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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.

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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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