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Points Leagues All-Value Team - Bases Loaded Pod

What's up RotoBallers! Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) and Jorge Montanez (@Roto_Nino) are back. We are coming to you with our 'All-Value' team for fantasy baseball points leagues today.

Subscribe to the Bases Loaded podcast, part of RotoBaller Radio's Podcast Network. 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 9-11 PM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Fantasy Baseball Points Leagues Targets

We decided to go ahead and dive into fantasy baseball points leagues and attack them a bit differently. We go position by position, analyzing players we like the values of.

A few names we discussed include:

You can listen here directly through RotoBaller or subscribe today on your preferred podcast platform!

We are available on iTunes, Stitcher, Megaphone, PodBean, TuneIn Sound Cloud, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, Pod Bean, Tune In, Overcast and Breaker!

Our hosts Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland), Mike Simione (@SPStreamer), Jorge Montanez (@Roto_Nino) and Zach Braff (@braffz). These guys are always available to answer your fantasy baseball questions. Also, don’t forget to subscribe, review and comment on the show.

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

Win Big with RotoBaller in 2020!

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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 Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

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.

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

Finding Value in Points Leagues: Middle Infield Edition

Welcome RotoBallers to my Finding Value in Points League Series! Points leagues are becoming more and more popular in the fantasy baseball world. They have long been my preferred way of playing, so the boom in popularity is great! One of the biggest differences between points and roto leagues is that more stats come into play in points leagues. On some sites, a hitter will receive points for a walk, or extra for a double, etc. In a roto league, you are awarded nothing for a walk (unless you play with OBP) and a double is equal to a single.

To me, one of the most overlooked aspects in fantasy baseball points leagues is the walks and the strikeouts. You hear about these stats with pitchers all the time, but it can go overlooked for hitters. That is why I created Batter K-BB percent to help highlight which batters are most affected by the switch from roto formats to points. This stat shows how often a batter strikes out compared to how much he walks, the lower the percent, the better.

But not all points leagues are created equal. The scoring differs from site to site. That is why along with Batter K-BB rate, you will see the RotoBaller projected scoring for each of the players listed. This will indicate which sites a player should be valued very differently from roto and which are more in line with the classic format.

 

Platform Variances

First, here is how hitters’ points are distributed amongst the different sites:

NFBC scoring is the closest to traditional 5x5 roto, while you can see additional stats factored into all other sites. Fantrax and Yahoo do not deduct points for strikeouts, but CBS and ESPN definitely do and all, while the NFBC rewards points for walks. For detailed breakdowns on how to tackle each of these platforms, check out our excellent "Break the League" series by Nicklaus Gaut. He has covered points league rankings and projections for CBS, ESPNYahoo and Fantrax.

Knowing this, I found the Batter K-BB rate of all hitters in order to find the best and worst values. It is a stat that is overlooked, even though it makes a big difference on the sites that factor in both walks and strikeouts. In this article, I will focus on the middle infield positions, second base and shortstop.

 

Second Base Projection - Points Leagues

Player Batter K-BB% CBS Points ESPN Points Yahoo Points Fantrax Points NFBC Points
Tommy La Stella 2.5% 363 (T-19th) 329 (17th) 753 (32nd) 396 (25th) 422 (25th)
Jurickson Profar 5.2% 360 (22nd) 312 (21st) 935 (20th) 399 (24th) 388 (27th)
Ketel Marte 5.3% 560 (1st) 501 (1st) 1,250 (3rd) 607 (1st) 718 (1st)
Hanser Alberto 6.2% 359 (24th) 325 (18th) 808 (28th) 387 (27th) 440 (23rd)
Kolten Wong 6.5% 409 (13th) 346 (13th) 885 (24th) 453 (13th) 480 (18th)

Points leagues are never kind to part-time players. That is because volume cannot be understated in this format. If you are only playing three times a week that is simply just less chances to get hits, drive in runs, draw walks and flat out just score fantasy points. Tommy La Stella and Jurickson Profar both find themselves in potentially part-time roles, which is why the RotoBaller projections are not kind to them. Hanser Alberto is in similar company.

Ketel Marte is a points league stud. He is projected as the top second baseman in four of the five sites and no worse than third. He should be the top second baseman off the board in this format and luckily thanks to Roto Bias, you do not need to pay that price.

Kolten Wong is a value in CBS and ESPN points leagues due to his strong plate discipline. Those are the sites that he should be considered a premium. He is a value on Fantrax as well because they do not deduct points from strikeouts but do reward for walks. And the best part is you do not need to pay the price of where he is expected to finish. He should be avoided on Yahoo and NFBC leagues.

Player Batter K-BB% CBS Points ESPN Points Yahoo Points Fantrax Points NFBC Points
Brandon Lowe 27% 362 (21st) 271 (26th) 1,005 (13th) 446 (15th) 501 (16th)
Keston Hiura 23.5% 484 (7th) 385 (9th) 1,206 (5th) 570 (4th) 707 (2nd)
Rougned Odor 21.6% 357 (26th) 271 (25th) 1,051 (12th) 432 (20th) 445 (22nd)
Jonathan Schoop 20.7% 315 (30th) 250 (31st) 922 (21st) 377 (30th) 387 (27th)
Isan Diaz 19.9% 310 (31st) 224 (33rd) 837 (26th) 387 (28th) 344 (33rd)

This is a rough list because so many of my favorite Roto league targets are on this list. Brandon Lowe, Keston Hiura and Rougned Odor are all second basemen I have drafted a fair amount of in my Roto leagues. In fact, Odor is one of my favorite values and Hiura one of my favorite breakouts. Jonathan Schoop is one of my favorite values while Isan Diaz is a nice breakout candidate. However, I will be leaving them for my Roto leagues. All of them are free swingers who will be deducted in CBS and ESPN leagues. Hiura will be drafted as a top-five second baseman, but only return that value in Yahoo, Fantrax and NFBC.

Lowe is not projected as a top-12 second baseman in any points leagues and is really only appealing in Yahoo, judging by the RotoBaller projections. The same can be said for Odor, who is projected to be outside the top 20 on a majority of sites. Schoop is not projected to finish inside the Top 20 on any site and Diaz outside the Top 25 on all. You should follow my lead and target these guys in roto, while letting others pay up in points.

 

Shortstop Projections - Points Leagues

Player Batter K-BB% CBS Points ESPN Points Yahoo Points Fantrax Points NFBC Points
Marcus Semien 2.1% 518 (7th) 450 (6th) 1,274 (8th) 574 (7th) 640 (12th)
Andrelton Simmons 3% 381 (26th) 342 (20th) 856 (31st) 408 (29th) 411 (28th)
Kevin Newman 6.4% 435 (19th) 375 (14th) 577 (29th) 475 (22nd) 559 (20th)
Xander Bogaerts 6.6% 568 (4th) 502 (3rd) 1,296 (6th) 629 (5th) 754 (5th)
Jean Segura 6.9% 403 (23rd) 354 (18th) 986 (27th) 440 (26th) 475 (24th)

Each of these shortstops is likely to outperform their draft price in points leagues. For years, I was a Marcus Semien guy, but this year I have been hesitant to buy into his career season. But if I am going to draft him anywhere it will be in points leagues, because of his strong plate discipline. He is projected to finish in the top-eight of all but NFBC leagues.

Xander Bogaerts tends to be a borderline top-five short top off the board, yet he is projected to finish inside the top-five in all but Yahoo leagues. He is a strong value in this format. Jean Segura is a nice later round roto target because of the power-speed he offers, but his plate discipline makes him a worthy points league target. He is not a starting option, but if you are in a deeper points league or one that has a middle infield spot, he is on the radar. The same can be said for Kevin Newman in ESPN leagues.

Simmons never projects well, but in points leagues he is a good injury replacement off the waiver wire. He has strong plate discipline, will play every day thanks to his defense, and hits a good amount of doubles.

