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Fantasy Baseball Projections: Players to Draft & Avoid (2023)

by Scott Youngson | @jscottyoungson | Featured Writer
Mar 12, 2023
Fantasy Baseball Projections: Players to Draft & Avoid (2023)

In addition to FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR), the Zeile Consensus Projections are an essential tool for your draft preparation. The difference between the ECR and Zeile is that Zeile is based on projected stats from several reputable sources. Thus, there’s a bit more meat behind the rankings, though the ECR is built on far more sources.

Comparing the Zeile projections to ADP is a great way to identify targets and flag players who are being over-drafted. Below are some hitters and pitchers that fall into both camps. For the hitters, we limited the scope to those with an ADP or projected rank of less than 150. For the pitchers, we drew the line at 125 since they don’t get drafted as deep.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

Zeile Projections vs. ADP: Who Should You Target and Avoid?

First, here are the hitters that the Zeile projections like more than the average fantasy manager by at least one round, divided into mid-draft targets and late-draft targets:

Mid-Draft Hitters the Projections like better than ADP

Player Hitter Projection ADP Variance
Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B – PIT) 98 121 +23
Nico Hoerner (SS – CHC) 88 109 +21
Ryan Mountcastle (1B, DH – BAL) 79 94 +15
Ryan McMahon (2B, 3B – COL) 110 124 +14
Tim Anderson (SS – CWS) 46 58 +12
Nick Castellanos (OF – PHI) 68 80 +12

Anderson is coming off an injury-plagued 2022, and it appears drafters are sleeping on him. Zeile projects him to contribute to every category with a .292 average, 14 HRs, 19 SBs, 57 RBI, and 84 runs. McMahon, Mountcastle, and Castellanos dropped off a bit in 2022 after strong 2021 seasons. The projections expect them to rebound somewhat. Zeile thinks Hayes and Hoerner will put up similar numbers in 2023 compared to 2022, but apparently, fantasy managers don’t think they can steal around 20 bases again.

Late-Draft Hitters the Projections like better than ADP

Player Hitter Projection ADP Variance
Randal Grichuk (OF – COL) 148 179 +31
Jean Segura (2B – MIA) 122 147 +25
Ezequiel Tovar (SS – COL) 133 155 +22
Austin Hays (OF – BAL) 141 162 +21
Ramon Laureano (OF – OAK) 128 146 +18
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF – ARI) 129 145 +16
Kolten Wong (2B – SEA) 136 152 +16
Bryan De La Cruz (OF – MIA) 149 165 +16
Bryson Stott (2B, SS – PHI) 150 163 +13

This group is primarily for deeper leagues and benches, but the projections feel they have some upside that drafters don’t see. Grichuk, Hays, and Laureano have 20 HR potential. Tovar, Laureano, and Wong could steal 15+ bases. Segura, Tovar, and Guerriel shouldn’t hurt your batting average, and De La Cruz, Stott, and Tovar are young players with upside.

Next are some hitters the Zeile projections think are being drafted too high. We’ve eliminated catchers from this list as projections are typically position agnostic, and thus catchers usually rank lower since they don’t see as many plate appearances. For the record, the catchers with the biggest variances to ADP were Travis d’Arnaud (C – ATL), who may have trouble finding at-bats with Sean Murphy (C – ATL) on the roster, and MJ Melendez (C, OF, DH – KC), whose hitter ADP of 66 seems crazy high.

In addition, we filtered out Bryce Harper (OF, DH – PHI) as neither the projections nor drafters know precisely when he’ll be back on the field. Here are the other hitters who Zeile thinks are being drafted at least a round too early:

Hitters the Projections like less than ADP

Player Hitter Projection ADP Variance
Masataka Yoshida (OF – BOS) 156 107 -49
Jon Berti (2B, 3B, SS,OF – MIA) 177 141 -36
Jordan Walker (3B – STL) 160 135 -25
DJ LeMahieu (1B, 2B, 3B – NYY) 151 128 -23
Whit Merrifield (2B, OF – TOR) 117 97 -20
Brandon Drury (1B, 2B, 3B, DH – LAA) 130 112 -18
Jesse Winker (OF – MIL) 157 139 -18
Jorge Mateo (SS – BAL) 159 144 -15
Cody Bellinger (OF – CHC) 119 105 -14
Eugenio Suarez (3B – SEA) 99 87 -12
Vaughn Grissom (2B – ATL) 114 102 -12

The projections aren’t as bullish on the rookies/young players (Yoshida, Walker, Grissom) as fantasy managers. This is often the case with players with limited or non-existent major-league experience. Yoshida comes from Japan, and the results from Japanese stars have been mixed. Grissom got a taste last season, but Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL) is back, and he could start in Triple-A. Likewise, Walker is only 20 and probably won’t make the team out of Spring Training despite his hot camp.

