One of the greatest and most important tools at every fantasy manager's disposal is average draft position. For those that may be unfamiliar, the average draft position (or ADP) is simply the average pick with which each player is selected over a cumulative number of drafts. This is of the utmost importance for a variety of reasons, but can also be misused. I'll try my best to clear it up a bit.
Some fantasy managers don't do much preparation of their own prior to their fantasy baseball drafts and simply rely on a list of ADP to determine who they should draft and when. That's not an ideal strategy. For one, we should all be forming our own beliefs and opinions on every player in the player pool, not blindly following anyone else's list or rankings. Secondly, what many fantasy managers fail to realize is that ADP is a living, breathing organism.
The fantasy baseball draft season starts earlier and earlier every year, as there are now plenty of drafters on the clock as soon as the prior season ends. The early data from drafts in October is always interesting and can vary significantly from what we end up seeing moving forward. For the first couple of drafts, those fantasy managers are relying solely on their own thoughts, rankings and opinions that they themselves have come up with. There is no ADP data to go off of, or for the ill-prepared managers to blindly follow. Once a couple of drafts are in the books though, and the ADP becomes live on whatever draft room you are using, things kind of tend to stay in line for the most part. It becomes much harder for players to rise or fall substantially on the ADP list, it's more of a slow move over time.
If you're drafting in October though, and again in November, and December, into January and now to the end of February you can feel it. If you do enough drafts and are immersed in the data, you can almost feel the ADP shifting for certain players. Someone that you had been landing in the 13th round of early drafts has climbed and now is getting sniped from you in the seventh round. The problem though, is if you're just looking at the ADP data as a whole, you'll never be able to land that player – even if you really wanted him.
Here's why. Many fantasy managers use ADP as a tool to plot out where and when they want to draft particular targets of theirs. It's something that I do myself in all of my drafts. Let's say there's a player that is an absolute key to my overall draft strategy and someone that I don't want to leave my draft without rostering. His average draft position puts him at pick 150 overall – so the last pick in the 10th round of a 15-team league. I also observe his min pick – which is the earliest that he has been taken in any draft – and see that he has gone as high as pick 90, the final pick in the sixth round of a 15-teamer. If he's a must-have player for me, I'm going to have to target him before pick 90 if I want to ensure that I'm going to get him – many rounds before his average draft position. I know that other like-minded individuals are thinking the same thing though, so I have to be aggressive to get my targets.
Many casual players don't filter the ADP data based on date range though – or necessarily pay any attention to the min and max picks. In the scenario laid out above – even if they loved the same player – they would see that his average pick is at pick 150 overall and they'd logically conclude that they could jump that number by a round or two and wind up with him most of the time. If it's a player that was critical to their draft strategy they could be completely reeling when he gets taken two rounds before they were even thinking of “jumping” him and it could destroy their entire draft. That's why staying on top of the most recent ADP information is of critical importance.
With that in mind, I'm going to take a look at some of the biggest risers in terms of ADP over the month of February. I'm not going to compare the February ADP data to the cumulative data since October since a lot of that early data is no longer relevant. What I'm going to do is look at the biggest changes between the January and February data. For this exercise, I'm going to use NFBC Draft Champions leagues – since there's a nice large sample to work with in both months. I will add the caveat that perhaps the best ADP data to work with right now is the NFBC Online Championship data in the month of February. You're getting some of the best fantasy managers in the world putting up $350 per team and being aggressive to get the players that they want to go into the season with. I didn't use that for this exercise though simply because there were only eight Online Championship drafts done in the month of January as opposed to 64 Draft Champions and I wanted a larger sample size.
One final note, I'm not going to be listing all of the biggest movers in terms of total picks moved as some of it still isn't relevant for most standard mixed leagues. If a player – say Andrew Chafin – has moved up from pick 688 to pick 541, sure that's a huge move, but it's also still outside the top-30 rounds in a 15-team draft and isn't all that relevant for the majority of fantasy leagues.
So without further ado, here's who has been climbing up draft boards in the month of February:
Average Draft Position Risers in February
Adam Duvall (JAN ADP 385 → FEB ADP 312)
As is often the case with players that see a significant change in their ADP, Duvall jumped based on the news of him signing with the Red Sox in mid-January. Remember, Duvall led the National League with 113 RBI just a season ago in 2021 and did so while hitting 38 homers for the Marlins and Braves. The move to Fenway Park and the outlook for consistent at-bats have provided the helium in his case. In my opinion, he hasn't even moved up enough just yet. If I were a betting man, I'd venture a guess that he'll be much closer to pick 250 overall by the time Main Event drafts roll around in March.
