Industry league drafts have started, which means the “experts” are setting the early ADP benchmarks. As Grey often writes, there’s a flow to ADP determination: 1) the super-early drafters who show up in November and December and try to pick up injury darlings at a cheap price; 2) the best ballers who show up in January and February to get “ADP value” as part of their diversification schemes; 3) the industry mavens who draft 100 leagues apiece in late February to early March; and 4) the home leagues that show up in the middle or end of spring training and suffer the consequences of the previous three stages of arbitrariness.
ADP isn’t scientific — it’s social engineering.
ADP just tells you the average cost of a player on the fantasy market. Just like eggs went from $1 a dozen to $18 billion a handful in the span of a month, and just like the world ran out of toilet paper because people drove up the demand, your favorite player will become arbitrarily more or less expensive in the next month. It is what it is.
Because the fantasy industry works largely on consensus and aggregation, most of the “top” players become the product of “groupthink.” Human performance is stochastic and unpredictable — the only thing we can say with certainty is that human performance is uncertain. However, that level of uncertainty fluctuates pretty wildly among players — this is the key concept in DFS leagues. We can have a level of certainty where we say, “4 times out of 7, this player will probably return value on investment. The other three times, well, we hope the damage is limited.”
And something weird happens when a player who was formerly on the “good” side ends up on the “bad” side for a short while: we completely ignore them. Year after year, I hear the adages: “Ruined my fantasy team,” “Can’t trust him,” “No stomach,” or, “Too risky.”
Paul Goldschmidt finished as the #2 overall player on the Razzball Player Rater in 2022. He was #14 in 2021. 2020 was rough, but the Cardinals missed 30% of the season due to Covid and played a ton of 7 IP games to play catchup. Goldy finished #51 overall in 2019, and #15 in 2018. So, Goldy is basically “golden” for a top 50 finish, and 3/5 times he’s finished in the top 15 players in recent history. His ADP in 2023? End of the second round. In the past three years, Dansby Swanson has the following finishes on the Player Rater: 9, 61, 20. So, two top 20 finished in 3 years. His ADP in 2023? 75, right next to Brian Reynolds, who has never finished above #30 on the Player Rater.
Michael Harris? 440 career AB with a BABIP of .360+ and a walk rate that is a tick above Javier Baez — he’s going in the second round, 5 picks after Goldy.
ADP is dumb.
The players in this article come with a fair amount of risk, but also a ton of upside. They’re free in basically every format, and industry drafters starting the year will probably push their ADP up a bit when they get tired of drafting Luis Robert in the third round (psst, Robert’s highest Player Rater finish is #43).
Late Round ADP Diamonds to Target in 2023
Jose Berrios (ADP: 208, Consensus SP: 60): As the resident expert in former Twins, lemme tell you about the one that got away. No, not Jose Berrios. I’m talking about Lance Lynn. When Lynn signed with the Twins in 2018, he walked nearly 5.5 batters nine and had an ERA/FIP near 5. Lynn might as well have been playing at Denny’s because that looked like toast. Flash forward a couple years, and Lynn has put up 16 total WAR since leaving the Twins with nearly 600 IP of 10 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 baseball. Sigh. Why did I title this blurb about Jose Berrios if I’m talking about Lance Lynn? Because even the most consistent pitchers have rough years. Check out this line from Berrios’ history:
I’m not going to paint a pretty picture: Berrios’ fastball velocity plummeted in 2022, and at times his swinging strike rate looked more like a state tax rate (that’s bad) than a federal tax rate (that’s good…wait…). But despite the poor 2022 outing, Berrios’ true skill stats still looked tolerable: 4.13 SIERA, 4.21 xFIP, and a 12-game period with a sub 3.00 ERA and a 9+ K/9 rate. Problem was, that 12 game period was actually two separate 6-game periods with two blowouts in between. Berrios struggled, simple as that. He’s also just 28 years old going on 29, and he was one of the most reliable SP2/3 options in fantasy baseball for years before 2022. The Blue Jays have a lineup that will give plenty of Win luck to their pitchers — I think people forgot that Berrios’ nasty 2022 still resulted in a 12-7 record — and at the price of free in 12-team drafts or a mid-round pick in best balls, you’re hard pressed to find better value in that range.
Tyler Mahle (ADP: 242, Consensus SP: 68): I’m just listing all the Twins pitchers here, aren’t I? Projecting much, eh? ENYWHEY. In the 2022 preseason, I included Tyler Mahle in my brazen predictions to be in the top 15 SP (link here). It’s right on top of my “Luis Castillo Top 10 SP” blurb, FWIW. While both pitchers got traded, Mahle burned out his shoulder due to overuse and scraped by with a meager 120 IP. The local fishwraps indicate that 2023 Mahle is healthy and has some new dad power. He’s also got a nice little “prove it” contract at $7.5 million, which means [drumroll] the Twins are 90% trading him at the deadline to a contender. Every single year the Twins do this deadline thing and every single year people are like, “Nuh uh, that veteran is staying here this time.” OK, Lance Lynn. Sure, we finagled Carlos Correa’s bloody sock somehow. Maybe that’s a sign about Mahle’s health? Who knows. Mahle and Driveline and the Twins all say that he’s good to go for 2023, which is a great indication for SP value at the ADP of free for deep leagues. Like Berrios, Mahle is 28 and has plenty of life left in his arm for a renewal.
