We've been rolling out our Expected Draft Values series, starting with Nick Mariano's look into some undervalued players and overvalued players. As draft season winds down today, we're going to give you some undervalued and overvalued players who qualify at outfield.
As a quick primer, Expected Draft Value is the value you would historically expect, on average, from a given draft slot. In other words, Expected Draft Value lets you put a stat line next to every pick in the draft... if the player you draft performs better than expected, you get positive value. If the player you draft performs worse than expected, that's negative value. As we all know, a fantasy draft is all about maximizing the potential positive value from every pick.
For example, we can say that "if you draft a power + average hitter 97th overall, your Expected Draft Value should be a line of 285-26-76-75-4. That's your 'break even point'. If you draft a player at 97 who performs better than that, you win, or at least put yourself one player closer to winning. For a full explanation of our Expected Draft Value research, see Nick's article's from yesterday, linked above. With the introduction out of the way, let’s dive into some undervalued and overvalued outfielders!
Undervalued Outfielders to Target
Kevin Kiermaier - OF, TB
NFBC ADP: 363
Expected Return for a Power+Speed Hitter Drafted 363rd: .241-14-50-60-14
2019 The Bat + ATC Projection: .244-14-53-68-18
Kevin Kiermaier is currently being drafted 363rd overall, pretty much an afterthought even in slightly deeper leagues. His fantasy numbers have never fully come to fruition, mostly because he has often been hurt in his MLB career. However, his ATC/The Bat projections have him returning value of the 270-to-290 pick range, based on production. Nothing really stands out in terms of his advanced batting statistics, but he has been known to provide speed and pop in chunks in the past. He plays the game hard, which, if it doesn’t lead to him getting hurt, could benefit fantasy owners.
The case for Kiermaier really boils down to if he can stay healthy and put together a full season. If he can, then he has the potential to get fantasy owners 20 HR and 20 steals. Even if you were to “reach” on him and take him at pick 290 instead of 363, the risk is very low compared to the potential reward.
Kevin Pillar - OF, TOR
NFBC ADP: 360
Expected Return for a Power+Speed Hitter Drafted 360th: .241-14-50-60-14
2019 The Bat + ATC Projection: .261-16-61-67-14
Analysis: Our other undervalued outfielder presents a similar profile to Kiermaier but has a little more stability to offer. Kevin Pillar is currently being drafted just before Kiermaier at pick 360, but his ATC/The Bat projections value him between pick mid-180s to pick 200, which means he is being seriously undervalued.
Pillar offers the pop and speed of Kiermaier but with a solid batting average floor (career .261 average). He doesn’t walk much (career 4.2% walk rate) but also doesn’t strike out much (16.2% career strikeout rate), so realistically he can serve as a late round pick that can help fantasy owners in two categories without dragging them down in any of the other three categories. His profile isn’t exciting, but based on the expected value of his projection, Pillar could be a steal in 2019.
Christian Yelich - OF, MIL
NFBC ADP: 7
Expected Return for a Power+Speed+Average Hitter Drafted 7th: .316-28-97-100-25
2019 The Bat + ATC Projection: .299-28-90-100-16
Christian Yelich is a guy who deservedly is going very early in drafts. The 27-year-old had an immense breakout season in 2018, taking home all kinds of accolades, including NL MVP, and narrowly missing out on a triple crown. There is no question here that he should be going early in drafts, but based on our research and his 2018 batted-ball profile, there is good reason to think that Yelich is being overvalued with the seventh overall pick.
Yelich’s ATC/The Bat projections fall significantly short of the expected return for the seventh-overall historical power+speed+average player pick. Based on his projections, Yelich’s output would place him in the production range of the 13 to 15 overall pick. This is not so much a case of Yelich being projected to put up lackluster numbers but more of an unlikelihood that he will replicate his stellar stat line in 2018. Negative regression is certainly expected after taking a look at his batted-ball profile.
A few things stand out in Yelich’s batted-ball profile for 2018. In terms of power, he has always hit the ball hard, and 2018 was no different (his 92.3 MPH average exit velocity was in the top 6% of players). However, he also posted an inflated 35% HR/FB rate, which was the highest among qualified hitters and was much higher than his 20.3% career mark. Yelich was able to hit the ball out of the park despite being a historical ground ball hitter. His 51.8% GB rate in 2018 was tied for 11th-highest among qualified hitters, and his 4.7-degree launch angle was one of the lowest in baseball. Again, Yelich is a great player and an immense fantasy asset, but he likely won’t be as great as he was in 2018. He's worth passing on in the first round for players who are more of a sure thing to return 1st round value. If you can get him at the beginning or middle of the second round instead of the middle of the first, you’ve gotten yourself a more fair value.
Byron Buxton - OF, MIN
NFBC ADP: 152
Expected Return for a Power+Speed Hitter Drafted 152nd: .255-17-59-74-19
2019 The Bat + ATC Projection: .241-15-50-63-21
This next guy is a former prospect who has yet to pan out, but it looks like fantasy managers still have hope in him given his current ADP. Byron Buxton is currently being drafted at pick 152. Yet as you can see, the expected return for a power+speed player at pick 152 is much greater than that of what Buxton is projected to produce in 2019, minus the steal totals. In fact, if you take the steals out of the equation for a moment, Buxton’s four remaining stat projections place him around the expected production of about pick 362. Of course, his steals potential is one of his most appealing fantasy aspects, but when you consider the total package, it seems that Buxton is being considerably overvalued.
Buxton’s overall profile is mainly a steals threat with a bit of pop. However, his steals upside is limited by the fact that he doesn’t get on base nearly enough. Buxton’s plate approach hinders his ability to get on base consistently: he doesn’t walk much (career walk rate 6.5%), he strikes out a ton (31.7% career K rate), and he doesn’t hit the ball all that hard (85.7 MPH average exit velocity). These factors lead to a below-average career batting average of .230 despite getting BABIP help (career .320) from his speed.
The one bit of hope about Buxton is that, while his 2018 was dreadful, it came with several asterisks. His shortened season was marred with injuries, including migraines, a fractured left big toe, and a sprained left wrist. Buxton now appears to be fully healthy, as he has been raking in spring training. That being said, one strong offseason does not offset a career of disappointment. There are plenty other sources of steals who also provide value in other areas, so don’t feel the need to reach on Buxton.