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Making Sense of ADP

ADP, or Average Draft Position, is one of the most commonly cited statistics in fantasy baseball discourse. It allows owners to look at a single number and quickly determine a player's market value, making it easier to identify potential value picks in a draft. Furthermore, fantasy analysts can use it to determine how a particular player is perceived in the industry, helping them identify both breakouts and busts.

We've all grown so accustomed to working with ADP that we don't think about it anymore. In truth, we probably should. One of the most common traps for novice fantasy owners is to draft based on ADP, leaving them unable to respond to the nuance of a specific draft. There is also no universal ADP, so everybody who uses it has to choose which source to draw from. It's relatively rare for the sources to diverge substantially, but it does happen and can generate an advantage for the perceptive owner.

Let's take a closer look at what ADP means and how it's used.

 

A Brief Overview of ADP

ADP may be defined as the average pick number with which a player is taken in a standard redraft league. If a particular platform hosts fantasy drafts, it likely publishes ADP data based on the behavior of owners on the site. For example, ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo!, Fantrax, RT Sports, and the NFBC all have distinct ADP data. FantasyPros is also worth a mention here, as it aggregates all six ADP sources above to produce a single composite number.

Most sites also show you ADP in the draft room, creating the temptation to pick whoever has the earliest ADP remaining as opposed to the best fit for your roster. This can help you early on in a draft but turns into a problem later on.

For instance, most fantasy analysts agree that there is a clear top three in 2020: Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr, and Christian Yelich. All three combine power, speed, and average, reliably contributing above-average numbers across the board. If you're lucky enough to have a top-three pick this season, you probably shouldn't deviate from this trio of excellence.

Everybody agonizes over who should go first, so ADP is quite uniform at the beginning. Both Trout and Acuna have a composite ADP of 1.6 on FantasyPros, with Yelich's 3.0 suggesting very little deviation at the top. It's much more of an inexact science as the draft goes on though, and you can probably stop looking at ADP completely once 150 or so selections are made.

For example, Bryan Reynolds of the Pittsburgh Pirates slashed .314/.377/.503 with 16 HR last season. Fantasy owners are generally skeptical of his performance, taking him around 180th overall per FantasyPros. ADP may say that you can wait on him, but Reynolds could be selected much earlier if he has another believer in your league. He was selected 113th in one NFBC league, dashing the hopes of anyone banking on his availability later on. If you feel that Reynolds is the best available option for your roster, you should take him regardless of ADP. You don't want to miss your guys.

 

What Differentiates ADP Sources From One Another?

There are two significant factors that can change a player's value from platform to platform: a site's default format and a player's default ranking and projection on the site. Some people assume that all sites have the same default format because it says "5x5 roto," but roster construction matters. For example, standard CBS leagues include two catchers, while ESPN and Yahoo! only use one catcher. Catchers are generally drafted earlier on CBS as a result.

Likewise, the NFBC (or National Fantasy Baseball Championship) structures most of its leagues differently. While most other platforms focus on individual leagues that have no bearing on each other, NFBC leagues frequently have a large overall prize for the best team regardless of league. This encourages owners to select risky, high-variance players earlier, as you need to spike a few lottery tickets to get the 100th percentile outcome and win the top prize. Finishing in the 80th percentile in every category is generally enough to dominate a single fantasy league, reducing the need for variance plays.

Similarly, rankings can affect when players are selected on a site. For example, here is the FantasyPros ADP data for Joey Gallo:

ESPN drafters see Gallo as a top-50 fantasy asset, while he's outside of the top 100 on RT Sports. Both are clearly outliers relative to the other sites, so let's examine why.

RT Sports is the easier of the two. Every other site ranks Gallo in the 60-80 range by default, meaning that he pops up on the draft screen in the fifth or sixth round of most drafts. RT Sports has Gallo at 106, a full two rounds later. It sounds lame (and you shouldn't do this), but owners are more likely to select players who are displayed by default as opposed to searching for other options, especially in the first half of a draft. Maybe drafters assume that he's already been taken?

ESPN ranks Gallo 74th, so showing up earlier isn't the reason he's so popular. His ESPN projections (.222/.344/.527 with 39 HR in 482 ABs) are slightly more pessimistic than his FanGraphs Depth Charts projections (.227/.354/.554 with 44 HR in 482 ABs), so that's not it either. Honestly, it likely comes down to his player caption.

Most sites have player captions or outlooks that provide owners with a brief snapshot of a player's profile for emergency reference. The ESPN profile on Gallo is overwhelmingly positive:

"Three true outcomes" hitter: Thy name is Joey Gallo. No player in baseball history has seen a greater percentage of his plate appearances end in a home run, walk or strikeout than Gallo (59%). But while he's an all-or-nothing type, his flaws aren't nearly as damaging as many of the models who have come before him. While Gallo's 2019 season ended July 23 due to a broken hamate bone, until that point he had boosted his line-drive rate to 25% and posted top-six Statcast numbers with his 93.0 mph average exit velocity, 52.3% hard-contact rate and 11.4% barrel rate per trip to the plate, things that make him the most truly threatening power source in all of baseball. When healthy, Gallo stakes a legitimate claim to a 50-homer, 100-walk, albeit 200-strikeout, ceiling season, and his improving metrics make him less of a drain on your batting average than once feared. Check back on him during spring training to ensure no lingering injury effects, but if he's in the clear, he's a potential points-league monster (top 25-capable) who should also find himself in the season-ending Player Rater top 50."

ESPN is projecting Gallo to lose 30 points from his 2019 batting average and fall 10 long balls shy of 50, but that's not the impression you get from reading the above. In the heat of the moment, such a positive take appears to be pointing undecided ESPN drafters toward choosing Gallo nearly every time.

 

Which ADP Should I Use?

You should look at two different sources of ADP for most drafts: your platform's and a second one based on how competitive your league is. If you're drafting on CBS, you should have a rough sense of that site's ADP and rankings. Not only do they control who both you and your rivals see on your screen by default, but anybody who leaves the draft or disconnects may end up auto-selecting based on default rankings. Since everyone else can see your site's ADP too, you need another source to act as a differentiator.

Your other source depends on how competitive your league is. If it's full of owners who really know the player pool, this author recommends NFBC draft data. All NFBC leagues are high-stakes, so its player base tends to be better prepared than other platforms. If your league has owners who prioritize players from their home team or are more interested in the social aspects of fantasy baseball than hardcore analysis, FantasyPros is likely a better source than the cutthroat NFBC environment.

Ultimately, ADP is a tool you can use to predict a rival's behavior and inform your own decisions. You should never make a pick based on ADP alone, but instead utilize it as one factor among many in your decision-making process.

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How to Approach High Stakes Leagues in 2020, Part 2

While we await confirmation that there will be a season, and clarity on how it will play out, there's plenty of fantasy baseball prep work to do. Sure, it's impossible to nail down definite strategies or exact player values with so much uncertainty surrounding the season. But we can at least start to figure out how much to move the needle on players, and think about changes that we as owners need to make during the shortened season.

A few days ago, we introduced part one of approaching high stakes drafts in 2020, and now we're back with part two. A universal DH seems like almost a lock at this point, and will significantly change some values, but we won't spend too much time on that. Brian Entreken already covered some of the fallout here, and there will be surely be more discussion on the topic over the next several weeks.

There will be plenty of other adjustments owners will have to make, both leading up to draft day, and in their in-season management. Let's dig into a few of those topics now.

 

Managing your FAAB budget

Owners are given $1,000 to spend over the course of a season in NFBC leagues, with $1 being the minimum bid. In 2019, there were 26 waiver periods, which averages out to $38 per week for owners to spend. In 2020, our best guess is that there will probably be 13-17 weeks in which waivers will run, which would leave owners with somewhere between $59 and $77 to spend each week.

While it may seem like basic math, it won't be that simple, and it is going to be quite an adjustment for those of us who have been playing these leagues for a long time. The amounts we have been bidding on certain types of players will need to be modified.

A two-start pitcher you feel good about or a short-term fill-in on the hitting side may be worth quite a bit more than in previous seasons. This isn't just due to fewer waiver periods naturally inflating the price, but the value they can provide over a single week will be more impactful than it normally would be. Don't be afraid to be aggressive early in the season on free agents you feel could be a long-term assets, as scooping them up early on gives them more time to make an impact on your roster. Just be smart with your bids, as there's a difference between being aggressive and careless, and you'll want to save up more money than usual for the end of the year.

Owners often have a goal in mind as to what to save up for the final month or so of the season, with $50 or $100 being among the most common numbers to get by down the stretch. In 2020, owners will want to spread out their budget, and save up more money than that, since a month will be a higher percentage of the season than usual. It won't be impossible to get by with single-digit bids over the final few weeks, but it's not ideal, as owners will likely have more money to spend (especially compared to 2019) given the shorter season.

It won't be easy striking the balance between being aggressive on the wire and saving up more money for the last month. But owners coming out of the draft with a balanced roster and a couple of seemingly reliable closers, things we touched on in part one, could go a long way in accomplishing these goals. They'll be less likely to need to blow half their budget to find the next big closer or stolen base source, making it easier to have money left at the end.

 

Impact of Expanded Rosters

All signs point to larger active rosters for 2020, with 30 players looking like a very realistic scenario. One possible outcome of the roster expansion is that more platoons will be deployed across the league, as teams will be better-suited to mix and match given their added depth. More teams may look like the Rays this season, which can be very frustrating for fantasy owners.

So how can we adapt? Since NFBC switched to bi-weekly moves for hitters several years ago, I have typically tried to keep more hitters than pitchers on my bench, in order to maximize the matchups in both halves of the week. As of now, I plan to put even more emphasis on hitting depth, as the likelihood of more platoons means offensive flexibility is of the utmost importance, especially if there are fewer off days.

Players eligible at multiple positions are a nice luxury to have, but they may be more valuable than usual in 2020. Having that extra flexibility to switch out a player who isn't in the lineup on a Monday or Friday is always a good thing, and can be more impactful in a short season.

There is another effect of expanded rosters that may be overlooked by some. With a couple of extra arms in the pen, teams may be willing to pull their starters earlier in games, so they won't have to go through the order a third time. The short season could also make it easier to push top relievers a little harder, as 2020 won't be the marathon they are used to. This could very well give the top starters more value, as back of the rotation types may fall short of five innings quite often.

 

When injuries strike

Roster spots are at a premium in NFBC leagues, as the 30-man rosters consist of just seven bench slots, and no designated IL slots. It's always tough to decide whether or not to cut bait on players looking at an extended absence. The answer may be easier in 2020, as it will be very difficult to stash injured players for long in a shorter season.

If a top player goes down for a short stint on the IL, he would obviously be worth holding on to, but if a mid-round pick suffers what looks like a six-week injury, even early in the season, it's probably time to move on. There will still be some gray area and tough decisions when it comes to injuries. But the bottom line is, owners will need to be churning their roster spots more than usual, and exercising less patience for players on the IL.

 

Starting pitcher changes in value

There are a lot of unknowns regarding what things will look like once the regular season gets underway. That makes it very difficult at this time to nail down a strategy when it comes to starting pitching. After all, we don't even know where teams are going to be playing, and park factors play a large role in determining the values of pitchers.

There are a few obvious gainers in value when it comes to starting pitching, and that is the group of arms who were facing an innings limit heading into 2020. Jesus Luzardo, Julio Urias, and Lance McCullers, among others, weren't going to be throwing a full allotment of innings over the course of a 162-game schedule, but with the shortened season, their totals are likely to be more on par with the majority of other starters.

Here is a look at some pitcher ADP in January and February:

Now let's take a look at how different things look in drafts since April 1:

As you can see, the price on Luzardo and Urias is rising, as both have moved up more than two full rounds in 15-team leagues. But will the kid gloves come off completely? Luzardo has thrown exactly five innings 19 times in his young career (including minors), but has topped that mark just twice, and he's thrown a total of 12! major league innings.

Urias, meanwhile, did reach the 5 IP threshold in three of his first four appearances in 2019, but then moved to the pen, and didn't go more than 3 IP the rest of the way. He does seem to be a lock for the rotation, but the Dodgers have plenty of depth behind him, and it wouldn't be surprising for him to spend a little time in the pen again, or to just work three or four innings sometimes.

McCullers was mentioned above, but not included in the chart, as he isn't going until pick 173, up 20 spots from his Jan/Feb ADP. After missing the 2019 season following Tommy John surgery, he was going to be ready for Opening Day even before the delay, and offers plenty of upside at his current price.

Several pitchers who were going to miss part of the season had it started on time should now have time to be ready when play resumes, or close to it at least. James Paxton and Miles Mikolas should be moving back near their pre-injury ADP, while Rich Hill (April/May ADP 287) , who underwent elbow surgery in October, may even slot into the Minnesota rotation out of the gate.

While the value of the pitchers with innings limit concerns are on the rise, one might think that those who provide a great deal of their value through volume should probably be downgraded to some extent. But guys like Aaron Nola, Zack Greinke, and Zack Wheeler, to name a few, are likely to throw more innings per start than the youngsters, any downgrade should be minimal.

Another thing to consider is that the league may adopt a tighter schedule to fit more games in over a reduced period of time, with fewer off days and more double-headers. More clarity on this front will be coming in the near future, but if it comes to pass, sixth starters may take on a larger role. Therefore, it may be necessary to give guys like Dustin May, Ross Stripling, Austin Voth, Tyler Mahle, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Chris Bassitt a bump up in your ranks, but keep in mind they could be at risk of not going five innings every time out.

 

The Rookies

While we don't know exactly what things will look like beyond the active major league rosters, it's clear we won't be seeing anything resembling a typical minor league season. Therefore, it is inevitable that teams will be handling their prospects in a different manner in 2020. Service time rules, which are unclear at this point, and a team's chances of competing in 2020 will be contributing factors in determining when players are called up, but several will certainly be up sooner than expected.

Prospects such as Jo Adell and Alec Bohm were expected to spend a decent chunk of the season in the minors, but may instead break camp with the big clubs now. If that is the case, they would probably be worth rostering, but be careful not to move them up too far in your ranks. After all, in most cases, there was a reason these prospects were expected to spend more time in the minors, and there will be some short-term bumps in the road.

On the pitching side, teams will be faced with tough decisions if their prospects were in line for more minor league seasoning. Can organizations find ways to help pitchers get the necessary development if they're not on the active big-league roster, or will they want them refining their game at the major league level, even if it means taking their lumps? Young pitchers certainly need to get their work in one way or another, or their expected workload for 2021 will be significantly impacted.

Prospects such as Nate Pearson in Toronto and Spencer Howard in Philadelphia will be a couple of the bigger names impacted.  Each situation will be different, and many will be tough to predict. We don't know what the service time rules will be yet, and that, along with a team's chances of pushing for a playoff spot, could impact when they will make their debut under these new circumstances.

Many owners are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing, and are willing to pay a high price to take a chance on the upside. While most of these youngsters will deserve to be picked slightly earlier if they are in the majors early on, the potential struggles they may endure right off the bat may offset much of the playing time increase. Be careful not to gamble too much of your draft day capital on unproven rookies, especially those being rushed to the majors.

 

Conclusion

There are still a lot of issues that need to be sorted out before we can lock in strategies for the high stakes drafts. Some, such as the parks the teams will play in, and whether or not there will be a universal DH, will have some obvious ramifications, but it's important to carefully examine all of the other variables as well.

The schedule will have a significant impact on the value of many players, both in terms of the frequency of off-days, as well as the opponents teams will be facing most often. Also, expanded rosters could increase platoons and limit the opportunities for wins of back-end starters. This could push up the value of both top pitchers and top hitters, which may point to a stars and scrubs approach in auction leagues.

Here's hoping that both the health scare and money issues between players go away enough so that we can have some sort of season in 2020. If so, drafts are sure to be very interesting and unpredictable, and it's important to analyze all of the factors that will have changed values and viable strategies leading up to draft day.

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Mock Draft Review: ADP Risers and Fallers

It's Memorial Day weekend, which means it's time to pick some flowers, fire up the BBQ, and do fantasy baseball mock drafts. Well, one of those things doesn't quite belong, but in these uncertain times, it's never a bad idea to do another draft and see how things stand.

With MLB owners and the Player's Association discussing how baseball will be played in 2020, there is cautious optimism we will see Major League Baseball in some form early in July. And while specifics for the season are still being debated, the latest reports suggest the season will be roughly 80 games in length, played in home ballparks. Other proposed changes will have an impact on fantasy drafts as well. We are all-but-certain to see a universal DH, and the schedules will be based on geography rather than AL and NL.

We at RotoBaller set up a 12-team, 5x5 roto mock draft to re-evaluate how we see players performing in what will be a very strange season. The draft was 24-rounds with starting lineups of three outfielders, corner and middle infield slots, and nine pitchers with no distinction between starters and relievers. While most of the picks felt similar to pre-pandemic average draft position (ADP), there were certainly players who have seen their value change based on the season being delayed. Below we'll examine some players who have seen their stock change and what we can expect from them in 2020.

 

Mock Draft Board

All ADP data is based on NFBC drafts from February 1 through March 15, and April 1 through May 15. See full draft results here.

Click on each image for a full-size view.

 

ADP Risers

Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels

Bundy was one of my favorite sleepers coming into the season and not much has changed as evidenced by reaching for him at 183rd overall. Bundy has seen his stock climb with an ADP of 213 in drafts after April 1, compared to 246th overall during the traditional draft season. Unlike the other players on this list, however, there isn't one specific reason that can justify the steep climb up draft boards other than drafters realizing how good he can be with a few minor improvements and some better luck.

Bundy has been an enigma to start his career as his results haven't matched his talent. His 5.45 ERA in 2018 was among the worst in the game and he didn't improve much last season sporting a 4.79 mark which was backed up by a 4.73 FIP. Some of those struggles can be chalked up to pitching on a poor defensive team in a very hitter-friendly ballpark, so there is optimism a move to the west coast could help. He averaged over a strikeout per inning each of the past two seasons and was off to a hot start in Spring Training, as evidenced by his sparkling 16:1 strikeout to walk ratio in 11 1/3 innings.

Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics

Perhaps no player has gained as much value for the 2020 season than the A's prized pitching prospect. Luzardo is one of the most exciting young players in the game, but was not expected to pitch a full season due to the A's limiting his innings and saving him for a possible playoff run. With the season shortened, those concerns go out the window leaving fantasy drafters salivating at the thought of drafting the flamethrowing 22-year-old lefty.

Luzardo showed his MLB readiness last season when he struck out 16 batters in just 12 innings and has averaged better than a strikeout per inning at every stop in the minors thanks to a power fastball that touches 99 MPH. He was having a great Spring Training as well allowing just two runs through 12 innings with 16 strikeouts. Given the fact he'll be available for the full season, his ADP of 90th overall may still be too low for a pitcher of his caliber.

Shogo Akiyama, Cincinnati Reds

Agiyama isn't someone who has risen up the ADP boards, but if this mock draft is any indication, he will soon. Akiyama went with the sixth pick in the 15th round (174th overall) which is well above his current ADP of 261. This is because Akiyama is one of the biggest benefactors of the proposed MLB schedule. Had the season started as scheduled, Akiyama would have likely been the fourth outfielder on the Reds or wound up in a platoon situation. Now, with the universal DH, Akiyama should have a clear path to regular playing time.

Akiyama is an unknown to the Major Leagues, but based on his career in Japan he should hit for average, a very valuable skill late in rotisserie drafts. Akiyama was fifth in the league with a .303 batting average and has hit over .300 in four of the past five years, including .359 in 2015. He has also shown some speed with double-digit steals every season since 2015. The Reds still have a logjam of outfielders, but Akiyama should be in the lineup more often than if the season started as normal which makes him a nice sleeper late in drafts.

 

ADP Fallers

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

Verlander was one of the most valuable players in fantasy last season, but injury concerns have him sliding down draft boards. Verlander is currently recovering from groin surgery and a lat strain, but should be ready for the start of the season according to reports. Fantasy drafters have been less optimistic for the Cy Young winner. His ADP (20th) is seven spots lower than his pre-pandemic ADP (13th), but this early in the draft those draft spots have a bigger impact.

In this draft, Verlander slid into the third round which would be great value for a pitcher of his caliber. Verlander's strikeout rate has been above 30-percent each of the last two seasons and last year he punched out 300 batters, one of just two pitchers to hit the 300 mark. His 2.58 ERA was slightly better than his 3.18 xFIP, but both numbers were top-five among all qualified pitchers. The injuries are a concern for the 37-year old veteran, but the upside is too tantalizing to pass up if he is available at his ADP.

Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers

Lux is one of the most promising young players in the game but is also someone that has seen his fantasy stock take a hit due to the season being delayed. The Dodgers platoon players as much as any team in the Majors and expanded rosters will give baseball's deepest roster more options to hide Lux from southpaws. Lux has just nine career at-bats vs lefties and likely won't accrue many this season given the expanded rosters, which would put a dent in his fantasy value for this season. ADP has reflected this fear thus far with his post-pandemic ADP falling 10 spots behind his ADP from March. He fell even further in this mock, lasting until pick 188 overall, two full rounds below his ADP.

Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels

Adell, like Lux, is someone that will see significantly less playing time than if the season had started in March. Before the season was suspended, the Angels had said Adell would need more time in the minors. GM Billy Epler confirmed that plans for Adell have not changed given the delayed season saying, "If the players still had more seasoning needed, then we can't achieve that until they get those tests. The best way to get those tests is to be playing baseball. It doesn't change the potential plan." Adell was being drafted 222nd overall on average before the season was suspended, despite being a long shot to make the Opening Day roster. With minor league baseball unlikely to happen this season, Adell won't get that seasoning in Triple-A, but the Angels don't sound like they are in a rush to hand the 21-year old outfielder an everyday job.

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How to Approach High-Stakes Leagues in 2020 (Part 1)

While it's not clear which of the proposed scenarios will be ultimately be used, there is hope that games will eventually be played in 2020. We may not know what the season will look like but drafts are still taking place, including those hosted on the gold standard of high-stakes competition, the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. However, the highest-stakes games (with entry fees ranging from $1,000 - $15,000) have been put on hold until the shape of the eventual season is actually known.

As many of these leagues were just a few days away from taking place when baseball ground to a halt, much of the prep work had already been done. But with a shortened season and a possibility of not all teams playing in their home parks, owners will need to reassess their values on players while we have this downtime. Some owners may be hesitant to throw big money into what amounts to be just a half-season but as excited as everyone will be to have any season at all, signups are unlikely to fall off too much.

This is the first column in a two-part series that will be focusing on preparing for these high stakes leagues but much of the discussion will also apply to the majority of other leagues. In this first piece, we'll discuss the value (or lack thereof) in looking at ADP and tackle how to handle saves on draft day.

 

Overview Of The Contests

There are several high stakes options to choose from at NFBC, all of which are no-trade leagues. Some are "standalone" formats where you play only against your league, while others have an overall component, in which you also simultaneously compete in a league composed of all teams in every league. There are a few variations of a 15-team standalone format, as well as one 12-team standalone option ($2,500 entry fee).

Of the leagues with an overall aspect, the Main Event ($1,700) is the most popular contest, with 570 teams in the mix in 2019. NFBC also made a new addition in 2020, the Solo Shot ($1,000), where the main differences between it and the Main Event are that owners can enter only once (hence the name), and waivers run once a month, rather than every week.

All of the NFBC high stakes leagues are standard 5x5 scoring, but strategies may differ based on format. For example, punting a category can be a viable option in a standalone league, but that's not the case in leagues like the Main Event and Solo Shot. Owners simply can't afford to be near the bottom of a category and still compete in the overall standings, as they'll need to acquire 90 percent of the possible points to win the overall title.

 

Accounting For Uncertainty Heading Into 2020

Something I like to do prior to draft day is look at past years' results in the formats to get a general idea of what goals to shoot for in each category. Keeping an eye on your projected stats during the draft can be helpful in determining what category you need to focus on as the draft progresses. On the NFBC site, you can find all of last season's results for the overall standings, as well as each individual league.

For example, here's what it took to reach the 90th and 80th percentile in each category in the 2019 Main Event:

% Runs HR RBI SB BA K W Sv ERA WHIP
90th 1,190 373 1,144 136 0.271 1,527 100 82    3.72 1.18
80th 1,149 360 1,107 126 0.269 1,476 95 73 3.85 1.20

Seeing that we seem to be heading towards a season with about half the amount the games, splitting those numbers in half leaves us with:

% Runs HR RBI SB BA K W Sv ERA WHIP
90th  595 187  572  68 0.271  764 50 41    3.72 1.18
80th  575 180  554  63 0.269  738  48 37 3.84 1.20

These numbers vary from year-to-year but it's going to be incredibly difficult to set goals in each category this season given all of the uncertainty and not just things that are pandemic related. Keep in mind how the juiced ball inflated the offensive numbers in 2019 and how different the run-scoring environment could be depending on what ball is used. Then there's the wrench thrown in by the possibility of not all ballparks being used, which will affect the offensive environment even more.

The season is going to be much shorter but it's probably not going to be as easy as using simple math to pro-rate the categories. We'll likely see fewer off days, more double-headers, and more six-man rotations. As a result, even the front-line starters could end up throwing a lower percentage of their team's innings. This compressed schedule would also result in even the top closers missing out on a couple save chances since they may not be available due to having fewer off-days built-in.

On the hitting side, the tightened schedule will probably mean more frequent rest for position players who are usually locked into the lineup. Rosters are also likely to be expanded which would add to the appeal of giving guys a day off. And with bigger rosters available, we're probably going to see more platoon situations than we are used to.

So if the regular season ends up being right at half of a normal season, it will be beneficial to shave off more than half of a player's projection in many cases. No matter what, though, having a sense of where your team stands in each category throughout the draft is important, so you can make sure to finish with a balanced roster.

 

What To Do With ADP

Tracking ADP (average draft position) can be extremely useful, as it helps owners size up the market while giving them a general idea of what point in drafts a player should be targeted. Relying too much on this data is harmful, however, as every draft is different and owners shouldn't always count on a player being there in the next round just because ADP says he usually is.

It's often said that ADP can be thrown out the window when it comes to high-stakes leagues, as owners won't hesitate to "reach" for their guy by several rounds. This will likely be the case even more in 2020, as the shortened season alone is enough to dramatically change the value of many players. If most teams end up playing in parks other than their own, ADP up to this point would be rendered essentially meaningless.

With this in mind, if you're going to utilize ADP, make sure to sort by date in order to eliminate the noise of pre-pandemic drafts and use only the most recent and relevant data. The drafts over at NFBC are constantly happening, so there will be quite a few that will take between the time the 2020 rules are established and the time the high stakes drafts get going.

Even so, the sample will be too small to draw any meaningful conclusions from, and as stated above, savvy owners will lean heavily on their own values, even if it goes against ADP. This year, more than ever, it's important to know your values for players heading into drafts and be willing to pay up for your guy even if the ADP doesn't agree.

 

Locking Up Saves On Draft Day

There are many different approaches when it comes to drafting closers. Some owners like to pay up for one top closer, and grab another in the double-digit rounds, while others tend to live in the mid-range of options. Some owners prefer grabbing just one guy they can count on, then throw darts at a couple of late-round options. Some even ignore the category on draft day altogether, either punting the category- a viable but risky option in standalone leagues- or planning to attack the category in-season.

Closers are a highly sought after commodity when they are available during the season, and the no-trading aspect of NFBC enhances that effect. When a pitcher moves into the 9th inning role in-season during a typical year, he will often go for several hundred dollars out of the allotted $1,000 free-agent budget.

To reach the 80th percentile in saves in 2019, you would have had to either hit on two top closers or deploy a third closer for at least part of the season. With less time to find saves in-season in 2020, it will be more important than ever to come away from the draft table with at least two reliable closers.

With a shorter season coming in 2020, there is going to be less time to find saves on the waiver wire, and more money on average for owners to spend each week. As a result, it may cost significantly more than usual to acquire a new closer during the season. Furthermore, speculating on a closer-in-waiting will be more difficult, as stashing a player for a few weeks will eat up a valuable roster spot for a larger chunk of the season than it would in a normal year.