Adam Wainwright (ADP: 257, Consensus SP: 95): Waino is best kept like your favorite 30-year-old Franzia box that you forgot next to the furnace: deployed in only the most desperate of situations. But for you best ballers in 40 or 50-round leagues, it’s really tough to pick a worse SP at ADP 257 than your best friend on Friday nights: Waino. Since 2019, Waino’s posted the 27th-highest WAR among qualified SP, and that IP churn on a high-Win Cardinals team has vaulted him to be the third-winningest pitcher in that timeframe. Charlie Sheen never won that much. While Waino’s K/9 is pretty desperate, he’s still slotted for SP1 work in St. Louis and hasn’t missed a start in 3 years. Please don’t let me jinx this one! Waino’s well past the age threshold of “We should worry,” but his value isn’t in ridiculous K/9 feats of swerve that worry me about guys like Justin Verlander. Waino’s value is on your best ball team, getting 32 chances at a W while demonstrating a keen ability to limit damage — over his last 400 IP, he’s got a combined 3.71 ERA / 3.66 FIP / 3.98 xFIP / 4.24 SIERA. Again, I’m not telling you to take Waino in your 12-team standard league, unless you’re streaming him against the Pirates. I’d start Grey’s mustache against the Pirates — that’s one hairy battle! But for you best ballers that want to maximize your IP and W chances for a big score — Waino’s a super-cheap target that everybody’s overlooking in 2023.
MacKenzie Gore (ADP: 335, Consensus SP: 100): One of the reasons I hate playing dynasty league baseball is that great prospects sometimes take a loooooooong time to develop. Most dynasty leagues have a ridiculous 150 AB / 50 IP “rookie” limit that requires players beyond that arbitrary threshold to be kept on a tiny fantasy roster. I once had a fairly deep dynasty league, with 16 teams and 80 players per team (60 minor league spots, IIRC). I plucked this no-name guy Jose Ramirez off the in-season waiver wire. The former instance of the Guardians kept him as a Quad-A player through 2014 and 2015. In those years, Ramirez contributed 600 AB of .237 BA, 8 HR, 20 SB, and a whopping 76 wRC+. I simply couldn’t afford to hold on to Ramirez anymore. He was 2 years past his “rookie” eligibility defined by the league rules, and that Quad-A playing time meant he had to stay on my main roster. So, I dropped Jose Ramirez. You know the rest of the story from 2015 onward [sigh]. Flash forward and talk about pitchers, EWB! ENYWHEY. MacKenzie Gore, former third overall pick of the 2017 draft and trade bait for Juan Soto, now has 70 MLB IP and a 1.0 MLB Service Time. There goes his rookie eligibility! Gore spent most of 2022 sidelined with a sore elbow after he seemed to finally get over his case of the yips. I mean, I feel it too. You want to start running at age 41 and you crank out a mile and then you get shin splints and you’re suddenly back to the couch watching Poirot reruns. While the Nationals are kind of a trash team now, it’s not the worst place in the world for a prospect to develop. Dave Martinez is 4 years removed from a World Series championship, and he’s worked with the likes of Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, and pre-injury Stephen Strasburg. Before Gore’s elbow turned to jelly in 2022, he had a streak of 40 IP with an 11.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, and a 1.27 ERA / 1.78 FIP. Then June came and the yips returned and his arm fell apart. If we learned anything from last week’s article about Kyle Wright — who was drafted 2 picks after MacKenzie Gore — sometimes prospects need the spotlight to go elsewhere before they shine. Gore isn’t the kind of pitcher you want to risk in a 12-teamer or maybe even a 16-teamer. Gore has a ton of warning signs: Nationals are tanking (therefore low Win output), an injured elbow, and a propensity for turning into a pumpkin. But if you’re in a best ball like RazzSlam or a Best Ball 50, ADP 335 is practically the end of the draft. Snagging an SP with the potential for a 11.5 K/9 and sub-2.00 ERA for periods of the year is a no-brainer. Gore already made his first spring training start and his value will skyrocket once he gets some innings under his belt. Who else you gonna draft at that ADP — Mike Clevinger?
We’ll have a Draft List update next week as the industry drafts start solidifying ADP and we get some more IP projections rolling in. In the meantime, enjoy the baseball and let me know how you’re doing down in the comments!