit rate (59.8%). That’s pretty damn good.
Last season wasn’t a flash in the pan, either. Since joining the Astros in 2019, Alvarez owns a .405 wOBA and a 164 wRC+ that are only rivaled by the likes of Judge and Trout. He has a case to be the greatest active hitter on planet Earth, which just so happens to mean more in this particular format than it would anywhere else. I think it’s also worth pointing out that while the Yankees have some serious question marks in their lineup heading into April, the Astros have arguably improved upon a roster that was already one of the five best in MLB. Namely, the addition of Jose Abreu, which will help to offset the early-season loss of Jose Altuve.
Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox
DraftKings ADP: 66.9 (OF24)
The red flag when it comes to Jimenez is blatantly clear: The man is always injured. In fact, as I write this blurb, he’s currently day-to-day after leaving a Spring Training contest due to cramping in his calf. At least he’s consistent, right? Still, Jimenez’s positive traits are just as easy to spot as his negatives. Though he’s been limited to only 1,288 plate appearances across four seasons, the 26-year-old has tantalizing career marks in both ISO (.228) and wRC+ (124). He’s also on the heels of his best statistical output at the MLB level, posting a 144 wRC+ over 84 games in 2022. The ceiling matches the floor. Which is all you can really ask when weighing the merits of an asset in fantasy baseball — particularly in Best Ball, where said floor is somewhat mitigated.
Allow me for a moment to dream on what a 650 PA campaign from Jimenez might look like. By THE BAT’s projections, Jimenez would register 30 home runs and 91 RBI at that volume, while the numbers would jump to 32 long balls and 107 driven in if we were to simply prorate at last year’s pace. In either case, it’s important to remember that Jimenez once carried with him a stunning amount of prospect pedigree, so the talent is there to reach this massive upside. It’s also important to remember that with Andrew Benintendi in town and, more crucially, in left field, Jimenez should be able to DH on most days. Hopefully that’s enough to keep the man that posted the eighth-highest barrel rate (10.1%) in baseball in 2022 healthy and in the lineup.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.