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Man vs. Machine: Nick Mariano and ATC's Over/Undervalued Players


Welcome to Round 2 of Man vs. Machine, where one fantasy analyst goes toe-to-toe with one projection system for ranking supremacy. We here at RotoBaller are fortunate enough to have FantasyPros’ Most Accurate Fantasy Baseball Draft Ranker from both 2018 and 2019 on our roster in Nick Mariano and Ariel Cohen, respectively. Ariel also created ATC, the Most Accurate Projection System for 2019 per FantasyPros’ competition.

Today, Ariel will put on his ATC hat to represent the Machine against Nick, who fights for Man. On the battlefield, they’ve each selected four players that they are higher on than the other: one infielder, outfielder, starting pitcher and relief pitcher. These champions of accuracy will show you where they deviate from the other and defend their side, with the hope that we all walk away more educated for the 2020 season -- whenever that day comes.

Please note, we are assuming a full season's worth of games for this exercise. We want this to be actionable, so we tried to avoid rookies or injured players with large playing-time question marks. For hitters, we've included their assumed Expected Draft Value per the projections given for some additional context. Bon Appétit!

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Get access to our exclusive articles, rankings, projections, prospects coverage, 15 in-season lineup tools, daily expert DFS research, powerful Research Station, Lineup Optimizer and much more! Sign Up Now!

 

Infielder

ATC’s High Pick: Paul DeJong - SS, STL

ATC Projection (Full Season): 570 AB, 29 HR, 85 R, 86 RBI, 6 SB, .250 BA (~128th pick per EDV)

Mariano Projection: 564 AB, 27 HR, 79 R, 84 RBI, 6 SB, .243 BA (~175th pick per EDV)

Ariel: Shortstop is immensely deep this year in fantasy baseball. There is an abundance of SS talent at all stages of 2020 drafts. Paul DeJong is one such a mid-tier talent who is being drafted all the way in the endgame.

In terms of his flyball and power metrics, DeJong’s power skills are very stable. He hit 30 HRs in 2019 - and there is no reason that he can’t do that again in 2020. With an unlucky BABIP in ‘19, he has room for batting average improvement. Hitting in the middle of the Cardinals lineup - he should be able to keep up high run production totals - which is vastly undervalued by most fantasy players. To boot, he might come close to swiping double digit bags.

If you don’t fill up your shortstop slot too early this year, strongly consider drafting a big ATC favorite in DeJong.

Mariano’s High Pick: Matt Olson - 1B, OAK

Mariano Projection: 557 AB, 41 HR, 89 R, 109 RBI, 1 SB, .263 BA (~42nd pick per EDV)

ATC Projection: 548 AB, 38 HR, 84 R, 100 RBI, 0 SB, .256 BA (~60th pick per EDV)

Nick: Olson splashed onto the scene with 24 homers in just 59 games back in 2017 before “only” clubbing 29 across a full 162-game season in ‘18. Uncertainty reigned supreme heading into 2019, only to have a broken hamate bone -- usually known as a power-sapper -- derail the beginning to his season.

But Olson couldn’t be held down in ‘19, as he blasted 36 homers with 91 RBI and a healthy .267 BA over 127 games (547 PAs). His .300 BABIP wasn’t far from 2018’s .292 mark, with the power increase ushering his average up another 20 points compared to ‘18. Blessed with an average exit velocity, xwOBA and xSLG all in the 93rd percentile or better last season, I’m confident in Olson’s top-of-the-chart metrics to have a Pete Alonso-style breakout and finish higher than last year’s N.L. Home Run title.

 

Outfielder

ATC’s High Pick: Michael Conforto - OF, NYM

ATC Projection: 520 AB, 32 HR, 85 R, 87 RBI, 7 SB, .256 BA (~90th pick per EDV)

Mariano Projection: 533 AB, 29 HR, 81 R, 85 RBI, 5 SB, .250 BA (~115th pick per EDV)

Ariel: I find myself grabbing Michael Conforto in many 2020 drafts. He’s a proven power hitter good for 30-35 HRs annually. I think that he can even take the next step and possibly approach 40 HRs.  He sports excellent hard and medium-hit contact rates, high fly-ball rates, and he’s even improving his contact. 

Hitting in the heart of the Mets lineup should once again afford him the chance of both knocking in and scoring 90+ runs. He should also throw in a handful of steals. His walk rate has been over 13% in each of the past 3 seasons. He is even better in OBP leagues and points leagues than in standard batting average roto leagues.

Conforto is a player with upside and a high floor. He’s a low risk, and yet has the potential to be a highly profitable fantasy asset for 2020. ATC loves these kinds of players.

Mariano’s High Pick: Ramon Laureano - OF, OAK

Mariano Projection: 531 AB, 26 HR, 89 R, 77 RBI, 16 SB, .275 BA (~60th pick per EDV)

ATC Projection: 504 AB, 23 HR, 80 R, 71 RBI, 16 SB, .265 BA (~90th pick per EDV)

Nick: I guess I’m an Oakland fan. Many moons ago, young Nick posted his Dynasty Sleepers article heading into 2017 and waxed poetic about Laureano’s power-speed prospects alongside double-digit walk rates. A large hurdle was Houston’s crowded outfield, but a November 2017 deal saw Laureano swapped to Oakland for Brandon Bailey. In 2018, 460 PAs (112 games) saw him post 19 homers with 18 steals and an average north of .290 between Triple-A and the bigs.