Another reason to draft established closers instead of relying on more speculative picks is all of the uncertainty that still exists at the back of many bullpens. Several teams have yet to anoint a closer, while others are sure to rely on multiple arms to handle 9th inning duties - a strategy we have seen more of in recent years. This gives more value to the guys who already have the job. Perhaps the leash will be shorter than usual on a shaky closer, but that will vary from team to team and is tough to predict.

In both 2018 and 2019, 13 closers were selected among the first 120 picks in NFBC drafts. But pre-pandemic, the price of closers had been dropping for most of the draft season, with that number dropping to just six in the 225 drafts that took place between November 2019 through the end of January 2020. The prices had started to normalize prior to the stoppage of play, with nine closers going inside the top 120, and that number is sure to rise even further once drafting picks up steam again. Even so, locking in at least two options you feel good about should be a priority on draft day, as acquiring saves in-season will be costly, and more difficult to achieve than in years' past.

In the next column of this two-part series, we'll examine how to manage your FAAB budget in high stakes leagues in 2020 as well as take a look at a few pitchers moving up draft boards.

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WPC+ Videocast: New Draft Strategies for a Shortened Season

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut review the draft board for RotoBaller's recent expert mock fantasy baseball draft and explain how their strategies have changed with the likelihood of a shortened MLB season in 2020.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, Saturday nights from 9-11 PM ET and Sunday nights from 9-11 PM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Things Done Changed...

Pierre and Nick review the latest mock draft conducted by the RotoBaller MLB staff to explain how draft strategies have shifted since March.

Players discussed include:

Trevor Story
Walker Buehler
Nolan Arenado
Jack Flaherty
Blake Snell
Chris Paddack
Aaron Judge
Andrew Heaney
Kolten Wong
Aristides Aquino
Seth Lugo
Spencer Howard
MacKenzie Gore



Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

Win Big with RotoBaller in 2020!

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RotoBaller MLB Mock: Revising Draft Strategy for a Short Season

With rumors of a proposed plan to start the MLB season becoming more of a reality, it is time to start mock drafting again. I joined some writers from RotoBaller to take place in a 12-team mock draft (full draft results here) for a traditional 5x5 rotisserie league draft with a 24-player roster. It was a standard setup that used three outfielders and two infield swing slots, along with nine pitcher slots and four bench spots. 

The current MLB proposal on the table consists of a season of around 80 games with teams playing in their home ballparks. Well, perhaps only most teams, as I doubt teams in California, Toronto, or New York will be able to play at home and are more likely to play at their spring training facilities. The other proposed tweak is a geographically-aligned, three-division format where teams would play mostly within their division, with the East, Central, and West divisions from each league combining to form three 10-team divisions. 

Between different levels of competition, playing in different parks, and a shorter season, these proposed changes will definitely favor some players more than others. Considering this, I drafted with certain strategies in mind. Did everything go as planned? Of course not, in a sharp room like this. Mock drafts will become even more important once we get an MLB plan set in stone as certain teams will get boosts and ADP will be rapidly changing. For now, let’s go over some of the strategies I employed for pitching and hitting and how I attempted to execute those plans in this 12-team mock.

 

RotoBaller Fantasy Baseball Mock

click for full-screen view

 

Pitching Big Three

With a shortened season on the horizon, some will think quality innings will become even more important, while some may look to take more risk with their fantasy pitching staff. I will likely target more consistent pitchers with a stronger floor, allowing my team some potential gambles on offense. 

Walker Buehler, SP (Rd. 1, 8th Overall)
Yu Darvish, CHC (Rd. 4, 41st Overall)
Frankie Montas, OAK (Rd. 8, 89th Overall)

This “safer” strategy led me to grab an ace early because leaving the draft with a few top-end starters that can eat innings and help in all four categories was a focus of mine. With Gerritt Cole and Jacob deGrom going off the board with the fifth and seventh picks, I felt I executed this plan well, grabbing the Dodger ace to anchor my staff. I see him as potential Cy Young candidate this season and we know how much of a lockdown ace he should be for Los Angeles. 

After Buehler, I added more depth to the rotation. Yu Darvish and Frankie Montas bring two solid arms, can strike out a ton of batters, and provide some potential ace upside. With the “Big Three” of my pitching staff in place, it was all about getting more depth and stability.

 

Rounding Out the Staff

With the top of my staff filled out with a top ace and two potential ones, it was time to round out the rest of my starters with upside and innings, as well as start addressing my bullpen.

Rich Hill, MIN (Rd. 12, 137th Overall)
Kenta Maeda, MIN (Rd. 13, 152nd Overall)
Sandy Alcantara, MIA (Rd. 20, 233rd Overall)
Ryan Yarbrough, TB (Rd. 22, 257th Overall)

According to ADP I went early grabbing Rich Hill, but his ability on a shortened season brings major upside. Hill is good for really nice ratios with a strong strikeout ability on a good Twins team. The rotation rounds out with Kenta Maeda, innings-eater Sandy Alcantara, and a slight gamble on Ryan Yarbrough with one of my last picks. 

When it comes to saves, I currently have the opinion that the stability of a solid closer locking in saves might be even more important in a shortened season. With that thought in mind, I wanted to leave the draft with two or three established closers. Initially, I was going to grab one of the elite options early, but they were taken earlier than I preferred.

Kenley Jansen (Rd. 9, 104th Overall)
Joe Jimenez (Rd. 15, 176th Overall)
Ian Kennedy (Rd. 17, 200th Overall)

Waiting a little longer I was still able to grab Kenley Jansen who is extremely reliable and on a team that should run away with the NL West once again. Since the majority of my top options as my RP2 were flying off the board, I double-dipped on Joe Jimenez and Ian Kennedy. Neither are guaranteed studs but both should be able to keep their jobs all season. 

 

Heart of the Order

In 12-team leagues, there will be a ton of depth when it comes to hitting. There was even more depth than I expected in this mock draft due to the roster construction of only three outfielders required to start. Being a 12-team league with a lot of depth my early offensive picks were more well-rounded picks, like usual in drafts for me, but then I was ok taken risks from time to time. I also really like the ability of more multi-position players on a season with larger benches and more potential days off, leading to some players moving around more as utility players.

Starling Marte, OF (Rd. 2, 17th Overall)
Ozzie Albies, 2B (Rd. 3, 32nd Overall)
Yoan Moncada, 3B (Rd. 5, 56th Overall)
Tim Anderson, SS (Rd. 6, 65th Overall)

I started off by building my offense with five-category contributors in Marte, Albies, Moncada, and Anderson. All bring a solid average floor to the team with power and speed. Steals are always a point of interest in drafts but may become even more important in a shortened season. Players that are in the upper-echelon of steals may stand out more, providing a larger impact for your team.

 

Big Stick Potential

With a solid offensive base in play, I was ready to start taking some risks on some higher upside bats.

Rhys Hoskins, 1B (Rd. 7, 80th Overall)
Franmil Reyes, OF (Rd. 10, 113th Overall)
Miguel Sano, 3B (Rd. 11, 128th Overall)
Kyle Tucker, OF (Rd. 14, 161st Overall)

Rhys Hoskins was a fantasy stud just a season ago and someone who I am a firm believer has a bounce-back coming in 2020. Along with Hoskins, both Reyes and Sano have the potential to add major home run upside. All three players can be a batting average risk with little speed if they struggle, at the same time their upper-end production can be a great value to a fantasy team.

The three major power picks are players that we have a rough idea of what to expect when it comes to offensive production, but the next offensive player was the big gamble. Drafting Kyle Tucker could either be a league-winning pick or one that could prove to be disasterous. Tucker brings 20-20 upside to a fantasy team and at pick 161 could return tremendous value. Josh Reddick may still be in the way, but I feel Tucker will get the job early and run with it, making him worth the gamble in the 14th round.

Scott Kingery, 2B/3B/SS/OF (Rd. 16, 185th Overall)
Willie Calhoun, OF (Rd. 18, 209th Overall)
Ryan McMahon, 1B/2B/3B (Rd. 19, 224th Overall)
Kolten Wong, 2B (Rd. 21, 248th Overall)
Jason Castro, C (Rd. 23, 272nd Overall)
Ryan Braun, OF (Rd. 24, 281st Overall)

The rest of the team consists of young players like Scott Kingery and Willie Calhoun (he will be drafted much higher as more positive health news comes out) who offer solid upside. Kolten Wong was drafted as a late-round stolen base pick, as grabbing 20+ steal upside in the late rounds is usually hard to find. Lastly, Ryan Braun was drafted with the universal DH in mind that would allow Braun to play nearly every day and contribute in all five categories.

 

Conclusion

Mock drafts are always a great way to learn the player pool while trying out different drafting strategies. With the shortened season on the horizon, universal DH, and potential three-division format, different strategies will be very interesting.

Will certain teams based in certain divisions get drafted even higher due to matchups? Will creating a Franken Ace like JB Branson recommends be an even better strategy with pitchers potentially needing more time to ramp up, resulting in more relievers used?

There are a lot of interesting strategies in play and hopefully, this article helps open the mind to a few as we get closer to some real baseball.

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Drafting First Overall In Rotisserie Formats

I really do believe there’s no such thing as too much draft strategy. There are a lot of factors that play into draft selections. I will be discussing topics ranging from positional scarcity to team construction and many things in between. The idea is to go into my strategy and targets through the first 10 rounds of a draft.

Why the first 10 rounds? Well, I believe that is the foundation of your fantasy roster and having a solid plan in place to attack the first 10 rounds can really set your team up for the middle and later rounds of the draft.

Lastly, I will be covering both 12-team and 15-team leagues as we go through the first 10 rounds. I will be utilizing NFBC ADP and discussing my targets each round per format. My targets will align with who is available per the ADP.

 

Round 1

There are a few things to consider prior to making your selection. A few of those things are:

  • How do you want to build your team?
  • Who can fall to me in the second round?
  • Is it a 12-team or 15-team league?

With the first overall pick, you get to set yourself up with a five-category producer. The usual players you’re deciding between offer a combination of floor and ceiling that the rest of the league doesn’t have access to and because of this, you already have a huge upper hand. You should also consider how you want to attack stolen bases. Stolen bases are at a premium this season and they are a key factor in making early-round decisions.

Don’t forget, this player is your team's foundation and you have to build upon him. I will say this a couple times throughout the article, but ALWAYS look ahead and try to figure out who will be there to choose from in the next round. This will always aid in your draft choice. At the end of the day, picking first overall is not the place to start taking chances.

There’s truly no wrong answer between the usual three players being considered for the first pick - Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna, and Christian Yelich. The only point I would like to drive home is I would not take a pitcher like Gerrit Cole here. I have seen it done and it not something I can recommend.

My Targets:

12-Team League – Pick 1.01: Mike Trout

15-Team League – Pick 1.01: Ronald Acuna

Why the discrepancy? It’s simple. In a 12-team league, there are fewer teams and speed will be easier to come by. With that said, Mike Trout is by far the highest-floor player in fantasy and in a shallower format where speed is an easier commodity to come by, I lean towards the higher-floor foundation. In a 15-team league, there are going to be less stolen base options throughout the draft and I want to address steals earlier and get them out of the way instead of scrambling for them later on. This is why I lean toward Ronald Acuna.

 

Round 2 and Round 3

From here on out you will be making back-to-back picks. There are pros and cons to picking at the turn, so you have to keep a few things in mind.

First, you need keep in mind you’re not picking for quite some time. This takes some planning forward. This is where looking ahead matters the most. If you plan for the worst case scenario of players that can fall to you in the following rounds, you will be able to anticipate what you will have available. This will really aid you in making the proper selections this round.

Second, you need to anticipate possible positional or category runs. This will factor more as the draft unfolds.

Now it’s is time to build on that high floor you established with the first overall pick. With these picks, I tend to attack the hitting side of things. However, on occasion I’ll mix in my first starting pitcher here as well. There are still a few speed options here, so taking advantage of any high-end speed options on the board to pair with the speed you took in the first is also a great idea.

Just a friendly reminder that speed is at a premium. Taking the speed now will leave you not chasing one-category contributors later. In turn, you are set up to take advantage of players who may fall as people scramble for stolen bases later.

My Targets:

12-Teamers – Picks 2.24 & 3.25: J.D. Martinez, Ozzie Albies, Starling Marte, Mike Clevinger, Luis Castillo

15-Teamers – Picks 2.30 & 3.31: Ozzie Albies, Starling Marte, Mike Clevinger, Xander Bogaerts

There is not a lot of fluctuation here. Be ready to pounce on some names that may fall that shouldn't. Players falling beyond their typical ADP is more likely in 12-team leagues. Players like J.D. Martinez or Anthony Rendon have fallen to the 2/3 turn in a number of 12 team drafts and I would prioritize grabbing one of them. This is a prime example of why ADP is strictly a tool to utilize and not a rule to follow. In a 12-team league, I mostly draft the best available player in the early rounds. I will still look at starting pitching here but I’m less likely to put an emphasis on it.

In a 15-team league I will typically take my first starting pitcher with one of the two picks on the turn here. This is due to the fact that starting pitchers thin out rather quickly compared to shallower leagues and I always like to get a starting pitcher with ace level potential to lead my pitching staff.

 

Round 4 and Round 5

You’ve now set yourself up nicely with a good foundation on offense. You should have a high floor in speed and batting average. Power may be lacking as well as RBI production because of that. The players falling to this part of the draft are typically better power hitters anyway so this plays perfectly to your team's need. This is exactly why looking ahead is so important. If you have an idea that these types of players typically fall to this point it allows you to construct a team built on the opposite stats ahead of time.

If you managed to grab some power and speed on the turn and avoided pitching, that is fine too. There are still very good pitchers to grab here. The only difference is I may consider taking two here actually to shore up my rotation.

By passing on that ace tier, grabbing two starting pitchers here could be a way to hedge your bet. We are also entering a tier of hitters where very little stand out from one another. It is a rather large tier and there’s a chance one falls back to you all the way in the next round that you weren’t expecting. You can’t bank on that happening by any means, but if any type of player or skill set would fall to you it would be a player within this rather large tier of similar talent level.

My Targets:

12-Teamers – Picks 4.48 & 5.49:  Manny Machado, Matt Olson, Chris Paddack, Charlie Morton, Lucas Giolito, Giancarlo Stanton, Clayton Kershaw

15-Teamers – Picks 4.60 & 5.61: Manny Machado,  Jose Abreu, Giancarlo Stanton, Tyler Glasnow, Yoan Moncada, Trevor Bauer, Tommy Pham

Now you start to see the bigger difference in the players available to you based on league size. Again, your targets (or mine) will fluctuate based on said availabilty. There are always surprises and values that fall in drafts at times and you need to be willing to adapt. Regardless, there are two different ways to draft based on league type. Draft to your strengths.

 

Round 6 and Round 7

By the time I reach this portion of the draft, I typically have two starting pitchers and three hitters. That is ideal for me personally. However, you’re still focusing on your core and if for some reason you went hitter heavy and only have one or no pitchers, then now is when you likely would address that need. If you stacked pitching early on, then you would attack hitters. But for this exercise, we will assume you took a similarly balanced approach as I would.

Here is where I like to go with two hitters. I feel the value in the hitters available outweigh the pitchers that are available. Because I draft so much and study the ADP relentlessly, I typically have an idea of the players who will be available here for me and I feel the hitters are far more valuable. Because of this, I always set myself up to be looking at offense at this point in the draft. I may mix in a closer on occasion as well.

My Targets:

12-Teamers – Picks 6.72 & 7.73: Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Josh Bell, Eugenio Suarez, Aroldis Chapman, Roberto Osuna, Tommy Pham, Jose Berrios

15-Teamers – Picks 6.90 & 7.91: Josh Donaldson, Eugenio Suarez, Roberto Osuna, Lance Lynn, Tim Anderson, Carlos Correa

 

Round 8 and Round 9

We are entering the time in the draft where guessing what may fall to you is very tough to do. ADP is not followed nearly as closely so you cannot bank on any player falling to you beyond here. You need to take the player that best suits your team needs.

This is also the point in the draft, regardless of league size, I grab my first closer typically. I do not need two high-end closers, but I like having at least one I can count on for saves and be that steady source of saves. I will then typically grab two closers at the back end of the middle rounds or grab them in the late rounds to round off my team. This causes me to be aggressive on the waiver wire when seeking saves in-season.

Also, to this point, I only have two starting pitchers typically. The pitchers available here are all solid mid-rotation types. I am not married to a starter here if I get a closer, but if I don’t take a closer here, I definitely grab a starter. Ultimately, I would l like to target hitters here but, I end up going with a starting pitcher and closer here to get my team back to a balanced roster. My team goes from having five hitters and two pitchers, to having five hitters and four pitchers. I always aim to stay balanced and build a solid base to both sides of my roster.

My Targets:

12-Teamer – 8.96 & 9.97: Lance Lynn, Kenley Jansen, Corey Kluber, Jesus Luzardo, Carlos Correa, Cavan Biggio, Miguel Sano, Zach Wheeler

15-Teamers – Picks 8.120 & 9.121: Max Kepler, Tim Anderson, Kyle Schwarber, James Paxton, Franmil Reyes, Zac Gallen, Ken Giles

 

Round 10

This is far from the end of your draft, but the first ten rounds are definitely the foundation to your fantasy team. A solid foundation is essential to winning your fantasy leagues. You can strike gold off the waiver wire or hit big in the later rounds, but it’s all for nothing if you put your team in a hole to start off due to the poor foundation.

At this point in the draft my team is pretty balanced and now I take either the best value that falls to me or I target specific team needs. I build the remaining of this team around what statistic I am weakest on as that pick comes up. I essentially ignore ADP and get my guy. You cannot depend on players to fall to you so you have to make the picks that make most sense for your overall roster construction.

My Targets:

12-Teamers – Pick 10.120: Kyle Schwarber, Franmil Reyes, James Paxton, Justin Turner, Lance McCullers Jr., Carlos Carrasco

15-Teamers – Pick 10.150: Kenta Maeda, Lance McCullers Jr., J.D. Davis, Carlos Martinez, Willie Calhoun, Jorge Polanco, Matthew Boyd, Yasiel Puig

Keep in mind that come draft day, players may fall who you don't expect. Be ready to adapt accordingly. Stay tuned for more fantasy baseball content from us over here at RotoBaller!

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How a Revamped MLB Season will Impact Fantasy Baseball

No matter how this MLB season plays out it will look like something we have never seen before. Not only is the start of the season already delayed, but there is no definitive end in sight. If we do see baseball this season, the game is going to look very different. First, there will be certain rules in place for player safety that will change the look of the game. Rules like no fans in the crowd and no players in the dugout – that’s right, players would have to sit in the stands, which to me sounds pretty funny. MLB is thinking of different ways to ensure that there is a season. And while we are all rooting that there is, the truth is there will be a great impact on the fantasy baseball season.

The latest proposal is having teams play in their spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona. Instead of the National and American leagues, we will have the cactus and grapefruit leagues. Divisions and schedules would change, the ballparks teams call home will change, and even the weather will change. I discussed this with Scott Engel on RotoBaller Radio on Sirius XM this weekend (you can go back and listen on demand) and the more we talked, the more ways I thought how this will impact the fantasy season.

While this plan is not official yet, the likelihood is that if we do see baseball, it will be in a version like this. In different parks, in different cities, with players likely quarantined away from the rest of the world. We may not be able to watch baseball right now, but we can certainly still prepare for the fantasy baseball season! And knowing how these proposed changes will impact the game is the perfect place to start.

 

Different Divisions

The first big change in this proposal is making teams play in their spring training facility in either Florida or Arizona. Due to that, divisions would be changed for the season, based on the location of your spring facility, rather than the location of your MLB city. The proposed revamped divisions are below:

This would greatly change the schedule as teams naturally face teams in their divisions more. Additionally, I imagine MLB would try to limit the amount of times a team has to travel across the country. With many of these spring training facilities being near one another, it is much easier to travel in the same state than it is to fly across the country.

The first step is to dissect each division and how it will impact the players involved. Let’s start with the Grapefruit league. The North would see the Phillies, Tigers and Pirates join AL East foes Yankees and Blue Jays. Basically, swap out the Red Sox, Rays and Orioles from the AL East. To me, this is a clear boost for both the Yankees bats and arms. They now get to face two teams projected to finish towards the bottom of the standings (Tigers and Pirates) while not having another top-level team in their division.

There is a similar boost for Phillies players, although not as big cause they still have to face the Yanks. The other two Grapefruit league divisions are probably the hardest in baseball. The South is made up of the Red Sox, Twins, Braves, Rays and Orioles. This is a blow to the Rays pitchers, as they lose out on the Yankees and Blue Jays, but they get replaced by the tough lineups of the Braves and Twins.

In the West, we have the Astros and Cardinals joining the Mets, Nationals and Marlins in what can be considered the new NL East. Losing the Braves helps, but they also lose the Phillies and have to replace both with playoff teams in the Astros and Cardinals. This is a blow to all three NL East teams pitching staff. It also would be strange to see both World Series teams from last year sharing a division.

In the Cactus league you have the Cubs, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies and A’s in the Northeast. That is a competitive division, but there is no elite lineup or pitching staff to worry about. To me, that provides a boost to the teams involved. No team that won a division last year would play in this division.

The West includes the Dodgers, White Sox, Reds, Indians and Angels. That is a very competitive division, but I would still expect it to be dominated by the Dodgers. The pitching here takes the biggest hit, as all five teams can post competitive lineups, with the Indians likely being the weakest.

Lastly, the Northwest would be made up of the Brewers, Padres, Mariners, Rangers and Royals. Teams here get two punching bags in the Mariners and Royals and getting to face those lineups often is a clear boost in value for the pitchers in this division. Additionally, the Brewers, Padres and Rangers bats get a boost getting to pick on those weak rotations.

 

Different Ballparks

Under this proposal, teams would have to play in their spring training ballparks. Each MLB ballpark and environment are different. Some stadiums are defined as pitcher parks while others are favorable towards hitters. Those park factors will usually play at least a small part in a player’s fantasy value. Well, you can throw everything we know about park factors out the window if this happens. There will be new dimensions and parks for all 30 MLB teams under this proposal.

Perhaps no team will be impacted more by this than the Colorado Rockies. If you play fantasy baseball, you know the beast that is Coors Field. It is where bats go to produce, and pitchers usually go to get rocked. Last year the Rockies hit an MLB best .300 at home. No other team hit over .285 and only the Astros (.284) had over a .280 average at home. Additionally, their .222 team ISO at home was the second-best in all of baseball. Compare that to the road where they combined to hit an MLB worst .230 on the road with a .158 ISO (26th best in baseball).

The Rockies' bats literally went from being the best at home in terms of average, to the worst on the road. Getting to play 81 games at Coors is such an advantage for Rockies hitters, and yes, while they will be playing in Arizona where plenty are expecting the ball to carry well, they no longer have that upper hand on the rest of the playing field. The Rockies had that home-field advantage because it was something that only those players got to do. Now, if every player that gets to play in Arizona has the advantage of the ball carrying better, the Rockies are no longer special. They are suddenly on an even playing field.

Due to that, I would not want to draft the Rockies at their current price, because even if their numbers don’t take a huge hit, other players in the same environment now get a boost in value. The best example would be if half the league got to play their home games in Coors Field, you would no longer be pushing the Rockies players up the draft board.

But the opposite can be said for the Rockies pitchers. Last season their pitchers had an MLB worse 6.20 ERA at home. They also had a 5.29 FIP with a 19.3 percent strikeout rate at home. Those numbers improve to 4.92 ERA, 5.17 FIP with a 20.1 percent strikeout rate on the road. The biggest winner here is the Rockies best pitcher, German Marquez. Last season he pitched to a 5.01 ERA at home and 3.72 on the road. Coors Field is undefeated, and we all know that. That has been the biggest knock on Marquez the last two seasons. Well now, he won’t have to go up against Coors Field, which makes him an instant buy at his current price.

 

Weather

Both leagues will partake in warm weather states. In fact, both will be extremely hot in the summer. But there is one big difference between the two states: Florida is very humid, while Arizona is more of a dry heat. The ball carries well in warmer weather, but it carries even better in the dry air. I am sure that there will be studies based on this by people who know the effects of weather a lot better than I do, but in my simple understanding of how weather can impact baseball, it leads me to think that batters in the cactus league will have an advantage over those in the grapefruit league. However, the opposite effect will be had on the pitchers.

 

Condensed Schedules

MLB will try to have as many games played as possible. That means we could routinely see teams playing six or seven games per week. One idea is even scheduling doubleheaders (a proposed idea is a weekly double-header where each game is seven innings long). A schedule like this leads to less off-days, which means we could see players sit out more regularly. Especially given that they will potentially be playing outdoors in Florida and Arizona in the summer. The heat will naturally force people to take more time off than usual. This particularly worries me with older veterans and rookies, as both will likely sit more in an attempt to avoid hitting a wall.

It will be hard to predict exactly who will sit, but one thing is for certain to me: this only further devalues the catcher position. Catchers will be forced to sit more often due to less off-days in the schedule, the heat and potentially scheduled doubleheaders. I am never a fan of investing in the catcher position early, but this year I will adamantly be avoiding the early round catchers.

 

Delayed Start

We already know the season will not start on time. The belief though is that there will be a two-three week spring training before starting the MLB season. That can be enough time for hitters and relievers to get ramped up, but it may not be enough for starters to get stretched out. Due to that, I would be more inclined to draft those elite middle relievers that give you strikeouts and strong ratios and use them over fringe starting pitchers early on.

Once a pitcher shows that he is fully ready and can go a normal amount of innings you can start them. However, in the first couple of weeks there will be a lot of risk, especially if a pitcher can only go four or five innings. That gives you so little room for error, as one bad inning can completely blow up your ratios early on.

 

Quarantine if Injured or Leaving Team

Scott brought up a good point on our show that I hadn’t thought of. If a player has to leave the team facility due to injury or a personal reason, they will likely have to self-quarantine for two weeks before they can return to play. If a player suffers an injury that cannot be treated on site and they need to go to a hospital or any medical facility, then they will likely have to self-isolate.

The same can be said for any players who are expecting a child. Two superstars that come to mind are Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole. If they decide to be present for the birth of their child (and I mean who can blame them?) will those players have to self-isolate? Likely, yes, which means paternity leave may go from two to three days, to two to three weeks. This is a hard scenario to plan for, but it will certainly affect the season.

 

Minor League Players

It is already difficult enough to work out the logistics to have an MLB season this year. I think we can all kiss the minor league season goodbye. Instead, what has been discussed is having players stay with teams in their facilities and either have an expanded roster or a taxi squad. Something where these players will be with the team and ready for action if they are called upon. But rather than staying ready and further developing against other minor leaguers, they will be working out in the teams’ facility.

While I am sure they will all do as good a job as possible staying in shape, you simply cannot replicate live pitching. Especially if you are getting called up and seeing major league pitching for the first time. Going from the minors to the majors is already a huge jump and success is never a guarantee, but going from hitting in a cage to suddenly facing some of the top arms in the world? That is a way more substantial jump and makes me think we could see some prospects really struggle when they get the call. If this is the scenario that plays out, I will be lowering the prospects on my board and likely miss out on them for some safer options. I will also be less inclined to spend a bunch of FAAB on any mid-season call ups.

While we are not sure how the MLB season will definitely look like yet, we do know it will be nothing like we have ever seen before. Due to that, you need to throw away your old strategies and be ready to readjust as we go. As the old saying goes, “If you stay prepared, you never have to get prepared.” That is exactly what we are doing here with the game of fantasy baseball that we all love!

Make sure to send me any other ways you guys think this could impact the fantasy baseball season to me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy & Tips Editor Note Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

JB's Bullpen Method - Building Aces out of Relief Pitchers

If you read my Top 10 Draft Tips piece, you got a preview of the method I have been using for many years in fantasy baseball. It's really less of a method or strategy, and more a state of mind. The Bullpen Method is a lifestyle!

I always speak about the importance of balance on a fantasy team. For your pitching staff, I find this even more important. You need steady, solid, balance and, to be frank with you, that is not possible with a bunch of starting pitchers on your roster. Sure, you can attack Wins and Strikeouts, but your ERA and WHIP have no chance at survival. There are like 10 starting pitchers in all of baseball that I would trust with my team's ERA and WHIP, and you want to fill your roster with them?

When your draft day arrives before the start of the 2020 MLB season (hopefully soon), I encourage you to try my bullpen method for roster construction.

