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Break the League: Fantrax Points League Ranker

I never thought I'd ever say this but it looks like I'm going vegetarian for this article because there's no real beef here. Those that have been reading along with this series know that I've had some harsh words for ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS, as I think they often do a disservice to their points players. Whether because of off-kilter scoring systems, confusing projections, or suspect rankings, these platforms make it difficult for their users to understand, enjoy, and thrive in points play.

Fortunately, Fantrax succeeds (or is at least indifferent) in these areas where the big platforms fail. Sure, if I had my druthers there would be things I'd change about scoring but that's just personal preference, rather than thinking they have a gimmicky system that makes it hard for players to be evaluated. I may not be using their projections but only because I prefer my own, not because the ones they offer look bad. And maybe I'm just biased (as a lot of their points coverage is generated by fellow RotoBaller, Mike Florio) but they offer strong and useful content for the format. As I said, no real beef, just the goods. Let's go.

This article will present RotoBaller's Fantrax Points League Ranker Tool, which is designed to give Fantrax Points League players a leg up on their competition. To read a general overview of our Points League Ranker tool, and the methodology behind it, check out this intro article we just published. You can read the rest of this Point League Ranker series as well covering Yahoo, CBS and ESPN platforms.

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Strings That Control the System

There are really only two components that control a player's value in a given points system. What categories are scored and how rosters are required to be constructed. Both are supremely important and must be accounted for when judging player's worth.

Default Roster Size: 1 C - 1B - 2B - 3B - SS - OF (5) - MI - CI - UT - P (9)

While most will give consideration to how players can score points, not as many consider the roster restrictions of their platform. Head on over here for a more thorough explanation but roster size must be accounted for so replacement levels can be set.  Comparing 12-team leagues in Fantrax to CBS, for example, the latter only uses three outfielders with no middle infield or corner infield slot. That translates to CBS players requiring 24 fewer starting outfielders, 12 fewer corner infielders, and 12 fewer middle infielders. That's 48 fewer starters total; 48 players that would be starters in Fantrax but are on the waiver wire in CBS, with default roster construction.

 

Default Point Scoring

Batting Points Pitching Points
Single 1 Win 10
Double 2 Loss -5
Triple 3 Save 7
Home Run 4 Inning 1
RBI 1 Quality Start 3
Run 1 Strikeout 1
Base on Balls 1 Earned Runs -1
Stolen Base 2
Hit By Pitch 1

 

Hitter Takeaways

There's nothing in the scoring for total bases, runs, and RBI that throws the system out of wack, relative to the other point platforms. Fantrax is almost identical to hitter scoring on ESPN and CBS, with the big difference being that Fantrax does not penalize for strikeouts, while ESPN and CBS dock batters one point and one-half point, respectively. A seemingly small enough difference but one that makes for giant swings in player values. In other news, between not getting penalized for strikeouts and getting two points for stolen bases, we finally have a scoring system that Ronald Acuna Jr. is a stud in!

Pitcher Takeaways

There's a lot going on in the pitcher scoring that can make different players zip around the value curve in all different ways. They only get one point for an inning pitched (the lowest of any platform), get 10 points for a win (the highest of any platform), and are the only platform besides CBS to reward quality starts (3 points). Besides what they get rewarded for, just as vital is what they don't get punished for... which is basically everything. Pitchers lose five points for a loss and just one point for allowing an earned run. And that's it. Giving up hits and walks doesn't hurt them and they're punished the least of any platform for allowing a run. That's a pretty cushy situation.

Draft Prep Offered

Fantrax provides two direct resources to points players for draft prep. The projected points based off of their site player projections (and the subsequent rankings) and their general ADP, which is not specific to just points leagues. I don't have a lot to say about the projections, which is a good thing. I may not agree with all of them or use them in my own valuations but what projections to use is a matter of personal choice; all I want to see from platforms are site projections that are reasonable. Since many players will mostly rely on these numbers for their draft prep, it's imperative that they are trustworthy.

Then there is the ADP Fantrax provides, which may not seem useful to points players at first glance, as it includes all of the formats Fantrax offers. I disagree (strongly, actually) because it represents a resource that many of your opponents will be using. Anytime you know what information your opponent is using, that information can be leveraged.  It's not that they'll be using this faulty information because they're dumb or lazy or some other pejorative, but rather because there aren't any other choices.

