Now that there is a planned baseball season, we can rejoice because fantasy baseball drafts have resumed. Concomitantly, there is new ADP data to analyze, giving me an excuse to ignore my loved ones and write about fake baseball.
That said, I do have some valuable insight to offer. Using only drafts conducted since the announcement of the 60-game season, I want to discuss outfielders selected between picks 80 and 120 and compare their ATC projections to find some hidden value. The reason being that, when you’re in a draft, you should take the hitter that represents the best value on the board regardless of his ADP.
Say, for example,
- you have pick 80
- outfielders of ADP 71 and 91 are available
- neither will likely be on the board for your next pick
- and you’ve assessed that the hitter with the ADP of 91 provides more relative value, then
- you should draft 91, even though it will feel less satisfying.
Of course, you need to know who represents greater relative value to make that decision, which is where I come in.
Each of these outfielders would be an asset to your team. Again, the pertinent question is which to choose.
For some, you can have an idea of when they will be available in your draft because the spread between their min and max picks is small (e.g., Franmil Reyes). For most, however, it will be harder to tell (e.g., Luis Robert, Jeff McNeil, Marcell Ozuna). You simply won’t always be able to play chicken and hope that your guy’s there next time around. You need targets.
Here, I’ve left the outfielders in the order of their ADP and given you their ATC projections. Let me begin by explaining the final column: Adjusted Average, or AAVG for short. Consider Luis Robert and Franmil Reyes, who both project for a .261 batting average. There is a correct answer for who is more valuable in the category, but based on projected AVG alone you simply can’t tell.
The reason is a hitter’s batting average–a rate statistic–will be more or less valuable depending on how much it impacts your team. The more at-bats a hitter has, the more it impacts your team. That can be a good thing, as in the case of McNeil who projects for 203 AB and a .294 AVG. Or it can be a bad thing, as in the case of Robert who projects for 190 AB and a .261 AVG. That marginal at-bat for Robert actually gives Reyes the slight edge because what you’d want from a lower AVG hitter is fewer AB.
To be sure, AAVG depends on the league average batting average. By that, I mean the average of your league’s hitters’ batting averages, not all hitters in MLB. A player’s AVG will only hurt you in the category if it’s lower than your league’s average, and vice versa. For the purposes of this exercise, to find a fantasy league’s batting average, I performed my own mock draft (more on that later). Suffice it to say, based on the table above, you can tell it wound up being between .265 and .273.
Next, just eyeball the above projections and see if anything stands out to you before scrolling down to my values. Does one player feel too low on the list based on his projections? Too high?
Before discussing these players, let me pause to explain the projected value column. As I alluded to above, I performed a mock draft (just for hitters) based on a 5 OF, 1 CI, 1 MI, 1 UT league. In essence, I took all hitters projected for at least 100 PA and then found z-scores from their ATC projections. A z-score shows the relationship to the mean of a group of values, measured in terms of standard deviations—degrees of spread—from the mean. Consider the example I posed in my recent corner infielder rankings:
Z-scores are useful because, in a vacuum, Player A’s projected 15 HR and Player B’s 15 SB are meaningless and difficult to rank. They are only telling in relation to one another. For instance, if the mean for all draft-worthy hitters’ SB is 9 and the mean for their HR is 25, then Player A’s 15 SB are worth a lot more than Player B’s 15 HR. Z-scores reflect those relative values and allow you to rank without (1) having to eyeball differences in projections or (2) falling victim to your own biases.
So, for all of the “draftable” hitters (those with 100 projected PA), I found their z-scores for each of the five traditional hitting categories (although I used AAVG instead of AVG), summed them, and then ranked the players accordingly. I then drafted the top-12 catchers pursuant to the z-scores, top-12 first basemen, etc. After I performed a mock draft, I recalculated z-scores, but just for the “drafted” hitters. That way, I could ascertain each hitter’s value relative only to the other hitters in the fantasy league. That’s also the sample from which I generated new AAVGs.
With that background, we can now discuss the projected values. Were your earlier guesses based on the projections vindicated, or did your biases impact the way you valued the hitters? One way to think about these values is that, based on their ATC projections alone, Robert and Oscar Mercado project for negative value relative to the other hitters in this hypothetical fantasy league.
Conversely, Eddie Rosario‘s and Ozuna’s projections stand out as the most valuable of this group. If you scroll back up to their ATC projections, you can see why. Specifically, ATC likes Rosario because he has played at least 138 games with at least 24 HR, 150 R+RBI, and a .275 AVG in three straight seasons. Accordingly, Rosario projects for over 10 HR, 60 R+RBI, and a healthy AAVG. Ozuna similarly projects for nice counting stats and a decent batting average over a lot of AB, with Nicholas Castellanos not far behind. Often, these less exciting names will provide the best value accompanied by an excellent discount.
The one caveat here is that projections might miss a breakout, like in the case of Robert. So, even though his projected value slots below some of the other guys here, he may simply outperform his projections. In other words, my projected values hinge on the projections from which they are generated. Disagree with ATC projections? Think Gallo will finally hit .250? Then you probably won’t agree with my projected values, either. One other observation I should make is that I’m not saying you should never draft Gallo, Laureano, McNeil, Soler, Pham, Schwarber, or Mercado (well, maybe you really shouldn’t draft Mercado). It all just depends on who’s left on the board and how long you can reasonably expect them to remain available.
To close the circle, humor me with one more thought exercise:
- you have picks 93 and 100
- at pick 93, both Gallo (86.4 ADP) and Rosario (99.9 ADP) are still on the board, and they are the best available outfielders
- you should take Gallo only if you (a) need two outfielders, (b) expect Rosario will be there at 100, and (c) will take Rosario at 100
- if, however, you are uncertain whether Rosario will still be there at 100, then you must take him at 93 even if it means jumping his ADP. Irrespective of whether it feels better to take Gallo several picks after his ADP over Rosario several picks before his, Gallo might not actually be the best value on the board.