 

Breaking down JB's Bullpen Method

In a standard league, I will roster ~12 pitchers. Of the 12 pitchers, I will have five SP. That means the other seven are Relief Pitchers - and I don't care if they are closers right now or not. For years, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were my anchors, then Josh Hader emerged, and every year a new crop of setup studs emerge like Giovanny Gallegos. This is the Bullpen mentality, realizing that Starting Pitchers are heavily overrated in fantasy and subsequently relief pitchers (especially setup men) are heavily underrated. Once you come to this epiphany, you can immediately take advantage of the common industry mistake and instantly witness improvement on your teams.

*Disclaimer - Please do not attempt this method in Points Leagues. Points leagues are made for heavy-volume starters and the elite closers. This method absolutely crushes Roto leagues, where balance is king - but also works in H2H leagues where you can easily beat your opponent in 3 of 5 pitching categories (5 of 5 if you are a talented SP streamer). 

 

2019 Examples

Let's first look at some 2019 examples, shall we? Example 1 is the RotoBaller Expert Roto League.

I finished the season with 13 pitchers on the roster. As always, five of those were starters: Homer Bailey, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ryan Yarbrough, Tyler Glasnow, and Dylan Bundy. Typically in a vacuum with that rotation, I should have had no business being in even the top half of the league's standings, right? What if I told you I won the league with over 100 roto points? Bullpen Method to the rescue!

Since I told you just five of my 13 pitchers were starters, that means the other eight were obviously relievers. The eight RP on my roster were:

How hard do you think it was to draft this group of relievers last season? Extremely easy, and very cheap. All below 2.80 ERA and all below 1.09 WHIP. Sprinkle in all the saves you pick up along the way as they change roles in the bullpen and you've just won three of five pitching categories handily.

Let's look at another winning example from last year - this time in a H2H league. This time my five starters looked much better with Gerrit Cole, Clayton Kershaw, Charlie Morton, Robbie Ray, and Ryan Yarbrough. Again I went with 13 total pitchers, meaning once again I had eight relievers. Those eight relievers were:

  • Alex Colome (4 W, 30 SV, 55 K, 2.80 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
  • Trevor May (5 W, 2 SV, 79 K, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
  • Drew Pomeranz (2nd half - 57 K, 1.96 ERA, 0.82 WHIP)
  • Chad Green (2nd Half - 55 K, 2.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP)
  • Taylor Rogers (2 W, 30 SV, 90 K, 2.61 ERA, 1.00 WHIP)
  • Keone Kela (29.2 IP - 2 W, 1 SV, 33 K, 2.12 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)
  • Ross Stripling (4 W, 93 K, 3.47 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
  • Julio Urias (4 W, 4 SV, 85 K, 2.49 ERA, 1.08 WHIP)

As you can see with the added boost I had at SP, and it being a H2H league, I cared even less about finding Saves and focused more on the extra K from my bullpen while still nailing down the ERA and WHIP categories on a weekly basis. This is why I said earlier that the Bullpen Method is more of a mentality than an actual black and white strategy - you can tweak it based on the league and your roster build. We will look at some of the different drafting techniques within the method a little later.

 

Building Franken-Aces with Relievers

The first question most people ask when they see my drafts is - "How can you win without drafting aces?" Well, there are two answers. First, draft the sleepers that become aces. Duh, right? Like the Roto league example above, I was able to get Ryu and Glasnow for very cheap and for chunks of the season they were bonafide aces. That certainly helps. But the second and most important answer is YOU BUILD THEM WITH RELIEVERS. Like Frankenstein, you can put together a stud ace with unwanted scraps you find on the waiver wire or late in the draft.

Let's do some building. Take Brandon Workman and Emilio Pagan from 2019. Both were for the most part undrafted in leagues, or at-best late stashes because Boston's bullpen situation was sketchy. So now we have our unwanted scrap parts. Now let's combine their end of season stats. We get 14 W, 200 K, 2.10 ERA, and 0.93 WHIP. Now let's compare. Clayton Kershaw finished 2019 with 16 W, 189 K, 3.03 ERA, and 1.04 WHIP. Our Franken-Ace easily has him beat.

But he was only SP11, so let's now look at the SP4, Zack Greinke. He finished 2019 with 18 W, 187 K, 2.93 ERA, and 0.98 WHIP. Franken-Ace still has the SP4 easily beat in three of the four "SP" categories. Oh, and don't forget Workman and Pagan combined for 36 Saves too. Franken-Ace is a five category monster that only took two relief pitchers to build, and I carry six of these relievers at a minimum meaning I can build at least three of these aces.

"But those are two breakout stud relievers that became closers. They are the exception." Fair enough. Let's try another Franken-Ace, this time without closers because closers are the best relievers right? Silly simpletons. Let's go with two setup men that I also owned multiple shares of last year: Seth Lugo and Giovanny Gallegos. So we have our new unwanted scrap parts. When we combine their end of season stats we get 10 W, 197 K, 2.51 ERA, and 0.86 WHIP. Now, let's look at Jack Flaherty who is being drafted in the second round of most drafts for 2020. He finished 2019 with 11 W, 231 K, 2.75 ERA, and 0.97 WHIP. This ace tied the Franken-Ace 2-2 in the four SP categories, but by only ONE win and 34 K, and again he loses in the Saves department to break the tie.

What the hell, let's do one more. This time let's do a second-half Franken-Ace because remember, the Bullpen Method is not solely a draft strategy. It is a mentality that is fluid and lasts the entire season. Relievers are like any other position in baseball, they have splits. They can start off cold and finish hot, and just as easily vice-versa. This is why I picked up Chad Green and Drew Pomeranz after rough starts to 2019. So we have our unwanted scraps. Let's say I put them together during the All-Star break to make a second-half Franken-Ace. Combine their second-half stats: 2 W, 112 K, 2.43 ERA, and 0.89 WHIP.

Next, let's look at one of the best 2019 second-half SP performers, Yu Darvish. Over the same timeframe, he earned 4 W, 118 K, 2.76 ERA, 0.81 WHIP. Bravo, Mr. Darvish, you defeated our second half Franken-Ace, but it was a very close fight and against two relievers that were way off standard league radars. The Green/Pomeranz combination was a lethal weapon down the fantasy playoff stretch last year and was a perfect mid-season pivot from first-half darlings such as John Gant. Fluidity. There is always a reliever on the waiver wire that has what you are looking for. Don't get wrapped up in names or roles, just current production.

Wasn't that fun? So we are not only making Franken-Aces out of late-round picks/ free agent pickups, but at the same time our offense is STACKED because while the rest of the league was wasting picks on their starting pitchers in the early rounds, we were grabbing the elite bats. That is the heart and soul of the Bullpen Method, and why it is so deadly. You are stacking your offensive categories and then winning/catching up on pitching categories on the back end without breaking a sweat.

 

JBullpen Method Drafting Strategies

As I have said numerous times already in this article, and will probably say a few more times - this is not a black and white strategy. You can't say "I drafted Blake Treinen and Edwin Diaz in 2019 because JB said relievers were better than starters and they both sucked so I lost." That's why it is more a state of mind, where names and roles don't matter. All you care about is numbers. If one guy isn't getting it done, move on, even if he is getting saves.

With that being said, I have noticed over the years that the drafting strategy, specifically how you handle starting pitchers and closers really doesn't matter with the Bullpen Method which is what makes it so cool. You can get five true aces as your starting pitchers, or you can get one ace and four mid-late round starters, or you can wait until round 10 to get your first starter. Names don't matter. Those five arms are there to get you IP, W, and K to keep you afloat in those categories while your bullpen does the rest.

I ran some mock drafts with the three main draft techniques to prove it and to also show you just how flexible you can be. Because the best drafting strategy is to always take what the league gives you. I broke down the drafts into three categories: Pitching Light, Pitching Heavy, and Don't Pay for Saves. Let's see how they looked.

I used FantasyPros for the mocks with 5x5 Roto categories, 28 roster spots, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CIF, MIF, OF x 5, UTIL x 2, P x 9, Bench x 5.

Pitching Light (1 x SP, 2 x RP in first 14 Rounds)

This draft technique is my favorite with the Bullpen Method. I get one true stud SP after a few elite bats, usually in the Mike Clevinger, Yu Darvish, Clayton Kershaw range of names. Then I grab some elite relievers that happen to fall into my lap for those elite ratios. But other than that, the first half of the draft is all about the bats. I can get basically whatever hitters I want and really blow the league away offensively. Then, hit the pitching fast and furious in the second half in usually an OCD-driven SP-RP-SP-RP pattern until I have filled my five-man rotation. Let's see how the projections look:

This is the prototypical league roto rankings layout for my teams. My offense is competing for the top spot in all categories because of the number of first-half picks on the stud hitters. Saves, ERA, and WHIP are locked in - despite only have three pitchers at round 14. That is the power of the Bullpen. Some successful SP-streaming throughout the season can vastly improve the W and K totals for some extra first-place padding, especially in daily-roster move leagues.

 

Pitching Heavy (5 x SP, 3 x RP in first 14 Rounds)

You will NEVER see me utilizing this strategy, and you will shortly see why. Going inverse from the last and most-preferred strategy of Pitching Light, we now go eight pitchers in the first half of the draft and attempt to build our offense with value bats in the second half while also sprinkling in our stud setup men.

***So obviously we expect the hitting categories to take a hit in this strategy where we focus on our pitchers early instead of loading up on bats. But the big shocker and the proof of Bullpen Method is the pitching categories. In this strategy, we drafted Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Charlie Morton along with some elite closers and the pitching projections look the exact same as our Pitching Light strategy where we only had ONE starting pitcher in the first 14 rounds.

 

Don't Pay for Saves (5 x SP, 1 x RP in first 14 rounds)

I may have been too harsh on the fantasy aces with that last drafting strategy. So in this one I try to balance it out between Pitching Light and Pitching Heavy by eliminating those early closer picks to allow a better offense while still having your "aces."

As you can see, yes the saves dropped (it's in the name of the strategy), but once again the ERA and WHIP remain studly and the offense is more balanced than it was in Pitching Heavy as shown below.

 

2020 RP Targets

This season, once I reach the second half of the draft and start filling my rotation and bullpen, these are some late-round relievers I'm targeting in my personal order of attack:

Seth Lugo, NYM - 256 ADP (2020 ATC Proj: 72 IP, 4 W, 3.14 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 83 K, 4 SV)
As a reliever, he now owns a 2.52 ERA and 10.04 K/9 over 178 career IP. Last season was the first in which he remained in the bullpen for the whole year, and it paid dividends for fantasy owners like me. 80 IP, 104 K, 2.70 ERA, and 0.90 WHIP which was good for RP12 in fantasy. Give me those high innings and K along with the elite ratios. 

Ryan Pressly, HOU - 292 ADP (61 IP, 3 W, 3.06 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 78 K, 6 SV)
Yes, he is amazing.

Diego Castillo, TB - 364 ADP (64 IP, 4 W, 3.31 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 76 K, 8 SV)
In 2019, Castillo seemed to take a small step backward from the promising rookie campaign as his ERA and WHIP rose to 3.41 and 1.24 respectively. But if you remove the 7.1 innings when he operated as an "opener", his ERA was actually just 3.08. With those opener innings erased, Castillo was the only reliever in baseball with at least a 50 GB% and double-digit K/9, with an ERA under 4.00 and HR/9 under 1.00. He also got even better as the year wore on. After the All-Star break, he posted a 2.88 ERA (2.89 FIP) with a massive 11.27 K/9, and best-of-all lowered his walk rate to just 7%. He checks all the boxes. He has the strikeout upside, he prevents line drives, he limits hard-hit fly balls, and he's still only 26 years old.

Drew Pomeranz, SD - 342 ADP (62 IP, 2 W, 3.50 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 76 K. 5 SV)
Finishing the season as a reliever, Pomeranz threw 28.2 IP with a 1.88 ERA, 15.70 K/9, and a 51.1 GB%. He held opposing hitters to a .165 BA and boasted a 1.67 xFIP. The K/9 was good for third-highest among RP with 20+ IP, and only Brandon Workman also had a top-30 K/9, GB% above 50%, and an ERA below 2.00. Yes, it is a small sample size, but Pomeranz would not be the first SP to flourish after a move to the pen. The upside is yyyyuuuuuggggeeee. 

Chad Green, NYY - 364 ADP (67 IP, 4 W, 3.62 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 90 K, 1 SV)
There are plenty of pleasantries to take away from Green's 2019 season. The first is the strikeouts remained constant. His 12.78 K/9 fell smack dab in the middle of his 2017 and 2018 totals. His O-Swing%, Contact%, and SwStr% were also all on par. The second positive is Green has remained healthy for three straight seasons and his velocity remains intact. The third positive was a very strong second half of the season which bodes well for his 2020 outlook. Green started the season just about as bad as one could, allowing 14 ER in his first 7.2 IP. But the Yankees got creative, even used him as an opener, and he responded in a great way. After the All-Star break, Green allowed just a 2.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, .176 BAA, 0.72 HR/9, and the BABIP dropped drastically. He is the Robin to my Seth Lugo Batman. 

Ross Stripling, LAD - 334 ADP (93 IP, 6 W, 3.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 93 K, 0 SV)
Last year it was Julio Urias as my main "Swingman" that could get me multi-inning relief outings with a surplus of strikeouts while still giving me great ratios. This year Stripling is my guy. I don't hate that he will sprinkle in some starts throughout the year either to help the team's W and K numbers.

Emilio Pagan, SD - 273 ADP (65 IP, 3 W, 3.31 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 82 K, 3 SV)
Much like Taylor Rogers, Emilio Pagan enjoyed a career-year in 2019 which resulted in earning the closer role. His 12.34 K/9 was a personal best, as was his GB%. Also in tune with Taylor Rogers, Pagan increased his slider usage which resulted in a 7% increase in O-Swing%, 5% decrease in Contact%, and raised his SwStr% to a very impressive 17.6%. His fastball was equally impressive as it gained a slight uptick in velo which led the way with a 42.1 K%. Obviously, for 2020 he is a cemented setup man after his trade to the Padres, but the skills will certainly still play. 

Aaron Bummer, CWS - 399 ADP (62 IP, 2 W, 3.20 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 60 K, 2 SV)
Huge ground-ball guy, which I love, and his 2019 ratios were just fantastic. If he can increase the strikeout rates back to even the 9.95 from 2018, Bummer will be a huge fantasy asset in 2020.

 

Weekly Leagues

It makes sense that the Bullpen Method is much easier to pull off in daily roster leagues, where you can change your lineup every day. This means you can maximize your SP starts and your reliever innings by swapping RP daily to avoid off-days. In weekly roster leagues, it certainly gets more challenging, but I also love the complexity it adds. Each week, you get to analyze and determine your "Ratio," a.k.a. how many SP and how many RP you will utilize in that week's starting lineup. My baseline is usually 4:5, especially if I have a two-start SP but it will fluctuate week-to-week based on pitchers' schedules and my place in the standings.

You aren't going to want to start a one-start SP on the road versus the Yankees so why not replace him with four clean innings from one of your stud relievers instead? That same week you could have an SP at Coors too, now you might be looking at a 3:6 ratio. Likewise, if you have five SP with either two-start weeks or great match-ups, go 5:4 and do some catch-up in W and K. Your fantasy-managerial skills will be tested, but your Sunday nights/Monday mornings will certainly be more exciting and/or filled with anxiety. Bottom line this method can work in any type of league, as long as you are being proactive.

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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.

 

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.

More Points Leagues Analysis




Categories
2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Busts & Overvalued Players 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy & Tips 2020 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Draft Targets Editor Note Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Break the League: CBS Points League Ranker

Much like their milquetoast television lineup, CBS points leagues are like a warm bath of mediocrity. Are they great? No-oooo, but are they awful? Also, no. I mean, you're never really going to want to watch a Chuck Lorre sitcom or the latest chapter in naval policing, but they can still serve a purpose. Because sometimes you just want something droning on in the background while you answer emails and check Twitter.

Unfortunately, they aren't completely benign, as CBS offers users suspect player rankings and player projections that don't seem very likely of ever matching reality. But at least they don't seem to do it in ways that sometimes seem almost designed to frustrate points players to the point of quitting and forever blaspheming against the format. And that's something! The simplistic CBS roster settings might seem creaky - with the limited slots making it hard for users to properly value players - but at least they didn't do what Yahoo did! I don't have a whole side of beef for CBS but milquetoast is still terrible and I'm still hungry... let's go.

This article will cover the best fantasy baseball points league strategies for dominating CBS leagues after we recently introduced RotoBaller's CBS Points League Ranker Tool, which is designed to give players an even bigger 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 recently published. You can read the rest of this Point League Ranker series as well covering Yahoo, Fantrax and ESPN platforms.

 

Strings That Control the System

The two components that ultimately control a player's value are which categories are scored and how rosters are required to be constructed. Both are supremely important and must be accounted for when judging a player's worth.

Default Roster Size: C - 1B - 2B - 3B - SS - OF (3) - UT - SP (5) - RP (2)

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 ESPN 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 who would be starters in ESPN but are on the waiver wire in CBS, with default roster construction.

Then there's the matter of the pitching, with CBS having specific slots for starters and relievers, as opposed to ESPN, Fantrax, and NFBC that all use nine generic pitcher slots. Not only do relievers gain more value by virtue of having their own designated slots but the value of starters is dramatically affected by only having five slots available. That means only 60 starting pitchers above replacement-level, which in turn makes the cream of the crop that much creamier.

 

Default Point Scoring

Batting Points Pitching Points
Single 1 Win 7
Double 2 Loss -5
Triple 3 Save 7
Home Run 4 Inning 3
RBI 1 Quality Start 3
Run 1 Strikeout 0.5
Base on Balls 1 Base on Balls -1
Stolen Base 2 Hits Allowed -1
Hit by Pitch 1 Earned Runs -1
Strikeout -0.5 Hits Batsman -1
Caught Stealing -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. CBS scoring is nearly identical to ESPN, with the main difference being that CBS takes a half-point per strikeout compared to the full point that ESPN charges batters for a whiff. This small difference, along with the much smaller rosters, dramatically alters value between the two platforms even as their settings seem so similar.

Pitcher Takeaways

Getting only a half-point for strikeouts and rewarding quality starts will affect pitcher values the most when compared to other platforms. The best fantasy pitchers usually separate themselves with elite K-rates but getting just the half-point serves to close the gap between the normally top-tier pitchers and ones whose mediocre K-rates would usually limit their ceiling on other platforms. And whether you like them or not, quality starts will earn pitchers three points on top of the seven points they can get for a win. This additional scoring category adds a lot of value to quality-start machines like Jose Berrios and Madison Bumgarner.

 

Simulated Nonsense

Points players (and especially new ones) are often much more reliant on the data and rankings provided to them by their chosen platform than roto players are. You can do research for your roto league by going to a dozen different places to see how many home runs, strikeouts, ERA, etc, that Player X is projected to have but you won't know how those stats translate to value in your chosen points league unless you do the work yourself (or find someone to do it for you). That makes it incumbent on platforms to put out projections, rankings, and ADP that properly reflect how scoring behaves in their system.

There are four direct resources that CBS makes available to points players for draft prep. The projected points based off of their site player projections (and the subsequent rankings), their format-specific ADP, Scott White's top-300 rankings, and Sportsline's top-300 rankings. However, two of these resources are acting like some sort of broke-down, discount Skynet.

There seems to be something absolutely insane kind of off with the rankings provided by CBS partner Sportsline. I'm clueless about their methodology, outside of knowing that they base projections around running numerous computer simulations, but some of the data seems so obviously wrong that it's hard to trust the rest. For example, #264 Bryce Harper.

There is also the projected points provided on-site, which have just as many giant question marks within the data. For example, #208 Bryce Harper. While it's unclear if these projections are also powered by Sportsline, it wouldn't be surprising given how much overlap there is in regards to which players hold the strangest valuations. Here's a selection of reasons you may want to take both the Sportsline top-300 rankings and CBS's projected points with a giant rock of salt:

NAME ADP ATC Points CBS Points Top 300
Max Scherzer 13 10 78 40
George Springer 19 27 11 7
Bryce Harper 34 18 208 264
Nelson Cruz 45 86 8 24
Jose Abreu 47 74 27 22
J.D. Martinez 47 21 57 118
Trea Turner 48 23 77 114
Mike Clevinger 49 92 273 208
Aaron Nola 53 50 248 182
Ozzie Albies 64 29 105 115
Gary Sanchez 69 220 347 142
Lance McCullers Jr. 71 260 72 36
Yordan Alvarez 74 36 NR NR
Sean Manaea 84 202 94 49
Paul Goldschmidt 88 43 316 NR
Eugenio Suarez 116 80 245 NR
Kevin Pillar 124 334 51 53
Mike Moustakas 134 56 86 212
Mike Tauchman 135 312 62 61
Mark Canha 151 194 75 78
Starlin Castro 159 167 107 117
Hunter Dozier 161 184 74 179
Josh Phegley 209 447 349 143
Brian Goodwin 237 416 139 173

These are not the projections you are looking for. Move along. However, while you shouldn't be using these resources to draft from, that doesn't mean your opponents won't be. And that makes the information useful. Regardless of skill level, many players will rely only on the projected points and ADP that their platform provides. I've been in many points drafts this offseason and most of them have been against other industry folks. I promise you that many of them didn't make their own spreadsheets and were drafting by making mental adjustments to the site's projected point totals. Seriously, everyone does it.

Looking at the ADP CBS provides - which is specific to the format - many of them only make sense if you presume that many players are using the site's projected points to make their draft decisions. Why does Lance McCullers have a 71 ADP? Because players trust when they see that CBS projects him to score the 72nd-most points and Sportsline has him as their #36 player. ATC projects J.D. Martinez to score the 21st-most points (24th in PAR) in 2020, yet his 47 ADP leads me to believe that people are drafting him more in line with the CBS projections that call for him to score the 57th-most points.

Call me crazy, but I'm trusting Ariel Cohen - 2019's most accurate ranker and creator of ATC - over the system that is projecting Bryce Harper to score a half-point more than Rio Ruiz. Never assume that your opponents are using anything more sophisticated than the projections provided by the platform. Take advantage of that misguided trust whenever possible.

 

Solving the CBS Points Puzzle

The general axiom of pitching being king in points leagues is true to a tee on CBS, even though it may not seem that way on the surface. Looking at just projected points doesn't give justice to how deep hitting is given how tight the rosters are. Having only three outfielders and no swing spots for infielders makes a large difference in values and should be leveraged in drafts by adjusting for the position. Projected points also don't show just how valuable elite pitching is once you take these replacement levels into account. Take a look at the top-30 projected scorers in 2020 according to ATC projections:

Rank NAME POS Points
1 Mike Trout OF 620
2 Gerrit Cole SP 620
3 Cody Bellinger 1B/OF 598
4 Jacob deGrom SP 594
5 Mookie Betts OF 588
6 Alex Bregman 3B/SS 584
7 Christian Yelich OF 582
8 Juan Soto OF 579
9 Francisco Lindor SS 559
10 Max Scherzer SP 559
11 Ronald Acuna Jr. OF 557
12 Nolan Arenado 3B 555
13 Shohei Ohtani SP/DH 553
14 Jose Ramirez 3B 551
15 Freddie Freeman 1B 545
16 Walker Buehler SP 542
17 Shane Bieber SP 531
18 Bryce Harper OF 529
19 Rafael Devers 3B 526
20 Anthony Rendon 3B 524
21 J.D. Martinez OF 524
22 Jack Flaherty SP 510
23 Trea Turner SS 504
24 Stephen Strasburg SP 504
25 Trevor Story SS 503
26 Zack Greinke SP 502
27 George Springer OF 498
28 Anthony Rizzo 1B 498
29 Ozzie Albies 2B 496
30 Xander Bogaerts SS 494

There are eight pitchers in the top-30 projected scorers (not counting Ohtani) with just three projected in the top-10. While comparing pitchers and hitters isn't always a straightforward relationship, it's worth noting just how much pitcher values increase when using points-above-replacement (PAR) instead of just projected points, as the composition of the top-30 changes drastically. Not only does the number of pitchers in the top-30 rise from eight players to 14 but more pitchers are projected to return near a first-round value, with four pitchers projected in the top-seven and seven in the top-15:

Rank NAME POS PAR
1 Gerrit Cole SP 301
2 Jacob deGrom SP 274
3 Mike Trout OF 257
4 Max Scherzer SP 240
5 Cody Bellinger 1B/OF 235
6 Mookie Betts OF 225
7 Walker Buehler SP 222
8 Christian Yelich OF 219
9 Juan Soto OF 216
10 Shane Bieber SP 211
11 Alex Bregman 3B/SS 204
12 Ronald Acuna Jr. OF 194
13 Jack Flaherty SP 191
14 Freddie Freeman 1B 187
15 Stephen Strasburg SP 185
16 Zack Greinke SP 183
17 Nolan Arenado 3B 181
18 Francisco Lindor SS 179
19 Jose Ramirez 3B 177
20 Shohei Ohtani SP/DH 173
21 Patrick Corbin SP 171
22 Bryce Harper OF 166
23 Luis Castillo SP 165
24 J.D. Martinez OF 161
25 Justin Verlander SP 159
26 Clayton Kershaw SP 153
27 Rafael Devers 3B 152
28 Anthony Rendon 3B 150
29 Jose Berrios SP 146
30 Aaron Nola SP 144

 

Draft Plan of Attack

1. Early Pitching Storm

With as large of a gap as there is between Cole/deGrom and the rest of the top pitchers, I'm taking them over anyone besides Trout and will aim for getting two of the top-five pitchers with my first picks. This is an easily achievable goal going by CBS ADP, which is more trustworthy given that it's available specific to the format. As mentioned previously, only getting one-half point per strikeout helps shrink the gaps between pitchers the lower you go down the lists. This helps make truly elite starters the game's scarcest resource and I would likely use at least two (and possibly all three) of my first three picks on these premier arms. Having a starting duo that is some combination of Cole/deGrom/Scherzer/Buehler will be a dominating advantage in this format and I know how easily I can make up offensive value later in the draft.

2. Avalanche of Bats 

After I hit pitchers early, I'm dropping the hammer on bats for multiple rounds. While I might take an opportunity to grab a pitcher like Aaron Nola (53 ADP, 30th in PAR) or Trevor Bauer (59 ADP, 31st in PAR) to further temper my elite staff, I likely wouldn't take more than one more pitcher until after pick #100. Using PAR as my guide, I'm looking to get a round or two of surplus value with every batter I draft during this period. I'm also usually going to watch my opponents continually take players that carry projected negative-value relative to their draft price, multiplying the advantage I'll have already gained by drafting properly valued players. Some examples:

3. Pivot Back to Pitching

There are numerous pitchers going after pick 100 who project to be top-75 and top-100 players, giving me a chance to solidly my already strong pitching staff with tremendous values. Here are some examples, sorted by ADP with player ranks by CBS projected points and ATC projected PAR:

PLAYER ADP CBS Rank PAR Rank
Madison Bumgarner 105 152 66
Sonny Gray 108 172 60
Kyle Hendricks 108 119 84
Max Fried 111 187 83
German Marquez 113 133 75
Hyun-Jin Ryu 117 162 88
Eduardo Rodriguez 122 207 50
Lance Lynn 138 307 53
Matthew Boyd 166 269 100

3. Don't Forget About Relievers

This is also a good time to remember that you will need relievers (or starters with RP-eligibility) and these middle rounds are a good time to address those needs. I'm not opposed to grabbing Josh Hader (53 ADP, 35th in PAR) or Aroldis Chapman (74 ADP, 64th in PAR) in order to lock up an elite option. But the price really needs to be right, though, as their likely draft price is right in the middle of the rounds where I'm going to be looking primarily for hitters. Besides, I'm confident that there will be numerous great options available later.

Relievers to Target:

PLAYER ADP PAR Rank
Roberto Osuna 90 59
Kirby Yates 103 76
Edwin Diaz 123 96
Brad Hand 141 118
Hector Neris 149 112
Kenta Maeda 162 119
Archie Bradley 169 138
Raisel Iglesias 176 132

 

Finishing Strong

Even though you have four bench spots available, I'm probably only drafting one extra hitter. Given the shallowness of offensive roster slots, the waiver wire should stay hopping with talent all season so I won't feel much pressure to load up on backups. I'm going to spend the last rounds rounding out my pitching staff but I'll also probably still be lacking an offensive starter or two, even as late as the 15th round in what's just a 20-round draft. That's because I know I can fill out my starting roster with hidden offensive gems that will give me above-replacement value for the relative cost of pennies.