It's important to pay attention to more than just your team while drafting. You might not be able to crack every one of your opponents but if you stay sharp you can often suss out what resources they are using in the draft. Are their picks falling in line with your platform's projections? ADP? Both? Are they way off from these resources, likely using off-site research? Do their valuations seem similar to yours? Every opponent and every draft is different. And you are probably not psychic so you'll never know exactly what every opponent is thinking. However, every little piece of intel you can gather about how they are drafting is another advantage for you.

 

Solving the Fantrax Points Puzzle

Even more important than projecting a player's statistics, points players must understand the language of how those statistics are translated into points in your system. Not only do you need to understand how different kinds of profiles will score, but you also need to understand what kind of changes in a player's scoring profile can be reasonably expected. Compared to platforms that penalize strikeouts, it's relatively simple for a batter to improve his scoring profile; just do more awesome stuff at the plate and on the basepaths. Fantrax is the home of no negatives, so there's nothing for them to make up for. Only positivity, baby!

Looking at projected points - whether the ones provided by Fantrax or the ones derived from ATC - the scoring system's affinity for offense shines brightly. Fantrax projects there to be only 13 pitchers in the top-100 in 2020 (one in the top-25, four in the top-50) with ATC projecting there to be 14 (one in the top-20, three in the top-50). However, taking positional scarcity into account and ranking players by their projected PAR, the results swing strongly back towards pitching, with ATC projecting four pitchers in the overall top-10 of value, nine in the top-25, 21 in the top-50, and 36 in the top-100.

When breaking down CBS leagues (which has a somewhat similar setup) I recommended going after elite pitching hard in the first two-to-three rounds before throttling back and hammering bats for a substantial portion of the first 10 rounds. There was such a separation between the top tier and all the rest that I think getting two of the top-five pitchers would hold a significant advantage. Fantrax may be similar in scoring but they also have five more offensive slots, which in turn spreads out the value a lot more, allowing for a more fluid strategy, depending on how your draft shapes up. I don't feel like I have to take pitchers in the first two rounds because there is such a large concentration of pitchers that I have much higher values on than their Fantrax ADP:

NAME ADP PAR RNK Difference
Shane Bieber 21.9 13 8.9
Stephen Strasburg 22.8 19 3.8
Jack Flaherty 23.4 21 2.4
Patrick Corbin 33.1 22 11.1
Clayton Kershaw 33.9 38 -4.1
Luis Castillo 36.4 23 13.4
Blake Snell 41.4 39 2.4
Aaron Nola 43.0 33 10.0
Lucas Giolito 45.4 50 -4.6
Charlie Morton 50.4 34 16.4
Zack Greinke 52.2 26 26.2
Yu Darvish 61.6 48 13.6
Josh Hader 61.9 41 20.9
Jose Berrios 62.9 36 26.9

The reason I want to make sure I stay flexible in the early (first 1o rounds or so) part of my draft is because of all the landmines that are sprinkled throughout the top-100 of ADP. There are a number of batters that I'm just not going to draft because I don't believe their skill set matches the scoring system well enough to earn their draft price. I want to be in a position where I can easily pivot back to pitching instead of making panic moves on guys on I don't really love but "look" like a better deal because they've fallen. How about we play a little Minesweeper to identify some players whose fantasy superstardom will be held in check more by the particulars of Fantrax's scoring system, rather than talent.

 

Players to Avoid in Fantrax Points Leagues

To help point out some pitfalls that could put your team behind early, I turned ATC projections into Fantrax projected points, adjusted those points for replacement-levels, and then ranked players accordingly. I then compared those values to typical draft prices, Fantrax's ranking by points scored and scanned for traps.

*Obviously all playing time projections are moot with the postponement of the 2020 season. Until we have a start date, I don't see much value in trying to extrapolate out possible playing-time scenarios based on nothing but guesses, so I'll keep my analysis based around a full season of games. It's all relative. 

1. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres (ATC: 29 HR - 93 R - 77 RBI - 24 SB - .275 AVG)

ADP: 23.6
Fantrax Rank: 25
ATC PAR Rank: 59

Tatis Jr. looks like a classic example in points of a player whose projections look better than his final point total. However, that's not quite the case in Tatis's case. If this were ESPN (where strikeouts are minus 1-point and stolen bases are worth only one-point, instead of two) I'd worry that - just like Acuna Jr. - Tatis would never be able to out-mash or out-run his sky-high strikeout rate. But Fantrax doesn't penalize strikeouts and thefts are worth two points, making Tatis much more valuable in the near- and long-term future on the platform.