Player Batter K-BB% CBS Points ESPN Points Yahoo Points Fantrax Points NFBC Points
Adalberto Mondesi 25.5% 421 (20th) 291 (29th) 1,070 (19th) 500 (18th) 656 (9th)
Javier Baez 22.8% 463 (11th) 368 (16th) 1,256 (9th) 544 (11th) 687 (7th)
Fernando Tatis Jr. 21.5% 539 (6th) 417 (8th) 1,278 (7th) 635 (2nd) 776 (4th)
Willy Adames 18.3% 345 (30th) 259 (32nd) 998 (24th) 424 (28th) 430 (27th)
Tim Anderson 18.1% 415 (22nd) 322 (25th) 1,109 (17th) 487 (20th) 610 (13th)

These shortstops are all very similar. They all suffer from poor plate discipline and what makes them all appealing, outside of Willy Adames, is the stolen bases they offer. But there is no stat that is more devalued in points leagues than stolen bases. In roto, stolen bases are literally 20 percent of the offensive stats you build your team around. But in points leagues, they are worth just two points on CBS, ESPN and Fantrax.

That is why Adalberto Mondesi is projected to finish 18th shortstop or worse on all sites except NFBC, which again attempts to mimic roto. Javier Baez, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Tim Anderson are all projected to finish worse than their asking price on every site except NFBC. These are fun and exciting players in roto, but the biggest mistake you can make in points is build a great roto team.

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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 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




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

Yahoo Undervalued and Overvalued for H2H Points Leagues

Over the past week at RotoBaller, we've introduced a brand new approach to preparing for Points Leagues. Typically, analysts give you general points league rankings. We have those as well at RotoBaller. However, this approach falls short. Analysis and ranks must be platform specific, because every platform (ESPN, Yahoo!, CBS, NFBC, Fantrax) has wildly different scoring settings which must be uniquely attacked.

This article focuses on players overvalued and undervalued in Yahoo! points leagues. Before you dig in here, it's recommended you read our Break the League: Yahoo! Points Ranker article, published on March 25th, which provides a great overview of Yahoo Points League scoring settings, recommendations on how to attack those scoring settings, and some players that gain / lose in the Yahoo format, compared to typical 5x5 leagues.

We recently launched our new Points League Ranker tools, which provide you with an awesome points league cheat sheet for each platform, and includes "Points Above Replacement" projections, to help you understand how to properly value different players and positions on each platform. If you want access to our Yahoo! Points League Ranker Tool, you'll have to buy a preseason or full season premium pass!

 

Yahoo! Points Leagues and ADP

ADP is a must-have piece of information when it comes to drafting. While every league is different and may have a particularly aggressive or conservative group of owners when it comes to certain players, it’s the best tool we have when analyzing players’ values. Today I'm going to talk about players who are being drafted higher or lower on Yahoo compared to ATC points projections (last year's most accurate fantasy projections) for H2H points leagues. 

This will include looking at a player's ATC $-Rank, which represents the ranking of the player, based on league-specific scoring settings, using ATC projections converted into $ values, adjusted for position scarcity and replacement value. So, for Yahoo specifically, a key takeaway is that Yahoo has watered down the hitter scoring and has such a restrictive offensive roster (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, UT, UT), which means that tons of high-scoring batters are always available on the wire.

 

Assessing Value in Points Leagues

This is a little clearer by looking at replacement values by position.

So a player like Yu Darvish, who we'll discuss later, is only projected for 688 points, which is the same as Jose Martinez of Tampa Bay. However, since there are so many more hitters that score high point totals in Yahoo settings, getting a pitcher who can put up Darvish's point total is more valuable, even if the total points might be lower than the hitter you'd draft at the same spot. This is why "replacement value" is so important. Essentially, by drafting Darvish, you're gaining a bigger edge of your peers' pitchers than you would by drafting a higher scoring hitter. 

Lastly, it's important to keep in mind that, when looking at ADP, if the price tag is higher, that doesn't make a player undraftable and being lower doesn't make them an automatic steal, but it helps to stay oriented with the bigger picture of ADP data. We're simply raising awareness of those whose draft stock is seemingly getting raised or dropped based on nothing other than the site's default rank.

If you draft with our staff ranks, you'll want to keep this in mind. ADP data current as of March 12.

 

Cheaper Early-Round Picks for Yahoo Points Leagues

Yu Darvish (SP, CHC)

Yahoo ADP: 63 (ATC $-rank: 45)

Now, many of you are going to look at that ATC rank and say, "I'm not drafting Darvish 45th." You might also think that 18 spots isn't that much of a bargain, and you wouldn't be wrong on either count. While I do believe Darvish is being under-drafted this season, he's also here as a perfect embodiment of two main points in this article.

For starters, while you may not take Darvish 45th, you should take note of the fact that ATC believes he's the 45th most valuable player in this format. Considering he is going 63rd on average in Yahoo, you could jump his Yahoo ADP by a round and still get value based on ATC projections. Secondly, this also emphasizes that the value of pitchers in this format since Darvish, who comes in ranked 45th, has a project for 688 points, while Matt Olson, who comes in ranked 46th, is projected for 1,259 points. You may look at that and think, "Why in the hell would I take Darvish?" and the simple answer is that there are many more hitters that will put up near 1,000 points than there are pitchers who will push for 700.

Darvish is an elite option as a SP2 if you go the "pocket aces" route, but can also be a viable SP1 if you wait on starting pitching (just make sure you have consistent accumulators to fill out the staff). Especially with the uncertainty around SP due to injuries to Chris Sale, Mike Clevinger, Justin Verlander, Blake Snell, and Max Scherzer, a pitcher of Darvish's talent gets bumped up the board. His second-half was masterful, finishing with a 2.76 ERA, .199 BAA, and 118 strikeouts to only seven walks in 81.2 IP. I believe in his pitch mix changes, featuring a cutter over a four-seam fastball, and think that version of Darvish can stick for a full season.

 

Trevor Bauer (SP, CIN)

Yahoo ADP: 88 (ATC $-rank: 38)

Trevor Bauer is an interesting case. His 2018 was phenomenal, posting a 2.21 ERA, 22.9 K-BB%, and a 13.3 SwStr%. Many expected the breakout to continue in 2019, but Bauer got off to a slow start and then his season came unhinged once he was traded to Cincinnati. During his tenure pitching at Great American Ballpack, he posted a 6.39 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in 56.1 IP, with an unsustainable 1.92 HR/9 and 60.8 LOB%.

While it all seems to be doom and gloom, ATC is buying into some of the underlying skills. Despite the poor stats above, Bauer had a 7.7 BB%, and 27.5 K% and a 12.2 SwStr%, which portends to a strong strikeout upside. His rolling averages on Statcast also suggest a rough stretch in late August and early September, which the game logs seem to support (the third column from the right is ERA, second from the right is FIP, and then xFIP is all the way on the right).

Most of those blow-ups were also on the road, so we can't suggest Great American is to blame, which would also be a concern for 2020. With a solid offense that could provide a fair amount of wins and strong strikeout metrics, Bauer could be a real fantasy asset if he can keep his ERA below 4.00, which seems entirely plausible. I, personally, am reluctant to buy in since he's only had one good season, but ATC is certainly buying in and Ariel Cohen was the FSWA Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year, so it's likely I'm being an idiot.

 

Josh Bell (1B, PIT)

Yahoo ADP: 93 (ATC $-rank: 31)

For a while, we thought of 1B as being an incredibly deep position in fantasy. Now it seems to have shifted to more of a "Stars and Scrubs" model with some top-heavy talent and intriguing late-round flyers but little reliable value in the middle. That makes Bell all the more attractive based on his Yahoo ADP. 

Bell's barrel% jumped 5.7% in his age-27 season, along with a 3.8-degree increase in launch angle (to 13 degrees), a .136 increase in xSLG, a .077 increase in xwoBACON, and a 8.1% increase in Hard Hit %. His Statcast profile was elite almost all the way across the board, while he still managed to keep his K% under 20%, better than the MLB average.

While being on the Pirates may sap some of his RBI or Run totals, he still makes for a great value as you approach pick 100 and the 1B stability cliff. You can lock Bell in as your 1B with a pick in the 80s, secure good value, and not have to worry about the other question mark options at the position.

 

Cheaper Mid-to-Late Picks for Yahoo Points Leagues

Matthew Boyd (SP, DET)

Yahoo ADP: 143 (ATC $-rank: 75)

ATC gets it. Boyd’s success and failure last year was heavily tied to his fastball velocity, which jumped from 91.1 MPH on average in 2018 to 92.4 in 2019. This spring, he was sitting around 93 and routinely pumping 94 in games. If he can stay consistent in that range, it means big things for Boyd in 2020.