Let's close up shop today by looking at a few players like this at each position, as well as a few that will look better on someone else's team.

Outfielder

NAME ADP PAR Rank Difference
Justin Upton 151 207 -56
Franmil Reyes 175 134 +41
Byron Buxton 187 275 -88
Bryan Reynolds 191 139 +52
Aristides Aquino 193 448 -255
Oscar Mercado 204 165 +39
A.J. Pollock 208 358 -150
Nick Senzel 226 320 -94
Adam Eaton 227 153 +74
Lorenzo Cain 244 169 +75

First Base

NAME ADP PAR Rank Difference
Edwin Encarnacion 161 133 +28
Joey Votto 178 148 +30
Luke Voit 192 218 -26
Eric Hosmer 201 154 +47
Daniel Murphy 209 247 -38
Christian Walker 217 240 -23

Second Base

The keystone is very unique because it is overvalued almost completely across the board. My advice would be to just draft Ozzie Albies and be done with it but here are the first 22 players being drafted so you can see what I mean:

NAME ADP PAR Rank Difference
Jose Altuve 22 48 -26
Ketel Marte 40 47 -7
DJ LeMahieu 43 93 -50
Ozzie Albies 64 40 +24
Max Muncy 66 94 -28
Whit Merrifield 67 109 -42
Keston Hiura 90 115 -25
Jeff McNeil 108 110 -2
Eduardo Escobar 117 101 +16
Mike Moustakas 134 74 +60
Cavan Biggio 138 152 -14
Tommy Edman 146 195 -49
Starlin Castro 159 214 -55
Luis Arraez 166 231 -65
Gavin Lux 185 248 -63
Brandon Lowe 187 246 -59
Rougned Odor 190 210 -20
Ryan McMahon 205 251 -46
Michael Chavis 205 399 -194
Kolten Wong 210 276 -66
Robinson Cano 223 310 -87
Cesar Hernandez 225 192 +33

Third Base

NAME ADP PAR Rank Difference
Miguel Sano 157 198 -41
Hunter Dozier 161 252 -91
Brian Anderson 193 181 +12
Kyle Seager 223 209 +14

Shortstop

NAME ADP PAR Rank Difference
Paul DeJong 198 142 +56
Andrelton Simmons 208 285 -77
Jose Peraza 220 472 -252
Elvis Andrus 227 149 +78
Nick Ahmed 259 226 +33

Catcher

NAME ADP PAR Rank Difference
Robinson Chirinos 200 267 -67
Tom Murphy 203 316 -113
Carson Kelly 209 156 +53
Christian Vazquez 216 170 +46

Starting Pitchers

NAME ADP PAR Rank Difference
Joe Musgrove 183 125 +58
Andrew Heaney 189 135 +54
Merrill Kelly 205 334 -129
Alex Wood 206 341 -135
Homer Bailey 214 366 -152
Marco Gonzales 226 128 +98
Cole Hamels 233 350 -117
Reynaldo Lopez 249 174 +75

 

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 CBS Points league, these rankers, which sit 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.

More Points Leagues Analysis




Categories
2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Busts & Overvalued Players 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy & Tips Editor Note MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Slow-Starting Hitters to Avoid in 2020

This fantasy baseball season is going to be strange, and there is nothing you can do to change that. What you can do is try to come up with a strategy that best sets your team up for success in this world of the unknown that currently exists. While we do not know when the baseball season will begin, it is a safe bet at this point to assume we will have a reduced season. Whether it be 80, 100 or 120 games (my guess is around 100), it will be unlike any season you have ever played before.

One way this will impact the fantasy season was brought to my attention on Twitter in a conversation between two very respected fantasy baseball analysts and players: Matt Modica and Rob Silver. The two were discussing how a slow start for a player will be harder to overcome than ever because there are simply fewer games to make up for it. Typically, analysts will say not to panic and to try to buy low during slow starts. However, April is typically just one out of six months. If a batter plays 30 games in March/April, it would be just 19 percent of a regular 162-game season. The same slow start in a 100-game season would equate to 30 percent of the season, indicating that the room for error shrinks dramatically. The smaller the sample size, the more a bad stretch hurts.

It is important to find players that historically get off to slow starts, but there is no perfect science to identify them. Three years is the perfect range because there is too much noise in using just a one-year sample size. I also wanted to avoid going too many years back, because I wanted players to be around the talent level they are now. The stats used are every hitter's April performance from the past three seasons compared to the rest of the season (May-Sept) in the same three-season span. Metrics are used instead of raw numbers (HR, runs, RBI) because a one-month sample is clearly going to be insufficient when compared to five months. Strategically, it is preferable to avoid players with slow starts in a shortened season draft. Rather than draft them and get into an early-season hole, avoid them and attempt to trade for them when the team with them is falling down the standing, panicking quicker than in a normal season.

 

Avoiding Hitters Who Get Off to Slow Starts  

Alex Bregman is a borderline first-round pick, but there are people who are concerned with how the Astros will perform this season. I am more concerned that he has a history of getting off to slow starts. In the last three seasons, his average in the first month of the season is .260, and his ISO is .125. In the rest of the season, his three-year norm for batting average is .294, and his ISO is .268. That is a difference of .034 in average and a whopping .143 ISO. That is the largest gap in ISO in the entire league. And, to make sure there wasn’t just one really bad start dragging him down, I looked at each of the last three seasons individually. In all three seasons, his lowest ISO of any month was the first month of the season.

His April average was a low point in 2018 and the second-lowest of his season in 2017. Additionally, I am not as concerned that cold weather was a factor in that slow start (cause I believe that greatly impacts some players) since the Astros play in a dome. I think Bregman will be the ultimate buy-low player if he gets off to a slow start this season. Those who drafted him will think it is all the boos and such getting to him. You buy him for a discount and get the MVP caliber play out of him. But as for drafting him? This is scaring me off of using a first-round pick on him.

Edwin Encarnacion was a player I was drafting quite often because I believe that he is one of the best values on the board each year. However, he is also a notoriously slow starter. Over the last three seasons, Encarnacion has had a batting average .063 points lower and an ISO .065 lower in April than the rest of the season. I wanted to take it a step further with Encarnacion because he was not bad last April, and the two seasons prior he played in the cold weather in Cleveland. However, April is by far his worst career month in average and ISO. His career average in April is .236, and his ISO is .195. I still think Encarnacion is a good value where he goes, but I am starting to like the idea of letting someone else draft him and buying if he gets off to a slow first couple of weeks.

Giancarlo Stanton is another player I had to take it a step further. I threw away 2019 for Stanton because he hardly played. He got off to a really bad start in 2018, but that could be viewed as circumstantial, as he was in a new league, on a new team, in a cold city no less. But, looking at his career splits, April is by far the worst month of his career. His .251 average and .231 ISO in April are both his lowest in any month.

Stanton is in a weird spot right now. Currently, he is a good value in drafts because he is no longer a lock to miss any time at the start. Due to the suppressed ADP, I am okay drafting him. But, I expect when we have a start date for the season, and it is widely realized that Stanton is healthy, he will climb back up to the fourth or fifth round. If that happens, given his history as a slow starter and the injury risk, I will let someone else draft him and attempt to buy low if he starts slow again.

Anthony Rizzo is a known slow starter. Remember the trend as of late? He would start the season off slowly, and then Joe Maddon would let him hit leadoff for a couple games, and he would get going. Over the last three seasons, Rizzo’s average is .077 points lower in the first month than the rest of the season, while the ISO is .029 percentage points lower. In his career, April is by far his worst average of any month, at .241. The one risk in these numbers is that Rizzo plays in cold Chicago. It will no longer be cold and windy at the start of this new season, but summer weather. I am not fully avoiding Rizzo because of his slow starts in the past, but I will use it as a tie-breaker if I am debating between him and another player.

Yasiel Puig has two things working against him in the early part of the season: he still does not have a team, and he is historically a slow starter. Over the last three seasons, his average in the first month of the season is .207, while his ISO is .141. The average is 0.72 points lower than his rest-of-season norm, while the ISO is .088 lower. Puig is sort of in a unique scenario. He is quickly falling in drafts: I got him in round 19 of a 15-team draft last week. At that price, he is pure upside. But, if he signs with a team, I expect him to shoot back up draft boards, and in that case, I would be avoiding him.

Yuli Gurriel has sported an average that is .035 points lower in April and an ISO that is .053 points lower. Gurriel has struggled out of the gate in recent seasons, including in 2019, when he had a career year. There is a lot working against Gurriel; one is that he is coming off of a career season where he put up numbers that he could only dream of prior to last year. I have a tough time buying into a player coming off a career season, especially one with an unpleasant Statcast profile (see below). He also has to deal with all the scrutiny that the Astros will face this season and will no longer have the privilege of knowing what pitch is coming. Add in the fact that he is a slow starter, and Gurriel is a hard pass for me.

There is one team that has been plagued by offensive slow starts, and that is the Rockies. You can pick any of their big bats, Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, Ryan McMahon, Charlie Blackmon, and they are all worse in April. In fact, Blackmon is the only one whose ISO is not lower in April than the rest of the season, while all of their averages are lower than the opening month.

The one caveat is they typically open the season in Denver when that Rocky Mountain cold air is still present. As the weather heats up, we know these bats will. Now they will be starting when it is warm, so the weather vs slow starters will really be tested here. Of all the players listed, the Rockies bats are the ones I am least scared off of due to a slow start. But, you best believe if any of these guys start off slow, I will be looking to buy for a discount.

 

Others with a Worst Average in the Opening Month

Next to the players' name will be the decrease in average a player has in April, compared to the rest of the season. In Parentheses will be their three-year April average and then the three-year rest of season norm.

Ramon Laureano, -.067 (.234 April avg, .300 ROS avg)

Jackie Bradley Jr., -.065 (.179 April avg, .244 ROS avg)

Ketel Marte, -.063 (.238 April avg, .300 ROS avg)

Byron Buxton, -.058 (.201 April avg, .259 ROS avg)

Matt Carpenter, -.055 (.198 April avg, .253 ROS avg)

Eddie Rosario, -.048 (.245 April avg, .292 ROS avg)

Brett Gardner, -.046 (.213 April avg, .259 ROS avg)

Juan Soto, -.044 (.248 April avg, .291 ROS avg)

Rougned Odor, -.043 (.181 April avg, .224 ROS avg)

Andrew McCutchen, -.042 (.232 April avg, .274 ROS avg)

Starling Marte, -.042 (.249 April avg, .291 ROS avg)

Jose Ramirez, -.033 (.256 April avg, .289 ROS avg)

Carlos Santana, -.032 (.230 April avg, .262 ROS avg)

Jesus Aguilar, -.029 (.236 April avg, .265 ROS avg)

 

Others with a Worst ISO in the Opening Month

Next to the players' name will be the decrease in ISO a player has in April, compared to the rest of the season. In Parentheses will be their three-year April average ISO and then the three-year rest of season norm.

Justin Turner, -.127 (.104 April ISO, .230 ROS ISO)

Jurickson Profar, -.126 (.089 April ISO, .215 ROS ISO)

Ramon Laureano, -.121 (.121 April ISO, .242 ROS ISO)

Jesus Aguilar, -.119 (.124 April ISO, .244 ROS ISO)

J.D. Martinez, -.117 (.204 April ISO, .321 ROS ISO)

Rafael Devers, -.111 (.126 April ISO, .237 ROS ISO)

Jackie Bradley Jr., -.108 (.083 April ISO, .191 ROS ISO)

Randal Grichuk, -.092 (.162 April ISO, .255 ROS ISO)

Matt Carpenter, -.087 (.147 April ISO, .234 ROS ISO)

Byron Buxton, -.086 (.111 April ISO, .197 ROS ISO)

Rougned Odor, -.086 (.124 April ISO, .210 ROS ISO)

Carlos Santana, -.082 (.137 April ISO, .219 ROS ISO)

Jose Ramirez, -.073 (.199 April ISO, .272 ROS ISO)

Jeff McNeil, -.072 ISO (.130 April ISO, .202 ROS ISO)

Again, this is not a perfect science as there are variables such as weather and circumstances that could affect early-season performance that we simply can't quantify. However, finding players that have a history of getting off to slow starts is the best way we can quantify those who get off to a slow start. And in a shortened season, a slow start can bury a team in the first month or so, since there is simply less time to recover.

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Busts & Overvalued Players 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy & Tips 2020 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Draft Targets Editor Note MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Break the League: Yahoo Points League Ranker

A hot mess...Oh, I'm sorry. Didn't someone just ask how I would describe Yahoo point leagues in three words or less? No? Oh. Well for the record, if anyone ever wants to know how I would describe Yahoo point leagues in three words or less, my official answer is, "a hot mess". The system was already flawed entering 2020, with scoring and roster restrictions that made properly valuing players a confusing, and likely ignored process. But then Yahoo upped the ante in 2020 and said, "Please briefly bear my yeast-fermented beverage that's flavored with malt and hops...Watch this".

If you've been reading along at home, you probably think I'll now say something about trust. Well, no swerve. Point league players (and particularly new ones) need to be able to trust their chosen provider of game and content. To that end, gamemakers should make sure players understand how the game is played and should announce any systemic changes to the game in a loud, clear voice. Instead, Yahoo shook their game up in a boggle box of synergy, trying to fix a problem they didn't understand. In the end, they succeeded only in making things more confusing for users. Three words: hot mess express. That's a freebie, from me to you. Let's go.

This article will present RotoBaller's Yahoo Points League Ranker Tool, which is designed to give Yahoo 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 various analysis on fantasy baseball points leagues including undervalued / overvalued players and draft targets / avoids. And you can of course read the rest of this Point League Ranker series as well covering CBS, Fantrax and ESPN platforms.

 

Yahoo, Serious?

Everything starts with the scoring system, the backbone of any points league. Consequentially, I've spent a considerable amount of time looking at all of the settings pages that show how each platform plays. And then one day I went to Yahoo and everything was different. Everything was totally new and by no small margin. Jesus, Cletus...Color me confused.

Actually, color me panicked. Had I somehow been going to the wrong page over and over again, basing my calculations on the wrong values? They were just there, I'd seen 'em! But now they weren't! Oh, my god...Do I see dead pages? It was touch-and-go for a minute but luckily before I went full- Haley Joel, I remembered that the internet contained mysterious "cached web pages". If I could figure out how to find them, could I prove I wasn't crazy?

Unfortunately, I barely know how to use the internet. Fortunately, however, I've seen parts of "Swordfish" about a thousand times on cable over the past decade, so I knew exactly what to do. So I chugged eight Red Bulls, bumped the techno up to 11... and googled "finding cached webpages". I don't know if it was because I was seeing the internet like Neo in "The Matrix" or if it was just the dangerous levels of taurine in my bloodstream but I quickly found the old settings page I'd been using before. They'd been changed two days prior, which meant I wasn't crazy! Huzzah!

At the time I wasn't concerned about why they had suddenly changed the settings, only the work I needed to redo in order to reflect the new scoring. The hitter scoring looked heavy at first glance but I reserved judgment because I knew better than to guess at values without running all of the numbers first. Besides, there were decimals! Surely that meant mathematical thought and care had been put into assigning these values, right? But then I ran the numbers...While I cannot speak to the thought and care put into these changes, I'm quite sure math wasn't invited to the party.

Here were the top-25 point scorers in 2019, along with how they would've scored under 2020's new rules:

Name OLD PTS NEW PTS OLD RANK NEW RANK
Gerrit Cole 935 1077 1 88
Justin Verlander 896 1059 2 95
Ronald Acuna Jr. 802 1652 3 2
Cody Bellinger 799 1679 4 1
Shane Bieber 768 856 5 160
Peter Alonso 764 1575 6 5
Stephen Strasburg 763 843 7 169
Rafael Devers 749 1566 8 9
Alex Bregman 745 1651 9 3
Jacob deGrom 742 872 10 151
Freddie Freeman 739 1564 11 10
Lance Lynn 738 775 12 189
Anthony Rendon 736 1570 13 7
Christian Yelich 733 1582 14 4
Jorge Soler 724 1502 15 14
Nolan Arenado 723 1494 16 16
Charlie Morton 722 795 17 185
Mike Trout 721 1568 18 8
Trevor Bauer 721 721 19 214
Patrick Corbin 712 774 20 190
Xander Bogaerts 706 1538 21 12
Juan Soto 694 1529 22 13
Marcus Semien 692 1574 23 6
Bryce Harper 686 1498 24 15
Max Scherzer 685 769 25 192

 

Yahoo Brings the Juiced Ball to Fantasy

Whoa. Like Dominic Torretto running from the law, Yahoo injected straight NOS into their points system, with 99% mainlined into hitting.

HITTING 1B 2B 3B HR R RBI SB BB HBP
OLD 0.5 0.5 0.5 4.5 2 2 2 0 0
NEW 2.6 5.2 7.8 10.4 1.9 1.9 4.2 2.6 2.6
PITCHING IP W SV SO L ER H BB HBP
OLD 1 5 5 2 0 -0.5 0 0 0
NEW 3 4 4 2 0 -2 -0.9 -0.9 -0.9

Yahoo already had a goofy system - with singles, doubles, and triples carrying equal value but home runs being worth 10x more - but this was something else entirely. And thy name was synergy. In an effort to "add more value to batters"  they'd simply swapped in the scoring from their daily fantasy game, just as they had for football and basketball in the previous year. Later, we'll get to whether or not they succeeded in actually adding value but they certainly succeeded in adding points to batters. Gerrit Cole and Bryan Reynolds both would've scored 1077 points in 2019; Shane Bieber and Willson Contreras would've finished with 856 points. If you think that's gonna buff right out, then you're still nothing but a buster, Brian.

For a moment, let's put a pin in the scoring changes and talk about the other pillar holding up a player's value. 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. The confusing scoring changes may be new but Yahoo has been jerking player values around via their roster sizes since jump street.

 

The Black Sheep of Rosters

With no middle-infielder or corner-infielder, only three outfielders and two "reliever" slots, Yahoo's default roster settings are certainly unique in comparison to the other platforms. But unique doesn't always mean good.

Default Roster Size: - 1B - 2B - 3B - SS - OF (3) -UT (2) - SP (2) - RP (2) - P (4)

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 ESPN to Yahoo, the latter only uses three outfielders with no middle infield or corner infield slot but two UT spots. That translates to Yahoo players requiring 24 fewer starting outfielders, 12 fewer corner infielders, 12 fewer middle infielders, and 12 more utility players. That's 36 fewer starters total; 36 players that would be starters in ESPN but sit on benches or the waiver-wire in Yahoo.

And then there's the pitching. Yahoo has two SP slots, two RP slots, and four P slots, unlike ESPN, Fantrax, and NFBC, which have nine generic slots into which any pitcher can be placed. The fly in the ointment is that pitchers don't actually have to pitch in the role that their slot demands, they only have to be eligible in it. Being able to use a starter in an RP slot isn't much of an advantage in roto because you're still not going to get the category (saves) that you're generally looking for your RP slot to get. But you don't hunt categories in points, only total player performance. Which is how this happens...May I present to you, the projected number-one reliever in 2020 according to Nick Mariano's premium rankings, Carlos Carrasco!

In fact, three of the four most-valuable "relievers" are starters, with Carrasco and Josh Hader being joined by Kenta Maeda and Kyle Gibson. Because of course they are! Points scored are points scored, whether they come from saves or innings pitched and starters will pile up more points merely through attrition. Maeda could pitch six average innings in a win and score over double the points of Josh Hader getting a clean save with three strikeouts. It's all well and good to have separate SP and RP starting slots (in fact, I prefer it) but only if players used in SP/RP slots can only get points if they pitch in that role. Because if your system makes Kyle Gibson the fourth-most valuable reliever, your system is, well, not ideally constructed, to put it nicely. Period.

So it wasn't just the scoring system that made player values so topsy-turvy in the previous years, it was also their antiquated roster settings. But let's get back to those mammoth point totals. If you've read my previous introductory articles you're probably wondering why I've only talked about total points scored. But what about points-above-replacement, Nick? Why haven't you talked about the changes in PAR and how players are now valued in the new system? Maybe you're wrong and Yahoo is running the long game, with the changes in scoring changing the PARs in such a way as to make all value more equitable. They're playing 3-D chess, while you stumble through checkers. Maybe Christian Bale has had an identical twin the entire time!

 

The Prestige

So, what did the changes in scoring do to player's true values? Did Yahoo accomplish their goal of balancing scoring as to make batters more valuable? Umm, yes? Kind of? No? They certainly did at the top of the food chain with the number of pitchers in the top-25 most-valuable players dropping from 13 players to 4. If you want a system where Marcus Semien, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Santana, Yasmani Grandal, and Jorge Soler are all more valuable than #23 Jacob deGrom than this is the system for you! The deeper we go down the list, the weirder (ie: confusing) things become, not just with how the balance of hitters and pitchers stratifies in different sections of the top-300 but also with how wildly many individual players (both hitter and pitchers) had their values change. Highlights include:

Top-100 (38 pitchers under old scoring, 31 under new scoring)

Biggest Risers in Dollar-Value: Yasmani Grandal (#73 to #19), Whit Merrifield (#82 to #38),  Rhys Hoskins (#106 to #47), Anthony Rizzo (#84 to #55), Adam Eaton (#172 to #92)

Biggest Fallers in Dollar-Value: Pitchers. That may seem glib but it was the top tiers of pitchers that took a near across-the-board drop in value, even while many lesser pitchers increased in value. Of the 38 pitchers who were in the top-100 of overall value, all but eight dropped over 20 spots.  And it's not just how many changed, it's who and how. Walker Buehler dropped from #36 to #57 but was also less valuable than Trevor Bauer and only barely better than Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Top-200 (86 pitchers under old scoring, 84 under new scoring)

Biggest Risers: Mike Soroka (#126 to #102), Victor Robles (#154 to #104), Amed Rosario (#158 to #115), Chris Paddack (#160 to #127), Andrew Benintendi (#226 to #149), Alex Gordon (#200 to #159), Joey Votto (#267 to #182), David Fletcher (#263 to #193)

Biggest Fallers: Max Fried (#75 to #108), Rougned Odor (#93 to #132), Joc Pederson (#120 to #145), Edwin Encarnacion (#111 to #156), Franmil Reyes (#131 to #160), Miguel Sano (#129 to #189)

Top 300 (126 pitchers under old scoring, 146 under new scoring)

Biggest Risers: Lorenzo Cain (#261 to #206), Zach Davies (#248 to #211), Emilio Pagan (#258 to #212), Adam Frazier (#265 to #214), Brett Anderson (#245 to #216), Frankie Montas (#307 to #241), Zach Plesac (#342 to #272)

Biggest Fallers: Eloy Jimenez (#155 to #210), Giovanny Urshela (#174 to #216), Hunter Renfroe #189 to #251), Yordan Alvarez (#206 to #251), Adalberto Mondesi (#216 to #270), Jurickson Profar (#216 to #266)

Confused about how exactly values have changed and how it should affect your play going forward? You should be.

 

Who Cares? It's Just Defaults

Just as with ESPN, CBS, and Fantrax, default settings can be changed, so what's the big deal? This is a game philosophy I find particularly irksome. Yes, default settings can be changed. No, most casual players won't and new points players certainly won't. In our world, default settings equal trust, especially in regards to things that a user may be new to or may not understand enough to change. With our technology-driven society, how often are people recommended to use default settings unless they know what they're doing enough to change them? Are users (both new and old) really going to go in and start fiddling around with the point settings? No, I don't think they will. Most of these new players only want to play a game and will assume that the system set up by the platform is the one that works the best.

In order to grow the game, users should be able to walk into a game that is easy for them to pick up and understand. But on Yahoo, they walk into a system whose confusing values will almost necessarily turn them from new players into ex-players.

 

Solving the Yahoo Points Puzzle

Good luck? But in all seriousness, you can grouse all you want about Kyle Gibson, "elite reliever", but the system is what the system is. And given that we're dealing with a company that would apparently need to rewrite the fabric of time in order to make Shohei Ohtani into one player, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for any changes that make the game a more enjoyable fantasy experience. The system is what the system is and we can only try to break the league that we're in. With that in mind, let's talk about how I'd attack a Yahoo draft.

Pocket Aces Are a Go

Depending on the draft, I'm often more inclined to zag against the traditional strategy of loading up on top pitching in points leagues. I've been even more so inclined this season as pitcher values seem overinflated across all formats. But the scoring changes in Yahoo have made elite pitching the scarcest of resources and I'd be trying to hoard early.

According to ATC projections, the top-three pitchers are Cole ($39.9), deGrom ($35.6), and Scherzer ($32.9). After that, we have Buehler and Bieber at around $27 before tumbling down to #15 Blake Snell sitting at $20. Regardless of my slot, my queue goes Trout (at an overwhelming $49.9), Cole, and deGrom. Done-zo. If they're all gone then I'll have decisions to make. But regardless of who I get first, I'll be taking someone out of Scherzer, Buehler, or Flaherty with my second pick.

Pile Up Hitting

And then pile up some more. Don't be fooled by how many points are scored by batters now because the ones that are actually valuable start drying up fast. I may take starters with my first two (and possibly three) picks but then I'm slamming hitting until after pick-100. I'll let my opponents take Noah Syndergaard (70 ADP, $18.5 value) while I scoop Matt Olson (71 ADP, $22.7 value). They can have Jose Berrios (80 ADP, $18.5 value), I'll take Marcus Semien (81 ADP, $21.7 value).

Monopolize "Elite Relievers" and "Average Starters"

Carlos Carrasco, Julio Urias, and Kenta Maeda are going to be RP monsters. Go get 'em. Even besides those RP cheat-codes, values abound after the first 100 picks. Why would I want Chris Paddack (49 ADP, $16.8 value) when I could have Zack Wheeler (112 ADP, $16.6 value)? Or Tyler Glasnow (73 ADP, $12.9 value) over Max Fried (136 ADP, $15 value)? Zac Gallen (135 ADP, #12.25 value) or Jon Gray (271 ADP, $12.24 value)? These deals go on, and on, and on. If only you knew where to look.

 

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 Yahoo 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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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy & Tips Editor Note Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Industry Draft Recap: Should You Target Injured Players?

I had two fantasy baseball drafts scheduled for this week. One was put up to vote and the vast majority decided to wait until we are closer to the season starting (who knows when that’ll be) to draft, and the other decided it was a needed distraction and everyone is at the same disadvantage drafting now. Whether or not you believe leagues should be drafting now is a separate argument. But the truth is many leagues still will be drafting. If you are in one of those leagues, you need to adjust your strategy. You should not be drafting the same way you were two weeks ago when we thought the season would be starting at the end of the month. Looking at a draft can help you see how different a draft can be today rather than a couple of weeks ago.

This draft I participated in is a 15-team league with a mix of fantasy analysts, high stakes players, and fantasy aficionados. Some participants include Adam Ronis of Fantasy Alarm, Joe Gallina of RotoBaller/Fantasy Alarm, high stakes guru and NFBC Hall of Famer Chris Vaccaro, among others. I share a team with my former radio co-hosts, Frank Stampfl and Gregg Sussman of FNTSY. The draft is called the GST League, named after the Greenwich Street Tavern, a Manhattan bar with awesome wings that always allows us to host the draft!

This year the draft took place online and with it being potentially months before the season may begin. While drafting in the unknown my biggest strategy was to take advantage of the unknown. ADP is still very skewed from what it was a couple of weeks ago. Players who were not expected to be ready in time for a late-March start are still going at a discount because of it. But the season will not be starting in late March. This change reared its head as early as the first round for my team.

 

Early Rounds of the Draft  

Heading into the draft, my co-drafters and I had a lot of strategy discussions. Initially, we were planning on drafting either one of the first-round shortstops or Justin Verlander, while leaning towards JV. Then Verlander got injured, so did Max Scherzer, and we were suddenly debating between a bat and Walker Buehler. But then the season was pushed back at least eight weeks, and everything changed. We realized that suddenly arms such as Verlander, Scherzer, Mike Clevinger were back in play. And not only were they in play, but we would no longer have to pay a first-round pick to get what we believed was an elite arm.

