Average Draft Position (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’ value. Now, instead of just talking about total ADP from all sites, we’re going to look at ESPN’s respective ADP data.
Specifically, we’re going to talk about players who are priced higher or lower — being selected earlier or later — on ESPN compared to other sites. The price tag being higher doesn't make them undraftable and being lower doesn't make them an automatic steal, but it helps to stay oriented with the bigger picture of ADP data. If you draft with our staff ranks, you'll want to keep this in mind. In general, players on ESPN can expect starting pitchers to be undervalued, while first basemen and outfielders tend to be overvalued against the average.
What we're looking to sidestep is the anchoring effect — a cognitive bias where we over-rely on the first piece of information encountered (such as the ADP ranking column in a draft room). Here, we simply raise awareness of those whose draft stock is seemingly getting raised or dropped based on nothing other than the site's default rank. ADP data current as of March 8.
Cheaper Early-Round Picks on ESPN
Trevor Story (SS – COL) – ESPN ADP: 18 (RTSports: 9, NFBC OC: 11, Fantrax: 12, Yahoo: 10, Average: 12)
You all know I’m the President of the Trevor Story Fan Club by now, right? Now, I’m not an ESPN-league kind of guy, but this is tempting me! Story was listed as 14th in their default draft-room ranks, but he’s even slipping beyond that for Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper. I know Coors is a funny joke, but Story edging towards the top-10 on most other sites for a reason or five. While the road trips may hurt compared to homestands, your year-end standing will thank you for the power+speed contributions. Of players with at least 25 SBs in the last two seasons, check out where he stands with the class:
Story’s historic start (homering in his first four games) set lofty expectations, but a sophomore slump combined with a thumb injury may have unfairly cast a shadow on his stock. He has combined for 72 HRs and 50 SBs over the last two years, hitting above .290 with exactly 196 R+RBI both times. With an identical 19.9% HR/FB rate to boot. Two seasons of strikeout rates near 26% give me confidence that the days of 30% or higher are gone, making him a legitimate first-round pick at a second-round price.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS – SD) – ESPN ADP: 36 (RTSports: 18, NFBC: 15, Fantrax: 22, Yahoo: 15, Average: 21.2)
I haven’t been buying Tatis Jr. at his usual ADP because I need a higher floor at the Rd 1-Rd 2 turn, but the Rd 3-Rd 4 turn of a 12-teamer would be a buying spot. Like Story, Tatis Jr. offers both power and speed for your fantasy team. Yes, shortstop is a deep position, but that doesn’t change how the top-tier players compare to those at other positions. The scarcity argument can be had, but not for me within the top-50.
And anyone can (and should) scream regression when anyone mashes 22 homers with 16 steals and a .317 average over 84 games. Let alone a 20-year-old with a .410 BABIP and 31.9% HR/FB rate. Regression doesn’t automatically mean doom and gloom, despite its frightful connotations. He’s always been a high-BABIP guy, ranging from .340-.370 across the minors. So perhaps he only hits .275 with 25-30 homers and 20-25 steals? At pick 36, I’m in.
Adalberto Mondesi (2B/SS – KC) – ESPN ADP: 96 (RTSports: 45, NFBC: 28, Fantrax: 55, Yahoo: 44, Average: 53.6)
We listed Mondesi here last season with an ESPN ADP of 152 against an average pick of 66. While 2020’s discount isn’t as large, it’s still a gap wide enough to parallel park Optimus Prime. I hear the fears over his shoulder, he’ll need that to swing for power and (ideally) improve his batting average and on-base percentage as a whole, but a wayward dive could see him sidelined.
Presumably, most projection systems are weighing his 14 HRs in just 291 PAs in ‘18 for the ~18 homers being called for against last year’s 9 HRs in 443 PAs. The shoulder limitations from labrum surgery worry me when it comes to power, though some like Coco Crisp have improved, yet Melvin Upton Jr. and Matt Kemp have faltered.
But let’s be serious, the power is neat but if he hits 10 homers rather than 18-20, you’re going to live. It’s the need for speed. At 24 years old, Mondesi is at his speed peak and has 75 bags to his name over 177 games in 2018-19.
Shane Bieber (SP – CLE) – ESPN ADP: 37 (RTSports: 26, NFBC: 25, Fantrax: 23, Yahoo: 30, Average: 28.2)
Perhaps drafters are wary of the Cleveland Curse, seeing as every other premier starting pitcher for the Indians has gotten hurt. And yes, there is much to be made of Bieber’s propensity for hard contact and living dangerously in the zone, but the man is an attacker. His stellar control allows him to minimize damage when it comes and the strikeouts come in droves.
