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.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!
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