At pick 11, four of our top six pitchers were still available. So, with the shortstops gone, we draft Juan Soto (although if it was just me Jose Ramirez was the guy) and then were able to have our choice of Verlander or Clevinger in round two. We ended up selected Clevinger over Verlander because he is not having surgery that is expected to take up to six weeks to recover. Others were not feeling the same, as Verlander fell to the fifth pick in the third round. That is value you should be on the lookout for in drafts going on right now.

Blake Snell went 26th overall, as the 11th pick in the second round. He is someone who was consistently falling into the third round of drafts, if not later, when his availability at the start of the season was in question. He was another early-round player that the layoff has increased his value, as he will have more time to rest that elbow. We also saw Aaron Judge go in the fourth round. Just last week I was able to land him in the sixth round of a Draft Champions draft. Perhaps this is just one draft, but Judge is a player who should get pulled up the board, especially since the latest reports indicate he could be ready to start the season now due to the delay. He was a second-round pick before the injury. Even if he misses a couple of weeks, the discount is more than enough to take that risk.

Giancarlo Stanton, another player dealing with injury, went with the final pick in the sixth round. Stanton has even said that he expects to be ready. I get that it is tough to trust his health, but early in draft season you would routinely see him go in the fourth round. If he is now going two rounds later and may not miss any time to start the season, he is well worth it. Especially since any time he may miss is already baked into his ADP.

Through the first six rounds our team looked like this: Juan Soto, Mike Clevinger, Javier Baez, Keston Hiura, Nelson Cruz, and Manny Machado. This team is unlike many of mine, because I for sure would have taken Yu Darvish in round three. We also debated Charlie Morton in round four. Not drafting a pitcher there was my biggest regret of the draft. But my co-owners really liked Baez and Machado, so there has to be some give and take. This base helps get us covered in all five offensive categories as Cruz provides elite power, while getting speed out of Baez and Hiura. All of these guys will give us a boost in the counting stats, and none will drag down our average. We only have one pitcher, but at least he has the skillset to be elite. Typically, I do not wait on starting pitching and will have at least two guys through the first four or five rounds, but for going in another direction, I did like the start of this team.

 

The Middle Rounds

While we waited on pitching, we decided that we have to load up the next few rounds. We took Sonny Gray in the seventh, Max Fried in the eighth, Carlos Carrasco in round nine and Craig Kimbrel in round 10. I think round nine and 10 will determine a great amount of our team. I am a fan of Carrasco and believe that he has the ability to once again finish as an ace. That is exactly how we valued him leading into 2019. He did not live up to expectations, but we should all give him a pass since it was a leukemia diagnosis that derailed his season. He fell in the draft due to the injury concerns, but I was already talking about grabbing him in round seven. When he was still there in round nine, even my teammates got on board drafting him. Since we waited on pitching, he seemed like a calculated risk as he has the upside to be the SP2 we missed out on.

Kimbrel was also valued as elite until a down 2019. His was for different reasons. Remember, Kimbrel did not have a team at the start of the 2019 season and we did not see him with the Cubs until the very end of June. There is a chance that Kimbrel is just declining, but we all felt he was the safest closer on the board at this point with the highest upside. If those two picks hit, this team will be very dangerous.

After that we turned our attention back to our offense, picking up some speed and a much-needed outfielder with Byron Buxton in round 11 and power in Willie Calhoun in round 12. We went back to the speed well in round 13 for Elvis Andrus and then got my teammate's favorite player in Bryan Reynolds in round 14.

As for injured players, you saw we drafted Calhoun in round 12. He is a player who was going higher a couple of weeks ago, before getting hit in the face by a pitch. The gruesome injury looked like it would keep him out of the start of the season, causing him to fall. Much of that risk is mitigated now due to the delay in the start of the season, but the price has yet to catch back up to him. I call that a value. Other injured players we saw go off the board in this range were James Paxton in round nine, Michael Conforto in round nine, Trey Mancini in round 11 and our pick of Calhoun in the 12th.

Chris Sale went in round eight, but it was announced on Thursday he would be undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was the one hurt pitcher I was not comfortable pulling up boards.

We also saw a lot of young pitchers with inning concerns go in this range. On top of the injured players, those are the guys that will gain the most from a shortened season. It is a lot easier to draft a pitcher who can go 120 innings when the season is shortened because that will almost be the norm. You are likely not going to see many pitchers go 200 innings this season. Jesus Luzardo went in round seven while Julio Urias went in round eight. They were going with the mid-round hype pitchers like Fried, Dinelson Lamet, Zac Gallen, and Frankie Montas. Lance McCullers Jr., a similar pitcher, went in round 11.

 

Second Half of the Draft

This is where I really wanted to start drafting a lot of injured players. I cannot tell you how many times I told my draft mates that our plan should be to capitalize on players who are still being pushed down the board due to injury. It can be a hard pill to swallow in the early rounds, leaving safer options on the board knowing you are taking risks that could backfire. But at this point, you already have the base of your team built. This is where you are looking to add complementary pieces and more importantly, find great value that could outproduce the draft day price you had to pay. That is exactly what these players provide: value at a decreased price.

Some of the players who fit that mold are: Andrew McCutchen in round 16, Cole Hamels in round 19, Miles Mikolas in round 21, Griffin Canning in round 27, Rich Hill in round 29, and Aaron Hicks in round 30.

Both Hamels and Hicks were on my team. If it was just me drafting, you best believe McCutchen would have been too. But I wanted to highlight Hicks and Hill. Those two guys are still going as complete afterthoughts in drafts, although reports indicate that both could return in June. It is easier to trust Hicks because he does not have a long injury history like Hill. It is especially valuable to draft those guys this late because the season very well may not begin until June. This was something I said when my draftmates were debating passing on Hicks in the final round: “If the season starts in June and we don’t draft Hicks, he will be the top FAAB player when the season begins.” Maybe I am wrong, but I think if we are talking about a round-30 flier, those are the types of shots that are easily worth taking right now.

As for some pitchers who are not as hurt by inning limit or injury concerns, because again, it’s a lot easier to invest in a pitcher that will give you 100-120 innings in this climate: Mitch Keller, A.J. Puk, and Garrett Richards all went in round 16, Dylan Cease went in round 17, Michael Kopech went in round 18, Michael Pineda and Matt Shoemaker in round 22, Nathan Eovaldi in round 23, Freddy Peralta in round 25 with his battery mate Corbin Burnes in round 27, Sean Newcomb and Taijuan Walker in round 29, among others.

There were a lot of lessons learned from this draft, but I will continue to bang the table that selecting players whose ADP has not yet caught up to their new value is the best way to set your team up right now. We are drafting in the unknown and there is so much up in the air, that if you are giving me a talented player at a steep discount, I will gladly take it.

Here is our final roster from the draft:

What Other Draftees Thought

I reached out to the other draft participants I listed above to get their thoughts on the draft. Here is a little peek inside some of the best fantasy minds and what they think of the draft.

NFBC Hall of Famer Chris Vaccaro said on his draft:

“So going into the draft with the No. 1 pick and knowing I was taking Acuna, I was focused on what I was going to do at pick 30 and 31 and was convinced I would take two starting pitchers there because of the position I didn't want to put myself in come round 4 and 5 where I felt if it turned into a pitcher-friendly draft which it did that I would miss the tiers I wanted for an SP2. The only way I told myself I would divert from that plan was if Starling Marte fell to me at 30 overall and that's exactly what happened. With Speed hard to find later in drafts this year to put a combo of Acuna/Marte together was a nice luxury to build off of especially that you can find power throughout the rest of your draft. I'm a big Lucas Giolito guy and after wrapping him up as my ace I had to play the waiting game 30 picks until I got to pick 60 and luckily got Tyler Glasnow as the last pitcher I loved to be my SP2. I paired him with more speed/power combo in Bo Bichette.”

He continued on about how the unknown start date of the season impacted the draft for him.

“As for strategy in this draft and the doubt of when the season would begin I was more inclined to take shots on players at discount and was thrilled to get Stanton at 90 overall and also Griff Canning late as a huge discount as someone who hopefully is healthy when the season starts and the layoff helps.”

Adam Ronis, a very successful fantasy player and an analyst for Fantasy Alarm, said the potentially shortened season changed his strategy as well.

“I pushed up injured players but not aggressively as everyone else. Young pitchers with innings limits moved up significantly. Loved my offense and have a good base of pitching. A lot of teams butchered the second half of their drafts.”

But, not everyone took the same approach when it came to injured players. Joe Gallina of RotoBaller decided to still play it safe in this draft.

“The fact that the start of the season could still be a couple of months away didn’t change my strategy too much when it came to drafting injured players in the GST league. Guys like Giancarlo Stanton and James Paxton may be healthy come opening day, but we’re talking about two players who are already injury-prone and were never going to be on my radar anyway,” he said.

“Some look at Justin Verlander being drafted in the third round of the GST draft as a bargain but he’s another guy I will be avoiding this draft season. He’s 37 years old and already suffered a lat strain injury and faces a six-week recovery from right groin surgery. I’m already avoiding Astros players due to all of the negative energy and hostile crowds they’ll be subjected to. This could be the season that Verlander takes a major step back and wonders why he isn’t spending more time with Kate Upton,” Gallina said.

The strategy of pulling players up the board is not for the risk-averse. But I truly believe that in this unknown we are in, now is the time to be taking some calculated risks.

It is blatantly obvious that fantasy baseball drafts are going to be greatly impacted by both the delay to start the season and a potential shortened one. Draft boards will look very different before the start of the season than they do now. But for those of you who are still drafting, there is plenty of value to be had in injured players and pitchers on an innings limit!

Make sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.

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Finding Over/Undervalued Outfielders Using Expected Draft Values

A couple weeks ago, we introduced our Expected Draft Values and explained how they would help us identify both over and undervalued players of all types. Power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, with pitchers as well.

Today, we'll look at four outfielders and our site projections for them. Stay tuned over the next couple weeks as we bring you a deeper look at undervalued and overvalued players from each position using Expected Draft Values.

Generally, what we'll do in this series is identify players who will return positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Online Contests (Feb 1-March 9, 74 drafts), their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection. We'll adjust for any coronavirus-related season changes once they're announced, but let's assume 162 games for now.

 

How Expected Draft Values Help You Win Your League

It may be clear by this point already, but if you know the expected break-even stat-line of every draft slot, you can identify which of your draft picks are projected to return positive or negative value. Below, we look at four shortstops that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Online ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2020 drafts.

 

Mookie Betts - OF, LAD

NFBC Online ADP: 5
Expected Return for a Power+Speed+Average Hitter Drafted 5th: .313 BA, 36 HR, 112 runs, 101 RBI, 25 SB
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .291-30-118-78-17

Analysis: Now in a Dodger uniform, Betts shouldn’t experience a huge dropoff in production from his Bostonian ways. He has a monstrous lineup to drive him in, but he loses hits that clang off the Green Monster and he’ll have a pitcher hitting ahead of him. Some of those drives to left field are going to fall into a glove instead of hitting the wall, and his 80 RBI from each of the last two seasons may be optimistic.

For reference, Joc had 64 RBI in 441 PAs batting first in the LAD lineup in ‘19, and he knocked himself in with 33 HRs from that spot. It’d be rude not to note how hitting in LA should give him a few more homers compared to Fenway. The big wall helps the average, but blocks line-drive shots and Boston has a notoriously deep center and right-center wall. 

EVAnalytics brings us park factors from THE BAT, which shows us how the park affects wOBA, BA, HR, K, BB and BABIP. There’s some give on all categories here except for homers. I’ll include Coors for reference:

Betts is a beast and I highly doubt he busts, but there’s some volatility involved when a player switches teams. Mix in the slight average dip and lower RBI ceiling and then ask yourself if he’s really your fifth pick.

Verdict: Pass, Betts is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Marcell Ozuna - OF, ATL

NFBC Online ADP: 94
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 94th: .252-32-79-87-6
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .274-32-95-104-8

Analysis: Ozuna is another fresh face on a new squad in 2020, only his draft stock remains modest despite the upgrade in surroundings. After five years as a Marlin and two with the Cardinals, Ozuna is Atlanta’s likely cleanup hitter just as their youth movement hits its stride. Josh Donaldson racked up 190 R+RBI there despite hitting “only” .259 in the role.

I say “only” because Ozuna should exceed that, and more batted balls means more Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies touching home. After posting BABIPs of .296 or higher in his first six seasons (career .314), a .257 BABIP dragged his average down to .241 on the year. He compensated with a career-best 11.3% walk rate to post an .800 OPS despite the poor fortune. Most projection systems agree on an average around .275-.280 for Ozuna in ‘20, which blows past the expectation here.

Then there’s the sneaky speed he tapped into last season, going 12-of-14 (85.7%) on the basepaths after a 14-for-25 (56%) start to his career. That’ll play! Going from an expectation of 2-3 bags to potentially 10 is clutch in today’s climate.

Verdict: Target, Ozuna is undervalued at his current draft slot

 

Austin Meadows - OF, TB

NFBC Online ADP: 35
Expected Return for a Power+Speed+Average Hitter Drafted 35th: .292-24-97-84-20
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .284-28-92-87-13

Analysis: Meadows’ 2019 breakout was a glorious sight to behold, but hopes may be too high for ‘20. You’ll note his projection falls short in all five categories. You can decide if that's a limitation of his youth versus projection systems or not.

Also, given Tampa’s depth it would not surprise me to see him sit against lefties more often than you’d like. Meadows hit .275 with a poor 53/9 K/BB ratio over 177 PAs against portsiders in ‘19, compared to .298 with a 78/45 K/BB mark across 414 PAs versus right-handers. The 123-point drop in OPS didn’t come with any real difference in batted-ball output -- no lag in flies or hard contact -- his plate discipline just plummets. This results in a lower R+RBI output and puts more strain on him to deliver HR+SB for you, unless you think he’s hitting .300 or greater.

So about those HR+SB, Meadows certainly has above-average pop and speed to spare, but just how much can you grind out? His 28.1 ft/sec sprint speed was 111th in the bigs (out of 415 w/ >50 opps) while his 4.24 home-to-first split was 85th. Good, but not great. We can get by on it if he ups his success rate (63.2%), but green lights may turn yellow if he can’t.

I’m less worried about the power, as he had the 20th best maximum exit velocity at 115.4 MPH with the 63rd-highest average exit velo at 90.4 MPH (among qualified hitters). But it is third-round power alongside the rest of this package? It doesn’t appear so.

Verdict: Pass, Meadows is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Adam Eaton - OF, WSH

NFBC Online ADP: 196
Expected Return for a Speed+Average Hitter Drafted 196rd: .297-10-65-49-15
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .285-14-89-66-14

Analysis: After two injury-plagued seasons in 2017 and ‘18, Eaton turned in 656 PAs over 151 games last season for a career-high 103 runs, 15 homers and 15 steals. His average slipped to .279 after hitting .297 and .301 in the past two respective seasons, but the reason is clear.

Eaton bought into the power swing, for better or worse. Per Statcast, his fly-ball rate jumped to 23.3% with a 13.2-degree launch angle from 15.6% and 7.2 degrees in ‘18. But other power characteristics didn’t show up. His strikeout rate and swinging-strike rate dropped, his barrel rate barely moved, he swung at fewer first pitches and had a lower Meatball Swing rate according to Statcast.

I don’t want to get overly analytical just for the sake of data points, but that doesn’t read like a power hitter. I’d hope for a fly-ball rate somewhere in the middle, with 12-13 HRs and 12-15 steals on the table next to an average closer to .300. But I can’t put that on him. He was 4-for-16 with a double and a homer across eight Spring Training games before the Covid-19 lockdown.

And when it comes to his R+RBI production, health is the only barrier to his blasting through that expected return of 65 runs. The 49 RBI is fair given his assumed batting slot of second or in the lower-third, but hitting second in 102 games (455 PAs) last year yielded 78 runs. Another 24 came from 190 PAs as leadoff man, but I just want to show that he doesn’t need a Trea Turner injury to make good on a 100-run promise. He’ll miss Anthony Rendon hitting behind him, but Starlin Castro is no slouch and Juan Soto is a demigod. With roughly 40 R+RBI in hand above expectation, take the profits and dance near pick 200.

Verdict: Target, Eaton is undervalued at his current draft slot

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How To Draft A Winning Fantasy Baseball Pitching Staff

Host Michael Florio of RotoBaller Radio discusses the 2020 fantasy baseball season. In this episode, he brings you his fantasy baseball draft strategies for starting pitchers, and breaks down how to build a winning fantasy baseball pitching staff on draft day.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, Saturday nights from 9-11 PM ET and Sunday nights from 7-9 PM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Building A Winning Starting Pitching Staff

Players discussed in this video include:

Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

Win big with RotoBaller in 2020!

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Finding Over/Undervalued Shortstops Using Expected Draft Values

A couple weeks ago, we introduced our Expected Draft Values and explained how they would help us identify both over and undervalued players of all types. Power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, with pitchers as well.

Today, we'll look at four shortstops and our site projections for them. Stay tuned over the next couple weeks as we bring you a deeper look at undervalued and overvalued players from each position using Expected Draft Values.

Generally, what we'll do in this series is identify players who will return positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Online Contests (Feb 1-March 9, 74 drafts), their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection. We'll adjust for any coronavirus-related season changes once they're announced, but let's assume 162 games for now.

 

How Expected Draft Values Help You Win Your League

It may be clear by this point already, but if you know the expected break-even stat-line of every draft slot, you can identify which of your draft picks are projected to return positive or negative value. Below, we look at four shortstops that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Online ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2020 drafts.

 

Alex Bregman - 3B/SS, HOU

NFBC Online ADP: 15
Expected Return for a Power+Average Hitter Drafted 15th: .307 BA, 35 HR, 102 runs, 99 RBI, 8 SB
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .289-34-112-105-7

Analysis: At this point, you either believe in Bregman as a chronic overachiever against his expected metrics or you don’t. I won’t try to kick you into my corner of “don’t” but I will nudge you there. I was intrigued by his rebounding from a “down” 2017 where his average exit velocity and barrel rate had dropped off in favor of more grounders. But look at the “evolution” from 2018 to 2019:

The dip in barrel rate, sweet-spot rate, hard-hit rate, xwOBACON with a rise in launch angle frightens me. The drop in steals gives us a lower range of outcomes with more stock put into his shaky power metrics. If that falters and comes back to 2018’s 31 HRs even, then you’ll need his speed to giddy-up.

He’s benefited from volume as well, playing in 155 or more games in the last three years and going from 208 R+RBI in ‘18 to a whopping 234 in ‘19. New skipper Dusty Baker has already talked up veteran maintenance days, envisioning a 150-game cap on most. Take Breg’s counting stats down a tick, closer to the 650-PA range, and you once again lose some ceiling.

And then there's the whole "you cheated" thing, which may affect Houston players and create volatility. Regardless of how much you buy into that sort of thinking, you have to admit it's another unknown that's now thrown into the equation. I try to minimize risk and uncertainty this early in drafts.

Verdict: Pass, Bregman is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Marcus Semien - SS, OAK

NFBC Online ADP: 90
Expected Return for a Power+Speed Hitter Drafted 90th: .262-23-82-82-16
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .271-26-101-82-12

Analysis: Folks appear hesitant to trust Semien’s 2019, and while he definitely maxed out his potential with a whopping 162 games played and 747 plate appearances, he can smash this valuation as Oakland’s leadoff hitter. He also topped 700 PAs in ‘18 as well, so the volume atop the order is relatively secure.

Despite today’s swing big, miss big climate, Semien’s power spike has come with a precipitous drop in strikeout rate:

 His ISO went from .149 in 2017 to .237 in ‘19, with the 22% strikeout rate falling to 13.7%. The fewer whiffs helped him bounce his 2019 average up to .285, the walk rate went up to 11.6% from 8.7% in '18 and you get a healthy chance at double-digit steals to boot. Further illustrating his foundation: His xBA rose by at least 20 points against fastballs, breaking balls and offspeed pitches.

No wonder he crossed the plate 123 times! And now he gets a healthy Khris Davis behind him too? I’m in. For reference, Semien’s production matches the expected value of a 50th pick. Ka-ching!

Verdict: Target, Semien is undervalued at his current draft slot

 

Carlos Correa - SS, HOU

NFBC Online ADP: 106
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 106th: .248-32-81-85-5
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .275-27-70-79-2

Analysis: Oh, but he’s such a steal! Remember when he hit .315 with 24 homers and 80-plus runs and RBI in just 109 games three years ago? Well, yeah. That’s great intel for your 2017 fantasy draft. Most knew his down 2018 (.728 OPS, 15 HRs in 110 games) would rebound, and a .926 OPS with 21 homers in just 75 games last year proved them right.

But it was yet another injury-tainted season, his third in a row, and counting on a full year feels reckless. So does taking 2019’s half-season sample and extrapolating it into a full year for 2020. Perhaps Correa is one of the few Astros to benefit from Dusty Baker’s veteran-rest program, but you need a lot of power without any steals or a .300 average.

At least there’s light at the end of the tunnel for health-truthers, though. Correa’s barrel rate nearly doubled, going from 7% in ‘18 to 13.5% in ‘19. The zone-contact rate fell from 84.8% to 82.9% with a rise in chase-swing rate, from 25.6% to 28.2% (per Savant).

The net aggression paid off in ‘19, but you need 35 homers to hit profitland with Correa at this spot. I recognize his average is above the expectation so that buys some wiggle room against the EDV, but the greater picture doesn’t illustrate the injury risk being baked in well enough.

Verdict: Pass, Correa is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Paul DeJong - SS, STL

NFBC Online ADP: 193
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 193rd: .246-29-69-74-4
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .238-30-86-90-7

Analysis: DeJong’s first full MLB season yielded 30 homers, 175 R+RBI and nine steals for fortunate fantasy owners in 2019. You’re getting a nice speed contribution on top of stellar R+RBI stats given his position within the order at a draft pick done with the dollar bids.

DeJong had played in 108 and 115 games over his first two respective MLB seasons, but last year saw him hit 159 games and 664 PAs. He hit second in 25 games, third in 66, fifth in 52 and only 14 below that (not counting two pinch-hit appearances at nine for the pitcher). The Cards may inject Dylan Carlson into their lineup, but odds are strong that DeJong keeps his premier batting slot with Marcell Ozuna leaving.

The lineup around him may yield lesser RBI, but his average should rebound from last season’s .259 BABIP mark closer towards his career .292 rate unless he totally sells out for power. His fly-ball rate held steady around 28% last season (per Savant) though he did lose some “solid” contact -- around six percentage points off his line-drive rate. The BA projection here is on the conservative side, but know growth potential is there.

I’m cautiously optimistic we either get a 30-homer rate or a .260 average out of him, depending on 2020’s swing path. Either way, his heart-of-the-order job makes him a steal near pick 200.

Verdict: Target, DeJong is undervalued at his current draft slot

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Finding Over/Undervalued Third Basemen Using Expected Draft Values

A couple weeks ago, we introduced our Expected Draft Values and explained how they would help us identify both over and undervalued players of all types. Power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, with pitchers as well.

Today, we'll look at four third basemen and our site projections for them. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we bring you a deeper look at undervalued and overvalued players from each position using Expected Draft Values.

Generally, what we'll do in this series is identify players who will return positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Online Contests (Feb 1-March 9, 74 drafts), their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection. We'll adjust for any coronavirus-related season changes once they're announced, but let's assume 162 games for now.

 

How Expected Draft Values Help You Win Your League

It may be clear by this point already, but if you know the expected break-even stat-line of every draft slot, you can identify which of your draft picks are projected to return positive or negative value. Below, we look at four players at the hot corner that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Online ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2020 drafts.

 

Anthony Rendon - 3B, LAA

NFBC Online ADP: 23
Expected Return for a Power+Average Hitter Drafted 23rd: .304 BA, 30 HR, 100 runs, 93 RBI, 10 SB
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .303-28-100-104-4

Analysis: Rendon is a premier hitter in the middle of a potent Angels order, but the venue is not power-friendly and his days of swiping enough bags to move the needle are gone. Per Baseball Prospectus’ Handedness Park Factors chart, right-handed hitters in Washington enjoyed the 14th-best HR Factor (of 60) while right-handed Halos were 32nd. It was also 32nd for overall runs factor, with Washington at 25th. Is it splitting hairs or seeking out edges?

Allow me to reiterate that the point of this series is not to bash or praise certain as must-have or must-avoid. I'm simply providing a tool that provides context against historical results, and your projection of Rendon may meet the EDV.

Hopefully, you put stock in our stats-y science, though. For us, you’re giving in both the power and speed departments for some RBI against the EDV. I can’t agree with major projection systems calling for an average between .280-.290 given his topping .300 for three consecutive years, but adjusting to new threads can cause volatility. But do be aware that most systems (Steamer: .284, THE BAT: .286) would have you believe his stock is far lower than the expected return here.

Verdict: Pass, Rendon is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Josh Donaldson - 3B, MIN

NFBC Online ADP: 94
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 94th: .252-32-79-87-6
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .261-36-96-102-3

Analysis: Donaldson is ready to feast within a monstrous Minnesota offense, with greater power numbers than Rendon. Of course, you trade roughly 50 points of batting average for the 70-pick discount, but the added pop really helps. If you think the R+RBI projection is optimistic, Steamer calls for 199 R+RBI. The injury risk remains after shortened 2017 and 2018 campaigns, but a 155-game 2019 without the DH to hide away in is encouraging.

We aren’t here for on-base percentage leagues, but his average walk rate of 15% over the last four seasons could yield well over 100 runs in such a potent offense. Hitting in the heart of the order usually leaves you leaning on the 5-8 hitters to drive you in, but Minnesota has Eddie Rosario, Mitch Garver and Miguel Sano there. That could be several teams’ 3-5 in the order! Donaldson gets the best of both worlds at the cleanup slot. Draft a decent backup in case injury strikes, but the upside is enormous and the median makes him a strong buy.

Verdict: Target, Donaldson is undervalued at his current draft slot

 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - 3B, TOR

NFBC Online ADP: 58
Expected Return for a Power+Average Drafted 58th: .299-26-83-86-8
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .284-23-83-93-1

Analysis: Guerrero Jr. has a great shot at superstardom, but his price has barely shifted from 2019’s rookie hype despite disappointing fantasy owners last season. Toronto is growing and the top of the lineup is stout, but Vlad won’t chip in steals and his 24 HR+SB falls well short of the 32 expected. He needs to be a .300 hitter to boot, and it’s too early to crown him with that. His R+RBI tally should be healthy at the heart of the order, but his projected line better suits the 100th pick. 

I love targeting Bo Bichette given his many paths to success, and Cavan Biggio is a solid mid-round pick if you have a safe average foundation. But Vlad coming out hitting .300 with 30-plus homers is asking a lot as your median projection. If I’m aiming for young upside this early in drafts, it’ll be someone that could contribute both power and speed. He’ll only be 21 years old this season, he’s got plenty of time to grow into the incredible stud we all project him to become.

Verdict: Pass, Guerrero Jr. is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Scott Kingery - 3B/OF, PHI

NFBC Online ADP: 160
Expected Return for a Power+Speed Hitter Drafted 160th: .258-23-69-69-13
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .252-22-68-71-16

Analysis: Kingery popped 19 homers with 15 steals and a painless .258 average over 500 PAs (126 games) after looking overmatched as a rookie in 2018. His overall average exit velocity is 88.2 MPH, but the split between his 93.5 MPH mark on flies and liners and the 83 MPH rate on grounders is stark. Starling Marte had a similar profile (93.8, 83.0) in 2019. Kingery’s FB/LD velo was tied with Anthony Rendon, Ketel Marte and Carlos Santana last season, with an 8% Barrel/BBE rate next to Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado.

Not only that, but check out his exit velo broken down by pitch type:

But I’m not trying to frame him as a star, his Barrels/PA rate was only 5%, while Arenado was 6%, which matters over 500-600 PAs. And obviously, non-barreled balls can do better at Coors. Anyway, Kingery’s metrics suggest more confidence and aggression, even if it meant more K’s. His first-pitch swing rate went from 21.9% to 33.8%, with a Meatball Swing% up to 83.2% from 66.5%. His chase rate dropped five percentage points while his zone-swing rate rose eight percentage points.

