If you had just one stat to use for your drafts this year, what would it be?

A common complaint I see from fantasy experts is recency bias, that cognitive bias whereby we depart from the most rational decision based on an over-reliance of the most recent data because it’s fresh in our minds. Most of us are aware that this bias exists, and try to counterbalance. We use 3-year weighted projections; analyze exit velocity and launch angle instead of RBI; and pay more for a young player with perceived “upside”. In my view, there’s a danger amid smart fantasy owners of going too far the other way and discounting what just happened. Today, I want to take a look at the way a brand-new fantasy owner might answer my initial question: who played the best in 2019?

A tangent: For a couple of reasons, with the reduced schedule & delayed opening day, I’m focusing even more heavily on skills over playing time:

  1. The spread of Games Played should be compressed. Marcus Semien racked up 747 PA last year over 162 games, nearly 100 more PA than Cody Bellinger accumulated in 156 games. If we project 100 games in 2020, that gap is only 40 AB. There just isn’t time to distance yourself from the pack by sheer volume.
  2. The compressed schedule increases the cost of injuries, but not the predictability. A 1-month/28-game injury would have cost a hitter 17% of their stats in 2019; in a projected 100 games, that’s a full 28%. There’s no time to recover your value if you get hurt. Since there’s no reason to think we’re any better at predicting injuries than we used to be, I’ll be buying talent and crossing my fingers on health.

Today’s chart, then, looks at 2019 dollar values per game, to measure recent skill, and 2020 ADP to measure cost. Click to enlarge:

(For clarity’s sake, I’ve only labeled those players notably far from their peers. You can see the full chart, with all players labeled, here.)

The chart can be read in two ways:

First, if you look at a player and draw a horizontal line, you can find out what he should cost (ADP), if you were buying a repeat of 2019. Miguel Sano, for instance, earned over $19 per game last year; on average, that production costs a top-50 pick, and Sano is going at 108 overall. A bargain!

Second, if you draw a vertical line from a player, you can see about how much value you should expect to obtain from that pick. Manny Machado will cost you pick 64; on average, that pick is worth about $17 in production per game, but Manny only gave you ~$7.50.

Based on this approach, who’s cheaper in 2020 than their 2019 performance would dictate?

  • It’s hard to find a bargain near the top, but Fernando Tatis Jrhit on par with Acuna, just in 340 less PA. At pick 18, he’s got the upside of top-3 overall if he can hold or improve on last year’s performance.
  • Adalberto Mondesi hit like a top-10 pick when healthy. Assuming health with extended time to heal this spring, a steal at pick 31.
  • After racking up huge PA seasons the last few years, George Springer had his best per-game season in 2019, but got hurt. If he puts the two together, a top-10 player available at pick 49.
  • Nelson Cruz appears on every underrated list I’ve seen this year, and yet is still available at pick 79 on average.
  • Nobody really believes in Mitch Garver, Danny Santana, Tommy Edmanor Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

On the flip side, the guys sitting below the line underperformed in 2019 compared to their ADP cost this year. In other words, you are paying for a bounceback on these players:

  • Everyone loves Ozzie Albies; a lot of his value last year was based on 702 PA. He’s still young and hits near the top of a good lineup, but know what you’re buying.
  • Manny Machado almost always puts up monster PA totals, but they masked a per-PA down year in 2019.
  • If you’re buying Vladimir Guerrero Jr., you’re paying for significant growth just to break even.
  • Andrew Benintendi managed only 23 HR+SB and 140 R+RBI, despite over 600 PA in a loaded lineup. This year, owners appear to be eyeballing his 2018 and splitting the difference.
  • What the hell happened to Rhys Hoskins? He stayed healthy all year and racked up 705PA, but his R, HR, RBI, BA, and Barrel % all dropped from 2018. In addition, his big-power, low-BA, no-speed skillset just isn’t that valuable in today’s game.
  • A bunch of catchers (Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, Carson Kelly) show up as overrated based on high PA with mediocre results. But of course, most of us would take a lot of mediocre at bats from our catcher spot.
 
  1. “I’ll be buying talent and crossing my fingers on health”

    100%. I said shoot your shot but same same. Not a year to play it safe. Or worry about any “ADP value” whatever that means… Hint: doesn’t mean anything unless your league has a category for it.

    Nice work!

    • TheTinDoor

      TheTinDoor says:
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      Thanks.
      Projecting injury risk is *always* a challenge; cut the season by 40% and I’m just going to eliminate it completely.

      That said, as soon as someone gets injured, I’m downgrading severely. No time for them to bounceback.