Even with his 2019 velocity bump, he saw a jump in SwStrk% from 10.2 to 14.0, which can partially be tied to his improvement in getting hitters to chase outside of the zone. He had a 4.6% jump in O-Swing%, and batters swung at Boyd’s 1550 pitches and missed on 484 of them (31.2%) which is above league average (24.9%). His slider has above-average movement, five inches towards a right-handed batter and dropping 46 inches, which helped it register a .189 xBA, 43.4 Whiff%, and 26 PutAway%.

If Boyd ups the usage on the changeup he's been throwing in spring training, which had a 37.2 Whiff% in 2019, he could take his performance to a whole other level.

 

Mitch Keller (SP, PIT)

Yahoo ADP: 357 (ATC $-rank: 154)

By now you should be noticing the trend: there is a lot of starting pitching value to be had when drafting on Yahoo. In fact, an under-priced rotation of Darvish, Bauer, Boyd, and Keller would be extremely exciting to me. 

It's clear that the Yahoo platform is seeing Keller's atrocious debut numbers last year and running for the hills. You shouldn't follow. Many of Keller's underlying metrics suggest that he was actually pitching much closer to his 3.47 xFIP. His BABIP was .475 for starters, which is certainly not sustainable. He had a 21.6% K-BB% and an 11.8% SwStr% while flashing two plus secondary offerings: a slider that had a 47.8 Whiff% and a 29.5 PutAway%, and a curve that had a 34 Whiff% and a 25.5 PutAway%.

With the Pirates organization now changing pitching philosophies to allow for fastballs up in the zone and secondaries down, we could see a real breakout from Keller and many Yahoo drafters could be reaping the rewards at a massive value.

 

C.J. Cron (1B, DET)

Yahoo ADP: 391 (ATC $-rank: 227)

When talking about Josh Bell, I mentioned that there were some late-round flyers at 1B that were super interesting. Here is one of them. Cron has battled through a few thumb injuries in recent seasons and has mostly be a platoon player on teams like Tampa Bay and Minnesota, so he flies under the radar for many owners. Now he's locked into full-time plate appearances but still on a team that not many fans truly think about often.

However, Cron is worth your brainpower. He's increased in his barrel rate for three-straight seasons and hit 25 home runs last year despite the thumb injuries. His hard-hit rate and xWOBACON are well above average. His chase rate has dropped for five-straight seasons, down to 32.4%, and his strikeout rate dropped from 25.9% to 21.6% in 2019. You're not going to find many players with 30+ home run upside and 500 plate appearances available after pick 300.

 

Other Cheaper Picks

C: Yasmani Grandal -- Yahoo ADP: 100, ATC $-Rank: 28
1B: Edwin Encarnacion -- Yahoo ADP: 183, ATC $-Rank: 133
2B: Cavan Biggio -- Yahoo ADP: 164, ATC $-Rank: 114
3B: Josh Donaldson -- Yahoo ADP: 89, ATC $-Rank: 41
SS: Paul DeJong -- Yahoo ADP: 194, ATC $-Rank: 99
CI: Matt Chapman -- Yahoo ADP: 98, ATC $-Rank: 37
OF: Kyle Schwarber -- Yahoo ADP: 148, ATC $-Rank: 93
OF2: Brian Anderson -- Yahoo ADP: 389, ATC $-Rank: 150
DH: Khris Davis -- Yahoo ADP: 192, ATC $-Rank: 110
SP1: Zack Wheeler -- Yahoo ADP: 113, ATC $-Rank: 85

 

Costly Early-Round Picks for Yahoo Points Leagues

Gleyber Torres (2B, NYY)

Yahoo ADP: 25 (ATC $-rank: 59)

ATC thinks you're drafting Gleyber Torres too high, and I wish it hadn't told you because I'm happy to see it happen in each draft I'm in. Yes, Torres is a good player and a fine fantasy asset. I'm certainly not drafting him at the beginning of the third round in a 12-team league. He overperformed all of his x-stats last year and posted an absurd 21.5% HR/FB ratio. His GB% increased from 2018, his BB% dropped, and he still doesn't steal many bases.

With a .262 xBA in 2019, Torres is likely a .290 hitter who will finish around 30 HRs in a good lineup but will only chip in five stolen bases. I just described Nicholas Castellano and Marcell Ozuna, who are both going just before pick 100. So, it would follow that the only reason Torres is going higher than them is because he has 2B eligibility.

This isn't the difference between finding scarce pitching stats, so I'm not paying a 70 pick premium on offensive stats just to take a 2B. Especially when I can take Mike Moustakas at pick 97, who will likely hit more home runs than Torres with less average and two fewer stolen bases.

 

Adalberto Mondesi (SS, KC)

Yahoo ADP: 44 (ATC $-rank: 149)

ATC is piling onto the middle infielders here. The presence of Mondesi and Villar here says to me that ATC believes people are paying too much of a premium for stolen bases. Mondesi has 40 stolen bases upside, and it's tremendous, but remember, this isn't Roto or H2H categories, so you don't need to "win" stolen bases.

Mondesi's 40 SB will certainly get you points, but his average will likely stay around .250 because of his 29.8 K%, and if he's not hitting consistently it will sap his stolen base opportunities since his measly 4.3 BB% isn't helping him get on base.

The biggest concern for Mondesi going forward is his shoulder injuries. He hurt his shoulder early in 2019 and then re-aggravated the injury later in the season, which led to offseason surgery. Shoulder injuries are tricky ones because of the way it impacts the follow-through and extension on a swing as well as the aggressiveness of a base stealer when he's sliding head-first.

Mondesi already having two injuries to that shoulder in such a short time period is a major red flag. If it impacts him at all on the basepaths, it could really drive down his fantasy stock since the other thing he really has working for him according to his Statcast Player Page (right) is that speed.

 

Jonathan Villar (2B/OF, MIA)

Yahoo ADP: 60 (ATC $-rank: 123)

We've done this dance before with Villar. He, like Mondesi, has a particularly problematic Statcast page (left). While that isn't the be-all-end-all in fantasy prognostication, it accurately reflects Villar's mediocre hit tool.

He makes only 7% more hard contact than he does soft contact and he continues to chase pitches out of the zone at a 28.7% rate while having his O-Contact% drop. His 16.1% K%-BB% is not ideal for a lead-off hitter, and his 24 home runs last year were clearly influenced by his hitter-friendly home park and the juiced ball.

Moving to a more pitcher-friendly park, he'll likely be good for 15 home runs and 35 stolen bases, which is nothing to sneeze at, but in a points league, you really don't need to overpay for stolen bases if you can get the same amount of points, or more, through a more consistent player profile.

 

Costly Mid-Late Picks for Yahoo Points Leagues

Brad Hand (RP, CLE)

Yahoo ADP: 94 (ATC $-rank: 250)

Since closers pitch far fewer innings than starters and thus accrue far fewer IP and strikeouts, their value in points leagues rests almost entirely on their ability to get saves. Add to that, as Alex Fast pointed out, that saves are being spread across more relief pitchers than ever before, and you have a recipe for closers being over-drafted in points leagues. According to ATC $-rank, Hand, along with Kenley Jansen, Roberto Osuna, Craig Kimbrel, and a few others are all being over-drafted by 150 slots. 

While we can point out weaknesses in a few of these guys, I want to mention Hand since him losing his closer job was in one of my bold predictions.  Brad Hand has gotten increasingly shaky over the last three years, seeing a consistent rise in ERA, Hard Hit%, and Pull% while also seeing a drop in velocity by over one mph on his fastball.

With the diminished velocity, batters are not only getting around on him better, but it's impacted the effectiveness of his slider, which has dropped in pVAL for three straight years. I expect the Indians to have a new closer by July (provided the season starts in April, which it won't, but that's a topic for another time).

 

David Dahl (OF, COL)

Yahoo ADP: 134 (ATC $-rank: 236)

Look, I love Dahl's talent, but the man is made of glass. He has yet to play over 100 games, but the Rockies are, according to Roster Resource, going to lead him off and have him play CF; both of which will only increase his chances of injury. Since Dahl is more of an accumulator than a dynamic power or speed threat, his lack of games played will prevent him from adding to his counting stats.