On top of the bat improvements, he had a sprint speed in the 93rd percentile and a 90-foot split time in the 88th percentile (despite the disadvantage as a right-handed batter there). While coronavirus has pushed the season back, Kingery was a candidate to leadoff with Andrew McCutchen recovering from ACL surgery. The opportunity may not be there, but the confidence in Kingery to have the conversation is a green light to me.

Verdict: Target, Kingery is undervalued at his current draft slot

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Adjusting Fantasy Baseball Projections for a Delayed Opening Day

With a heavy heart I write this column. I truly wish that there would have not been a reason to write this column. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has now postponed the 2020 Major League Baseball season. In an effort to employ social distancing, local governments have made the tough call to forbid the gathering of large crowds. The NBA, NHL, PGA, XFL and NASCAR have all suspended their seasons. The NCAA tournaments have all been canceled.

And for us fantasy baseball players … major league baseball has pushed off the start of its season until least mid-May. It will likely be even longer. A lot longer. Many of our home fantasy leagues have now chosen to postpone our annual drafts or auctions. The NFBC has canceled or postponed many of its high money league contests.

But many leagues have still chosen to continue with their regular draft schedule in the coming weeks. Some of my home leagues will continue as scheduled. Just this past Sunday, I took part in the Tout Wars Head-to-Head points league. I understand the merits of postponement. It isn’t a regular year. I also understand the merits of continuing to draft this March. Grappling onto elements of normalcy has its benefits. Whichever group you're in, this article will address how to modify projections and expectations for 2020 given this past week’s rapid turn of events.

 

Risk Management in Fantasy Baseball

For those of you who are unfamiliar with professional background – I am a certified actuary. I am a Fellow of both the Casualty Actuarial Society and the Society of Actuaries.

In a nutshell, an actuary is an insurance professional who is well versed in the mathematics of insurance. Actuaries price insurance contracts, decide on the amount of reserves that companies need to hold for claims, inform management on the ROEs of various lines of business and deal with many other assorted insurance-related tasks.

One of my goals as a baseball writer and analyst is to bring concepts found in insurance and apply them to fantasy baseball.

At the top of my mind this week is the broad concept of risk. During a fantasy draft or auction, every time that a player is acquired, the owner takes on all of the player’s skills. Power hitters will offer the ability to hit home runs. Speedsters will offer a high stolen base output. Combo players will offer a blend of the two, etc.

Simultaneously, when a player is acquired - the owner also takes on all of the risks associated with the player. Some examples of player risk include (but are not limited to):

  • Injury Risk
  • Performance Risk
  • Durability Risk
  • Age Risk
  • Experience Risk
  • Regression Risk
  • Playing Time Risk
  • etc.

Every fantasy owner will acquire players with varying degrees of a number of these risks. There are no “sure things” in baseball. Nolan Arenado has been an amazingly stable fantasy asset over the past five years. He may exhibit a low amount of risk relative to others, but there are a multitude of possible scenarios where his final achieved value could be far lower than expectations.

A typical fantasy owner should acquire a few players who exhibit high risk. Rarely is a team devoid of high-risk players. Risky players often come with a cost discount at a draft/auction commensurate with the amount of risk that the player holds. It is the job of the fantasy owner to determine which risks are correctly accounted for by the market, which are overpriced, and which risks are accretive investments.

Generally speaking, drafted players are mainly uncorrelated. Their production (and hence value) is largely independent of one another.

Suppose that you have drafted Ozzie Albies and Nick Castellanos. An injury to Albies should have zero relationship to whether or not Castellanos gets injured. Or at least, that’s the way we draft. If I draft Giancarlo Stanton – whether or not he comes back fully recovered sooner or later should have zero correlation with Trey Mancini coming back sooner or later from his cancer surgery. [We hope they both heal soon.] We assume that all players, and (more importantly) all risk types are independent from one another.

We don’t want to draft too much injury risk in the aggregate on our teams, or too much of any risk for that matter. We want just enough to give us some upside – and hopefully, we buy those players at the appropriate discounts.

 

Injury Risk

Guess what we just learned? Injury risk is not independent. Injury risk was not independent for any 2020 draft that occurred prior to this week. Not even close.

The injury risk taken on by rostering Eugenio Suarez has every bit to do with the injury risk taken on by rostering Alex Verdugo. What do I mean by that?

Provided that baseball is played in 2020, every single player who is currently injured and was expected to return sometime in the middle of 2020 – will likely earn a profit! Every single discount that a player received in drafts, will either go away completely or be severely mitigated for any going-forward March drafts.

I acquired Aaron Judge for a mere $14 in the Mixed LABR auction two weeks ago. Unless Judge is out for an extended period of time, or requires season-ending surgery – in all likelihood, this will result in a profitable outcome for me. The bet that I made on Judge – acquiring him via his injury discount – will likely pay off. In the Mixed Tout Wars auction that occurred on Saturday, Judge was acquired for $23 by Gene McCaffrey. Though there are differences in league format and value between LABR and Tout Wars, much of the price difference between the two auctions arises because of COVID-19.

Every single injured player’s value has changed in the past week. From Mike Clevinger to Michael Conforto to Aaron Judge to Adalberto Mondesi to Giancarlo Stanton to Eugenio Suarez, etc. – every single injured player’s worth has been altered … and in the same direction: Up.

Injured players were correlated. Highly correlated. Injury risk was not independent.

Had a fantasy owner stocked his team with 15 of these injury risk players (acquired at discounts) – he would theoretically now have a large excess in team aggregate value. I happen to know and play with fantasy players who constantly accumulate many injured players at discounts. They typically hope that one or two players breakout and vastly outperform their acquisition price. 2020 would be the year of striking gold for such a drafter.

Yes, I do understand that I am talking about a team profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic. No one had that intention. Once again, it is a sad situation to be even talking about any positive effects on fantasy baseball from an awful widespread disease. But as a fantasy analyst, these are the facts and we need to contemplate how to go from here.

 

How to Adjust Projections

Now onto what to do going forward. What is the best way to update our own values/rankings of players to reflect the 2020 prospective landscape?

It all starts with projections. We need to alter/update our former projections for every single player in baseball – in order to allow us to properly evaluate their value change relative to the rest of the player pool.

To this end, I’d first like to classify all players into the following categories for today’s analysis:

  • Injured Players
  • Pitchers with Innings Caps
  • Suspended Players
  • Prospects who will be called up on a certain date
  • Prospects with service time manipulation / who need more seasoning
  • Standard Players - All Other Players

There are many ways to partition the list of MLB players, but for today - I would like to illustrate how to deal with the valuation of these classes of players.

Let’s start with the easiest group – the “All Other Players.”

 

Standard Players

First off, let’s choose an estimated start date that baseball will resume. We need to come up with a best guess of the percentage of games that will be missed during the season. Will the regular season be extended in October? We need to make an educated guess based on the latest information available to us.

For today’s analysis, I will assume that:

  • June 1 will be the league’s start date.
  • There will be no additional games played in October (to keep things relatively simple).
  • Roughly one-third of the season will be missed. [I’m choosing to be optimistic.]

These are all assumptions that are almost impossible to predict. I won’t pretend to have a good idea of when MLB will commence. But let’s go with these assumptions today to help us run through the math of how to adjust projections.

Let’s call the percentage of the MLB season that will be missed the Missed%. The date that the season will be resumed will be referred to as the League Start Date. Numerically using our stated assumption:

Missed% = 33.3%

For now, let’s assume that rate stats will not differ. That is, we will assume that a player who was expected to hit one home run every 40 at-bats, will do exactly that in a shortened season.

The math goes as follows:

  • New AB = Old AB * (1 – Missed%)
  • New HR = Old AB * (1 – Missed%)
  • New SB = Old SB * (1 – Missed%)

I prefer to refer to the formulae as follows:

  • New AB = (1 – Missed%) * Old AB
  • HR = HR/AB * AB [New or Old]
  • SB = SB/AB * AB [New or Old]

Since HR & SB rates, etc. do not change post-translation – if we compute all counting stats as a function of playing time, we only need to adjust a player’s playing time. The key translation, and the math of our specific example:

  • New AB or IP = (1 – Missed%) * Old AB or IP
  • New AB or IP = 66.7% * Old AB or IP

Since we are essentially looking for a factor to apply to playing time, let’s refer to the multiplier as the Adjustment%.

  • Adjustment% = (1 – Missed%)

For all rates, it should follow that:

  • New BA = Old BA
  • New OBP = Old OBP
  • New SLG = Old SLG

There is no work to be done on any of the standard baseball averages.

 

Injured Players

As described above, all injured players will gain in value relative to the rest of the player pool. The reason stems from the fact that each projection considers zero production until the player has returned.

Let’s take Miles Mikolas. ATC projections previously projected the following:

Auction Value   IP BBI HA ER W S K ERA WHIP
4   115 21 120 52 7 0 90 4.05 1.22

The limited 115 innings projection was partially due to a forearm issue.

* Auction Values are per NFBC roster settings (15-team, 5x5 scoring)

At this time, I would like to give credit to Reuven Guy, who is my fantasy partner and is my co-host of the Great Fantasy Baseball Invitation Podcast – Beat the Shift. In real life, Reuven is an orthopedic PA. On twitter (@mlbinjuryguru), he is on top of player injuries and prognoses. Late last week, we went through all currently injured players – and determined each of their expected “comeback dates.” We put down an estimate of when they might be healthy enough to play in the major leagues.

Let’s also convert the Comeback Date into a percentage of the season that the player was supposed to miss due to injury. Here are some basic percentages that we can use:

Comeback Date InjuryMiss%
4/7/2020 4.2%
4/15/2020 8.3%
4/22/2020 12.5%
5/1/2020 16.7%
5/7/2020 20.8%
5/15/2020 25.0%
5/22/2020 29.2%
6/1/2020 33.3%
6/7/2020 37.5%
6/15/2020 41.7%
6/22/2020 45.8%
7/1/2020 50.0%

InjuryMiss% will represent the portion of the 2020 season that each player was expected to initially miss.

The key to understanding how to adjust Mikolas’s projection (for example) is the following:

115 IP = 0 IP prior to Comeback Date + 115 IP after Comeback Date

There are now two possibilities for all injured players:

1) A player’s comeback date is set on or after the league start date. [InjuryMiss % >= Missed%]

In this scenario, all of the player’s innings will be as previously projected. If Mikolas was expected to return on June 15, for example – all 115 innings would still be projected for him. In this scenario:

  • Adjustment% = 100%
  • New IP = 100% * Old IP

There is a change to this type of player’s projection. Since the rest of the league has a 66.7% adjustment factor, the player becomes far more valuable. In fact, these players will become a whopping 50% more valuable relative to the standard player (using our original June 1 League Start Date assumption).

2) A player’s comeback date is set prior to the league start date. [InjuryMiss % < Missed%]

Let’s set Miles Mikolas’s comeback date at May 1, 2020. That translates to a 16.7% InjuryMiss%.

The adjustment math is as follows:

  • Adjustment% = (1 - Missed%) / (1 - InjuryMiss%)
  • New IP = (1 - Missed%) / (1 - InjuryMiss%) * Old IP

For Mikolas, his Adjustment% would be:

Adjustment% = (1 – 33.3%) / (1 – 16.7%) = 80.0%

The 80.0% is a higher factor than the common 66.7% factor, which gives Mikolas about a 20% relative value increase over the standard player. His new IP total goes to 92, with all rate stats following suit.

New Miles Mikolas Projections:

Auction Value   IP BBI HA ER W S K ERA WHIP
6   92 17 96 41 6 0 72 4.05 1.22

 

Suspended Players

All suspended players will now LOSE value relative to others. Suspended players still have to serve punishment for the same number of games, regardless of how many baseball contests end up taking place. If for example, all MLB games are canceled in 2020 - suspended players would then have to serve their sentence in 2021, etc. They would be worth zero in 2020.

If a player was previously projected to be suspended 50% of the season, he will now be suspended for a larger part of the season. Hence, he will lose value relative to the others.

Take Domingo German as an example. His suspension was set to expire roughly in the first week of June.

Auction Value   IP BBI HA ER W S K ERA WHIP
0   76 24 72 38 5 0 82 4.47 1.26

Similar to the injured players above, it is important to understand that all of German’s projected innings occur after his Reinstatement Date.

76 IP = 0 IP prior to Reinstatement Date + 76 IP after Reinstatement Date

Let’s set Domingo German’s reinstatement date at June 7, 2020. That translates to a 37.5% SuspensionMiss%.

The adjustment math is as follows:

  • Adjustment% = (1 - SuspensionMiss% - Missed%) / (1 - SuspensionMiss%)
  • New IP = (1 - SuspensionMiss% - Missed%) / (1 - SuspensionMiss%) * Old IP

The Adjustment% is of course, subject to a minimum 0% value – the smallest amount of time that a suspended player may be able to play in a season. For injuries, the Adjustment% was never less than the standard adjustment; for suspensions - it is no greater.

Domingo German’s Adjustment% would be:

Adjustment% = (1 – 37.5% - 33.3%) / (1 – 37.5%) = 46.7%

Auction Value   IP BBI HA ER W S K ERA WHIP
-1   36 11 34 18 3 0 38 4.47 1.26

 

Pitchers with Innings Caps

There are a number of starting pitchers in the major leagues that were not projected for a full season’s worth of volume due to innings cap impositions. These pitchers might be rookies/sophomores who have not yet pitched a full season, or perhaps they might be recovering from Tommy John surgery or other health issues.

Let’s take A.J. Puk for example.

Auction Value   IP BBI HA ER W S K ERA WHIP
5   121 49 107 55 8 0 133 4.09 1.29

Projected innings for this class of player look like the following:

121 IP = 121 IP prior to Innings Cap Limit + 0 IP after Innings Cap Limit

Projections have assumed that all of the innings for A.J. Puk are frontloaded. When the season finally commences, Puk would pitch the first 121 innings, and would stop pitching thereafter.

For pitchers with innings caps, I introduce one more intermediate (but complicated) step into the process.

Without going into too many details (as this isn’t our main focus for the day) - I first generate the percentage of capacity innings that a pitcher would pitch in a full season. This is either based on organizational depth charts, on IP per start metrics, or based on skills, etc. Most starting pitchers will generally project out to 80-95% of possible capacity. Assuming that capacity is 200 IP these days, fully healthy pitchers are generally projected between 160-190 innings.

For A.J. Puk, I set his Capacity% to 80% (he would be a ~160 innings pitcher this season without team imposed innings limits).

The adjustment math is as follows:

  • Adjustment% = Capacity% * (1 - Missed%) / (IP / 200)
  • New IP = Capacity% * (1 - Missed%) / (IP / 200) * Old IP

The Adjustment% is subject to a minimum 0% value, and a 100% maximum value.

For Puk:

Adjustment% = 80% * (1 - 33.3%) / (121 / 200) = 88.0%

Auction Value   IP BBI HA ER W S K ERA WHIP
8   107 43 94 48 7 0 117 4.09 1.29

 

Prospects

Dealing with prospects is more difficult. There is no one-size-fits-all rule. Earlier in this article, I identified two classes of prospects:

  • Prospects who will be called up on a certain date
  • Prospects with service time manipulation / who need more seasoning

Prospects who will be called up on a certain date

As captioned. Treat these prospects as injured players. Assume a prior “call-up” date and substitute it as an injury return date. You will then be able to use the formulae above for injured players.

Prospects with service time manipulation / who need more seasoning

These are prospects whose organization has a monetary reason for holding the player back for some time. Perhaps keeping a prospect down some 25 days is needed to garner a year more of team control, or to push off arbitration by one season. Whatever the case may be – these prospects will be in the minors for some (fixed) set of time before coming up to the majors. Or, some prospects simply need an additional amount of fixed time in the minor leagues in order to hone their skills. No matter what the actual start date of the MiLB season, these are the players who will stay in the minors for a select time period.

Treat these prospects as suspended players. Assume a prior “call-up” date, substitute it as a reinstatement date. You will then be able to use the formulae above for suspended players.

There are many other possibilities of how one can model prospect adjustment. Hopefully, these two basic examples will cover most cases for you.

 

Limitations / Notes / Future Enhancements

In no particular order, here are a few of the limitations/simplifying assumptions of today’s article, as well as some possible variants or future enhancements:

  • The model above assumed that the season would end after September as usual. It is highly possible that the 2020 regular season (if played) would be extended well into October. That would shift/change some of the precise formulae.
  • We assumed a deterministic/static starting date for the opening day of baseball in 2020. Of course, at this point in time, we do not have a firm grasp on it. An actuarial model would pick a midpoint, assume the starting point to be variable, and run the playing time with stochastic simulations.
  • I refer to playing time in the above as at-bats for hitters. More precisely, one should be using plate appearances instead of pure at-bats.
  • I refer to IP in many of the adjustment equations above. You may substitute in plate appearances for the equivalent hitter formula.
  • One class of player not covered is the players who would be “losing their roles.” Whoever is the 5th starter in St. Louis might end up losing playing time once Miles Mikolas comes back from injury, etc. One might want to consider adjusting their projections downwards as well.
  • We assumed above that homerun rates (or stolen base rates) would be identical if the season started at any point in the year. Of course, that isn’t exactly true. HRs grow in the heat of the summer, and SB are quite variable from month to month throughout the season. Some additional adjustments would be needed to be more precise.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully, you have gained a further understanding of the types of players requiring a rankings change - which could be either up or down. Should you participate in drafts in the next few days, consider modifying your strike price for players as described above. I have guided you on the mathematics of how to adjust playing time, should you be inclined to do so on your own.

We have also seen today that injury risk is not independent from player to player. There always exists the possibility that an entire class of risk will be devalued or may collectively appreciate in a single moment. This is a crucial concept to understand. It arises far more in life than you might imagine.

Finally, I want to aid you in knowing just how much a player's value has been translated. Below is a listing of injured, suspended and innings cap players with adjusted valuations. I provide a pre and post NFBC (15-team, 5x5 roto) value for affected players.

 

Risers and Fallers, Assuming a June 1 Opening Day

Name Player Class Old Value New Value
Luis Arraez Injury 5.8 7.1
Byron Buxton Injury 9.3 12.0
Willie Calhoun Injury 3.7 9.2
Griffin Canning Injury 0.3 1.2
Carlos Carrasco Injury 14.2 15.4
Yoenis Cespedes Injury -7.6 -4.2
Emmanuel Clase Injury -2.9 -0.6
Mike Clevinger Injury 20.6 22.2
Michael Conforto Injury 17.0 18.4
Nelson Cruz Injury 19.1 20.7
Max Fried Innings Cap 13.4 13.9
Michael Fulmer Injury -3.8 -3.3
Joey Gallo Injury 17.3 18.7
Domingo German Suspension 0.5 -1.1
Cole Hamels Injury 1.0 2.1
Jordan Hicks Injury -4.0 -2.1
Rich Hill Injury 1.1 3.8
Brent Honeywell Injury -1.1 -0.8
Aaron Judge Injury 14.6 22.0
Corey Knebel Injury 0.0 0.8
Michael Kopech Injury -1.5 -1.1
Dinelson Lamet Innings Cap 11.8 13.0
Mike Leake Injury -3.4 -3.2
Sean Manaea Innings Cap 8.7 8.9
Trey Mancini Injury 0.5 12.7
Lance McCullers Innings Cap 7.7 10.2
Andrew McCutchen Injury 6.6 9.3
Brendan McKay Injury 6.4 7.2
Miles Mikolas Injury 4.2 5.7
Adalberto Mondesi Injury 20.5 24.2
Reyes Moronta Injury -6.4 -5.7
Shohei Ohtani Injury 5.8 6.5
Chris Paddack Innings Cap 20.7 24.1
James Paxton Injury 7.9 11.7
Michael Pineda Suspension 2.6 1.6
A.J. Puk Innings Cap 5.0 7.8
Brendan Rodgers Injury -15.7 -12.1
Hyun-Jin Ryu Innings Cap 12.4 12.9
Chris Sale Injury 15.1 17.4
Giancarlo Stanton Injury 15.4 18.6
Eugenio Suarez Injury 19.6 21.1
Jose Urquidy Innings Cap 9.2 10.6
Alex Verdugo Injury 8.2 10.9
Justin Verlander Injury 29.2 31.3

I wish you all safety and health in these difficult times. Hoping that baseball is back real soon …

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Roto Strategy - Is Punting Steals a Good Idea?

In fantasy baseball, there are two scoring categories that are somewhat exclusive to a certain type of player: stolen bases and saves. Saves are obvious; only closers can earn them. As such, fantasy owners must decide how important that category is to the overall construction of their roster. If we value the stat, we'll draft closers relatively early. If we're content to take a hit in saves in favor of loading up on multi-category hitters and starting pitchers, we'll grab some closers late and display aggressiveness on the waiver wire throughout the year. A much shorter description of the latter strategy is "punting saves."

In some ways, this same philosophy can be applied to stolen bases. Sure, there are far more position players who can steal bases than there are pitchers who can earn saves. Moreover, at least a few of the better base-path thieves in the league are valuable in multiple categories (Christian Yelich, Ronald Acuna, for example). But there are also a handful of high-steal guys who are offensive liabilities outside of swiping bags (Adalberto Mondesi, Mallex Smith). Selecting players who are likely to hurt us in several offensive scoring categories just because they can greatly help us in steals requires us to pass up on more well-rounded hitters at certain junctures of the draft. On the flip side, this isn't 1986. There are only so many truly elite base-stealers in the league, which begs the question: Is punting steals a good idea?

In the following passages, we'll discuss the merits and drawbacks of punting steals. There are a variety of factors to take into account, and there is no across-the-board right or wrong answer. Our decisions on whether or not to go this route will come down to a series of questions. *Note: All ADP information used in this article is courtesy of NFBC.

 

How Much Do I Value Steals?

Let's start with why locking up stolen bases is a perfectly reasonable draft strategy if that's how you operate. I mentioned 1986 as a year when players were seemingly swiping bags at will, but the truth is we can greatly narrow the timeline if we want evidence that true-blue base-stealers are a dying breed.

The last time more than 10 players stole 30 bases in a single season was 2014. Since then, we've had seven in 2015; 10 in 2016; six in 2017; 10 in 2018; eight in 2019. Contrast that against the five years immediately preceding 2014, when MLB averaged just over 17 players per season with 30 or more steals, and it's clear that the list of guys we can rely on to provide us elite value in this category is steadily dwindling over time.

With that in mind, we simply need to ask ourselves how important the category actually is to us. Much like with saves and closers, knowing how we value the category will help us determine a plan of action. From there, we can ask more specific questions about individual players.

 

What Else Can I Expect From This Player?

Our next question focuses exclusively on players for whom steals are the primary draw. The above-mentioned Smith and Mondesi ranked first and second, respectively, in stolen bases last season. Mondesi's on-base percentage was .291, and Smith's was an even .300. Neither offers any power to offset their relative inability to consistently reach base, or to supplement their stolen base tallies.

Smith plays for one of the worst teams in the league in Seattle, so counting on his high steal total to automatically translate into a ton of runs isn't necessarily a safe bet. Mondesi does have some power hitting behind him in the Royals lineup in Jorge Soler, but it's tough to truly capitalize on that with a sub-.300 OBP. In drafting either one of these players, we're essentially banking on them to steal such an exorbitant number of bases that their shortcomings elsewhere don't tank our lineups.

Mondesi in particular should have red flags book-ending his name on the draft board, as his current ADP is 34.91. Even if he steals 60 bases, that's a high price to pay for a guy who has yet to prove he can give us anything else. At least we can wait awhile on Smith, who isn't being drafted until the 12th round in 12-team leagues. I'm punting on steals 100 times out of 100 if the example in question is Mondesi.

Third on the stolen-base leaderboard in 2019 was Jonathan Villar, who can provide us with value in more than one category. Villar clubbed 24 home runs and scored 111 runs last season for the lowly Orioles. Because he put up those numbers in Baltimore, I'm not overly concerned that a new home with the equally hapless Marlins will put a significant dent in his overall offensive production. (It is worth noting, however, that it's much more difficult to hit baseballs out of Marlins Park than out of Camden Yards.)

Still, Villar posted a .279/.339/.453 slash line last season, which is a far cry from what Smith or Mondesi can say. He's going slightly later than Mondesi at ADP 37.09. If I absolutely must choose between one of them at this point in the draft, I'll take slightly fewer steals in exchange for a more well-rounded offensive player in Villar. But even then I'm passing up on great value elsewhere, which brings us to our next question.

 

What Sacrifices Am I Making by Drafting This Player?

Part of the dilemma here is that, again, the list of exceptional base-stealers in 2020 is much shorter than it was in past generations of the sport. When only a half-dozen or so guys eclipse the 30-steal threshold, there's certainly an argument to be made for giving ourselves an overwhelming advantage by grabbing one of them. But especially early in the draft, we're inevitably going to have to sacrifice in other spots if we do so.

Coming back to our Villar/Mondesi example, some of the other players who could theoretically be available to us at that ADP are Peter Alonso, Ozzie Albies, Jose Altuve, Austin Meadows, and Javier Baez. All of these guys are multi-dimensional fantasy players with tons of upside and high floors, though none are likely to challenge for the stolen base crown.

Unless we're drafting at the very beginning or end of a round, we can likely only have one of the players in this range. Would we prefer for that one player to help us in some combination of runs, RBI, batting average, and homers? Or are we comfortable with the high steal total and drop-off in other categories? The earlier in the draft, the greater the sacrifice.

If we take a Villar or a Mondesi in the fourth round, then we need to acknowledge what we're giving up elsewhere on our roster and approach the rest of our draft accordingly. This is easier said than done, as there is only so much we can control about the draft in the first place.

 

What Other Players Can Help Me in Stolen Bases?

Most of this discussion has been centralized on guys who excel in steals and not much else. But even if we don't land any of them, we're not entirely out of the running (pun strongly intended) in the category. We can still incorporate steals into our draft strategy without honing in on relatively one-dimensional players. So let us now turn our attention to the players who can steal bases, but for whom steals don't tell the whole story.

First off, if we have a late first-round pick and we select Trea Turner, great. He hits for average, has some decent power, and his place at the top of the Nationals lineup easily puts 100 runs scored within his range of outcomes. If we have a top-five pick and we can snag Yelich or Acuna, even better. Steals are, like, the fourth thing you think of when you think of Yelich or Acuna.

Beyond the very top of the stolen-base leaderboard, however, there are multitudes of players who can contribute steals to our line while also helping us out in other categories. This is where the roads of punting saves and punting steals go their separate ways: We eventually have to roster a couple of closers to have any chance in saves, but we don't necessarily need a Mondesi or a Smith to lead our league in steals.

I consulted FanGraphs in an attempt to find some evidence for my case, and as always, they did not disappoint. Since the start of 2017, there have been 76 instances in which a player met or exceeded the following thresholds in a single season: 12 stolen bases, 15 home runs, 75 runs scored. That's a three-year average of just over 25 guys providing us some pretty well-rounded fantasy production, with steals being the most difficult to come by.

There are repeat offenders on this list (which admittedly skews the total somewhat), as well as a couple of early-round superstars we can't exactly wait on at the draft, but there are plenty of diamonds in the rough as well. Among some of the less-heralded names to have achieved this feat in 2019 are Amed Rosario (ADP 129.87), Adam Eaton (ADP 209.05), Danny Santana (ADP 136.64), Shin-Soo Choo (ADP 250.40), Ramon Laureano (ADP 78.27), Tim Anderson (ADP 102.51), and Kevin Pillar (largely going undrafted in standard-sized leagues). Andrew Benintendi also accomplished this twice in 2017-18 before a relatively down 2019; he's a fine bet to reappear on the list in 2020.

We can even narrow the sample to isolate players who aren't going to drag down our batting average too much. In that case, there have still been 52 instances in which a player posted the above thresholds while also hitting at least .265. The point is, we can find players with the ability to contribute stolen bases without tanking our lineup in other categories, and we don't have to sell out for them in the early rounds.

If we are lucky enough to grab Turner, Yelich, Acuna, or even Francisco Lindor in the first round, then adding just a few of these guys later on puts us in pretty good position to contend for the league lead in steals. If we miss on those players, fear not. There will still be plenty of opportunities for us to pad our stolen base total as the draft progresses, even if we don't land an elite thief. And with a well-rounded offense, a middling finish in steals won't crush our championship aspirations.