      • baby seal says:
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        I’m fading the injury-prone guys, like Stanton, even more than before… not much else you can do, other than what you said, in-season

  2. Another part of Albies is his early draft AVG protection. Oft overlooked and underappreciated. Frees you up for some power later with AVG woes…insert Sano here…

    • TheTinDoor

      TheTinDoor says:
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      Even the average gets a boost from high PAs, in the form of greater impact on your ratios…

      Albies is very young, healthy, strong lineup. If I was going to bet on someone to repeat high PA, he’d be near the top of the list.

      • baby seal says:
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        agreed

  3. Beni hatred confirmed…wink, wink Ralph!

    Speaking of Ralph…what’s up with your new pic bro?

    Is that an interior decorator with alopecia???

  4. LenFuego says:
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    Very interesting chart – nice work. A few other guys I wonder about where they would show up: Hiura, McCutchen, Bregman and Alonso.

  5. krazyivan says:
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    Great work on the graph and data table. I think that Yordan falls into the value section well. I see nothing but straight mashing from this fella and the extra time off should give him time to rest his knees. I drafted him in all of my 12 team roto leagues and he fell to me in each of them.

    • TheTinDoor

      TheTinDoor says:
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      Thanks!

      Love me some Yordan, took a share in RazzSlam. Been targeting Cruz a couple of rounds later so I’ve left the DH slot open in other leagues.

      • Same reason that I’ve not got much Yordan. How soon do you think that he qualifies @ OF. I’m leaning towards not soon with the bulk of the time @ DH.

        • TheTinDoor

          TheTinDoor says:
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          Injuries aside…

          Figure Springer & Brantley get near-every-day; Reddick/Tucker platoon, until Tucker (hopefully) wins more PT.

          In a shortened season, pretty unlikely he gets to 20 games, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t even get to 10.

          • baby seal says:
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            I’d rather him stay off those knees and just trot around the bases :-)

            One share this year — in my 2nd OC — got in the 4th round at 45th overall

  6. baby seal says:
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    Hmmm, I really like the chart, but not sure I agree w/ some of the takeaways if I’m being honest. Not on the players per se – there are guys I like, or don’t like, but that’s always the case w/ any article. However, reading the intro again, it does seem you try and give the “condition” that it’s how a *new fantasy owner* might look at drafting in 2020. So, I’ll cut you some slack! haha

    I LOVE how you are trying to look at skills in a shortened season. I literally had the same exact takeaway. In my sheet, it’s highlighting the guys w/ “elite skills” and trying to fade the accumulators or guys overly dependent on context. Fade injury-prone guys, or players w/o a locked in job, etc.

    Also, for some more nuance, a few of the 5-category light guys that I really liked, like a Moncada for example, who I don’t *dislike* to be clear — is not as much of a target now. Since I think anyone who was projected for around or less than ~7-10 steals over 162 will have completely unreliable SB numbers this year.

    Enter: Victor Robles. My new favorite target, who’s been on every “post-quarantine” roto team I’ve drafted. Enter: JD Martinez. Going at a great value towards the end of the 2nd round. ELITE skills. Normally I am trying to get as many “combo” guys as possible, to build an “antifragile” team, as Rob Silver would call it. To avoid having important categories – like HRs and SBs – “locked up” / dependent on just a few players. But, I think this is the calculated chance we have to take now in order to increase our EV (expected value) come draft day.

    What I was thinking of lambasting you on, before I reread the intro and thought again, was that we should NOT be looking at 2019 per game values and assume ADP should reflect them. And my argument has nothing to do w/ total value earned last year (but I do mention it below, haha).

    2020 draft values should reflect 2020 PROJECTIONS. Why not run the exact same chart and process using 2020 per game values? I think your whole thought process here was actually really awesome, and making this one tweak would be a really nice improvement, IMO… FWIW, I use ATC values if you want a recommendation. Moving on!

    Now to the players. I mostly agree w/ you, but there is one where I do not in any way.

    Putting Albies in a “bounce back” bucket is bit hilarious… apologies if that’s rude. I know he’s not *the best* player on a per game basis, but the fact is that he not only outperformed his draft value last year, he was the 33rd overall player in 2019… guy will be 23 this year and can easily grow into more power and steals. He didn’t have a premium lineup spot for some of last year either, so we can expect some counting stat improvements too.

    He’s also an amazing value when you look at the categories he provides at his position – relative to 2B – he’s really a slam dunk. The PA argument isn’t *incorrect* — but it’s a bit weak when you don’t provide any other information, sorry. He is 5-category medium (instead of “light?” lol), which is what you want!!