Miguel Vargas (JAN ADP 264 → FEB ADP 225)
Vargas fits the profile of another type of player that typically climbs up the draft board as we get closer to March – talented young prospect whose outlook for playing time has been solidified. Early in the draft season, there was thought that the Dodgers would land a big name free agent shortstop to replace Trea Turner. When that didn't happen and the team committed to playing Gavin Lux at shortstop, it opened up the second base job for Vargas. The 23-year-old struggled in his 50 plate appearance sample during the 2022 season – but slashed a terrific .304/.404/.511 with 17 homers, 100 runs scored, 82 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 113 games at Triple-A. He'll hit at the bottom of the lineup, but with the Dodgers lineup being loaded once again it shouldn't ding his counting stats too much.
Oscar Colas (JAN ADP 354 → FEB ADP 323)
Another player who should continue to rise as the draft season progresses. The 24-year-old Cuban outfielder was awfully impressive in his first season stateside – slashing .314/.371/.524 with 23 homers, 79 RBI and three stolen bases (in seven attempts) over 117 games across three minor league levels. White Sox' skipper Pedro Grifol has already said that he's the leader in the race to become the team's starting right fielder – though he'll still have to earn the position during Cactus League play.
Pete Fairbanks (JAN ADP 183 → FEB ADP 153)
A glimpse into another bucket of preseason movers – potential closers whose outlook for saves has improved. There's no certainty to Fairbanks securing the primary ninth inning gig in Tampa Bay, but there are at least reasons to believe that he could. The notoriously thrifty Rays have typically spread their save chances around – with more than 10 different players recording saves yet again in 2022. Fairbanks was one of those – registering a stellar 1.13 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and a 38/3 K/BB ratio over 24 innings. The reason for the change is that the Rays signed Fairbanks to a three-year contract extension with an option for a fourth season. That means that any saves he racks up now won't hurt the Rays in the arbitration process, so they may simply let him run with the job. It's still Kevin Cash and the Rays though, and Jason Adam is among those lurking. My read on the situation is that Fairbanks will ultimately lead the committee there – but it will still be a committee.
Evan Phillips (JAN ADP 255 → FEB ADP 233)
Like Fairbanks, Phillips has seen his draft stock climb a bit with the expectation that he would be the favorite for saves in the Dodgers' bullpen. That's mainly due to the fact that the Dodgers decided to keep the status quo and not add any other proven closers to their bullpen mix. Recent comments by manager Dave Roberts don't help Phillips' case – as he said that the team won't name a closer during spring training and he didn't feel like holding a competition for the role during the spring was a good idea. It's always possible that Phillips does emerge from a committee to secure the bulk of the saves in the Dodgers bullpen, but it's also possible that it's simply a mixed bag for the duration of the season and a situation that should be avoided for fantasy purposes.
Jordan Walker (JAN ADP 245 → FEB ADP 228)
Much like Miguel Vargas above, Jordan Walker is a top prospect whose potential paths to playing time with the big league club have continued to improve. The 20-year-old is considered a consensus top-five prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2023 season – after slashing a monstrous .306/.388/.510 with 19 homers, 68 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 119 games at Double-A Springfield. He's got all of the tools to be an impact fantasy contributor right out of the gate, all he needs is the chance. If by the end of March it looks like he's going to crack the Opening Day roster, he'll climb well inside the top-150 picks overall and may even breach the top 100.
Masataka Yoshida (JAN ADP 227 → FEB ADP 212)
Yoshida has seen his draft stock rise by a full round in 15-team leagues as fantasy managers get more information about his likely role with the Red Sox. He's going to be a fixture in their everyday lineup – and it looks like he's more likely to hit in the middle of the order as opposed to batting leadoff – which should increase his RBI opportunities. The 29-year-old hit .336/.449/.559 with 21 homers, 89 RBI and four stolen bases over 121 games in his final season in Japan.
Wil Myers (JAN ADP 247 → FEB ADP 235)
Myers saw a spike in his draft stock after signing a free agent deal with the Reds in late December and that climb has continued into February. There's not a lot in the way of competition for at-bats, so as long as he's able to avoid the injured list Myers should see all the playing time that he can handle – in one of the best parks for right-handed power in all of baseball. He's no longer the five-category contributor that he once was – as he has stolen just 12 bases in total over the last three seasons – but there's still plenty of room for profit at this draft cost.