 

Conclusion

This strategy can essentially be defined as punting steals without actually punting steals. We're acknowledging that we probably won't end up with one of the top stolen-base threats on the draft board, but we're not ignoring the category altogether.

When it's all said and done, we all have to make our own decisions on how to draft. This is just my personal process. I find that asking myself these questions about what I want my roster to look like helps me prepare. It might not work for everyone, but if you can take at least a few pointers away from this then I'm happy to have (hopefully) helped you get ready for your own draft. If you have any questions about anything pertaining to fantasy baseball, feel free to direct them to me on Twitter: @cjoreillyCLE. Thank you for reading, good luck, and most importantly--have fun!

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Break the League: The ESPN Points League Ranker

It might always be in fashion to go after the worldwide leader but this not just some critique de rigueur of their points game and coverage. I actually have a soft spot for ESPN as they were home to my original league for years and our scoring is somewhat similar to their default settings. When the Doubleday Legacy League began a decade ago none of us knew what we were doing. There wasn't a ton of information out there but at least ESPN had point rankings. And for that I was grateful.

The first lesson I learned was that those rankings didn't seem to work for our league. The projected points they offered seemed a little better but at the end of the year, the player's results never quite seemed to jive. Sweet, naive Nicklaus didn't understand anything about replacement levels and positional scarcities. Or how to use Excel, for that matter. But I wanted to learn. Yada, yada, yada, here we are. Trust is the message I continue to preach. Points players must be able to trust their content more than any other format. And to that end, it is incumbent on fantasy platforms to - at a minimum - make sure their content comes close to matching likely outcomes, given how certain player profiles will perform in their scoring system.  I suppose you could say I don't think they always hold up their end of the bargain.

This article will present RotoBaller's ESPN Points League Ranker Tool, which is designed to give ESPN 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 various analysis on fantasy baseball points leagues including undervalued / overvalued players and draft targets / avoids. And you can of course read the rest of this Point League Ranker series as well covering Yahoo, Fantrax and CBS platforms.

 

Bristol, We Have a Problem

There are two direct resources that ESPN makes available to points players for draft prep. The projected points based off of their site player projections (and the subsequent rankings) as well A.J. Mass's top-300 rankings. With few options available (if only there were a better one ;), these are the sources most new points players will lean on when drafting.

Unfortunately, there are not only the expected value differences between roto and points but there's also a real disconnect between ESPN's two sets of rankings: 1) Mass's rankings, and 2) the rankings based on EPSN's projected points). Taking a look at Mass's top-25 players, compared to ESPN's projected top-25 for points leagues, and it's easy to see how players new to points leagues might get confused about which players to target in a draft.

AJ Mass's Top-300 Ranks  - ESPN Projected Points Ranks 

PLAYER POS Mass Top-25 Projected Top-25
Ronald Acuna Jr. OF 1 26
Christian Yelich OF 2 10
Gerrit Cole SP 3 1
Jacob deGrom SP 4 3
Justin Verlander SP 5 2
Max Scherzer SP 6 4
Trea Turner SS 7 52
Mookie Betts OF 8 7
Francisco Lindor SS 9 20
Mike Trout OF 10 5
Cody Bellinger OF/1B 11 13
Jose Ramirez 3B 12 22
Shane Bieber SP 13 19
Trevor Story SS 14 78
Freddie Freeman 1B 15 14
Juan Soto OF 16 11
Nolan Arenado 3B 17 8
Walker Buehler SP 18 15
Adalberto Mondesi SS 19 255
Alex Bregman 3B/SS 20 6
Fernando Tatis Jr. SS 21 124
Starling Marte OF 22 67
Jonathan Villar 2B/SS 23 204
Whit Merrifield 2B/OF 24 82
Bryce Harper OF 25 27

 

We talked about Acuna already but what about Trevor Story? He's ranked #14 by Mass but is projected to score the 78th-most points. Or how about there being a 58-spot difference for Whit Merrifield? How is there a 181-spot difference for Jonathan Villar? I mean, I'm always okay with hating on Villar but how can these values be reconciled by the average user? And it's not just the top-25; the discrepancies are arguably more important the further you travel down the list.

Is it any wonder that people play points for the first time and are totally turned off by the experience and/or think the game is mostly luck? What's the player to believe? The projected-points ranks or the site expert ranks? Either? Neither?  Whether you're completely new to fantasy or are a convert from roto, good luck trying to wrestle any actionable intel out of what ESPN is offering you for research. Because unless you know how players fit into your particular system and draft accordingly, you'll be behind the eight-ball before the season even begins. You have to know your system before you can exploit it.

 

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 ESPN 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 ESPN but are on the waiver-wire in CBS, with default roster construction.

Default Point Scoring

Batting Points Pitching Points
Total Base 1 Inning 3
Run 1 Win 5
RBI 1 Loss -5
Stolen Base 1 Save 5
Walk 1 Strikeout 1
Strikeout -1 Earned Run -2
Hit Allow -1
Walk Allow -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. However, ESPN rewards players for stolen bases the least (1 point) and punishes strikeouts (-1) the most; it's these two categories that drive player values the most in the ESPN scoring system.

Pitcher Takeaways

Compared to the other platforms, ESPN rewards the most for an inning pitched (3 points) but the least for strikeouts (1 point), while punishing pitchers the most for earned runs (-2 points) and the most for hits and walks allowed (-1 point).

 

Solving the ESPN 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. For example, it's not just seeing that Ronald Acuna Jr. is was only the 28th-highest scorer on ESPN last year. It's also understanding why his highlight-reel season scored so poorly and what kind of improvements Acuna would actually need to make in order to justify the top-five pick required to roster him.

As mentioned above, the two biggest drivers of value for ESPN batters compared to other platforms are strikeouts and stolen bases. As it relates to actual point totals, it's really only the former in which a player can drastically improve his value. Each fewer strikeout is one less point that has to made up elsewhere so shaving points off of your K-rate can jump your point total up quickly. Acuna had a 26.3% K-rate last season, for a total of 188 K and 477 points. If Acuna dropped to a 20% K-rate, his point total would go up to 522 points, taking him from the 28th-highest scorer to the 19th-highest.

On the other hand, the only way that Acuna will significantly increase the number of points he earns from stolen bases is if ESPN changes the scoring to the two-points given at Fantrax and CBS. Think of it this way, even if Acuna had stolen 50 bases in 2019, he would've only scored 13 more points.  Acuna could've had 50 SB with a 20% K-rate last year and would've still just barely be a top-five batter, with his 535 points tying him Nolan Arenado for the 13th-highest scorer.

Are you starting to pick up what I'm laying down, in regards to it being difficult to change one's scoring profile? If Acuna had finished last season with 50 HR and 50 SB, his 544 points would've made him the 10th-highest scorer...Or, just nine points behind Marcus Semien. Can you hear me cluckin', big chicken? Know. Your. Platform.

 

Handling Your Staff

The public narrative of pitching being king in points is mostly true but also misunderstood. For one, not all pitching is as kingly from one platform to the next, not only in how they compare to batters but also how they compare to other pitchers. For two, scoring might not be as disparate as one would think. According to the ATC projections of recently crowned #1-ranker (and resident RotoBaller) Ariel Cohen, the top-100 scorers will consist of 31 pitchers and 69 hitters. The top-50 is projected to consist of 18 pitchers and 32 hitters. Overall, ATC projects the top 50 pitchers to score 19,562 points in 2020 and the top-50 hitters to score 21,745 points.

That's not to say you should draft only hitters; the pitchers that really separate themselves from their hitting counterparts are in the top tiers, both the elite hurlers and the ones right below. According to ATC, the top-three projected scorers in ESPN are pitchers, as well as four of the top-six. Elite starters are very, very valuable in a head-to-head format. But pitching isn't everything and there are many different ways to win in points; not all of them include just loading up on as many pitchers as you can grab.

 

Forced to Cheat

One of my biggest complaints about standard ESPN leagues is that they allow (and almost necessarily require) players to easily cheat the 12 starts per-week limit. Once you've reached the 12-start limit for the week, you will no longer get points from starting pitchers, regardless of them being in a starting slot. But not until the next day. Any extra starts that are made the day you cross the threshold will still be counted towards your total. So if you start the day having made 11 of your 12 starts and start five pitchers that day, you will show as having made 16/12 starts but will still get all of the points.

It's always been like this, everyone knows about it, and most exploit it as fully as they can. If you play in a private league then there's no issue because your commissioner can make corrections to anyone that makes too many starts. But that's not an option in public leagues. No wonder people get turned off by point leagues considering BS cheats like that exist. How mad would you be the first time you lost an important matchup because your opponent finagled the system to get 17 starts in a week?

Deep breath, Nick. Try to forget that the world's largest fantasy provider cares so little about their users that they refuse to make a simple fix to their scorekeeping that would greatly improve their product. Moving past the nefarious cheating that ESPN almost requires of its public players, let's cover some ways to make sure you don't sink your championship aspirations before the season even begins. For example, if you ever find yourself wanting to draft Adalberto Mondesi and it's not at least the 20th round, go ahead and just click, "remove from queue".

 

Keep Your Head On a Swivel

You have to go into any points draft as prepared as possible, with a good idea of how the system scores. But what you really need to avoid are the calamitous pitfalls that can quickly turn your championship dreams into nightmares, like wasting a premium pick(s) on players with real-life skills that are unlikely to ever translate to success in your chosen point system.

To help point out these most dangerous of players, I turned ATC projections into ESPN projected points, adjusted those points for replacement-levels, turned those adjusted points into dollar values, and then ranked players accordingly. I then compared those values to typical draft prices along with ESPN's featured points rankings, scanning for traps, on your behalf. And now, a public service announcement.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

You CANNOT draft the following high-profile names from ESPN's top-300 list. I don't care how much you want them, they won't be worth the price. Barring an extreme change in profile, drafting the players below will be just like being snatched up in a bear trap...Crack! No more fantasy season.

Players to Avoid in ESPN Points Leagues

1. Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves

ADP: Top-Five
ESPN Top 300: #1
ATC Dollar Rank: #26

We already covered this but if a 50/50 season and 20% K-rate wouldn't have made Acuna a top-10 player last season, then how exactly will he be worth a top-five pick in 2020?

2. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals

ADP: Late First-Round
ESPN Top 300: #7
ATC Dollar Rank: #58

  • Fact #1: ATC projects Turner for 20 HR - 99 R - 69 RBI - 40 SB - .286 AVG.
  • Fact #2: This is right in line with other major projection systems and would give Turner elite value in roto.
  • Fact #3: The above line won't make Turner a top-50 player in ESPN points.

3. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies

ADP: Late Second/Early Third-Round
ESPN Top 300: #14
ATC Dollar Rank: #70

While I'm worried that Nick Mariano might challenge me to a duel over voicing such a grievous insult, you absolutely cannot draft Trevor Story. He's not going to be taken in the first round like in roto but you'll still likely need to use a second or third-round pick in order to roster the Colorado dynamo. Unfortunately, Story's never going to be able to out-slug or out-steal his way past his perennially high strikeout-rate.

4. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

ADP: Late Second/Early Third-Round
ESPN Top 300: #21
ATC Dollar Rank: #138

Woof. Imagine how stoked you would be if you started your draft off by getting Acuna and Tatis. Bad news chummy; your team sucks.

5. Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

ADP: Sixth/Seventh Round
ESPN Top 300: #35
ATC Dollar Rank: #165

It's just nearly impossible to be elite on ESPN if you carry a strikeout-rate north of 25%. Like Trevor Story-lite, Hiura will have a hard time out-hitting the 30.7% K-rate that he posted in his rookie campaign.

 

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 an ESPN 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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Finding Over/Undervalued Second Basemen Using Expected Draft Values

A couple weeks ago, we introduced our Expected Draft Values and explained how they would help us identify both over and undervalued players of all types. Power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, with pitchers as well.

Today, we'll look at four "power" hitters, as identified by our site projections. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we bring you a deeper look at undervalued and overvalued players from each position using Expected Draft Values.

Generally, what we'll do in this series is identify players who will return positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Online Contests (Feb 1-March 9, 74 drafts), their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection.

 

How Expected Draft Values Help You Win Your League

It may be clear by this point already, but if you know the expected break-even stat-line of every draft slot, you can identify which of your draft picks are projected to return positive or negative value. Below, we look at five power bats that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Online ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2020 drafts.

 

Gleyber Torres - 2B, NYY

NFBC Online ADP: 32
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 32nd*: .284 BA, 33 HR, 91 runs, 98 RBI, 8 SB
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .271-34-88-95-6

Analysis: Mixing young talent with a strong season in the Bronx spotlight makes for quite the inflation in draft price! This is not to bash Torres, remember that. But his projected production falls short in average and R+RBI without big speed to fall back onto. This doesn’t have much of the Aaron Judge injury baked in, but we can’t ignore that Judge missing from the top of that lineup hurts the heart’s production.

Torres’ 7.1% Barrels/PA rate checks in at 61st out of 250 qualified hitters from 2019, but the percentage of batted balls of 95+ MPH was merely 35.8%. Only three others in the top-100 were below 36%, but I realize Yankee Stadium (and terrorizing Baltimore) goes a long way. His exit velocity and expected batting average reside around the league-average mark, with a 33rd-percentile hard-hit rate. He destroys fastballs, hitting .301 with 24 homers off of them. If pitchers ramp up the secondaries, we may be in trouble.

*And then there’s the issue with our HR cohort data only going as high as pick 34. The average “power-only pick” rarely returns production worthy of this pick. The ones that did were either topping 40 homers per season, chipping in nearly 10 steals, or clearing the 100-R/RBI marks by a healthy margin.

Verdict: Pass, Torres is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Ozzie Albies - 2B, ATL

NFBC Online ADP: 33
Expected Return for a Power+Speed+Average Hitter Drafted 33rd .292-25-98-83-19
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .284-25-98-84-15

Analysis: When the ADP is this high, the smaller differences matter. I realize there’s price inflation when a player heads into their age-23 season with two stellar campaigns already on the books, but his price tag carries lofty expectations.  Even if he replicated 2019’s .295-25-102-86-15 line, you’re breaking even thanks to the speed lag. And that came on 702 PAs -- a mark that’s tough to meet or exceed.

I hate making these about splitting hairs, the currency exchange of a stolen base to a homer or BA points, but Albies projects to fall short on the average and speed fronts while "simply" meeting power expectations. Perhaps the .291 xBA from last season holds up and maybe he muscles up, adding ticks to the 22nd-percentile hard-hit rate, but the projections can’t go full send just yet.

I wholeheartedly understand the excitement, just be mindful of the helium. His NFBC Online ADP has gone from 36 from January 1-February 8, and that’s up to 33 from February 9 to March 9. Perhaps Torres and Albies simply signal that young players are forever misunderstood by projections, but the risk/return tightrope is thin in the 30s!

Verdict: Pass, Albies is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Kevin Newman - 2B/SS, PIT

NFBC Online ADP: 191
Expected Return for a Speed+Average Hitter Drafted 191st: .297-10-65-51-15
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .289-14-70-72-19

Analysis: Aside from the slight average give, Newman offers fantastic profits across the board. And we just saw Newman hit .308 so we know he can exceed that. Pittsburgh is reportedly ready to “run wild” and I’m in for a dollar to see how far that can take Newman as their everyday shortstop.

After looking overmatched in a small-sample 2018, Newman posted said .308 AVG backed by a .291 xBA (top 10%). He doesn’t muscle up the ball, but does a great job at putting it in play. That 11.7% strikeout rate was fifth-lowest among qualified hitters, where the top-10 all hit .275 or better:

Let’s gloss over how Houston has four names on that list and hone in on Newman as the speedster. It wouldn’t shock me to see the power dwindle a bit, you must be ready for 8-10 homers. But the average and plus speed, which recently produced 28 steals across 109 Triple-A games in 2018, should provide draft profits in 2020.

He’s worth taking around pick 109 per the BA+SB chart, so flip that “0” and “9” around.

Verdict: Target, Newman is seriously undervalued at his current draft slot

 

Jose Altuve - 2B, HOU

NFBC Online ADP: 40
Expected Return for a Power+Speed+Average Hitter Drafted 40th: .292-24-93-83-20
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .300-25-98-81-11

Analysis:

Altuve is covered in scandal stench and stopped running last season. Is he selling out some of the average for power swings? Is he trustworthy in that department to cover all five categories here? Methinks not, though it isn’t some horrible play either. I understand going safe early and taking the floor, but Dusty Baker has also set out a veteran mandate that he’ll rest them here and there. With the aim being roughly 150 games played for each, the chances at 700 PAs and a huge ceiling dwindle.

When Dusty Baker was the manager in Washington, he only had runners steal second at a 6.8% and 7.8% clip. Altuve held an impressive 3.81 ft/sec split time to first base, tied for 25th in the MLB and down only 0.02 ft/sec from 2018. But only 11 steal attempts across ‘19 is discouraging.

And does 2019’s power the new norm? His HR/FB rate soared from the 10-15% range in 2016-18 up to 23.3%. His zone-contact rate dropped from 91% to 86.9% though his overall fly-ball rate held steady around 32%. He “only” hit .298, but many still think of Altuve as the automatic .300s hitter with a chance at sniffing .350. He’s a better hitter than David Peralta, but I’m worried this could be a 2018-Peralta spike where the 12.2% HR/FB rate from 2017 rose to 23.4% before tumbling back to 14.6% in ‘19.

Verdict: Pass, Altuve is overvalued at his current draft slot

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Finding Over/Undervalued First Basemen Using Expected Draft Values

A couple weeks ago, we introduced our Expected Draft Values and explained how they would help us identify both over and undervalued players of all types. Power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, with pitchers as well.

Today, we'll look at four "power" hitters, as identified by our site projections. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we bring you a deeper look at undervalued and overvalued players from each position using Expected Draft Values.

Generally, what we'll do in this series is identify players who will return positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Online Contests (Feb 1-March 4, 55 drafts), their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection.

 

How Expected Draft Values Help You Win Your League

It may be clear by this point already, but if you know the expected break-even stat-line of every draft slot, you can identify which of your draft picks are projected to return positive or negative value. Below, we look at five power bats that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Online ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2020 drafts.

 

Danny Santana - 1B/OF, TEX

NFBC Online ADP: 142
Expected Return for a Power+Speed Hitter Drafted 142nd: .264 BA, 24 HR, 74 runs, 72 RBI, 12 SB
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .266-23-82-83-20

Analysis: I know, he's much more OF than 1B but the eligibility stands and I need to get this out. Santana is polarizing thanks to being a journeyman breakout in his sixth MLB season around a questionable, juiced-ball environment. I get that. But he hit 28 homers with 21 steals in just 130 games last year (511 PAs)! The last time he got consistent PT over a season was his 2014 rookie campaign, where he hit .319 with 20 steals and seven homers in 101 games (430 PAs). Then lofty strikeouts and cold streaks cast him to part-time duty or the minors, but 2019 jolted his stock to life.

His expected return is nearly blown away across the board, with the extra steals backing his case. I understand his 27.7 ft/sec sprint speed (108th out of 292, min. 100 opps) isn’t astounding, but his 3.86-second split to 90 feet is tied for 52nd (out of 446). That speed gives him the defensive range that inspires Texas to let him open 2020 as their everyday centerfielder.

As for the bat, he hit .268 or greater on fastballs, breaking, and offspeed pitches alike. His expected average of .275 and impressive .463 xwOBACON (top 10% mark) sweeten the pot. The 91.4 MPH average exit velocity ranked 23rd among 250 qualified hitters. I don’t love just throwing numbers out left and right, but his impressive stats warrant it. He hit above .275 against both left-handed and right-handed pitching, a true switch-hitter, but his spray charts from both sides are strong:

While I expect some regression for Texas hitters across the board given the new, air-conditioned venue, even modest give on the power leaves plenty of room for profit. His stat line projects closer to the 70th pick from the HR+SB cohort, but here we are in the 140s!

Verdict: Target, Santana is quite undervalued at his current draft slot

 

Pete Alonso - 1B, NYM

NFBC Online ADP: 35
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 35th: .283-34-90-99-7
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .256-39-94-101-1

Analysis: Honestly, power’s upward trend calls for lower standards by which one should measure overvalues in 2020. Alonso doesn’t offer much that Matt Olson doesn’t come 20-25 picks later, except that Alonso played a full season in ‘19 and won Rookie of the Year in New York. He finished ranked 22nd per Yahoo’s 5x5 scoring ranks, with his league-leading HR totals (rightfully) propping him up.

Chasing historic seasons is usually a bad idea. Again, Alonso is not bad, but you’re paying a name premium on him for great-not-legendary stats. If he isn’t going to hit above .260 or steal any bases, you need him to be the league leader in homers to cash in. Don’t count on it! 

Do note the expected return has 34 HR + 7 SB, with 41 HR/SB barely edging Alonso’s projected 40. And you could easily make the case that a stolen base is worth more than a homer in today’s economy, but that’s for another article.

And most of us in “the biz” agree that Alonso’s average will likely be closer to .250 than .260. He hit .280 with a .298 BABIP in the first half, dropping to .235 with a .258 BABIP in the second. Just because the cold came second doesn’t make it more valid, and he did have a .257 xBA per Statcast. But homers don’t factor into BABIP and unless you’re calling for 50-plus homers again, the average is going to also take a hit beyond BABIP regression.

Verdict: Pass, Alonso is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Jose Abreu - 1B, CWS

NFBC Online ADP: 79
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 79th: .266-31-85-88-4
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .279-32-88-108-2

Analysis: Abreu has posted average exit velocities in the top 10% of the league over the past three years, with expected batting averages above .280 in his last four. His xBA of .283 last season was 49th out of 320 hitters (min. 250 PAs). All past indicators point to his exceeding the expected average return for a power hitter here, while meeting the strict power quota and providing more counting stats from within the ChiSox’s upgraded order.

It’d be foolish to take last season’s 123 RBI and simply add more due to improvements around him, but his floor is near triple digits. He blasts the ball -- his barrel rate shot up to 12.8% from 9.1% last season -- he plays in a hitter-friendly park, and gets two subpar rotations in his division (DET, KC). His value checks in closer to the 50-60 pick range, but here we are in ProfitLand.

And most of the time, there’s another side of the coin when there’s significant value within the top-80. Abreu has the park, the offensive environment, and the durability. He’s topped 550 PAs in each of his six MLB seasons, and that would’ve been at least 620 PAs if it weren’t for a frightful procedure to deal with testicular torsion. Man, I don’t enjoy typing that phrase. Bottom line: You are getting one of the safest bats in the game at a discount.

Verdict: Target, Abreu is undervalued at his current draft slot

 

Max Muncy - 1B/2B/3B, LAD

NFBC Online ADP: 78
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 78th: .267-31-85-89-4
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .249-30-88-91-3

Analysis: You’re paying up for Muncy at cost against a power-shorted three-year average from 2017-19, which triggers a “price-check call” to me. His batted-ball metrics settled down a bit after his breakout 2018 -- expected and understandable -- but in 5x5 formats where that walk rate over 15% isn’t generously rewarded then you may want to pivot elsewhere.

It’s tough assessing multi-eligible bats in a vacuum -- I get that flexibility has value -- but consider some similar bats first before telling me whether the added positions are really worth 2-4 rounds of draft capital?

I don’t see it. Just ask yourself if Muncy’s solid floor and versatility is what you’re buying, or if you think the numbers are actually worth the sticker price.

Verdict: Pass, Muncy is overvalued at his current draft slot

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Points League Players and the Platforms Who Hate Them

Trust. Whether in roto, point leagues, or otherwise, players should be able to trust that the rankings and values they choose to rely on will be accurate and specific to their league format.

That standard seems to be a bit fuzzy when it comes to points leagues, even though point leagues should be fantasy baseball's gateway drug, a nice and easy way for baseball fans to dip their toes into the fantasy pool. Get them hooked on points until they're ready to handle that hardcore roto junk. Instead, those that want to play points face a variety of impediments standing in the way of their overall enjoyment of playing, both internal and external to the game.

Let's examine the real differences between roto and points leagues while dispelling some popular myths along the way.

 

Big Differences

What do you mean Ronald Acuna Jr. wasn't a top-25 scorer on ESPN? Or that Jacob deGrom was a top-five scorer on Yahoo and ESPN but wasn't top 50 on Fantrax? How in the world was Zack Greinke the sixth-highest scorer on CBS? Why did Yahoo make a completely different game with an overhaul of their points system but failed to mention the ramifications of those changes to their users? Not only do points players have to decipher the different scoring systems between platforms, with only minimal (and often untrustworthy) resources to guide them, but they often have to deal with derision from within the very community they're trying to join.

The frequently heard refrains include: "Points is an easy game", "a random game", "a game for suckers and noobs that can't handle real fantasy baseball". Right, Roto Snob? Don't worry, we have plenty to talk about; but for now, please sit quietly in the back and play Settlers of Catan - or whatever other smart-people games you find worthy - until we're ready for you.

Just like fantasy football, points should be fun and approachable for many levels of skill and interest. A game where a layman can have a conversation with an expert and it will at least sound like they're speaking the same language. I'm not here to draw lines and pick fights. I love playing roto and I come to join together, not tear asunder. I only want the same thing most fantasy players want; to have more people to talk to about their teams without seeing the glazed-over eyes on their friends and family's faces. Like it or not, point leagues give us the best chance.

To that end, we here at RotoBaller want to lay bare all the different platforms over these next weeks, preparing you for points leagues as we never have before. We'll be introducing our points league rankers for each platform over the next week, and going through a ton of players who are favored or given the shaft by each platform. But first, a spirited defense of the format long-neglected. Let's go myth-busting!

 

Points League Mythology

Imagine a world where everyone was forced to switch to a 5 x 5 roto league with categories that would end up making Ronald Acuna Jr. the 25th-best player in the game. Would fantasy players just accept the game's obviously flawed way of evaluating players? Or would they question, complain, demand change? And yet, not only are points players forced to accept systems like this but they also must often accept content from that platform that doesn't always reflect the reality of the situation.

Perhaps "hate" is too strong of a word but the major fantasy platforms don't seem to love points players or wish the game to thrive. If they did then their scoring systems wouldn't seem so esoteric and spotlights would be shown on players like the examples above, making those important value gaps common knowledge. However, an increase in knowledge would bring an increase in judgment and the people may start to question why the system has such issues in the first place. We'll discuss systemic flaws later but first, let's look at some common misconceptions.

 

Myth #1: Less Of Us Care About Points Leagues 

Roto or points? This doesn't have to be an either-or situation but sometimes the fantasy baseball industry treats it as such. Both formats are centered around a sport we all love. Why don't we want it to grow? Is there not anything to be learned from fantasy football?

Fact: People like playing games head-to-head.

Fact: Not everyone wants to play a game that is a six-month grind, where they might be totally out of contention a third of the way in.

Fact: Many people would rather have the competitive camaraderie and trash-talking that comes from playing someone for just a week. Many people just want a chance to talk smack against their boss, co-worker, kid, or cousin.

Not that one should take a Reddit survey as gospel but I feel like more people than you think are on my side:

 

Myth #2: Points is Fantasy For Dummies

Okay, I'm ready for you. Stop building and put down your Resource Cards because your turn is over and everyone lost. Time they'll never get back, that is. I kid, I kid. My point is not every game has to double as a Mensa qualifying test to be a good game. Any game can be fun and a simple game can still be hard. Trivial Pursuit would probably seem easy if you only played against kindergartners and Tic-Tac-Toe is impossibly difficult if both players know and play optimal strategy.  Games are defined by the constant of their rules and the skill of their opponents. I'd usually rather play chess than Jenga but I'd probably have more fun playing Gary Kasparov in the latter. And not just because Gary would have no answer for my Jenga chaos wushu.

Point leagues aren't exactly the fantasy equivalent of hopscotch. If you don't know how to navigate the system you're playing in and are playing against opponents who do, you'll get smoked, absent a lot of luck. I don't care how much you know about baseball,  fantasy or otherwise. I repeat, if you don't either run the numbers yourself or get them from someone you trust, you Will. Get. Smoked. Quick! To a thought experiment!