    Edman – agree, he’s one of my ~top-5 targets this year I want on every roto team.

    Pretty much agree on everything else, so GREAT JOB! Just to be clear!

    Hoskins – think his issue was trying to jack his LA too much. He’s apparently been working on his swing. Not a bad gamble if someone wants to take it, but not for me, since ratios are sacred on my teams.

    Kelly, Ramos – again, sort of missing the boat, IMO. They will provide relatively elite production, relative to their ADP and position, for power and BA, respectively.

    Later!!

    • TheTinDoor

      TheTinDoor says:
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      Yeah I’ve done some other work looking at projections vs ADP. I specifically *wanted* to look at 2019 outcomes and see how they were being priced. We shouldn’t expect a repeat of 2019 this season. But there are guys who’s price does NOT reflect their most recent performance.

      The difference between $/G and total $ val is the big key to this chart. To use your example, Albies was the 28th hitter in total $ val last year, but only 63rd in $ per game. He had 702 plate appearances, 7th-most in baseball, which drove his value. I laid out my reasoning above as to why I’m not going to pay for volume in a shortened season.

      At his cost this year, you’re paying for 1) another elite-PA season, or 2) skills growth. One, or both of those, could easily happen – he’s 23 and good!

      • baby seal says:
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        OK, interesting take. I read some of the lines as if that’s how you were thinking about 2020 / using this analysis directly to help draft. So my bad if I misread that.

        Part of what I’ve been paying for in Albies is growth (as you said!), so while I see your argument and understand it better now, still doesn’t work for me. Previously, I thought I was getting a triple whammy w/ the volume, relative projected value (read: ADP) AND positional bargain, plus the skills growth. Could throw in a more premium lineup spot too. Let’s not forget that you can take a small L on “value” when you are getting quality stolen bases, especially at the weakest position in fantasy this year (catchers don’t count).

        The absolute volume *may* not be there as much now, but I like him to still be among the league leaders there… no reason to think why not. The disparity at the top, as you’re alluding to, is definitely not as nice as it once was.

        What is actually kind of interesting is that in my 2 OCs last week, which as you probably know, are fairly expensive $350 leagues, I didn’t actually end up w/ Albies in either. I had a chance in the first one, but went Bieber in the third round instead. Also took Bieber in the second OC, but Albies was gone that time around.

        I am likely forcing Alibies, or one of the other top guys, if not for my undying love for Edman. I’ve also come around on McNeil, so getting behind both of those guys has been nice to free up that third round pick from ALWAYS going Albies, haha.

        FWIW, I got JDM, Suarez, Edman, Robles, and Mercado in both drafts. In case you’re interested to chat on those guys – they are all big targets for me due to shortened season and their ADP.

        Thanks, man!!

        • baby seal says:
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          BTW, 2 quick things:

          1) Only reason I mention the cost of those leagues is because, obviously, you want to get YOUR GUYS in your most important drafts. Albies is 100% one of MUH GUYS. So that fact I didn’t get him, and it wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision (I’m always drafting inebriated, jk haha), is what *I* found to be pretty interesting. Wouldn’t have put it together like that if I never commented!

          2) I absolutely love these more analytical pieces. This (and your others) + Coolwhip’s post last week have been my favorite non-Grey posts on the site recently. REALLY appreciate it, man. I wish there was more quant analysis in fantasy baseball — right up my wheel house — basically like my day job, except baseball!

  7. thehombre says:
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    Sorry for the late post.

    “Nobody really believes in Mitch Garver, Danny Santana, Tommy Edman, or Lourdes Gurriel Jr.”

    But we care about all these guys, right? Is it wise to buy in on all of these guys for the future?

    • TheTinDoor

      TheTinDoor says:
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      I haven’t dived deep into everyone above & below the line. But generally, “nobody believes” was a comment on the price – these guys are much cheaper than their 2019 performance would indicate. That means they could *regress* from last year and still earn their cost this year; if they keep their 2019 skills, big profit.

      • thehombre says:
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        Only asking because I recently had a 12 team Dynasty Auction draft and I purchased Santana for $10 (don’t love it) and Edman for $8 (Love it).

        Honestly, this kind of content and the stuff Itch, Hobbs, CoolWhip and, of course, Grey are cranking out…. I cannot get enough. I also drafted (cheaper than some older big names) Devers, Tatis JR, Albies, Alonso and Olson. Not only do I have a disgusting IF, but I have a young core that will develop and gain trade value in a dynasty.

        All the best.

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