ATC projects Dahl for 121 games, which means that a 25-10 season is likely the most that fantasy owners can hope for. His .302 average last year was propped up by a .386 BABIP, so you might be looking at .285 25-10 with decent run totals hitting at the top of a fine lineup. It's not a bad season, but, according to ATC, it's not worth drafting this high in a points league.

 

Other Costly Picks

2B: Tommy Edman -- Yahoo ADP: 140, ATC $-Rank: 234
3B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  -- Yahoo ADP: 47, ATC $-Rank: 89
SS: Tim Anderson -- Yahoo ADP: 90, $-ATC Rank: 132
OF1: Luis Robert -- Yahoo ADP: 97, $-ATC Rank: 182
OF2: Danny Santana -- Yahoo ADP: 142, $-ATC Rank: 225
OF3: Aaron Judge -- Yahoo ADP: 32, ATC $-Rank: 140
SP: Jesus Luzardo -- Yahoo ADP: 129, ATC $- Rank: 167

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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 MLB Analysis Radio RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles Video

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

CBS Undervalued and Overvalued for H2H Points Leagues

Over the past week at RotoBaller, we've introduced a brand new approach to preparing for Points Leagues. Typically, analysts give you general points league rankings. We have those as well at RotoBaller. However, this approach falls short. Analysis and ranks must be platform specific, because every platform (ESPN, Yahoo!, CBS, NFBC, Fantrax) has wildly different scoring settings which must be uniquely attacked.

This article focuses on players overvalued and undervalued in CBS points leagues. In the coming days, we'll also have a "Break the League" article for CBS Points Leagues, which will provide a great overview of CBS Points League scoring settings, recommendations on how to attack those scoring settings, and a few must-avoid players. You can check out the ESPN version of this article here.

We also recently launched Points League Ranker tools, which provide you with an awesome points league cheat sheet for each platform, and includes "Points Above Replacement" projections, to help you understand how to properly value different players and positions on each platform. If you want access to our CBS Points League Ranker Tool, you'll have to buy a preseason or full season premium pass!

 

A Quick Ode to Points Leagues

Points leagues are my favorite baseball leagues, and CBS Sports is my favorite platform to play them on. A big reason for this dates back over 10 years ago when I played in my first fantasy baseball league. Making the jump from fantasy football to baseball was a seamless transition since I joined a points league. It duplicated the intensity, the trash-talking, the one-on-one matchups that you get with fantasy football. Roto leagues may get the bulk of attention, but points leagues are quickly becoming more and more popular. Hopefully, you are now sold on points leagues, if you weren’t already. If you're not, read our longer ode to points leagues here. That is just the first step. The next is to help you become an even better drafter!

 

How ADP Skews Your Points League Drafts

ADP is important in every draft, and as much as fantasy players may say they do not abide by ADP, the truth is it greatly impacts most drafts. If a player is sitting at the top of the ADP list, every manager in the draft room is constantly seeing that player's name. Typically players at the top of the ADP list do not last on the board very long, unless they are falling due to injury, suspension, etc. Fantasy players often will see a player they like down the list and assume they can wait another round or two to draft that player.

But being a sheep to ADP is a mistake, especially in points leagues. Why is that? Because the majority of fantasy baseball leagues are roto leagues, meaning that ADP on sites are skewed by roto drafts. This is a term I have dubbed "Roto Bias", and it greatly impacts points leagues ADP.

So how can you take advantage of Roto Bias if you are playing in a points league? Well, that is where we got you covered! There are plenty of players that are being over-drafted in points leagues on CBS. On the flip side, there are also plenty of players that are a value at their current price.

In today's article, we're selecting some players who stand out in our CBS Points League Ranker (it's a premium tool, but you can read more about it here if you're considering subscribing). To build the CBS Points League Ranker, and find the players below who are attractive, or unattractive, in CBS Points Leagues, we first took ATC Projections (which were the #1 rated MLB projection system in 2019), and we turned them into dollar values specifically for CBS Points League scoring settings. Those dollar values were then ranked, and the rankings were compared to CBS's ADP. Below, I will dissect both groups of players to help you be fully prepared for your drafts!

 

Undervalued Players in CBS Points Drafts

Yu Darvish (SP, CHC)

CBS ADP: 87.2; ATC Rank: 62.2

Yu Darvish is my favorite pitcher target in drafts this year, so I was pumped to see he remains one of the most underrated pitchers in CBS points leagues. Currently, Darvish has an ADP of 87.2 on CBS, but according to ATC, he should be going 25 picks earlier, at 62 overall. However, if you ask me, he should be going even higher.

I have Darvish ranked as a top 10 starting pitcher, especially with all the health concerns we have seen around the league. Darvish returned to his elite self in the second half of the 2019 season after changing both his pitch arsenal and release point. I wrote in-depth about Darvish and you can read it here, but I wanted to give you a snippet just to showcase how dominant he was in the final stretch of the season:

In the final two months, he had the best xFIP among pitchers (1.94), as well as the second-best strikeout rate (40 percent) and K-BB rate (37.7 percent). Still not sold? He had the third-best swinging-strike rate (16.1 percent), the second-best chase rate (38.5 percent) and the third-lowest contact rate (67.7 percent).” 

 

Sonny Gray (SP, CIN)

CBS ADP: 110; ATC Rank: 55

Sonny Gray broke back out onto the scene last year after being an afterthought heading into the season. He pitched to a 2.87 ERA with a 3.65 xFIP, with a career-high 29 percent strikeout rate, in one of the worst pitchers parks in baseball. Gray had an average exit velocity of 87.1 mph, which wound up being his second-lowest in the last five seasons. The 30-year-old jumps off the BaseballSavant page, being in the 92nd percentile for fastball spin and 97th for curveball spin rate. Gray was also in the 80th percentile or higher in xBA, xSLG and xwOBA.

However, there is reluctancy by owners to buy into Gray's career season, especially when he never had a strikeout rate close to what he did last year. But Gray was a different pitcher last season, choosing to throw his four-seam fastball more in place of his two-seam (also dubbed a sinker). He also saw improved spin rate on all his pitches, expect the sinker. ATC projections have Gray worthy of taking as the 55th pick off the board, but his ADP on CBS is 110. That means you can wait and literally get him for half the price.

 

Marcus Stroman (SP, NYM)

ADP: 155.9; ATC Rank: 112

Marcus Stroman became a different pitcher when he went to the Mets at last season's trade deadline. His ERA jumped from 2.96 with Toronto, to 3.77 while a member of the Mets, but his xFIP actually improved from 4.06 to 3.84. His ground-ball rate was 56.3 percent with the Jays, but dropped to 48.3 percent with the Mets. However, Stroman also started to miss more bats than really ever before. With the Blue Jays, he had a 19.3 percent strikeout rate but with the Mets it climbed to 23 percent.

The change in results came in how he utilized his pitch repertoire, as he threw his cutter eight percent more, while his curveball usage was reduced by five percent. Stroman has also gone 184 innings or more in three of the last four seasons, which gives him a big boost in points leagues since a pitcher gets a point for every out recorded. Due to that, ATC projections have him worthy of being the 112th player off the board, but his ADP on CBS is 155.9. 

 

Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF, PHI)

CBS ADP: 117.8; ATC Rank: 65

Rhys Hoskins is a clear case of Roto Bias due to his low batting average in 2019. He hit a career-low .226 last year, with an xBA of just .221. Although in points leagues, you should be caring more about OBP, since you get points for walks as well, and Hoskins has consistently provided that. In his three MLB seasons, he has never posted an OBP below .350. In fact, his .364 OBP in the last three years ranks 36th, while his 15.2 percent walk rate in that span is the ninth-best in all of baseball. It also doesn’t hurt that he has hit at least 33 doubles in each of the last two seasons.

That may not matter to you in roto leagues, but in the CBS points format, a double (two points) is literally worth double the value of a single (one point). Hoskins is going significantly later in drafts now, compared to a year ago, but ATC thinks that is a mistake in CBS points leagues, where his ADP is 117.8, but the projections have him pegged as fair value as the 65th player off the board. That is a huge discount, making him a strong value in this format.