Choose Wisely

Imagine you were forced to play fantasy baseball for your life where the winner gets the Holy Grail and the losers are rapidly aged into dust. Your opponents, an army of robots with brains of metal and science powered by the perfectly distilled essence of whoever in your eyes represents the best minds in the industry. You and your opponents (GambleBots? RoboVlads? Zolton 4000?) will start with the exact same projections and the game will be played in a vacuum, of sorts, where injuries don't exist and players perform mostly as expected.

In a draft-and-hold type format (as the in-season team management is a completely different ball of wax) would you choose to play H2H points or Roto? You're probably being cleaned up with a dustpan, no matter what, but I say the answer is roto if you want even a tiny chance of saving yourself (and Sean Connery) by drinking out of that championship chalice.

The basic steps of preparation are the same in both formats. You have to project player performance and then project how much fantasy value those projections will be worth. Given the conditions set above, the robots hold no advantage in the first step of valuations, as you'll all be working with the same information. The second step, however, is where they'll press the advantage of their perfect brains. There is a reason why so many (winning) experts tout their own evaluation system, whether Razzball, ATC, or Sedler's voodoo witchcraft; they're good and they work. But there are also many ways to skin a fantasy cat and (in theory) perhaps the everyday player could "out-valuate" their opponents and pull off an improbable victory.

That's the great mystery (and fun!) of rotisserie baseball; to answer the question, what is one home run worth? What is a stolen base worth? What is a 1.32 WHIP over 130 innings worth, when the player also has 10 wins and 120 K? You're going to have a hard time out-drafting your computerized opponents but you'll at least have a chance in roto because there is no exact answer before the season the starts. Not even robots can see the future.

You'd have no such chance in a points format because the nature of the game answers all of the questions in the second step... as long as you do the work. How much is a home run worth? However much the rules say it's worth. Same with everything else. No more, no less. And, poof! There goes your chance against Skynet. You'll all start with the same projections and you'll all know the exact value of those projections. With all the cards turned up on the table and facing hypothetical opponents that won't make any mistakes on the math, where exactly do you find a way to win?

 

Myth # 3: Points is Basically Roto

Aren't point leagues kind of like roto but you have to pay more attention to strikeout rates? The short answer is, no, they're not. The long answer is no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no. Not only are roto values unique from point values but point systems are unique from each other. Take a look at the following chart (ordered by 5 x 5 roto dollars-earned in 2019 according to the Fangraphs auction calculator) and see how the top-50 players ranked in scoring across different fantasy platforms.

Name FG_AC YAHOO ESPN FAN CBS NFBC
Justin Verlander 1 2 1 2 1 16
Gerrit Cole 2 1 2 1 2 17
Ronald Acuna Jr. 3 10 28 4 9 2
Christian Yelich 4 30 19 6 7 1
Cody Bellinger 5 15 4 3 4 3
Rafael Devers 6 18 10 8 12 4
Anthony Rendon 7 21 6 7 5 5
Alex Bregman 8 24 3 5 3 7
Freddie Freeman 9 23 15 10 14 8
Nolan Arenado 10 31 13 18 17 6
Mike Trout 11 36 18 12 13 9
Xander Bogaerts 12 29 16 14 16 11
Trevor Story 13 44 53 19 28 10
Mookie Betts 14 38 11 13 11 14
Jacob deGrom 15 5 5 52 18 54
Peter Alonso 16 27 38 11 20 13
Juan Soto 17 37 20 15 19 18
DJ LeMahieu 18 47 26 33 33 15
Ketel Marte 19 58 21 23 22 12
Jonathan Villar 20 46 72 20 39 19
Marcus Semien 21 35 9 9 10 20
Jorge Soler 22 41 44 17 25 21
J.D. Martinez 23 50 39 24 31 22
Bryce Harper 24 42 46 16 24 27
Charlie Blackmon 25 60 33 31 36 23
Zack Greinke 26 25 12 47 6 67
Hyun-Jin Ryu 27 59 27 95 34 102
Nelson Cruz 28 76 65 53 63 26
Jack Flaherty 29 12 17 79 27 70
George Springer 30 63 50 43 51 28
Francisco Lindor 31 64 40 35 38 25
Starling Marte 32 71 63 54 57 30
Eugenio Suarez 33 55 66 22 47 24
Trey Mancini 34 53 42 27 37 29
Jose Abreu 35 49 61 34 50 32
Josh Bell 36 51 34 30 35 35
Carlos Santana 37 54 22 21 21 34
Josh Hader 38 65 49 110 75 71
Eduardo Escobar 39 45 36 25 32 33
Ozzie Albies 40 61 35 28 29 31
Trea Turner 41 108 89 63 73 38
Stephen Strasburg 42 4 7 26 8 56
Kirby Yates 43 138 78 150 101 87
Yuli Gurriel 44 70 32 49 46 37
Gleyber Torres 45 69 69 55 68 40
Whit Merrifield 46 73 51 32 45 36
Austin Meadows 47 87 67 48 61 39
Liam Hendriks 48 132 80 175 128 122
J.T. Realmuto 49 106 97 73 89 62
Charlie Morton 50 7 14 46 23 68

Much like the second-strongest entry in the Ashton Kutcher filmography, point systems are ruled by a fantasy butterfly effect, where small changes in scoring will ripple throughout the player universe. Lucky for you, RotoBaller has your back. We now have dedicated H2H points league tools to help you dominate your points league, regardless of platform. You'll get projected points derived from Nick Mariano's premium rankings, with points-above-replacement calculated for every position, allowing you to more accurately compare players at the same position, as well as at different ones. You too can now play like a ZimmerTronic!

 

System Flaws and Broken Trust

Do the different fantasy platforms actually hate you? No! They love you and to that end, they'll do anything they can to keep you. Which is why they'll never adjust their point-scoring systems to be like other platforms. If you play in a 5 x 5 roto league on CBS, you can easily find content from a plethora of sources across the internet. The only thing CBS can do to keep you exclusive to them is by providing the type of quality content that will do so. On the other hand, the only thing CBS has to do to keep you locked into CBS points coverage is to just not change their scoring. As long as their scoring values are unique, they'll remain your best source of information.

Do I wish that platforms would make some basic changes in order to make things a little less wacky? Sure! (Here's a hint; it's not that hard). But games are relative and everything is fair as long as everyone is playing by the same sets of rules. However, playing by the rules and understanding the rules are two different concepts and the platforms are failing you as game-makers in the second regard.

Why don't you know how wildly player values can swing? Why don't you know that Ronald Acuna, Trea Turner, and Adalberto Mondesi should be virtually un-draftable in ESPN, given their likely ADP? Why don't you know that Mike Trout finished as player #36 on Yahoo last season? More importantly, why don't you know that Yahoo went straight 'nanners this season, totally overhauling their points system and flipping player values on their head, with barely a mention to their patrons? What exactly is "straight 'nanners"?

Straight 'Nanners ( ˈstrāt nahn-nurrs'): When Gerrit Cole was the No. 1 scorer in 2019 under the old scoring system but would've been #54 under the new one.

However, this is a conversation for a different time and in the coming weeks, RotoBaller will be dropping individual strategy guides for ESPN, CBS, Fantrax, Yahoo, and NFBC that will address many of these issues. Then we can really dive into how well the platforms and their rankings are serving the customers. As well, we'll be looking at keys to finding certain players and profiles that will succeed and fail in every system. Where should we start? Well, if pop culture has taught me anything, it's that when you first get into the yard, you might as well tango with the biggest one out there...

I hope ESPN is ready to dance because just like Wes Mantooth, I wanna polka.

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Using Expected Draft Values to Find Over and Undervalued Speed Hitters

A couple weeks ago, we introduced our Expected Draft Values and explained how they would help us identify both over and undervalued players of all types. Power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, with pitchers as well.

Today, we'll look at four "speed" players as identified by our site projections. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we bring you a deeper look at undervalued and overvalued players from each position using Expected Draft Values.

Generally, what we'll do in this series is identify players who will return positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Online Contests (Feb 1-March 4, 55 drafts), their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection.

 

How Expected Draft Values Help You Win Your League

It may be clear by this point already, but if you know the expected break-even stat-line of every draft slot, you can identify which of your draft picks are projected to return positive or negative value. Below, we look at five power bats that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Online ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2020 drafts.

 

Overvalued Speed Hitters

Mallex Smith - OF, SEA

NFBC Online ADP: 151

Expected Return for a Speed Hitter Drafted 151st: .287 BA- 12 HR- 68 R- 57 RBI- 20 SB

2020 RotoBaller Projection: .244-5-73-40-46

Analysis: Smith’s production is so skewed towards steals that it makes him difficult to analyze against historical data. I understand you may simply need his bags, but hopefully this sheds light on the value you’re surrendering. You’re trading seven homers and over 40 points of batting average, as well as 12 R+RBI for 26 steals. He becomes a singular point of failure for your bags. Ask yourself, is it worth it?

Well, no. I understand roster construction can demand it sometimes...but it remains a poor move. Just look at these crummy sabermetrics:

Don’t harangue your other hitting efforts just to keep steals afloat. His expected batting average from 2019 was a lowly .219, within the bottom 2% of the league. His average launch angle was 3.5 degrees and 2.6 degrees in 2017 and ‘18, but that rose to 7.2 degrees in ‘19. Accordingly, his fly-ball rate has gone from the 15-17% range in 2016-18 to 19.4% in ‘19. If the ball is not on ground for Mallex, then it’s almost surely suboptimal.

There's also the fact that Smith is likely stuck in the nine-hole for Seattle, limiting his PAs. A burner like him needs volume to generate value, especially without a strong on-base percentage. If Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley shine, Mitch Haniger returns later on, and Jarred Kelenic forces his way up then Seattle owes neither Mallex nor your fantasy team additional chances.

 

Dee Gordon - 2B/OF, SEA

NFBC Online ADP: 275

Expected Return for a Speed Hitter Drafted 275th: .266-9-64-51-18

2020 RotoBaller Projection: .270-3-39-31-17

Analysis: I promise I don't hate the Mariners! Since Gordon swiped 60 bags for the Marlins in 2017, his stock has fallen mightily. I’m here to tell you that despite the nearly-nonexistent price tag, you’re still overpaying. Gordon went 22-of-27 on steal attempts over the course of 421 PAs in 117 games last season, but the aging curve is showing.

Notice a pattern? His sprint speed, which sat at 29.6 ft/sec in 2016, has slowly dwindled to 28.5 ft/sec last year, which fell outside the top-100. And the aforementioned fly-ball trend for Mallex applies to Dee as well. Gordon’s launch angle sat between -1 and 1.5 degrees in 2015-17 before hitting 3.5 and 5.3 degrees in 2018 and ‘19, respectively. The exit velocity did climb a few ticks, from 80.6 MPH to 83 MPH, but that’s just the second percentile instead of the first, and you’re getting him for speed.

Then there’s playing time, as Shed Long is set to man the keystone (and leadoff) while the outfield is Kyle Lewis, Mallex Smith, Jake Fraley, Tim Lopes and Gordon. And while it’s far off now, Mitch Haniger may take a full-time role later on. Several projection systems have Gordon around 300 PAs, with ATC near 400. Similar speed lines can be found with Manuel Margot and Delino DeShields Jr. a whole 100 picks later.

 

Undervalued Speed Hitters

Byron Buxton - OF, MIN

NFBC Online ADP: 146

Expected Return for a Speed Hitter Drafted 146th: .289-13-69-56-21

2020 RotoBaller Projection: .265-17-71-67-24

Analysis: Look, the injury woes are baked into the projection here. I understand “the market” may have additional trepidation, but 10 HR/14 SB in only 87 games (295 PAs) last year underscores the potential. Let alone his place in a stacked Minnesota lineup. Systems like THE BAT and Depth Charts are even more bullish than us on Buxton’s power, with his plus speed respected across the board.

Even with some give on batting average, you’re scooping a sizable increase in the other four categories. After posting average exit velocities around 85-86 MPH with a launch angle orbiting 12-13 degrees from 2016-18, those figures jumped to 89.3 MPH and 19.5 degrees in ‘19.

Not only did the hard-hit rate jump from 27% to 38.7%, but his strikeouts fell from 29.8% to 23.1%. And of course, his sprint speeds over the past five years have checked in at first, first, second, first and third. Now at 30.3 ft/sec instead of 2015’s 30.9 mark, this is not an aging curve to fear in 2020. I get that most of you or either completely out or in with both feet, but those who are "out" may want to reconsider at this cost.

 

Niko Goodrum - 2B/SS/OF, DET

NFBC Online ADP: 296

Expected Return for a Speed Hitter Drafted 296th: .257-9-68-45-19

2020 RotoBaller Projection: .245-64-16-55-15

Analysis: Goodrum is on pace to start the year as Detroit’s everyday shortstop, but has insane versatility that allows him to fill in wherever needed. Goodrum delivered a 12/12 season in just 112 games last season, with 15/15 available on the cheap in 2020. If you’re taking a speed guy at this stage in the draft, your expectations are nonexistent in the power department.

I will note he's one of those that traded contact for an increase in power. He upped his average exit velocity from 87.7 MPH to 89.3 MPH while increasing his launch angle from 10.8 degrees to 13.2, but his strikeout rate rose from 27% to 29.2% as his zone-contact rate dropped from 83% to 80.6%. A bit of an aside, do take note Goodrum's wild splits by handedness.

In 221 career ABs against left-handed pitchers, he's hitting .321 with a .406 BABIP and only two homers, 12 doubles and five triples. Compare that with 663 ABs against right-handed pitchers, against whom he's hitting just .217 (.288 BABIP) but has 26 homers, 44 doubles and three triples, accounting for a 66-point ISO gap. Small-sample size alert, yes, but his fly-ball rate against right-handers (36.7%) is nearly double that against southpaws (20.9%), which corresponds with greater power and lower average. Pay attention early to his approach against pitchers and we'll see if he gets platooned, though Detroit currently has no obvious platoonmate.

All-in-all, Goodrum gives you both playing time and double-digit pop with the modest wheels. Given Detroit’s lack of infield prospects that could push Goodrum for playing time -- go away, Willi Castro -- it’s not shocking that many projection systems are calling for 600-plus PAs. I can see Travis Demeritte edging into the outfield, but not the middle infield. With 84th-percentile split times in the 90-foot window and strong success in picking his spots (24-for-31 in the last two years), the green light should be Goodrum's and yours.

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WPC+ Videocast: TGFBI Expert League Analysis

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut review their draft boards and ADP for The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) expert league. They share their strategies, discuss which picks were most surprising, and explain how this information can help you in your home league draft!

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) -every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, every weekday afternoon from 1-2 PM ET and Saturday nights from 9-11 PM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational

Pierre and Nick review the results of their TGFBI drafts and compare them with current industry consensus.

Players discussed include:

Trea Turner
Trevor Story
Nolan Arenado
Max Scherzer
Adalberto Mondesi
Chris Sale
Chris Paddack
Yu Darvish
Josh Bell
Jeff McNeil
Lance Lynn
Brandon Woodruff
Miguel Sano

Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis. We are your secret weapon...

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The 10 Commandments of Auction Drafts

As I've said before, there is no one right way to play fantasy baseball, but auction drafts are the closest you can get. As opposed to the more popular but less fun snake draft, in an auction you can acquire the rights to literally any player you want in the game. You don't have to just sit and watch names fly off the board, powerless to stop your queue from being decimated. The only limits? Your imagination... and your budget.

We're not here to debate the merits of each format. What isn't up for debate is that auctions demand a higher level of commitment and preparation. There are different layers of strategy, and of etiquette. In the decade since my first ever auction draft, I like to think I've learned a thing or two about how to best position oneself for success, and how to conduct oneself appropriately during the proceedings. Below are, in one man's humble opinion, 10 simple rules for fantasy baseball auction drafts.

Sincerely,
Your Friendly Fantasy Moses

 

1. Thou shalt be on time.

The Golden Rule. Look, life happens - everyone's got jobs, families, friends, and other responsibilities to juggle in our daily lives. But you ostensibly knew weeks ahead of time when the draft was happening. Short of a legitimate emergency, there's no acceptable reason to be late (and in most of those cases, you can at least take five seconds to send a text). It's disrespectful to your league mates, and it throws a huge wrench into the draft. In a snake, whether or not you spent any time pre-ranking players, the auto-draft function will do a generally passable job at picking for you. In auctions, that tool is almost useless due to the number of variables involved. An auto-drafting team in an auction basically ruins the experience for everyone else. The algorithm will often jump immediately to whatever the platform has set as the player's projected value or average cost, negatively impacting the bidding process.

The only consolation to the owners who actually bothered to show up is that sometimes, a platform will be slow to update in the wake of injury news, so they can nominate an injured player, on whom the auto-draft will then fecklessly bid full price. This is poetic justice and should be exercised whenever the situation allows. Seriously, don't be late to the damn draft. It's literally the only event during the whole season that you're asked to do anything at a specific time.

 

2. Thou shalt have a plan and know going in that thou wilt have to deviate from it.

Mike Tyson famously said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." You probably won't get punched (unless your auction is truly wild), but the principle is more or less the same. No matter how much prep you do, auctions are dynamic and fluid by nature. Weird stuff happens, and you simply are not going to be able to predict it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have an approach in mind; by all means, identify specific players to target, numbers you want to hit, and roughly estimate what each asset is going to cost you. Just don't be rigid in your planning, because you're going to need to pivot at some point -probably a handful of times.

As with anything else, the more upfront work you put in, the easier it'll be to adjust to whatever curveballs get thrown at you.

 

3. Thou shalt maintain a healthy queue.

Fantasy owners who don't like auctions often cite the time commitment as a primary reason for their distaste. To that end, this is the first of several commandments that is meant to ease said burden. If participants make use of their queue, they should be able to identify players they wish to nominate for bidding in a timely and efficient manner. You might also wish to use your queue as a short list of your preferred targets, especially if they're buried in the overall player list for whatever reason.

Regardless of how you choose to utilize it, the queue feature is an eminently useful tool during the auction. Anytime a player goes up for bid that you aren't interested in, don't just spend that time staring blankly at the screen - throw a few more names in your queue.

 

4. Thou shalt not be timid early.

Once upon a time, the conventional wisdom held that waiting out an initial feeding frenzy would allow you to clean up later in the auction. This rarely works anymore, if it ever did. If anything, being aggressive early can work to your benefit, allowing you to snag a couple of players before your rivals have a chance to get their bearings. Anecdotally, I can't tell you how many times I've seen a stud get snatched off the board early, only for the next elite option at the position to go for a noticeably steeper price.

The longer you wait to make a splash, the more opportunities you give to your competition to set the market and take the best players off the board. Patience is usually a virtue, but you don't want to sit on your hands. As often as not, that's how you wind up paying almost as much for a much lesser player. That doesn't mean you have to go in and immediately make it rain; you do have a budget to be mindful of, after all. But keeping your powder dry for too long can leave you in a tough spot as the auction progresses.

 

5.  Thou shalt save some bullets for endgame.

Eventually, your budget will shrink to the point where unfettered bidding is no longer possible. You're required to complete your entire roster during the auction, which means you need to allocate at least $1 to every slot. If and when you reach the stage of having as many dollars as empty roster spots, you are said to be in "dollar days." This means that you will only be able to nominate and win players for $1; any rival with enough cash left to bid $2 or more can do so and you're powerless to respond. Not only that, you also can't bid on any player someone else nominates.

This is a frustrating place to be, and you should endeavor to avoid it for as long as possible. That way, you're in the best position to snatch up a couple of bargains when the competition becomes less fierce. You don't want to hold too much for this stage though; the more money you have late, the less you spent on superior talent. Just leave yourself a bit of breathing room.

 

6. Thou shalt not be predictable.

This doesn't mean you need to do anything crazy - though sometimes, trying some weird strategy just to see what happens can be fun and/or informative. It just means that you should avoid tipping your hand by falling into behavior patterns or routine. Your nominations (and your bids, as we'll discuss in a moment) should be a mix of players you actually want and players you're just tossing out there to cut into rival budgets. You should avoid always starting at the default $1 opening bid, throw in the odd $2 or $3 increase instead of the default $1, and even try to vary the timing of your bids a little. Think of it like poker - if you have tells, you're going to lose.

 

7. Thou shalt price enforce.

A crucial part of any successful auction is price enforcement. It helps with the unpredictability goal (the more bids you're throwing out there, the less obvious it is to your rivals which players you're actually after), but more importantly, it forces your rivals to pay more than they wanted to for a target. The more you can successfully price enforce, the quicker you'll find yourself able to outbid your league mates when one of your target's names is called.

Of course, you're always risking that for whatever reason, the other owner(s) will walk away and leave you holding the bag. For that reason, you should only go that extra buck if either A) you wouldn't actually mind getting this player at this price or B) you're extremely confident that your rival(s) will keep bidding. In keeper leagues, price enforcement carries even greater importance.

 

8. Thou shalt not constantly wait until the last second to bid.

This is one of the most irritating things you can do in an auction, which makes it a favored tactic of trolls who want to put their rivals "on tilt." Don't be that guy. It's not cute, it's not funny, nobody likes it, and everyone kinda wants to strangle you. To be clear, an occasional last-second bid is perfectly fine! Sometimes you really do need the maximum time allowed to decide if going that extra buck is worthwhile. But when it becomes a routine event for any one person, you've crossed the line. All you're doing is annoying people by prolonging the draft.

Besides, this tactic is most effective if you use it sparingly. If you've been doing it the whole draft, nobody's gonna be surprised to see the bid clock reset to 10 seconds for the 40th time. If you're judicious with your last-second bids, though? You can definitely crush a rival's hopes, dreams, and spirit.

 

9. Thou shalt not nominate star players for a dollar.

Come on, buddy. You really think if you nominate Francisco Lindor at $1, it's gonna keep anyone from going to $40? Just start the bidding at $20. Hell, even $5. Save us some time.

 

10. Thou shalt not leave money on the table.

You can't take it with you, as they say. Well, some leagues do allow unspent auction cash to roll over into the team's in-season FAAB. But most don't, and unless your league has that rule, there's absolutely no excuse for leaving any part of your draft budget unspent. All that buys you is regret in six months when you look back and realize you could've had a stone-cold stud if you'd just gone the extra buck or two and instead, you didn't use that money for anything. There are few worse feelings in this game.

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Finding Over/Undervalued Power Hitters Using Expected Draft Values

A couple weeks ago, we introduced our Expected Draft Values and explained how they would help us identify both over and undervalued players of all types. Power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, with pitchers as well.

Today, we'll look at four "power" hitters, as identified by our site projections. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we bring you a deeper look at undervalued and overvalued players from each position using Expected Draft Values.

Generally, what we'll do in this series is identify players who will return positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Online Contests (Feb 1-March 4, 55 drafts), their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection.

 

How Expected Draft Values Help You Win Your League

It may be clear by this point already, but if you know the expected break-even stat-line of every draft slot, you can identify which of your draft picks are projected to return positive or negative value. Below, we look at five power bats that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Online ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2020 drafts.

 

Kris Bryant - 3B/OF, CHC

NFBC Online ADP: 59
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 59th: .264 BA, 33 HR, 85 runs, 91 RBI, 8 SB
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .273-29-106-79-3

Analysis: Bryant hasn’t topped 80 RBI since 2016, a trend likely to continue in 2020 with news that he’ll be Chicago’s leadoff man. The slight batting average gain on the draft slot doesn’t help me justify the R+RBI dip.  I feel better seeing his average exit velocity rebound back to 87.4 MPH from 2018’s ghastly 85.8 MPH, but a .246 xBA lurks behind the .282 average from 2019.

While Bryant still has above-average speed, he simply pulls weak grounders right into defender’s gloves. Just look at the cluster towards the third baseman per his Fangraphs 2019 spray chart:

His xBA slip has been gradual, from .272 in ‘16 to .268 in ‘17, .255 in ‘18 and then that .246. That said, he’s managed to outdo that mark throughout his career, but dropping below .250 enters troubling territory. His stellar plate discipline and spot atop the Cubbies’ order will yield triple-digit runs, but his contributions across the 5x5 board don’t match the inflated power prices of 2020.

His name and pre-injury track record help boost the perceived range of outcomes, but there’s more reason to worry. Some players deal with suboptimal average launch angles, but survive off a combination of weak grounders and hard-hit flies/liners. Bryant’s 92.3 MPH average exit velocity on flies/liners in 2019 ranked 162nd out of 250 qualified hitters.

Verdict: Pass, Bryant is slightly overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Nelson Cruz - UT, MIN

NFBC Online ADP: 81
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 81st: .264-31-85-88-4
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .283-41-92-116-1

Analysis: You can make DH-only work when it’s Cruz. His Statcast profile is painted red from wall to wall, with 99th percentile exit velocity and the best xSLG of 2019. His legs may be lumbery, but his xBA was .296 in ‘19 and Minnesota sports an even better lineup for 2020. You’re not in it for the sprint speed, but look at that bat:

There’s understandable trepidation given Cruz’s age and his missing time last season, yet those 120 games still yielded an incredible 41 homers, 189 R+RBI and a .311 average. That would be beautiful over 150 games, but 120?! The projections have baked in an IL stint and some potential ball dejuicing, but Cruz is worth the utility-only strategizing.

If we look at the top entry in the HR cohort, you’ll see a .284-33-91-98-8 line at the 35th pick. The average aligns well, Cruz stands to beat the counting stats on Minnesota, and if you roll the 33 HR and 8 SB together then the 42 HR+SB hold water. We can split hairs, but there’s a realistic top-40 case for Cruz and you’re getting him three rounds later. If you want to call that an UT-only tax, so be it. I call it $$$.

Verdict: Target, Cruz is quite undervalued at his current draft slot

 

Joc Pederson - 1B/OF, LAD

NFBC Online ADP: 216
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 216th: .241-29-68-72-3
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .246-25-71-66-2

Analysis: You might think any picks in the 200s are free from these chains, as you’re almost sure to profit with such a late selection. Not so fast, as power output from this tier is a bit more respectable than Joc is slated to generate. The Dodgers got an everyday stud in Mookie Betts, which may hinder Joc’s momentum in the lineup. Not only that, but rosters expanding to 26 players may increase LAD's propensity to micromanage PAs. It'd only be 10-15 or so to me, but every bit counts.

Pederson may still bat leadoff against southpaws for now, but if he loses that to Betts then his projections will really tumble. Mookie will hold down right field, with Cody Bellinger taking up first and center, A.J. Pollock covering left and some center, with Matt Beaty stepping into first and left field on top of utilitymen Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez.

As it stands, folks are better off aiming for Justin Upton a round later, or the likes of Hunter Renfroe, Renato Nunez and Randal Grichuk 20-50 picks later. If you have deep benches to flex then you’ll get Joc’s production at a better cost, but most of us can’t swing it. I want upside on my bench, and we largely know who Joc is and isn't.

Verdict: Pass, Pederson is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Khris Davis - UT, OAK

NFBC Online ADP: 174
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 174th: .249-29-71-75-4
2020 RotoBaller Projection: .247-42-90-112-0

Analysis: Khrush Davis, which my phone still tries to autocorrect to Khrushchev, is being written off in 2020. Hindsight is likely to kick many asses as a result, given how Davis was on pace for his traditional 40-homer season in 2019 until a wrist injury suffered in the outfield derailed his campaign. He collided with the wall on May 5 and eventually made his way to the 10-day IL on May 22. Let’s look at 2019 split into pre-IL and post-IL, with a healthy 2018 for context:

Guess what Davis was hitting prior to the IL stint? Yes, it was .247 over 174 PAs. His .247/.316/.494 slash with 12 homers in 43 games roughly projects to a 42-homer season, but he’d hit just .207 with 11 homers over 90 games upon returning. If you don’t want to pay a premium on Nelson Cruz, then wow, you need to score Davis.

Lest we forget that Davis tallied the fifth-most barrels in ‘16, third-most in ‘17, and the most overall in ‘18. This came while crossing the 150-game and 600-PA thresholds in those three seasons. Yes, the .247 thing is comical, but an age-32 season for someone that doesn’t rely on speed provides little reason for concern.

Verdict: Target, Davis is seriously undervalued at his current draft slot

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Fantasy Baseball Position Eligibility Chart

Fantasy baseball position eligibility for 2020 on CBS, ESPN, Yahoo, Fantrax, NFBC.

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