When asked whether I wanted to partake in the provision of rankings for the Razzball community, I felt the opportunity was too good to pass up. I approach rankings in a methodical way and wanted to share that with you all. No, this isn’t a post about methodology, but added context is necessary if you’re ever going to buy what I’m selling.
With that said, I began with ATC projections, which amalgamate the best from other projection systems. I then altered the projections based on my own assumptions about playing time and the five traditional hitting categories. For instance, I accounted for barrel rate by using hitters’ 2019 predicted home runs–which are home run totals I derived based on barrel rate, among other inputs–and projecting out my own 2020 home run totals.
Finally, I performed my own mock 12 team draft to derive player values based on z-scores from my projections. You can read more about that process in my friend Alexander Chase’s excellent article. 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. Where a z-score is 0, the value is equivalent to the mean in the sample. Where a z-score is 1.0, the value is one standard deviation greater than the mean.
Z-scores are useful because, in a vacuum, 15 HRs and 15 SBs are meaningless. They are only telling in relation to one another. For instance, if the mean for the sample of players’ SBs is 9 and the mean for their HRs is 25, then those 15 SBs are worth a lot more than those 15 HRs. Z-scores reflect those relative values.
And with my process out of the way, I won’t bury the lede any longer.
Many of these are self-explanatory. Unsurprisingly, for example, I have Cody Bellinger and Nolan Arenado first and second. But I want to highlight a few players that I’m either particularly excited about or think you should avoid.
Jump Their ADP
As it turns out, I’ll wind up with a lot of shares of Anthony Rendon and Freddie Freeman. I have both guys outperforming Alex Bregman and José Ramírez. Frankly, by total value, they do slot in after Arenado, but just barely. A large part of that is the power they bring, as well as their high batting averages. The value of 550+ ABs of a .300 batting average is probably lost on most drafters. Another aspect is how SBs are valued, which, frankly, I think they aren’t as valuable as you might believe. Ultimately, Rendon and Freeman offer elite, safe production across four categories.
Likewise, I’m a big fan of José Abreu‘s, which is borne out in the values. He wound up quite high on my rankings because I altered his projections. One way to consider that fact is “garbage in, garbage out.” If you don’t like the way I project him, you won’t like his ranking. But the way that I want you to think about it is to read my lengthy article on why I love Abreu. The tl;dr is that he’s consistent year-over-year, his barrel rate improved in 2019 (but the rate of barrels he converted into HRs unluckily decreased), his pull and fly ball rates were the highest they’ve been in three years, his BABIP was a career-low, and the White Sox lineup has improved. Need I say more?
I also really like Carlos Santana. I project him for 31 HRs and over 180 combined runs and RBI. What’s not to like about a player that walks as much as he strikes out, with 93rd-percentile exit velocity to boot? No, he likely won’t hit .281 again, but he doesn’t need to in order to return value at his lowly ADP.
One more guy to keep an eye on if you whiff on the studs is C.J. Cron. By barrel rate, he was quite unlucky last year. He hit only 25 HRs but was actually sixth among all hitters in barrel rate. That kind of elite raw power is no fluke, and I’m therefore projecting him to hit 31 HRs this season for Detroit. Not bad for a guy with an ADP around 250. I’m a little worried about the ballpark, however. From 2017-19, barrels converted into home runs in center field at Comerica 12.1% of the time, the worst rate of any ballpark. The next lowest mark? 28.3% at Oracle Park. Still, arriving in Detroit means there’s little threat to Cron’s playing time and gives him the opportunity to rack up all those HRs, runs, and RBI.
My Do Not Draft List
Projections actually love Manny Machado more than I do, which required some tweaking. He has hit over 30 HRs in five straight seasons, including 32 last year. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s projected for over 30 again. Yet, Machado had the 118th-best barrel rate in baseball last season–his lowest personal mark since 2015. By my math, that equates to 25 predicted home runs. Consider also that Machado doesn’t really steal bases and hit only .256 with a .266 xBA. If we give him the .270ish projection most systems have, as well as high 20s HRs, he’s just not doing enough to jump the guys ahead of him. It shouldn’t go unsaid how valuable the counting stats are you can get from guys like Eugenio Suárez, Josh Donaldson, Josh Bell, Matt Chapman, and Paul Goldschmidt, each of whom actually earned their 30+ HRs last season and therefore I’m more confident in a repeat. That may sound silly in light of Machado’s track record, but his peripherals were worse last year and impossible to ignore.
Many will also quarrel with my ranking of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., perhaps one of the most hotly contested draft picks for the second year in a row. The difficulty is that expectations are (were?) so high for Guerrero that, if he satisfies them, he represents a value at any price after the first round. But where the rubber truly meets the road for my value of him actually comes from the projections. Indeed, even crediting him the 25 HR .290ish projection he carries by most systems–which, frankly, is generous in light of his 2019 performance–my system spits out a value far below his current ADP. Believe it or not, I had to manually move him up past Miguel Sanó and Yuli Gurriel. I probably won’t have any shares of him this season.
Take everything I said for Guerrero and apply it to Kris Bryant. He wound up ranked far below his ADP by my projected value and I had to move him up past Sanó and Gurriel to make sure you wouldn’t close your browser before reaching this discussion. The only additional caveat is that I’ve written extensively about Bryant already. I found that his basically league average barrel rate was propped up by an elevated average launch angle and, at the same time, belied by his 265th-best exit velocity on flies and liners and 298th-best hard-hit rate. By predicted home runs, he overperformed last year and should have had about 27 home runs rather than 31. Moreover, putting the ball in the air that much (as well as pulling the ball frequently) should have yielded a lower BABIP and batting average, as evidenced by his .246 xBA. Yet, Bryant had a .331 BABIP and .282 AVG in 2019. I’m ultimately not buying either his raw power or his hit tool and projecting regression accordingly, which pushed him down my rankings.
Finally, consider my ranking of Rhys Hoskins. His barrel rate was somehow even worse than Machado’s. By pHR, he only earned about 27 HRs last season (he actually hit 29) despite amassing a ton of PAs. Assuming he reaches around 670 PAs, a generous projection for any player, that drops him to 25 HRs. Now, he’s a .240/25 guy. Sure, he could hit over 30 home runs again as in 2018. But he had literally over 700 PAs and couldn’t do it last year. And the low barrel rate and hard-hit rate (129th-best) don’t inspire confidence. He’s basically Sanó without the true raw power–Sanó had the best hard-hit rate in baseball and the fourth-best barrel rate–to guarantee that he’ll swat a bunch of HRs on a per-plate-appearance basis.