 

Tommy Pham (OF, SD)

CBS ADP: 145.4; ATC Rank: 92

Tommy Pham is a very useful roto player, but he is even more valuable in points due to his sheer ability to get on base. He has posted an OBP of .360 or better in three straight seasons including .411 in 2017. He will provide some power, speed, all while not hurting in the runs and RBI departments, which is all great in both points and roto.

But it is even better that Pham hit 33 doubles last season while cutting his strikeout rate to a career-low 18.8 percent, and having a walk rate over 10 percent for a fifth straight season. ATC projections have the 32-year-old as the 92nd player off the board in this format, but his ADP is currently 145.4. We would call that a buying opportunity!

 

Other Point League Values:

Brandon Woodruff (106.7 ADP, 52 ATC rank)
Max Fried (110.1 ADP, 71 ATC rank)
German Marquez (117.1 ADP, 65 ATC rank)
Edwin Diaz (125.9 ADP, 93 ATC rank)
Lance Lynn (132.7 ADP, 43 ATC rank)
Robbie Ray (136.4 ADP, 84 ATC rank)
Mike Moustakas (137.4 ADP, 88 ATC rank)
Andrew Heaney (193.7 ADP, 123 ATC rank)
Cesar Hernandez (245.5 ADP, 192 ATC rank)

Overvalued Players in CBS Points Drafts

Ronald Acuna (OF, ATL)

CBS ADP: 5.6; ATC Rank: 20

Ronald Acuna Jr. is overrated in points leagues. He is not even a top 5 outfielder for me on CBS. The entire reason he is in discussion for the first player off the board in roto is because of the stolen base upside he provides. But again, no category has a value fall off in the change of formats like stolen bases. In roto, they are literally 20 percent of the offensive categories, but in CBS points leagues they are merely worth just two points. Plus, a player loses a point every time they are caught stealing.

OBP remains the vital category in this format and while Acuna’s .365 OBP is nice, it ranked 33rd in baseball. However, you should consider that other first round bats like Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts and Juan Soto (the fifth OF I have over Acuna) all had an OBP over .390 last year. In fact, all but Betts were over .400. ATC projections value Acuna as the 20th best player in this format, although I would have him more towards the end of the first round. Still, his ADP on CBS is 5.6 and it would be no surprise that many players in this format will still consider taking him with a top-5 pick.   

 

Trevor Story (SS, COL)

CBS ADP: 35.1; ATC Rank: 51

Trevor Story is a first round pick in roto drafts, but a big-value loser in the points format. First, a big reason he is a first round selection in roto is the stolen bases, and as discussed with Acuna, those are severely devalued in points leagues. Additionally, he strikes out a bunch, having a strikeout rate over 25 percent in every season. Why is that bad? Because in this format you lose a half a point for every strikeout.

Additionally, his walk rate does nothing to mitigate the loss of value the strikeouts create. His 8.8 percent walk rate in 2019 tied a career high, but that was still 17.7 percent lower than his strikeout rate. I was surprised to see Story’s 35.1 ADP on CBS, as I expected the roto leagues to pull it up much higher, but still, ATC projections has Story as the 51st player. This means that he is going about a round and a half too high in 12-team CBS points leagues.

 

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, SD)

CBS ADP: 51.5; ATC Rank: 97

Fernando Tatis Jr. is another very popular pick in roto drafts, often getting pulled into the first round in 15-team leagues. Although like Acuna and Story, a big reason for that is the power-speed combo he provides. But, I hope you are seeing the trend here: stolen bases are super devalued in this format. Instead of stolen bases, you want hitters who can pile up doubles, walks, while limiting strikeouts. Last season, Tatis had a strikeout rate of 29.6 and a walk rate of just 8.1 percent. He is going to lose a ton of points due to strikeouts and his walk rate simply is not high enough to make up for it.

Surprisingly, Tatis also had just 13 doubles in 372 plate appearances. Due to all of this, ATC projections has him as the 97th player off the board, and his ADP is 51.5 on CBS. I expected the ADP to be even lower, but I would fully expect him to get pulled up the draft boards due to Roto Bias, as fantasy owners love upside (which he has tons of in roto). I will gladly draft him in roto formats, but he will be on none of my points league teams. 

 

Yoan Moncada (3B, CHW)

CBS ADP: 71.8; ATC Rank: 141

Yoan Moncada is very similar to the hitters above. He is a nice roto player because he provides some power and speed, but even last year when he posted a career-low strikeout rate, it was still very high at 27.5 percent. This led to his walk rate falling to 7.2 percent. Combine the high strikeout rate and low walk percentage and his points-league value takes a hit.

ATC has him as the 141st most valuable player in points league, yet his ADP is 71.8. Even if you think the projection is too low, that is such a huge gap that it is best to not draft him in this format.

 

Jesus Luzardo (SP, OAK)

CBS ADP: 128.8; ATC Rank: 217

Jesus Luzardo has all the talent in the world, but in this format, pitchers gain a point per out and three points for every quality start. That means that pitchers who go deep into games are exceptionally valuable in points leagues and in today's game, fewer and fewer pitchers can actually offer that. In fact, last year just 25 starters averaged at least six innings per outing.

But, this is especially worrisome for Luzardo as he’s never gone more than three innings in a big-league game and he’s gone six innings exactly twice in his three minor league seasons. He is more useful in roto where he will provide strikeouts and good ratios, but in points, it is best to let someone else draft him. His ADP on CBS is 128.8, but ATC values him with a price of 217 overall. There are similar concerns for pitchers like Julio Urias (137.7 ADP, 260 ATC rank) and Lance McCullers Jr. (75.8 ADP, 231 ATC rank).

 

Other Overpriced Players in Points Leagues:

Anthony Rendon (14.3 ADP, 38 ATC rank)
Gleyber Torres (41.1 ADP, 94 ATC rank)
Javier Baez (46.3 ADP, 104 ATC rank)
Keston Hiura (82.7 ADP, 126 ATC rank)
Mitch Garver (108.6 ADP, 138 ATC rank)
Ryan Yarbrough (175.5 ADP, 269 ATC rank)
Mitch Keller (195.6 ADP, 287 ATC rank)
Jose Urquidy (125.8 ADP, 176 ATC rank)

Thanks for reading RotoBallers, and be sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.

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ESPN Undervalued and Overvalued for H2H Points Leagues

Over the past couple weeks at RotoBaller, we've introduced a brand new approach to preparing for Points Leagues. Typically, analysts give you general points league rankings. We have those as well at RotoBaller. However, this approach falls short. Analysis and ranks must be platform specific, because every platform (ESPN, Yahoo!, CBS, NFBC, Fantrax) has wildly different scoring settings which must be uniquely attacked.

This article focuses on players overvalued and undervalued in ESPN points leagues. Before you dig in here, it's recommended you read our Break the League: ESPN Points Ranker article, published a few days prior, which provides a great overview of ESPN Points League scoring settings, recommendations on how to attack those scoring settings, and a few must-avoid players. If you want access to our actual ESPN Points League Ranker Tool, you'll have to buy a preseason or full season premium pass.

In general, players on ESPN can expect starting pitchers to be undervalued, relief pitchers to be overvalued, while first basemen and outfielders tend to be overvalued against the average. Volume-based pitchers, and hitters with great walk-to-strikeout ratios will project as more valuable in ESPN points leagues. On the flip side, relievers, free swingers, and speedsters take a value dip in this format. Depending upon how your league settings are created and customized, certain stat categories and positions could be more valuable than others. If you're in a custom league, it's important to analyze your league settings prior to your draft and highlight which categories are of the highest point value. If you're in a standard ESPN points league, we have you covered.  Now, let's take a look at some of the undervalued and overvalued players based on current ESPN ADP data as of March 13.

 

Undervalued Mid-to-Late Round Picks on ESPN

Max Kepler (OF, MIN)

ESPN ADP: 124; ATC Rank: 57

Max Kepler had a breakout season in 2019 with 36 home runs and a .855 OPS. The 27-year-old operated as the Twins leadoff hitter to begin last season, and he responded with a massive power surge.  He has always shown the ability to draw walks with a good eye at the plate, but he really started to barrel up the ball last season. The 36 home runs ranked him 18th in all of baseball, and the improved OBP in one of MLB's best offenses allowed him to score 98 runs, which ranked him tied for 30th in baseball.