While his PAR rank projects him as the #59 overall player (and the #27 batter), Tatis's 0.891 Pts/PA is the 22nd-highest among all batters, telling me that his overall ranking is due more to his projected plate-appearances, rather than a poor scoring-rate. And in fact, ATC does project him for just 615 PA, while Steamer predicts 652 PA and The BAT calls for 631 PA. If Tatis were to score at the same rate but with 652 PA, he would be projected to finish as the #21 hitter and #32 player overall. While close, that's still probably not enough for me to want to spend a late second-round pick on him, mostly because of how ridiculously deep shortstop is.

HEDGE-ALERT! HEDGE-ALERT! HEDGE-ALERT!

I think 650 PA would be around a pretty likely projection for him but if you want to gamble on getting a first-round player after pick #20, Tatis is your man. Batting leadoff for a good Padres lineup, there's always a chance that Tatis could go "Full Acuna" and finish near the 715 PA that Acuna did last season for the Braves. That would project Tatis out to 148 PAR, good for the 10th-highest total overall.

A Discount Alternative:

Marcus Semien, SS, Oakland Athletics (ATC: 24 HR - 99 R - 78 RBI - 10 SB - .270 AVG)

ADP: 78.4
Fantrax Rank: 22
ATC PAR Rank: 64

The current Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy baseball, Semien may not be projected to put up the ridiculous numbers he did in 2019 (33 HR - 123 R - 92 RBI - 10 SB - .285 AVG) but he's still a prime-time player in Fantrax points relative to his price. Semien's .806 Pts/PA isn't as shiny as Tatis but he's projected for 671 PA and has surpassed 700 PA in each of the last two seasons. He obviously doesn't have the same ceiling as Tatis, but Semien will cost you about 50 picks less.

2. Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees (ATC: 33 HR - 89 R - 96 RBI - 6 SB - .275 AVG)

ADP: 29.7
Fantrax Rank: 39
ATC PAR Rank: 81

Torres might be the future (and the present) of the Yankees but on Fantrax he's hurt just as much by how deep shortstop is, as he is by his scoring profile. Just how deep is it? They have the highest replacement level (397 points) and not only dominate the MI position - claiming 10 of the 12 starting slots - but also occupy four of the 12 utility slots. That's a total of 26 shortstops qualifying as above-replacement, with the next highest infield position qualifying only 19. Shortstop. Is. Deep.

Torres' scoring-rate of 0.857 Pts/PA isn't awful by any means but is also just the 40th-highest rate among all batters. Locked in at third in New York's lineup for the foreseeable future, it's unlikely that Torres will increase his value by making a big jump up from the 614 PA that ATC projects him for and he's also unlikely to jump his scoring up via a boost in stolen bases. That means his only realistic option for more points is to simply just mash more. But taking a look at the above ATC projections, how much more is he likely to produce? Being drafted like a third-rounder, the price just won't be right for me.

A Discount Alternative:

Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs (ATC: 31 HR - 92 R - 96 RBI - 13 SB - .275 AVG)

ADP: 66
Fantrax Rank: 23
ATC PAR Rank: 69

I don't know why people are acting like Baez had some sort of nuclear meltdown last season, seeing that he finished with 29 HR, 85 RBI, 89 runs, 11 stolen bases, and a .281 AVG. Certainly not the elite line that he put up in his 2018 breakout season but not anything to sneeze at. Particularly since injuries held him to just 138 games. Projected to score at a rate of 0.871 Pts/PA (33rd-highest among batters) there is a discount to be had in 2020, with his 66 ADP being an absolute steal. Give me a fifth-round Baez over a third-round Torres all day, every day.

3. Starling Marte, OF, Arizona D'backs (ATC: 22 HR - 90 R - 77 RBI - 27 SB - .286 AVG)

ADP: 42.1
Fantrax Rank: 55
ATC PAR Rank: 72

Sweet lord, please no one tell Todd Zola that I've blasphemed against his sweet Starling but Marte is only kind of spectacular in Fantrax points. As a five-category contributor, Marte is a beast in roto but in Fantrax points his scoring rate of 0.853 Pts/PA is nearly identical to Eloy Jimenez, Joc Pederson, and Michael Conforto. But those guys aren't being drafted in the first 40 picks. Looking at the ATC projections above (and at Marte's previous two terrific seasons) it's hard to see more coming from the 31-year-old, whether in production or plate-appearances.

