Which Players Are Overvalued Entering 2020 Season-Long Fantasy Baseball Drafts?
Last year, I done messed up.
I made the mistake of putting too much stock into German Marquez's 2018 second-half splits and took him in a good number of 2019 re-draft leagues. There were plenty of analysts who said not to do this, and yet, I splurged. You will be shocked to learn that being stubborn and ignoring the advice of others didn't turn out well.
I'd like to avoid doing that again for 2020. So, I wanted to take time to chat on Slack with some of the editors at numberFire -- Kenyatta Storin and Austan Kas -- to get their thoughts on who is overvalued for season-long roto leagues. Basically, I need someone to babysit me and make sure I'm not duplicating last year's gaffe.
jimsannes: Okay, guys, by now, we've got a good idea of where players are going to go in our drafts this spring. When you look at that data, who stands out as being overvalued to you?
AustanKas: Mike Soroka is a guy I'll probably end draft season with zero shares of. I crave punchouts when targeting pitchers, and that's not Soroka's thing. Strikeouts give hurlers a respectable floor every time out, and without those, a pitcher's worst-case scenario is really bad.
Soroka's 2.68 ERA from last year was heavily reliant on batted-ball luck. He had just a 20.3% strikeout rate, which was way below the starting pitcher average of 22.3%, and his 10.3% swinging-strike rate doesn't hint at bad luck in the K department. That led to his SIERA being 4.28, a looong ways away from his 2.68 ERA. Normally, I think the industry would be wise to something like this, but maybe people are on Soroka because of his age (22) and prospect status, thinking he may improve, which could happen.
Soroka's elite ground-ball rate (51.2% last year) certainly helps him, but as a low-strikeout guy, he's going to need another low BABIP (it was .280 in 2019) to be close to worth his NFBC March ADP of the 33rd pitcher (all pitchers, not just starters) off the board. And most projection systems have his BABIP around .300 for 2020. For me, Soroka is a few rounds too expensive. He's pretty much a Kyle Hendricks type, and I'd rather just go ahead and take Hendricks -- the P57 -- way later than select Soroka at this cost.
kenyattastorin: I totally agree. The Hendricks comparison is perfect, and Miles Mikolas, while injured, is another similar comp. These types of pitchers can certainly help you, but like you said, you’re not getting that exciting upside you’re looking for at this point in the draft. I’d rather take a chance on, say, Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco bouncing back in this range, and those two have both been aces before.
If he drops in a draft, I’d certainly be open to grabbing him since even with regression he should still help your ratios (typically projects for an ERA in the mid-to-high 3.00s and WHIP in the mid-1.20 range) and has the youth/pedigree to suggest an improved strikeout rate. He actually feels fairly ‘safe’ for such a young pitcher due to his good control (5.9% walk rate) and aforementioned ground-ball rate. Still, chances are someone will take the plunge before me.
AustanKas: Yeah, for me, it's about a lack of upside due to the low strikeout rate, but if he falls to a certain point, I'd buy in. Just doesn't look like he's falling all that much in recent drafts.
jimsannes: I can definitely get on board with backing off of Soroka.
And for me, it's not even about a lack of upside. I do worry about the floor, too.
Strikeouts aren't just one category in a roto league. They also help stabilize everything else. It's hard to let up a homer if the opponent can't put the ball in play. A strikeout also inherently means you're just not letting guys on base, which translates to your WHIP.
That's why I'm never super jazzed about lower-strikeout guys: they kill you in one category, and that lack of production there can also have a second-hand negative effect on other categories.
kenyattastorin: In TGFBI industry drafts, Soroka’s min-max draft position is 73-116. Hendricks’ is 130-168. Even considering the pedigree, that feels like it should be closer.
jimsannes: I will say that I agree with Kenyatta's point about taking him if he slips. I'd be fine with that because the non-strikeout skills are really, really good. I'd just rather hold off if I'm taking someone of that archetype.
Okay, so we're voting no on Soroka at his current cost. Who's your pick, Kenyatta?
kenyattastorin: My pick is the guy who led the league in home runs last season: Pete Alonso. Now that might sound a little silly at first, but I just don’t love how high he’s going in drafts, which tends to hover around pick 30.
Part of it is that he’ll almost certainly regress. He achieved 53 home runs over 693 plate appearances in what was universally considered a season with a juiced ball. Guys just don’t hit 50 homers in back-to-back seasons, let alone in their first two MLB campaigns. And staying healthy enough for 700 plate appearances isn’t something anyone can bank on.
The other thing is he’s not a high batting average guy (.260 last year) and brings zero speed, which are two things I prefer to get from such an early pick.