With a walk rate at the top 5% of the league and a hard-hit rate in the bottom 5%, Bieber walked the tightrope in 2019. While he still gets to punish Detroit and Kansas City, the White Sox are no longer a pushover and the Twins are a juggernaut. But he looked like an ace last season, growing his strikeouts while maintaining elite control. In two MLB seasons, Bieber has never posted a FIP, xFIP or SIERA higher than 3.45. While he’s going 10-20 picks higher than Clayton Kershaw on all other sites, he can be had two picks later on average at ESPN.
Luis Castillo (SP – CIN) – ESPN ADP: 76 (CBS: 49, RTSports: 57, NFBC: 55, Fantrax: 57, Yahoo: 61, Average: 59)
Castillo and his changeup brutalized many batters as he posted 226 strikeouts in 190 ⅔ IP with a 3.40 ERA/1.14 WHIP. He enjoyed the amplified whiffs in ‘19, illustrated by his swinging-strike rate going to 15.9% from 13.5% in ‘18, and mitigating the homer spree by surrendering fewer flies. His HR/FB rate repeated 2018’s 17.9%, but fly balls tumbled from 32.4% to 26.7%.
Usually, I’d be leery of that .262 BABIP holding alongside the depressed fly-ball rate, but his 2017 rookie year saw a 58.8% ground-ball rate (29% FB) with a .247 BABIP over 89 ⅓ IP. His career .267 BABIP helps him out, though he’ll need to get 2019’s control lapse (6.9% BB rate in ‘18, 10.1% in ‘19) back in line.
Other Cheaper Picks
C: Omar Narvaez -- ESPN ADP: 251, Average ADP: 218
1B: Danny Santana -- ESPN ADP: 194, Average ADP: 152
2B: Keston Hiura -- ESPN ADP: 75, Average ADP: 55.4
3B: Yoan Moncada -- ESPN ADP: 107, Average ADP: 79
SS: Bo Bichette -- ESPN ADP: 89, Average ADP: 74
OF: Victor Robles -- ESPN ADP: 100, Average ADP: 80
OF2: Luis Robert -- ESPN ADP: 115, Average ADP: 95
OF3: Ramon Laureano -- ESPN ADP: 111, Average ADP: 98
OF4: Tommy Edman -- ESPN ADP: 195, Average ADP: 155
SP1: Lucas Giolito -- ESPN ADP: 77, Average ADP: 57
SP2: Chris Paddack -- ESPN ADP: 80, Average ADP: 58
SP3: Yu Darvish -- ESPN ADP: 87, Average ADP: 66
RP1: Hector Neris -- ESPN ADP: 150, Average ADP: 137
RP2: Keone Kela - ESPN ADP: 219, Average ADP: 202
RP3: Joe Jimenez -- ESPN ADP: 227, Average ADP: 211
Costly Early-Round Picks on ESPN
Charlie Blackmon (OF – COL) – ESPN ADP: 26 (RTSports: 36, NFBC: 46, Fantrax: 38, Yahoo: 36, Average: 36.4)
I don’t hate Blackmon at this price, but you're paying a premium all the same. He finished 27th per Yahoo’s 5x5 scoring last season (which I trust more than ESPN) despite only 140 games played. His speed has fallen off (2-of-7 last season, yikes) but he remains a lock for 110-plus runs, 25-30 homers and an average around .300 atop Colorado’s lineup. That's still good!
Again, a gentle reminder that this is not a "good versus bad" article. It may come off that way sometimes, but the main thrust is to give you a marketplace price check. Blackmon will turn 34 on July 1, and paying up for someone on his side of the aging curve is typically not the move. Younger players with unknown MLB ceilings and impact, I get. As we're about to see, I wouldn't model your ESPN team around this tier of outfielders.
George Springer (OF – HOU) – ESPN ADP: 32 (RTSports: 48, NFBC: 50, Fantrax: 43, Yahoo: 41, Average: 42.8)
Since playing in all 162 regular-season games back in 2016, Springer has totaled 140, 140 and 122 across his last three respective seasons. Of course, he still walloped a career-high 39 homers with a .292 average in 2019, but we can’t count on that baseball or those rates here. While I cannot quantify the effect of being an Astro in 2020, I know it’s not good.
To be fair, Springer may be one of the few Astros to benefit from Dusty Baker’s “veteran maintenance” rest program. Baker doesn’t envision anyone topping 150 games as a result, but you’re still dealing with minimal speed and an average average (.275-.280 is the hope).
Anthony Rizzo (1B – CHC) – ESPN ADP: 34 (RTSports: 59, NFBC: 74, Fantrax: 57, Yahoo: 59, Average: 56.6)
While Rizzo represents a stable commodity, his going to 25-27 HRs instead of 31-32 does leave a mark. Remember when he stole 17 and 10 bases in 2015 and ‘17? Yes, the career-best .293 average was great last season, and the 183 R+RBI was nothing to scoff at, but he wasn’t a top-50 player. And the ESPN markets are having you exceed that ask by another couple rounds, towards the top-30!
