Fantasy Baseball: Finding Overvalued and Undervalued Players Using Our Projections
numberFire's Yearly Projections for the 2017 fantasy baseball season are live, which is wonderful for a couple reasons. Not only does it mean baseball is getting closer to returning, but it also offers us an opportunity to weigh the results alongside current average draft position (ADP) data, per the FantasyPros aggregate.
Let’s look at some interesting value-discrepancy narratives heading into the draft season that should provide fantasy owners with key targets to highlight on their cheat sheets -- as well as some notable names to cross off.
Miguel Cabrera (1B, DET)
ADP consensus: 12th among hitters; nF projected rank among hitters: 3rd
Joey Votto (1B, CIN)
ADP: 16th among hitters; nF rank: 6th
The upper crust of the numberFire 2017 projections is dominated not by young talent, but by reliable veteran bats.
Most notable are the plum spots for first basemen Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto, neither of whom crack the top 10 in consensus ADP rankings, but both of whom are clearly positioned in our projections as elite fantasy assets. Batting average dominance is key here -- Cabrera is penciled in to hit .315 over 644 plate appearances and Votto to hit .317 over 657 plate appearances.
This sort of production, at this volume, is available nowhere else in the draft. That makes Votto and Cabrera both peerless building blocks for a strong fantasy squad.
Nolan Arenado (3B, COL)
ADP: 5th; nF rank: 15th
Manny Machado (3B/SS, BAL)
ADP: 7th; nF rank: 16th
Our projections are less bullish than the market when it comes to the wealth of young infield talent that has stormed the early rounds.
Of course, both Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado should prove to be counting-stat magnets at the heart of ultra-productive lineups, and each certainly has the capacity to go absolutely supernova to join the ranks of the fantasy elite.
But a sensible projection of their batting average output, combined with the potential volatility that comes with their relative lack of proven track record, makes them slightly less elite assets than the market would lead you to believe.
Hanley Ramirez (1B/OF, BOS)
ADP: 56th; nF: 17th
Xander Boegarts (SS/3B, BOS)
ADP: 20th; nF: 56th
According to numberFire projections, a pair of Boston Red Sox bats should switch places on fantasy draft boards. Our algorithm isn't getting swept away in the Xander Bogaerts hype, calling instead for slight regression in speed and power that might make his price tag as the fifth shortstop off the board a little too rich.
On the other hand, the market appears to be grossly undervaluing Bogaerts’ teammate Hanley Ramirez, which is perhaps understandable given the 33-year-old’s dodgy injury history. But even with a fairly conservative projection of 575 plate appearances, we have Ramirez as a top-20 hitter and a steal at his current ADP just inside the overall top 80.
Question Mark Starters
Rich Hill (SP, LAD)
ADP consensus: 44th among pitchers; nF projected rank among pitchers: 25th
Matt Harvey (SP, NYM)
ADP: 49th; nF rank: 78th
The blister-prone Hill fares much better than Harvey in the numberFire projections -- even with a sub-150-inning allotment, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lefty should rack up strikeouts and contribute significantly in ERA. There’s a depressed market for Hill due to concerns over his workload, but shrewd fantasy owners should see this as a buying opportunity, especially in leagues shallow enough to provide solid replacement-level pitching on waivers.
On the other hand, our projections preach temperance with New York Mets’ starter Matt Harvey. Fresh off a thoracic outlet procedure so state-of-the-art that recovery is nearly impossible to predict, the right-hander can’t be counted on to immediately return to his past dominance. His market appears more optimistic than perhaps it should be -- if you take your cues from the numberFire outlook, you’re unlikely to own him on many season-long teams, and that might be for the best.
Zach Britton (RP, BAL)
ADP 19th; nF rank: 13th
Craig Kimbrel (RP, BOS)
ADP: 20th; nF rank: 49th
The so-called AL Beast is home to some of the most imposing offenses in the majors, but it’s also been the hub for some of the league’s most dominant relief pitching lately.
Two such late-inning studs, the Baltimore Orioles’ Zach Britton and the Red Sox’s Craig Kimbrel, are being drafted back-to-back on average, but our numbers peg Britton as the clear elite talent. The Orioles’ lefty figures to be perhaps the most productive ratio asset in the current relief pitching class -- and that’s allowing for a near quadrupling of his utterly insane 0.54 ERA from 2016.
While Britton appears to be firing at peak performance, our projections see an increasing decline for the once-untouchable Kimbrel. He should still be a strikeout-per-nine asset, but his projected 3.03 ERA and 1.15 WHIP are decidedly mortal, making his current ADP alongside Britton seem overly ambitious.
The Fickle Steals Market
Dee Gordon (2B, MIA)
ADP: 38; nF rank 55
Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN)
ADP: 49th; nF rank: 76th
Odubel Herrera (OF, PHI)
ADP: 76th; nF rank: 60th
Elvis Andrus (SS, TEX)
ADP: 101; nF rank: 88
According to numberFire's value algorithm, it might be wise to sit out the mid-round run on steals. Granted, what each fantasy owner is willing to pay for speed-centric players like Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton will largely depend on their team-building strategy and the dynamics of their draft.
That said, according to our projections, owners who pay top dollar for these players are likely to take a bath in terms of overall production. Plus, there’s no reason to break the bank for top-dollar steals specialists when solid contributors like Odubel Herrera and Elvis Andrus appear to be notably undervalued.
Eric Thames (OF, MIL)
ADP: 131st: nF rank: 50th
Julio Urias (SP, LAD)
ADP: 42nd; nF rank: 92nd
Early drafters have shown trepidation towards Eric Thames, who returns to the MLB after an absurdly prolific run in Korea. To be fair, Thames is a tough player to assess -- his range of possible outcomes seems to stretch from league-storming 40-homer and 40-steal threat to out-of-the-majors washout.
numberFire’s projection for Thames (a .277 average with 24 homers and 14 steals) is on the conservative end of what appears to be a fairly optimistic industry-wide outlook for the dual-threat hitter, but even with our more measured outlook, we have him slotted as a top-50 position player and a clear profit on his current going rate, per ADP data.
The Dodgers’ own mystery man, the much-hyped phenom Julio Urias, will have a more limited path to fantasy relevance this year. Despite stretches of tantalizing dominance in 2016, Urias seems like a hard player to draft for 2017, with his innings limited and his walk rate a major concern.
His strikeout upside is indisputable, but the current market seems oblivious to the fact that he is unlikely to pitch more than 140 innings. Sensible owners should let their enthusiasm for the young Dodger hurler simmer until this time next year.