Could he lead the league in home runs again? Maybe! But it feels like you can get a similar player like Matt Olson, who actually bested Alonso in many Statcast categories, much later.
jimsannes: I definitely understand the Alonso hype. He gives you a lot of flexibility to focus on speed at other picks, which is something I'd love to have. But like you said, you could get Olson, and I'd toss Nelson Cruz's name in that ring, as well.
AustanKas: First base isn't awesome this year, which works in his favor, but yeah, that's an early pick to spend on a guy who is giving you just power.
kenyattastorin: I’d argue he decreases your flexibility because there are fewer speed and batting average guys.
jimsannes: I guess what I'm saying is that he pairs well with someone like your guy Starling Marte, who may be a negative at his ADP in the power department.
If you pick Alonso, then it's not as big of a detriment to go with someone like that because you don't need to scramble as much for power later.
kenyattastorin: True, and I’m not saying you skimp on power, but there’s power throughout the draft. Guys like Kyle Schwarber and Franmil Reyes are perfect power targets later in drafts. If you whiff too many times on speed, you’ll suddenly find yourself in a big hole.
AustanKas: In general, a guy coming off what might end up being a career-best year is a scary guy to buy high on.
kenyattastorin: Yeah, that’s the other thing.
AustanKas: Of course, he could make me look silly for saying that since he was, you know, a rookie.
jimsannes: One (minor) positive for Alonso is that players going around him also have question marks. Who are you taking instead of Alonso around then?
I'd probably lean toward some of the pitchers like Shane Bieber or potentially some of the mini-steal hitters in that range, but I'm curious where you guys go.
AustanKas: Well, I know we haven't heard Jim's guy yet, but that leads perfectly into another guy I almost said instead of Soroka: Austin Meadows.
kenyattastorin: whoo boy!
jimsannes: You know basically everybody at numberFire is from Pittsburgh, right? Their loyalty to ex-Pirates is unparalleled.
Austan trying to get that severance package.
AustanKas: I don't feel nearly as strongly about this as I did Soroka, but it seems like Meadows has a ton of helium this draft season, and I don't fully buy in.
Meadows is coming off the board 30th overall (OF10), per NFBC March ADP. I get the positives -- young and coming off of a season in which he had a .380 wOBA with 33 homers, 12 steals and a really sexy batted-ball profile. But it feels like we're having to pay an elevated price for a guy who just had a career year and who never hit more than 12 dingers in any one minor league season, though he dealt with a lot of injuries on his way up.
My biggest concern is that he had some struggles versus lefties (29.9% strikeout rate and 5.1% walk rate), and with the way Tampa likes to tweak with their lineup on a daily basis, I could envision a scenario where the newly added Hunter Renfroe, who mashes lefties, could eat into Meadows' playing time a bit if Meadows struggles against lefties early in the season.
Also, I think the industry is projecting Meadows for a bump in steals that may not come to fruition. He had 12 swipes in 19 attempts in 2019 across 138 games. That's a pretty poor success rate, and maybe the Rays don't give him as much freedom if that doesn't improve. numberFire projects him at 13 steals for this year.
kenyattastorin: Yeah, I don’t disagree that there’s some risk with Meadows for the reasons you mentioned, and he hasn’t been the most injury-free guy in his young career. But the potential for five-category production is something I value highly, so even if he more or less duplicated last season, that’s pretty damn good.
AustanKas: That's what makes fantasy fun. We all get to build a team in the way we want. I build an average team that does well in power categories, and you build one that wins.
With Aaron Judge suddenly a big question mark, I have Meadows as my 10th outfielder.
jimsannes: I might not be as worried about the lefty-on-lefty splits personally, though you're right about the team as a whole. They let him work through it last year, and he actually finished the year with the third-most plate appearances against lefties on the entire team. They did add Renfroe and Jose Martinez, but Tommy Pham is gone, too, so I don't view the platoon as being a massive risk.
kenyattastorin: Yeah, he might be one of the only Tampa guys you can have reasonable confidence will be free from their shenanigans.
Because he’s #good.
AustanKas: OK, so now that's been shot down, let's give Jim a chance to talk!
kenyattastorin: Nah, it’s cool, we don’t need to hear from him.
jimsannes: Not shot down by any means because I get what you're saying. But I'm also not actively targeting him, I guess.
My guy might be a bit more treasonous. It's Juan Soto. Please don't hate me.
Soto's currently the 10th overall pick in NFBC drafts. I love him as a talent, but that just seems too high to me.
Most of the hitters going near Soto either provide you a bunch of steals, play in Coors Field, or are Mike Trout. Soto will definitely contribute in the steals department, but unless he improves this year (very possible for a guy who turned 21 in October), he's not going to be a massive difference-maker in any one category.
There also isn't a single hitter on this team more likely to be negatively impacted by Anthony Rendon's departure than Soto. It lowers the outlook of the entire offense, which puts a dent in Soto's run and RBI projections.