A Discount Alternative:

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Atlanta Braves (ATC: 30 HR - 83 R - 95 RBI - 9 SB - .274 AVG)

ADP: 93.6
Fantrax Rank: 60
ATC PAR Rank: 67

Whew! I finally get a chance to gush about Marcell. In a year that saw him only carry a .241 AVG, many have soured on the new Atlanta Brave. But don't forget that Ozuna missed over a month with fractured fingers and also remember that just because you come back from an injury, doesn't necessarily mean that you're back to the same player immediately upon return:

G PA HR PA/HR ISO AVG OPS wOBA wRC+
Pre-Injury 78 326 20 16.3 0.256 0.259 0.846 0.350 118
Post-Injury 52 223 9 24.8 0.193 0.214 0.729 0.314 95

Ozuna still managed to hit 29 home runs, with 80 runs scored, and 89 RBI even after missing over a month and being a "bust". In 2020 he'll be hitting cleanup behind Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman. Tasty, baby. Tasty. Want to get all hot and bothered by some of that sweet Statcast data? I thought so:

  • 91.8 mph average exit-velocity (top-8%)
  • .548 xSLG (top-9%)
  • .382 xwOBA (top-8%)
  • 49.2% Hard-Hit% (top-4%)

Not only was his hard-hit rate up over 4% from his career average but those worried about his .241 AVG should take note that it was 20-points lower than his previous career-low and Ozuna also had a .288 xBA in 2019, even with the .214 AVG that he carried upon returning from injury. And if you like narratives revolving around a player's motivation, Ozuna rejected a $17.8 million qualifying offer from Cardinals this offseason only to accept a one-year deal from the Braves for just $200,000 more after a long-term deal failed to materialize. Ozuna is 29-years old, likely isn't very happy that he couldn't get a big deal done this past offseason, and now has a one-year audition to earn the biggest (and one of the last) payday of his career. And he's hitting behind three of baseball's best players? Stick him right in my veins, please.

4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays (ATC: 25 HR - 78 R - 89 RBI - 1 SB - .292 AVG)

ADP: 47.5
Fantrax Rank: 32
ATC PAR Rank: 84

He may be in the best shape of his life but the formerly pear-shaped (and future superstar) for the Toronto Blue Jays still isn't worth his draft price in this format. While ATC projects him to take a step forward from his rookie year, those numbers translate to a rate of .084 Pts/PA that's just the 88th-highest among batters. With the 84th-highest PAR, it's not that Vlad is bad; it's just that there are cheaper options that'll provide similar value. And given his name value, it's unlikely that you'll ever get a discount on him.

A Discount Alternative:  

Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics (ATC: 34 HR - 96 R - 92 RBI - 1 SB - .254 AVG)

ADP: 85.4
Fantrax Rank: 35
ATC PAR Rank: 42

Some of you might be looking at Chapman's projection above and wonder whether they seem a little heavy but Oakland has a masher at the hot corner after breaking out for 36 home runs, 102 runs, and 91 RBI in 2019. But that breakout was just the next step up from 2018 when he hit 24 home runs and scored 100 runs in his first full season in the bigs. Scoring at a rate of .843 Pts/PA that is just a hair behind Kris Bryant, Chapman is projected to give you more than Vlad does but is going about three rounds later.

 

The Points Pipeline Keeps Flowing

That wraps up this edition of Break the League but we've upped the ante on points coverage here at RotoBaller and now have dedicated tools and focused analysis to help you bring home the gold in 2020. Read about our platform-specific Points League Rankers here. If you're in a Fantrax Points league, these rankers, which set behind our premium wall, are essential draft tools for you.

Our premium tools include customized rankings for each platform and utilize the exclusive projections of RotoBaller's Nick Mariano (2018's most accurate MLB ranker), to calculate projected points, points-above-replacement, and per-PA rates of scoring In the coming weeks, we'll have more and more analysis articles with the specificity you need to identify the best and worst players on your particular platforms. Stay with us, ye long-neglected points players. We come bearing gifts.

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