Zeile doesn’t see repeat performances from Berti, Drury, or Mateo in 2023. Mateo isn’t likely to see 533 PAs with Gunnar Henderson (3B, SS – BAL) on the team, and the other two are coming off career years. In addition, the projections aren’t expecting bounce-back years from LeMahieu, Merrifield, Winker, or Bellinger, all of whom struggled in 2022. As for Suarez, the power should be there, but Zeile believes the average will drop from .236 last season to around .214 this year.

Onto the pitchers. First, we filtered out Luis Garcia (SP – HOU) as his name always causes confusion since there are three Luis Garcias in the league. In addition, we eliminated the injured Frankie Montas (SP – NYY), whose timetable is still up in the air. Here are the hurlers the projections like better than fantasy drafters:

Pitchers the Projections like better than ADP

Player Pitcher Projection ADP Variance
Bailey Ober (SP – MIN) 116 162 +46
Eric Lauer (SP – MIN) 106 137 +31
Kyle Finnegan (RP – WSH) 96 125 +29
Roansy Contreras (SP – PIT) 109 135 +26
Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – DET) 122 145 +23
Seranthony Dominguez (RP – PHI) 87 105 +18
Dylan Floro (RP – MIA) 101 116 +15
Taijuan Walker (SP – PHI) 114 129 +15
Jameson Taillon (SP – CHC)  93 107 +14
Trevor Rogers (SP – MIA) 98 112 +14
Marcus Stroman (SP – CHC) 97 110 +13
Sonny Gray (SP – MIN) 80 92 +12

Regarding the starters, Ober and Rodriguez are coming off injury-plagued years but could be solid back-of-the-fantasy-rotation options. The projections like Contreras’ potential and Lauer, Walker, and Taillon seem unappreciated by drafters. Zeile also likes Rogers to rebound from his disastrous 2022 and more innings from Stroman and Gray, who are pretty good when healthy.

As for the relievers, Finnegan should be the closer to start the season in Washington, while Floro should at least be part of a committee. The Phillies added Craig Kimbrel (RP – PHI) and Gregory Soto (RP – PHI) to their pen this off-season, but Dominguez was terrific last year. It’s easy to understand the trepidation, though, as it’s hard to predict who will lead Philly in saves next year.

Here are the pitchers on whom the projections aren’t as high:

Pitchers the Projections like less than ADP

Player Pitcher Projection ADP Variance
Kendall Graveman (RP – CWS) 133 96 -37
Craig Kimbrel (RP – PHI) 123 89 -34
Evan Phillips (RP – LAD) 115 86 -29
Corey Kluber (SP – BOS) 151 122 -29
Rafael Montero (RP – HOU) 152 124 -28
Noah Syndergaard (SP – LAD) 130 103 -27
Adam Wainwright (SP – STL) 135 108 -27
Aroldis Chapman (RP – KC) 145 118 -27
Tony Gonsolin (SP – LAD) 74 51 -23
Alex Lange (RP – DET) 121 101 -20
Ross Stripling (SP, RP – SF) 124 106 -18
Hunter Brown (SP, RP – HOU) 104 87 -17
Lance McCullers Jr. (SP – HOU) 88 76 -12

Beginning this time with the relievers, Graveman and Montero aren’t closers, though Graveman has a better shot at saves with Liam Hendriks (RP – CWS) recovering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Kimbrel, Phillips, Lange, and Chapman have shots to close, but none are assured and face competition from teammates for save opportunities.

As for the starters, Zeile sees further regression for the soon-to-be 37-year-old Kluber and the 41-year-old Wainwright. The projections also don’t believe Gonsolin or Stripling can repeat their 2022s and that year two post-TJ surgery for Syndergaard won’t be much different than year one. As for the two Astros, Brown is a rookie with tremendous upside, but much like the young hitters mentioned above, he has little MLB experience and could have innings limitations. McCullers’ variance to ADP isn’t that great, and he typically pitches well when he’s healthy. Unfortunately, he only threw 63 innings last season, including the post-season, and the Astros will likely opt to be careful with him.

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