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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.

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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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