At age 27, Kepler is entering the prime of his career and still has some room to grow in 2020.  The Twins added another veteran slugger in Josh Donaldson this off-season and still have one of the most potent offenses in all of baseball.  This will only help Kepler's numbers, especially if he continues to bat lead-off.

If Kepler can keep up his great barrel and HR/FB percentages, he could be an absolute steal at an ADP of 124. His ATC rank sits at 57, which speaks to the massive profit available in ESPN points leagues. He has the potential to be a steal on draft day.

 

Jorge Polanco (SS, MIN) 

ESPN ADP: 154; ATC Rank: 83

Jorge Polanco was fantastic in the first half of 2020, earning his first all-start nomination. He ended up playing in a career-high 153 games, and hitting .295 with a .841 OPS.  Polanco had career highs in .190 ISO and 22 home runs, fueled by an increased launch angle and jump up in average exit velocity. He's 26-years-old and about to enter the prime of his career. Like Kepler, he gets a boost based on the fact that he plays on an elite offensive team and is expected to hold a prominent spot in the batting order for a stacked lineup.

Polanco did have offseason ankle surgery which may be part of the reason why his ESPN ADP sits at 154. His above average walk rate (8.5%) and lower than average strikeout rate (16.5%) give him a great floor in points leagues, and his projected ATC rank of 83 for ESPN points leagues implies he's way more valuable than his ADP and there is a nice profit to be had.

 

Joey Votto (1B, CIN)

ESPN ADP: 188; ATC Rank: 120

While Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto had long been a staple of fantasy baseball lineups, those days are long gone.  The six-time all-star has not aged gracefully, slashing career lows in 2020. His season line was .261/.357/.411 with 15 HR, 47 RBI, and 79 runs, all very underwhelming statistics. His walk rate (12.5%) was the lowest since his sophomore season in the majors, and his strikeout rate (20.2%) was a new career-high.

However, Votto is still a real asset in points leagues. There are many giving up on Votto, as evidenced by his 188 ESPN ADP, but he still offers some intrigue based on his strong eye at the plate and his ability to put the ball in play.

He showed up to camp over a week early this year, something he's never done in his 13-year career. He is very likely to continue batting second in the order during the regular season, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports. With an ADP of 188, Votto comes super cheap in 12 team leagues and is nearly free in 10-teamers.  He's unlikely to ever be the Votto of old, but his walk-to-strikeout ratio makes him slightly more valuable in points leagues. With his projected ATC rank of 120 for ESPN points leagues, Votto still offers some nice upside at his current price.

 

Matthew Boyd (SP, DET)

ESPN ADP: 197; ATC Rank: 93

Matthew Boyd showed glimpses of brilliance in 2019.  He posted a career-high 238 strikeouts in just 185.1 innings pitched, with a 1.23 WHIP.  He was among the league's elite in terms of swing and miss ability and limiting walks. His big downfall was the 39 home runs allowed (second-most in the league), which ballooned his ERA to 4.56. He also plays in Detroit, a squad not likely to be competitive in 2020, which limits his wins / points upside.  Those two things have kept Boyd's value under the radar.

If Boyd can reduce his fly-ball % a bit and limit the home runs, improvement in ERA will certainly follow. He's a potential SP2/SP3 being drafted as an SP5 right now, as evidenced by his current 197 ESPN ADP.

The 29-year-old southpaw will line up as Detroit's unquestioned ace heading into the 2020 season. While ee could end up as a trade piece if Detroit decides to go into complete rebuild mode this year, his value would only improve  if he gets moved to a contending team.

He is more valuable in points leagues, because of the elite strikeout ability. A less risk-averse owner should jump on Boyd at this price tag and enjoy strikeouts at a discount, considering he's projected to finish as a top-100 player. There is real potential for value here.

 

Dylan Bundy (SP, LAA)

ESPN ADP: 249; ATC Rank: 161

In the year of the home run, Dylan Bundy of all pitchers lowered his home-run rate in 2019.  He also racked up the strikeouts, but that was essentially where his fantasy value ended because of the non-competitive team he played for and the ballpark and division that did him no favors.

Being traded to the Angels should help Bundy's chances of success in 2020. He was at one point regarded as a potential fantasy ace, but his development had stalled out in Baltimore. The Angels will have an excellent defense and run support should be more abundant for Bundy this season.

If Bundy can increase the usage of his slider, his most effective pitch, he has real sleeper potential this season. He should continue to rack up strikeouts, and he should realistically see an uptick in wins as well.  There is certainly enough meat there to warrant a mid-to-late round selection on Bundy in ESPN points leagues, who's coming super cheap with an ESPN ADP of 249 right now. Bundy receives a boost in points leagues because he's able to miss bats and strike out batters at a high clip.

 

Overvalued Early Round Picks on ESPN

Javier Baez (SS, CHC)

ESPN ADP: 32; ATC Rank: 121

Javier Baez saw some regression in 2019 after finishing second in NL MVP voting in 2018. That being said, he still finished with a solid .281/.316/.531 with 29 HR, 85 RBI, 89 R, and 11 SB.  The issue for Baez remains his propensity to strikeout, which hurts him heavily in the ESPN points format. His strikeout numbers were still high as he ranked 11th in the NL with 156, which equated to a 26.7% K rate. His whiffs keep his average in the .270-.290 range, so to warrant a top-25 ranking, he needs massive R/RBI/HR volume, which is not entirely bankable.

The 27-year-old shortstop is usually durable, though he missed last September because of a hairline fracture in his thumb. This is what limits his overall numbers in H2H points leagues. There is no doubt he'll produce, but there are certainly safer and arguably better options in his price range. His current ESPN ADP is 32, which is very high based on his propensity to swing and miss, and injury concerns. His rank by ATC projections is just 121, and while some may be enticed by Baez's talent, the numbers indicate that there are much better options at his current ADP.

 

 Starling Marte (OF, ARI)

ESPN ADP: 32; ATC Rank: 65 

Starling Marte slashed a healthy .295/.342/.503 with 23 home runs, 97 runs scored, 82 RBI and 25 stolen bases in 539 at-bats in 2019. The 31-year-old has been a solid contributor across all major categories in the past. He was moved to Arizona in the offseason and will be the Diamondbacks everyday center fielder. He is far more valuable in category leagues because he's a solid five-category performer across the board.

In points leagues, though, he has finished a more modest-yet-respectable 81st and 63rd in fantasy points in 2018 and 2019, so keep in mind that he's a little less valuable in these formats. He's also missed time last year with a wrist injury, and seemingly gets dinged up almost every year.

His current ESPN ADP is 32, which is too high for the ESPN points formats. Don't get me wrong, he's a very solid player, but not worthy of a top 30 selection in points leagues based on his 2018 and 2019 statistics and his reliance on speed for value, which ESPN penalizes relative to other points formats.

 

Adalberto Mondesi  (SS, KC)

ESPN ADP: 102; ATC Rank: 280

Adalberto Mondesi is by definition a free swinger.  Despite appearing in only 102 games, he had the second-highest swinging-strike rate (22%) in 2019. A separated shoulder that resulted from a diving play in mid-July and required offseason surgery ruined what was a productive campaign for Mondesi. The elite combination of speed and power makes him very intriguing. However, his free-swinging nature leaves him susceptible to major slumps, and he does have a troubling injury history at a young age.

In points-based leagues, he's someone better left to the late rounds because of his questionable approach at the plate. His current ESPN ADP is 102, and in points leagues, he should be dropped down even further than that, as his projected rank is just 280 oerall.  You see the extreme variation in Mondesi's ADP vs ATC rank.  He's a hard pass in ESPN points leagues at his current ADP.

 

Overvalued Mid-To-Late Round Picks on ESPN

 Victor Robles (OF, WAS)

ESPN ADP: 105; ATC Rank: 143 

Victor Robles's contact quality was awful in 2019, plain and simple. He's also another player, like Marte and Mondesi, who relies on speed for 5x5 value, and his hurt by speed in the ESPN points format. His 88.6 mph average airborne exit velocity was three full ticks below league average, while his 4.8% rate of Brls/BBE ranked firmly in the bottom half of the league. It could be tough for Robles to repeat his 11.8% HR/FB even with a live ball. His 15.3 IFFB% was also way too high for somebody with his legs (29.3 ft./sec Statcast Sprint Speed), leading to a lot of wasted PAs.