With middling speed but a solid average, you still need above-average power metrics to make this work. Let's look at Rizzo's past five years on Statcast for Barrel %, Exit Velocity and Launch Angle. The darker line is his career, with the lighter one below it as the MLB average.
As you can see, the power is trending dangerously close to that of a league-average bat. It's all good to grab him for a healthy AVG that won't destroy your power numbers, but if you love Rizzo’s 2020 potential that much then go play on a site that doesn’t have you paying his ceiling price.
Josh Bell (1B – PIT) – ESPN ADP: 47 (RTSports: 83, NFBC: 99, Fantrax: 85, Yahoo: 91, Average: 81)
Bell’s breakout resulted in 37 homers with 210 R+RBI and a .277 average in just 529 at-bats, with ESPN drafters rewarding him with an at-cost ADP. Simply put, there is little room for profit here given the state of the Pirates. I’m not trying to rag on Bell the player, but the R+RBI totals from last year should not be expected again. ATC is on the bullish side for Bell, and it only spits out 186 R+RBI.
And you may not get a single stolen base out of him! He failed on his one SB attempt from last season and is now a painful 4-for-11 on swipe attempts in the MLB. The red light is burning brighter than Rudolph’s nose. Without a lofty average or any speed, you need him to be Pete Alonso at this cost. You are buying into perfect health so that additional ABs may outweigh the loss of Starling Marte, as well as the ball staying juicy, all so that you make even money on your pick. I’d suggest shopping elsewhere.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP – TOR) – ESPN ADP: 117 (RTSports: 104, NFBC: 146, Fantrax: 116, Yahoo: 128, Average: 122.2)
As the intro stated, starting pitchers are undervalued across the board at ESPN. You will have to pay up at 1B and OF relative to other markets, while nearly every pitcher enjoys a 20% markdown. Ryu is the first starting pitcher with an ESPN ADP of five or more picks above average, and just barely.
I would caution all drafters at all listed prices to stay away from Ryu, though ESPN ones will be among the most-burned. While his 1.01 WHIP and low 2’s ERA over the past two seasons has been magical, let alone the career 2.98 ERA/1.16 WHIP, health has been an issue. He heads into his age-33 campaign having averaged 130 innings in his last three seasons.
Then there’s going from pitcher-friendly Chavez Ravine (24th per ESPN) to the neutral Rogers Centre (12th), with the bigger issue being AL East lineups. Not only did Ryu enjoy the NL West, but he was on the dominant team in the division. By team wRC+ (weighted Runs Created +), the Dodgers were first in the NLW and fourth overall at 111. The D-backs were 16th in the MLB (94), then Padres (24th, 88), Rockies (26th, 86) and Giants (28th, 83).
Now, he has the growing Blue Jays (20th, 92) behind him, facing the Yankees (2nd, 117), Red Sox (6th, 106, but no more Betts), Rays (9th, 102) and Orioles (22nd, 88). Laugh at the Orioles all you want, they were still better than over half of the NL West per wRC+. Of course, no Villar and potentially no Mancini will alter that, but just for a 2019 framework. His health, venue, the venues in his division, going from no DH to DH, and quality-of-opponent are red flags. Be careful buying in.
Other Pricier Picks
C: Yadier Molina -- ESPN ADP: 207, Average ADP: 241
1B: Carlos Santana -- ESPN ADP: 101, Average ADP: 127
2B: Cavan Biggio -- ESPN ADP: 119, Average ADP: 136
3B: Manny Machado -- ESPN ADP: 38, Average ADP: 55
SS: Marcus Semien -- ESPN ADP: 56, Average ADP: 82
OF1: Joey Gallo -- ESPN ADP: 53, Average ADP: 82
OF2: Marcell Ozuna -- ESPN ADP: 55, Average ADP: 92
OF3: Michael Conforto -- ESPN ADP: 76, Average ADP: 107
OF4: Kyle Schwarber -- ESPN ADP: 104, Average ADP: 137
SP1: Carlos Martinez -- ESPN ADP: 159, Average ADP: 172
SP2: Jon Gray -- ESPN ADP: 231, Average ADP: 247
SP3: Rick Porcello -- ESPN ADP: 274, Average ADP: 303
RP1: Kenley Jansen -- ESPN ADP: 90, Average ADP: 100
RP2: Nick Anderson - ESPN ADP: 139, Average ADP: 159
RP3: Archie Bradley -- ESPN ADP: 141, Average ADP: 160
More Fantasy Baseball ADP Analysis