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Using Expected Draft Values to Find Over and Undervalued Speed Hitters

A couple weeks ago, we introduced our Expected Draft Values and explained how they would help us identify both over and undervalued players of all types. Power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, with pitchers as well.

Today, we'll look at four "speed" players as identified by our site projections. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we bring you a deeper look at undervalued and overvalued players from each position using Expected Draft Values.

Generally, what we'll do in this series is identify players who will return positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Online Contests (Feb 1-March 4, 55 drafts), their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection.

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How Expected Draft Values Help You Win Your League

It may be clear by this point already, but if you know the expected break-even stat-line of every draft slot, you can identify which of your draft picks are projected to return positive or negative value. Below, we look at five power bats that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Online ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2020 drafts.


Overvalued Speed Hitters

Mallex Smith - OF, SEA

NFBC Online ADP: 151

Expected Return for a Speed Hitter Drafted 151st: .287 BA- 12 HR- 68 R- 57 RBI- 20 SB

2020 RotoBaller Projection: .244-5-73-40-46

Analysis: Smith’s production is so skewed towards steals that it makes him difficult to analyze against historical data. I understand you may simply need his bags, but hopefully this sheds light on the value you’re surrendering. You’re trading seven homers and over 40 points of batting average, as well as 12 R+RBI for 26 steals. He becomes a singular point of failure for your bags. Ask yourself, is it worth it?

Well, no. I understand roster construction can demand it sometimes...but it remains a poor move. Just look at these crummy sabermetrics:

Don’t harangue your other hitting efforts just to keep steals afloat. His expected batting average from 2019 was a lowly .219, within the bottom 2% of the league. His average launch angle was 3.5 degrees and 2.6 degrees in 2017 and ‘18, but that rose to 7.2 degrees in ‘19. Accordingly, his fly-ball rate has gone from the 15-17% range in 2016-18 to 19.4% in ‘19. If the ball is not on ground for Mallex, then it’s almost surely suboptimal.

There's also the fact that Smith is likely stuck in the nine-hole for Seattle, limiting his PAs. A burner like him needs volume to generate value, especially without a strong on-base percentage. If Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley shine, Mitch Haniger returns later on, and Jarred Kelenic forces his way up then Seattle owes neither Mallex nor your fantasy team additional chances.


Dee Gordon - 2B/OF, SEA

NFBC Online ADP: 275

Expected Return for a Speed Hitter Drafted 275th: .266-9-64-51-18

2020 RotoBaller Projection: .270-3-39-31-17

Analysis: I promise I don't hate the Mariners! Since Gordon swiped 60 bags for the Marlins in 2017, his stock has fallen mightily. I’m here to tell you that despite the nearly-nonexistent price tag, you’re still overpaying. Gordon went 22-of-27 on steal attempts over the course of 421 PAs in 117 games last season, but the aging curve is showing.

Notice a pattern? His sprint speed, which sat at 29.6 ft/sec in 2016, has slowly dwindled to 28.5 ft/sec last year, which fell outside the top-100. And the aforementioned fly-ball trend for Mallex applies to Dee as well. Gordon’s launch angle sat between -1 and 1.5 degrees in 2015-17 before hitting 3.5 and 5.3 degrees in 2018 and ‘19, respectively. The exit velocity did climb a few ticks, from 80.6 MPH to 83 MPH, but that’s just the second percentile instead of the first, and you’re getting him for speed.

Then there’s playing time, as Shed Long is set to man the keystone (and leadoff) while the outfield is Kyle Lewis, Mallex Smith, Jake Fraley, Tim Lopes and Gordon. And while it’s far off now, Mitch Haniger may take a full-time role later on. Several projection systems have Gordon around 300 PAs, with ATC near 400. Similar speed lines can be found with Manuel Margot and Delino DeShields Jr. a whole 100 picks later.


Undervalued Speed Hitters

Byron Buxton - OF, MIN

NFBC Online ADP: 146

Expected Return for a Speed Hitter Drafted 146th: .289-13-69-56-21

2020 RotoBaller Projection: .265-17-71-67-24

Analysis: Look, the injury woes are baked into the projection here. I understand “the market” may have additional trepidation, but 10 HR/14 SB in only 87 games (295 PAs) last year underscores the potential. Let alone his place in a stacked Minnesota lineup. Systems like THE BAT and Depth Charts are even more bullish than us on Buxton’s power, with his plus speed respected across the board.

Even with some give on batting average, you’re scooping a sizable increase in the other four categories. After posting average exit velocities around 85-86 MPH with a launch angle orbiting 12-13 degrees from 2016-18, those figures jumped to 89.3 MPH and 19.5 degrees in ‘19.

Not only did the hard-hit rate jump from 27% to 38.7%, but his strikeouts fell from 29.8% to 23.1%. And of course, his sprint speeds over the past five years have checked in at first, first, second, first and third. Now at 30.3 ft/sec instead of 2015’s 30.9 mark, this is not an aging curve to fear in 2020. I get that most of you or either completely out or in with both feet, but those who are "out" may want to reconsider at this cost.


Niko Goodrum - 2B/SS/OF, DET

NFBC Online ADP: 296

Expected Return for a Speed Hitter Drafted 296th: .257-9-68-45-19

2020 RotoBaller Projection: .245-64-16-55-15

Analysis: Goodrum is on pace to start the year as Detroit’s everyday shortstop, but has insane versatility that allows him to fill in wherever needed. Goodrum delivered a 12/12 season in just 112 games last season, with 15/15 available on the cheap in 2020. If you’re taking a speed guy at this stage in the draft, your expectations are nonexistent in the power department.

I will note he's one of those that traded contact for an increase in power. He upped his average exit velocity from 87.7 MPH to 89.3 MPH while increasing his launch angle from 10.8 degrees to 13.2, but his strikeout rate rose from 27% to 29.2% as his zone-contact rate dropped from 83% to 80.6%. A bit of an aside, do take note Goodrum's wild splits by handedness.

In 221 career ABs against left-handed pitchers, he's hitting .321 with a .406 BABIP and only two homers, 12 doubles and five triples. Compare that with 663 ABs against right-handed pitchers, against whom he's hitting just .217 (.288 BABIP) but has 26 homers, 44 doubles and three triples, accounting for a 66-point ISO gap. Small-sample size alert, yes, but his fly-ball rate against right-handers (36.7%) is nearly double that against southpaws (20.9%), which corresponds with greater power and lower average. Pay attention early to his approach against pitchers and we'll see if he gets platooned, though Detroit currently has no obvious platoonmate.

All-in-all, Goodrum gives you both playing time and double-digit pop with the modest wheels. Given Detroit’s lack of infield prospects that could push Goodrum for playing time -- go away, Willi Castro -- it’s not shocking that many projection systems are calling for 600-plus PAs. I can see Travis Demeritte edging into the outfield, but not the middle infield. With 84th-percentile split times in the 90-foot window and strong success in picking his spots (24-for-31 in the last two years), the green light should be Goodrum's and yours.

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