Worst of all, Robles's average exit velocity on grounders was 73.7 mph, “good” for dead last among the 406 players with at least 100 batted balls last season. In his final 60 games in 2019, he had nearly a 50% ground ball rate.

Fortunately, Robles is young enough to improve, turning only 23 in May, and he did show some power in the early stages of 2019, not to mention he was a plus defender who should earn a maximum amount of playing time. But his underlying numbers are not promising, and he's likely one to avoid in ESPN points leagues. His current ESPN ADP is 105, so unless he shows dramatic improvement at the plate, he's not likely to return close to that kind of value.

 

Craig Kimbrel (RP, CHC)

ESPN ADP: 155; ATC Rank: 231

Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel had a disappointing 2019. The 31-year-old closer faltered after waiting until the draft pick compensation tied to signing him was lifted in early June. He made his debut on June 27, securing a save against Atlanta, but would end up with a 6.53 ERA/1.50 WHIP over 20 ⅔ Innings pitched. A lack of preseason prep and normal routine clearly hurt him. His final average fastball velocity finished the season two mph below where it was a few seasons ago, and the declining velocity has led to his strikeout rate falling from elite levels to average levels.

Kimbrel is entering a different phase of his career and the success indicators are trending in the wrong direction. Quite honestly, the strikeouts are the only safe thing in his skill set for 2020. His value is significantly capped, especially in points leagues where ratios are very important, and saves on their own don't do all that much. His current ESPN ADP is 155, but there are probably safer options to choose from in H2H points leagues, since he's only projected to return the 231st most points in ESPN.

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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.

More Points Leagues Analysis




Categories
2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Projections & ADP Analysis Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Introducing the RotoBaller Points League Ranker Tool

Its time to shine some love down on point league players and help you crush your leagues with easy to understand and easy to leverage information that will put you streets ahead of the average competition. That's right, you over there who was thrilled last year to draft Ronald Acuna Jr. in the first round of your ESPN league. We understand how sad and confused you must have been when Acuna's near 40/40 season only amounted to the 28th-highest scorer in standard leagues...that's why we're here to help!

Unlike in fantasy football, where H2H point leagues are the standard and players are catered to with all of the information they could ever want, fantasy baseball players who want to play points are faced with a number of hurdles and misconceptions. The scoring differences between platforms make it virtually impossible to compare player-values without doing the calculations and much of the rankings and content produced by the platforms only scratch at the surface of this uniqueness. And if that wasn't bad enough, point players also must often deal with derision from within their own fantasy family. You know, the roto-snobs that take every opportunity to tell you that "real" players don't play points? So, bad information and insults? Is it any wonder players get frustrated with the game?

Truth and love are what we're offering points players in 2020, wrapped up with what you need to know to have the edge on the competition in your H2H points league. Powered by the exclusive projections of RotoBaller's lead MLB analyst (and 2018's most accurate MLB draft ranker), Nick Mariano, we now have separate tools for standard leagues on ESPN, CBS, Fantrax, and NFBC (with Yahoo coming soon) that will lay out the metrics most important to understanding player values in your chosen system. Let's get started.

A Fragile Ecosystem

For a variety of reasons,  points players platforms do not advertise just how different their scoring systems are from each other. Consequentially, their content tends to rely on general advice that's not specific enough to their scoring system to be truly actionable. That means most new ESPN players won't know that, barring a drastic change in profile, Acuna won't come close to earning his current spot atop their Top-300 rankings.   More than just performance, points players need to understand how a player's profile will perform in a given scoring system. Outliers abound in point leagues; it's not just Acuna and it's not just ESPN.

It boils down to trust. With different amounts of time that they can devote to preparation, fantasy players have to be able to trust their choices for content and this is especially true for points players. It cannot be overstated; every platform is its own unique system with differences that one can't fully understand enough to leverage unless you look at the system in its entirety. With different roster sizes and different scoring for different categories, every little piece of the puzzle counts. Even if two players are similar in a few areas of production, it won't guarantee that they will score in the same manner. Here's a taste of how big these differences can be, with the top-25 players sorted by their average final platform ranking in 2019:

Name AVG YAHOO ESPN FANTRAX CBS NFBC
Justin Verlander 4.4 2 1 2 1 16
Gerrit Cole 4.6 1 2 1 2 17
Cody Bellinger 5.8 15 4 3 4 3
Alex Bregman 8.4 24 3 5 3 7
Anthony Rendon 8.8 21 6 7 5 5
Rafael Devers 10.4 18 10 8 12 4
Ronald Acuna Jr. 10.6 10 28 4 9 2
Christian Yelich 12.6 30 19 6 7 1
Freddie Freeman 14 23 15 10 14 8
Marcus Semien 16.6 35 9 9 10 20
Nolan Arenado 17 31 13 18 17 6
Xander Bogaerts 17.2 29 16 14 16 11
Mookie Betts 17.4 38 11 13 11 14
Mike Trout 17.6 36 18 12 13 9
Stephen Strasburg 20.2 4 7 26 8 56
Peter Alonso 21.8 27 38 11 20 13
Juan Soto 21.8 37 20 15 19 18
Shane Bieber 24.2 3 8 36 15 59
Jacob deGrom 26.8 5 5 52 18 54
Ketel Marte 27.2 58 21 23 22 12
Jorge Soler 29.6 41 44 17 25 21
Carlos Santana 30.4 54 22 21 21 34
Trevor Story 30.8 44 53 19 28 10
DJ LeMahieu 30.8 47 26 33 33 15
Bryce Harper 31 42 46 16 24 27

Hmmm...That is quite a bit of variance, wouldn't you say? How did we get here? *

*Please note that Yahoo recently changed their scoring from the historical rates below, changing to a system that mirrors scoring in their daily fantasy game. The scope of these changes cannot be understated, even though the change was mentioned only in passing when their 2020 fantasy season was opened. This will be dissected further later in this Point League Ranker series but just know that hitter and pitcher scoring have been flipped upon their heads. How flipped up are they? Under the previous scoring system, Gerrit Cole was the #1 overall scorer in 2019...But would've been #54 under the new settings. Yep, that flipped up.

 

Platform Pitcher Scoring

Platform IP W SV SO QS L ER H BB HB
Yahoo 1 5 5 2 0 0 -0.5 0 0 0
ESPN 3 5 5 1 0 -5 -2 -1 -1 0
Fantrax 1 10 7 1 3 -5 -1 0 0 0
CBS 3 7 7 0.5 3 -5 -1 -1 -1 -1
NFBC 3 6 8 1 X X -2 -0.5 -0.5 X

 

Platform Hitter Scoring

Platform AB Hits 1B 2B 3B HR RBI R SB K BB CS HBP
Yahoo X 0.5 X X X 4.5 2 2 2 x x x x
ESPN X X 1 2 3 4 1 1 1 -1 1 x x
Fantrax X X 1 2 3 4 1 1 2 x 1 x 1
CBS X X 1 2 3 4 1 1 2 -0.5 1 -1 1
NFBC -1 4 X X X 6 2 2 5 X X X X

Each of these tiny differences ripples through every stat line, transforming each of them into their own unique entity. Later we will discuss various critiques of the different systems as a way to identify and exploit individualized strategies but for now, let's jump into how we can help with the new RotoBaller Points Ranker.

We know you have limited time and to that end, we're offering simplicity to points players. Lots of important calculations and strategy considerations boiled down into a few easy to understand numbers. For each platform, our rankings tools will cover the following:

  • The Basics: Player information, along with their projected IP/PA and total points scored.
  • Overall Rank, PAR rank, and POS rank: The "Overall" column is how a player ranks by total projected points, while the "PAR" column ranks players by their "Points-Above-Replacement" score. PAR is adjusted for positional scarcity so it gives you a level playing field for comparing players at different positions. The positional ranking has players ranked by most points-scored, with players listed at their most valuable position. At the positional level, the points-scored ranking and PAR ranking are the same things.
  • Rate of Scoring: Broken down into points/week, points/PA, and points/IP, these rates of scoring are another way to compare players at different positions, as well as being a tool for judging how a player's total skill-set will translate into your chosen platform.

