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2023 Fantasy Baseball: Is the Second Round Too Early for Witt, deGrom, and Cease?

While a lot of the attention goes to who to select and who not to select in the first round, the second round is just as important.  The early part of the round is filled with players who likely could’ve been selected in the first round.  What about the end of the round?  Can you find first-round production?  Can you find the difference maker you need?

Making the right selection with your second pick is just as important as the first.  Let’s take a look at a few of the borderline options and determine if they are worth selecting.

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Is the Second Round Too Early for Witt, deGrom, and Cease?

Bobby Witt Jr. – Kansas City Royals

Current ADP – 31.58

During his rookie season, Witt was impressive, putting up strong numbers across the board.  Over 632 PA he not only hit for power (20 HR) and contributed speed (30), but he also chipped in 82 runs and 80 RBI.  It’s that type of across-the-board production fantasy owners lust for.  The speed alone would give him significant value, with the only “negative” being a .254 AVG and/or a .294 OBP.

Obviously, a 4.7% walk rate isn’t ideal, but he was better than that both at Double-A (9.0%) and Triple-A (9.1%) in 2021.  He also showed promise with his plate discipline, with it being easy to chalk the low number up to youth and inexperience (O-Swing%):

  • April – 42.6%
  • May – 37.3%
  • June – 36.4%
  • July – 34.7%
  • August – 36.7%
  • September – 37.0%

It’s interesting to note that while he saw 51.1% fastballs overall, that number was down to 46.5% in September.  It helps to explain the growing pains of a young hitter, and there’s reason to believe that he’ll continue to adjust and improve.

Witt’s average home run distance was 416 feet, the fifth longest in the league.  That would help support the belief that an improvement in his HR/FB (9.3%) could also come quickly.

A stronger approach, when coupled with his speed, should help his BABIP (.295) improve.  Throw in the potential for more power, and there could be a significant improvement in his AVG/OBP.  That’s the last piece of the puzzle for one of just two players who went 20/30 last season (and the only one who added 80+ RBI and R).

Verdict – While drafting him in the third round is easy, don’t be scared to select him at the end of the second

Jacob deGrom – Texas Rangers

Current ADP – 28.45

deGrom is considered among the best pitchers on the planet, yet he’s currently the seventh pitcher coming off the board and isn’t going far ahead of a few others.  The biggest question is his health, and while 2020 was limited due to the shortened season, it can’t be overlooked how few innings he’s thrown in a three-year span:

  • 2020 – 68.0
  • 2021 – 92.0
  • 2022 – 70.1

That’s a total of 230.1 IP, so how many can you expect from a pitcher who will turn 35 in June?  The Rangers, with postseason aspirations, are going to want to ensure they have him available come October.  That could mean a very conservative approach.  While there’s no questioning deGrom’s value, if we are expecting 150.0 innings (at most) you have to knock him down a few pegs.

Obviously, the names available a round or two later (Shane Bieber, Framber Valdez, and Julio Urias) aren’t as good as deGrom.  However, the hitter you can get in the second round is far superior to the ones you can get a few rounds later.  With the potential limitations to his workload, the risk far outweighs the reward.

Verdict – Leave the risk for someone else

Dylan Cease – Chicago White Sox

ADP – 23.91

While deGrom’s case for a second-round selection is questionable due to his health, Cease’s is based on performance.  Coming off a year where he posted a 2.20 ERA, there are far too many warning signs:

  • 3.82 BB/9
  • 8% Groundball Rate
  • 3% Strand Rate

Cease showed poor control, something that’s been a consistent issue over his career (4.02 BB/9)…

He continued to struggle to generate ground balls, yet for the first time, he managed to avoid the long ball (0.78 HR/9)…

He obviously benefited from luck…

While his strikeout numbers were nice, the risk far outweighs it.  Things could go south in a hurry and spending a second-round pick on him could prove disastrous.

Verdict – Hard pass

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant

Are you buying in on Jacob deGrom or Dylan Cease in the second round? For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!

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