Chris Sale (JAN ADP 163 → FEB ADP 153)
Sale is another player that should continue his ascension up draft boards as he displays his health during Grapefruit League play. He has made a total of just 11 starts since the 2019 season – so durability is a major concern. Red Sox' skipper Alex Cora even admitted that Sale is going to be a five-and-dive guy early in the season and that fantasy managers may hate him for it. He's got the ability to post elite ratios and high strikeout totals – relative to his innings thrown– and will be a viable fantasy asset when he's on the mound. If his velocity looks strong and there are no setbacks by the end of March, Sale could approach the top 100 picks overall.
Hunter Brown (JAN ADP 256 → FEB ADP 247)
Brown is a player that has been on the move just based on the hype that he has heading into the 2023 season who is now going to take a massive leap forward based on recent news. With Lance McCullers Jr. (elbow) starting the season on the injured list, the door is now open for the talented young right-hander to win a spot in the Opening Day rotation. Once he gets that opportunity, it's very unlikely that he's going back down. Brown posted a 0.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and a 22/7 K/BB ratio over 20 1/3 innings with the Astros in 2022 – showing that he belongs in the show. He may wind up being one of the biggest overall movers in the month of March.
Corey Seager (JAN ADP 66 → FEB ADP 59)
It's not easy for a player to see such a noticeable climb inside the top 75 between January and February, but that's exactly what we have seen with the Rangers' star shortstop. I believe the biggest driver for this move is all of the analysis that has been done on players that will benefit the most from the MLB rule change outlawing defensive shifts in 2023. Seager is coming off a tremendous 2022 season in which he slashed .245/.317/.455 with a career-high 33 homers, 83 RBI and three stolen bases. He's a career .287 hitter though and the new rules should only add to his batting average upside.
MLB Quick Hits: Jeff Passan of ESPN reported on Sunday that the Padres and superstar third baseman Manny Machado reached an agreement on an 11-year, $350 million contract extension that will keep Machado in San Diego through his age-40 season… Cubs' outfielder Seiya Suzuki was scratched from their lineup on Saturday due to tightness in his left oblique. He'll undergo further testing including an MRI exam. The club is expected to provide an update on his status on Monday… Astros' slugger Yordan Alvarez has yet to begin swinging a bat as he deals with lingering discomfort in his left hand… Pirates general manager Ben Cherington told reporters that Rich Hill underwent a minor elbow cleanup procedure following the 2022 season… Teoscar Hernández was scratched from the Mariners' Cactus League lineup on Sunday due to back soreness… Rhys Hoskins underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in December but has not had any limitations during the early days of spring training… Sean Manaea experienced a major uptick in velocity in his first Cactus League start – a product of working out at Driveline over the winter… Miguel Rojas was pulled from Sunday's Cactus League contest against the Cubs due to a right foot cramp… Justin Dunn (shoulder) is scheduled to visit orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Altchek to get a second opinion next week… James Kaprielian (shoulder) threw a live batting practice session without issue on Sunday. He's expected to be ready by Opening Day… The Twins signed right-hander Jeff Hoffman to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training… Donovan Walton (shoulder) isn't expected to be ready to join the Giants until May… The Twins claimed Dennis Santana off of waivers from the Braves… Evan Longoria (illness) returned to Diamondbacks' camp on Sunday… Luis Gonzalez is expected to miss the start of the regular season due to a lingering back issue… Brandon Nimmo has been swinging without issue in batting practice and is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut at the end of the week… Royals prospect Diego Hernández is expected to miss 3-4 months after suffering a dislocated right shoulder… Justin Steele was scratched from his Cactus League start on Sunday due to general arm fatigue… Brayan Bello (forearm) threw 20 pitches in a successful bullpen session on Sunday… Diamondbacks skipper told reporters on Saturday that Nick Ahmed is dealing with tightness and inflammation in his left forearm… Lovullo also confirmed that right-hander Corbin Martin will work exclusively out of the bullpen in 2023… Garrett Crochet (elbow) has progressed to throwing weekly bullpen sessions… Alejandro Kirk officially withdrew himself from competing for Team Mexico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic… Austin Slater was scratched from the Giants' Cactus League contest on Saturday due to elbow soreness… Fernando Tatis Jr. (wrist, shoulder) is tentatively scheduled to make his Cactus League debut during the upcoming week… Diamondbacks' prospect Druw Jones (shoulder) is on track to be ready for the start of the minor league season.