Using the Points League Ranker Tools

With the ESPN tool as an example, let's take a look at the catcher position:

The first seven columns are pretty self-explanatory, using Nick Mariano's projections to tell you total projected points, with the player's overall and positional rankings. While it's great to know projected points, it's really the last two columns that will be particularly powerful for points players.

 

Points-Above-Replacement (PAR)

Or PAR, if you're into the whole brevity thing, man. Mostly simple to calculate, PAR tells you how many points above or below a player is from our all-mighty "replacement player", who is the first player after the last player who would be expected to be drafted at a position, given league size. In a 12-team league, there are 12 starting catchers and seeing that catchers don't provide enough offense to be worth playing in your utility slot, that means 12 catchers should be drafted. The replacement level catcher is simply the 13th-highest scoring player; or, Will Smith in our above example.

This process is then repeated at every position but not all are as straightforward. For one, all platforms have a utility slot and many have CI and MI slots. Players must also be evaluated in that context. A player's points may not put him among the 12 "starters" at his main position but he will still be above-replacement if he'd be among the starters at the swing positions. Looking at CI as an example, our league has 12 starters each at 1B, 3B, and CI, for a total of 36 corner players drafted. The less precise way would be to assume that you would have 18 1B and 18 3B, making your 19th-highest scorer at each position the replacement player. The more precise way is to make your pool the top-36 scorers at the combined positions. Doing it so gives us 17 1B and 19 3B with Albert Pujols and Giovanny Urshela the replacement-level players at their respective positions. For a more extreme example, shortstop dominates the swing positions on ESPN, with the MI position occupied by 10 SS and just 2B, with four more jumping in at the utility position, as well.

Another major reason that considering PAR is so important is the differences in roster sizes between platforms, with the most well-known example being the two-catcher format used by NFBC. To illustrate what a difference this can make, if ESPN were to switch to using two catchers, it would move the replacement level at catcher from Will Smith's 223 points to Willians Astudillo's 149 points. Under the old level, J.T. Realmuto has a 147 PAR that is the 55th-highest amongst all players. With his new 217 PAR, Realmuto would have the 17th-highest PAR, coming in just ahead of Jose Ramirez. Besides just the two-catcher conundrum, some platforms have three OF, some have five OF; some have MI and CI, some don't. These limits are very important and must be accounted for, especially in as it relates to comparing players at different positions, which is one of the most powerful ways to leverage PAR scores.

What is more valuable? The 367 points projected for Javier Baez at SS or the 275 points for Christian Vazquez at catcher? Comparing their respective PARs allows us to answer that question more accurately. Baez may have him out-scored by 92 points but his 54 PAR is just a notch above Vazquez's 52 PAR. Sounds odd but it makes sense under ESPN's scoring; Baez is a mid-range option at the deepest position on the platform, while Vazquez in a decent producer at the scarcest position. Simply put, the adjustments for positional scarcity are done for you when calculating PAR, making it easier to compare players at different positions. You'll never have to choose between drafting Baez or Vazquez but comparisons like this highlight the importance of relative positional value and how it can be leveraged when making drafting decisions.

 

Points-Per-PA

Just as simple as it sounds, the rate at which a player scores points per plate-appearance gives you a snapshot of how each player's total stat line translates to scoring in a particular system. This bears over-repeating; it only matters what a player does in the category in which he is scored. When projecting performance, it doesn't matter (relatively speaking) if you're projecting more or fewer home runs, a .321 AVG or a .279 AVG. All that matters is what the entirety of those expectations turn into when the math shakes out in the points column. Looking at Pts/PA allows you to evaluate what kind of asset a player might be if their playing time were to change while also letting you compare players to others within their position, and outside of it.

Take Kyle Tucker, for example. Mariano projects him for 419 PA with ATC projecting virtually the same at 425 PA. Tucker's projected 276 points put him as the 283rd-scorer overall and the #69 OF, making him 16-points below replacement and on the border of rosterable players. However, when looking at his rate of scoring it seems Tucker could be a major asset as a streamer and/or stash. His 0.659 PT/PA is the 4oth-highest among all batters and the 16th-highest among outfielders - just behind the rates of Starling Marte and Ronald Acuna. That isn't saying Tucker is as good as Marte and Acuna; it says that his skill set translates to a rate of scoring that is similar to theirs, regardless of the method by which he gets there.

This can also identify players on the flip-side, the accumulator's whose rate of scoring isn't great but have large point totals due to their amount of plate-appearances. The players who could take a massive hit if they were to miss time, or were in danger of getting platooned or moved down in the lineup. While not in danger of the above, Whit Merrifield is a great example of an accumulator's profile as his projected 704 PA make him the eighth-highest scoring second baseman, just behind Mike Moustakas and DJ LeMahieu. However, his 0.581 PT/PA is #20 among 2B, coming in behind Jurickson Profar, Tommy La Stella, and Kolten Wong.

Columns and Coloring

The coloring for PAR represents how far away a player is from the pale yellow of the replacement level, moving through various shades of green and red.  For Pts/PA, there is just one shade each of green, yellow, and red, with the levels relative to the number of players above replacement level in that particular position.

There are 12 players above replacement at catcher, so the top-12 Pts/PA rates are green, with the yellow of Yadier Molina's 0.540 Pts/PA coming in at the 13th-highest, with red for everyone else below. This essentially identifies who would be above and below replacement if plate-appearances were equal. While the color gradients on PAR are determined exactly from their distance from the replacement player, the shading for Pts/PA has more of a hand touch, with not every position necessarily having hardlines for when the color switch occurs. With Pts/PA I wanted to capture the replacement-ish players and sometimes the differences were so small at this level that the visual aid was better served by making softer choices. Taking a look at 1B below, technically Rowdy Tellez's 0.554 Pt/PA would be green, Moreland yellow, and the others red. But given the same amount of plate-appearances, Tellez, Moreland, Aguilar, and Lowe would be virtually the same player. That's the idea I want to help capture; pointing out whether a player's skill set produces in a particular system at a rate that is above, below, or at the average rate.

 

About Pitching

Just as in roto, directly comparing pitcher and hitter values isn't a straightforward proposition and might even be more muddled a situation in point leagues due to game rules/exploits. Some platforms have generic "pitcher" positional slots and some have designated positions for SP and RP but you're not beholden to using an actual "starter" or "reliever" in them. As long as a pitcher is eligible at the position he is in, the points will count the same whether pitched in relief or in a start. There are also technically limits to the number of starts you are allowed to make per week but the systems can be cheated in some cases. Just because ESPN says you're only allowed 12 starts, doesn't mean they'll stop counting the points when you go over.

Comparing PARs between batters and pitchers is still very helpful but probably not as much as batters to batters and pitchers to pitchers. In the same vein, rate metrics like Pts/PA and Pts/IP are only useful for comparison when keeping the positions separate, both between pitchers and hitters, as well as between starters and relievers. All three players will produce in distinct ranges making comparisons pointless. Looking at the 2.8 Pts/IP of Jacob deGrom and the 5.6 Pts/IP of Josh Hader doesn't really help compare their value.

Points Per Week

With our previous rate metrics not actionable for overall comparisons, we're instead using Points-per-Week as a way to help add some context when comparing hitters to starters to relievers. There's not much science here, just total points divided by the number of fantasy weeks. H2H points is a weekly game and this is a way for you to get a general sense of the range of points you can expect from different players in a given week, which along with their PAR scores, are more pieces to help you judge all positions on an overall basis.

 

Wrapping Up

All in all, we have run all of the necessary numbers needed to help you dominate your points league, whether playing on ESPN, CBS, Yahoo, NFBC, or Fantrax. Along with the actual points league ranking tools, we'll also be dropping separate strategy articles for each platform in the coming weeks.

In addition to an overall strategy, these will focus on drilling down into how different players will perform under the different scoring systems and how to avoid their pitfalls when drafting. Stayed tuned, my faithful points players. We're only just getting started.

More Points Leagues Analysis




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

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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Fantasy Baseball Position Eligibility Chart

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

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