Now you may yell at me for my insolence.
kenyattastorin: Get out.
AustanKas: I stopped at Juan Soto.
kenyattastorin: Just log out.
jimsannes: I don't wanna.
AustanKas: The Rendon departure is valid, for sure. I just get scared making any kind of assumptions on what Soto's future holds. He has been incredibly special so far in his career, and it seems like he just keeps getting better.
I get what you're saying, though. The upside may not be there since he's not a monster in any one category. But he is a very safe pick who, barring injury, should have a very high floor.
And you guys are making it sound like he has no upside!
AustanKas: If you're in an on-base league, that helps. Soto is going to walk a ton (16.0% and 16.4% walk rate through two seasons).
jimsannes: I would have a really hard time projecting Soto for similar power numbers to Arenado. So basically, I'd be taking a dip in homers, batting average, and potentially the other counting categories in order to get 10 extra steals. That is a slight turnoff.
kenyattastorin: I’d take Soto over Bregman easily and probably over Verlander. I’d take Turner before him.
jimsannes: You can also snag Max Scherzer if you're worried about Verlander. I actually do like Bregman despite the buzzer stuff. He went nutso last year and has a lower strikeout rate than Soto, which gives me optimism about his batting average.
To me, if I'm going to take a guy this high, I want them to be an outlier somewhere and a contributor everywhere. Soto is a contributor, but he's not a true outlier. I can get the well-roundedness later on and go with someone like Marcus Semien. But early, give me that big juice.
kenyattastorin: The guy is 21!
And you compared him to Marcus freaking Semien after the season he just had?
jimsannes: Bregman's 26! It's not like he's got a foot in the grave.
Semien's awesome. Soto should feel honored.
kenyattastorin: I’m not saying Bregman is bad! Just saying Soto being just “a contributor” seems like a stretch.
jimsannes: Nah, I'm saying someone who contributes in each category. As a fantasy asset on the whole, he's more than a contributor. But from a single-category perspective, he's more contributor than outlier.
It's less about being out on Soto than it is about liking guys going around him more. Which is, ya know, the point of an overvalued discussion.
All right, Kenyatta, since Austan CHEATED and picked two, who is your second person?
kenyattastorin: I’m still shook by this Soto slander. But I will press onward.
jimsannes: How brave of you.
kenyattastorin: So this is more of a general drafting philosophy, I think, but I’m completely out on J.T. Realmuto. And that’s not because he’s bad -- he’s the consensus top catcher for a reason -- but I can’t stomach taking him at around pick 50 or so because of the guys you miss out on there.
From a valuation standpoint where you factor in replacement value for a two-catcher league, then yes, he makes some sense at that ADP. But even then, I’d rather grab the upside you can still find at that point in the draft and worry about catcher later.
Do you guys prefer to wait on catcher? Or do you like the idea of securing someone like Realmuto early?
jimsannes: I'm good with taking a catcher semi-early because there's a big volume dropoff at a certain point. But not that early.
AustanKas: I'm almost always out on catchers that early. It's kind of like taking a tight end early in football. I would prefer to target other positions and find serviceable stats later.
When Will Smith can be had at pick 143, I'll wait on catcher.
jimsannes: Yeah, that's the tier I'm targeting most heavily: guys who will get a healthy portion of their team's PAs at the position who aren't as expensive as Realmuto.
kenyattastorin: I’m perfectly fine punting catcher entirely if the value doesn’t present itself, but I agree with that general sentiment.
jimsannes: Realmuto's also going in a spot where I'm usually focusing on pitchers. So even if I don't wind up going with a Springer-type guy, it'd be hard for me to go with him over someone like Yu Darvish or Noah Syndergaard.
kenyattastorin: Yup! Those guys, or a Lucas Giolito, can be available too.
Just the upside you pass up on is tough for me.
jimsannes: I'm assuming this means you're also out on Gary Sanchez, right? He's going at pick 74 on average in NFBC. That's too spendy for me.
kenyattastorin: Yup, definitely out on him, too. He also brings a lot of potential downside as a batting average sink.
jimsannes: And you, Austan?
jimsannes: I think the first guy I'm really into at his cost is the aforementioned Will Smith. He and *gulp* Salvador Perez both get me my volume without breaking the bank.
AustanKas: I also like Carson Kelly a decent amount too given the cost (C14, 192nd pick).
kenyattastorin: I’m perfectly happy if I end up with him.
AustanKas: Kelly had 18 homers in 365 PAs last season. Arizona lineup should be solid, too.
Of course, I may just be talking myself into him because I know I'm more than likely going to be fishing for one of the low-end backstops.
jimsannes: So we all agree Carson Kelly over Juan Soto? Okay, cool.
I'm gonna call it quits now before I dig a bigger hole. Just pretend all of this never happened.