His momentum would carry over to 2019, where 481 PAs (123 games) saw him swat 24 homers with 13 steals and a .288 average, let alone his incredible defense that will keep him in the lineup amidst any cold streaks. Given his penchant for solid contact (top-50 sweet-spot rate, top-85 in both barrels per BBE and PA of 250 qualified hitters) and an 87% success rate on the basepaths in the MLB, Laureano could push for top-15 OF status.

 

Starting Pitcher

ATC’s High Pick: German Marquez - SP, COL

ATC Projection: 185 IP, 191 K, 10 W, 4.22 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

Mariano Projection: 191 IP, 193 K, 10 W, 4.40 ERA, 1.25 WHIP

Ariel: Starting pitchers who can approach 200 innings and strike out 200 batters these days are hard to find. German Marquez came close to that in 2019, and nearly hit both of those marks in 2018. Over the past two seasons, he has accumulated an ERA of 4.23 - but his other ERA estimators depict him in a better light (FIP 3.71, xFIP 3.31, SIERA 3.56). He experienced some bad luck at times in 2019. In the second half, he had a low strand rate of just 58%.

Marquez’s home/road splits are polar opposites. Opposing hitters’ wOBA was .356 at home, but just .273 away. For daily leagues or shallow leagues - simply use Marquez only on the road. If MLB should shift some games to spring training facilities … Marquez would also greatly benefit.

Mariano’s High Pick: Lucas Giolito - SP, CWS

Mariano Projection: 184 IP, 228 K, 15 W, 3.64 ERA, 1.17 WHIP

ATC Projection: 181 IP, 212 K, 12 W, 4.05 ERA, 1.20 WHIP

Nick: After spinning a 2.38 ERA/0.95 WHIP with shaky peripherals in a limited 2017, it wasn’t shocking to see Giolito struggle mightily in 2018. But he rose from the ashes of that 6.13 ERA season to double his strikeout rate (16.1% to 32.3%) and almost halve his ERA to 3.41 in ‘19. The K’s were built on true whiff gains, with a swinging-strike rate rising from 8.3% to 15% while he attacked the zone more confidently (first-strike rate up seven percentage points). 

I’m all for not buying into what could be a career season, but this is a young arm with quite the prospect pedigree who now gets one of the best receiving catchers in the game, Yasmani Grandal, behind the plate. Grandal’s 20.9 Adjusted Framing was ranked third out of 113 backstops by Baseball Prospectus last season, while James McCann (-7.6) was 101st and Welington Castillo (-14.0) was 112th...upgrade! Mix in a much-improved lineup around him for win’s sake and you’ve got a borderline SP1.

 

Relief Pitcher

ATC’s High Pick: Edwin Diaz - RP, NYM

ATC Projection: 65 IP, 101 K, 32 SV, 3.24 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Mariano Projection: 61 IP, 99 K, 28 SV, 4.01 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

Ariel: Last year, Edwin Diaz was atrocious. He gave up 15 HRs in 58 innings, pitching to a 5.59 ERA with a 1.38 WHIP. ATC predicts a nice rebound, as Diaz was somewhat unlucky last season. From 2018 to 2019, his HR/9 went from 0.61 to 2.33 - a seemingly fluky jump which a 26-year old should be able to correct. His BABIP in ‘19 was an especially unlucky .377 - quite unusual for a pitcher.

Diaz still has the skills. In 2019 he has a strikeout percentage of 39%, which means he struck out almost two out of every five batters faced. That is enormous.

I believe that the Mets will stick with Edwin Diaz as their closer all season long. Along with generating a large number of strikeouts, he will rack up plenty of saves - which is the most important element for a closer.

Mariano’s High Pick: Ken Giles - RP, TOR

Mariano Projection: 64 IP, 92 K, 34 SV, 2.92 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

ATC Projection: 63 IP, 85 K, 34 SV, 3.12 ERA, 1.11 WHIP

Nick: I’ve felt comfortable with Giles as my sixth RP off the board given the quietly consistent track record that’s seeded in a FIP, xFIP and SIERA lower than 3.10 in each of his six MLB seasons. In fact, when one loads either the K-BB% and SIERA leaderboards for 2019, you’ll find Josh Hader, Kirby Yates, Nick Anderson, (Felipe Vazquez, gross) Liam Hendriks, and then Ken Giles. The 1.87 ERA was his best mark since 2015, but more important was the 2.27 FIP that ranked fourth among qualified RPs. Sign me up!

He was part of a small cohort of pitchers that upped their strikeouts while allowing fewer home runs, registering a career-best 39.9% K rate while shaving his HR/9 from 1.07 in '18 to 0.85. Two of the last three years have seen him post an xBA under .200, as hitters simply struggle to make strong contact off of him. Health is his only hurdle, as Anthony Bass, Shun Yamaguchi et al shouldn’t push him for the lion’s share of save opportunities.

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Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. 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... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More