Fantasy Baseball Slack and Forth: Overvalued Hitters for 2021
Already this offseason, Jim Sannes, Kenyatta Storin and myself have broken down some hitters and pitchers we think are due for bounce-back seasons in 2021. But sometimes having an idea about who to stay away from in drafts can be just as vital as knowing which players to target.
With that in mind, we once again chatted on Slack -- this time diving into hitters we think are being overvalued.
All average draft position (ADP) data comes from March NFBC drafts.
Austan Kas: We've spent most of the previous slack chats being positive about players. Let's be meanies. Who is a hitter you guys are fading this season at their current ADP, and why are you off them?
Kenyatta Storin: So, I considered J.T. Realmuto, who’s a top-50 pick in drafts, but I figured I wouldn’t get much pushback because I think you guys are down with waiting at catcher. Plus, his thumb injury may already have people shying away from him. Instead -- and maybe this is a hot take -- I’m wary of how high DJ LeMahieu is (top 30).
He seems like a universally popular fantasy pick, and I totally get it because he’s a fantastic real-life hitter. But at the same time, I feel like people are drafting him for his ceiling, which is what we saw in 2019-20.
Specifically, I think the power could be really shaky with the deadened ball in 2021. He’s never had a big barrel rate or fly-ball rate, and despite hitting 10 home runs last year, his barrel rate was 2.9% (ninth percentile) and his ground-ball rate jumped up to 56.6%. His 27.0% HR/FB rate was a career-high and seems purely lucky. Prior to 2019 (juiced ball), he was never much of a power hitter, and that was despite playing in Coors.
Don’t get me wrong -- he should bring a high floor in terms of counting stats and batting average. But I don’t think we should be surprised if he hits around just 15 home runs and steals a few bases, which doesn’t seem like enough at his ADP.
Jim Sannes: My arch-nemesis!
Austan Kas: I like it. He was on my shortlist for guys I thought about writing up.
Jim Sannes: Every time I said not to use LeMahieu in our DFS Q&A shows last year, he hit a dinger.
Kenyatta Storin: lmao.
Jim Sannes: I refuse to draft him out of spite.
I do think this is a smart one, even if I ignore my obvious biases, for the same reasons you laid out. There are a lot of guys with red flags at second base, and he's one of them. But he's also the guy going highest in NFBC drafts right now, so if I'm going to take someone with flaws, it's not going to be the guy with the highest draft slot.
Kenyatta Storin: I also think that while his multi-position eligibility is nice, that shouldn’t be anything that pushes him up this high, either.
Jim Sannes: Especially with the other positions at which he's eligible being pretty deep.
Kenyatta Storin: What do you think, Austan?
Austan Kas: How many homers would he have to hit for you to want him at his current ADP? 25?
Just to be clear -- I'm on board. I think you presented the reasons to be wary of him pretty well. I was just curious.
Kenyatta Storin: Yeah, I would say 25 is about what he’d have to do -- so pretty much he’d have to be similar to 2019. I think projections give him somewhere between 17 to 20, which seems like a reasonable expectation, but I just fear it will be closer to the lower end.
I just don’t know how you pass up, say, Corey Seager at the same ADP for instance.
Jim Sannes: Drafting LeMahieu forces you to alter the way you approach the rest of the draft, selling out to get power in other slots. That's fine, for sure. But there are guys I can take there who don't put me in a box with my other picks.
Kenyatta Storin: And he also doesn’t give you any speed, which means you’re fighting on two fronts.
Jim Sannes: Absolutely.
Austan Kas: OK. We're all on the same page there. So who do you got, Jim?
Jim Sannes: That ties in pretty well to the player I'm avoiding, and it's one of LeMahieu's old teammates: Nolan Arenado. This isn't just the "PANIC PANIC HE'S OUT OF COORS!" narrative. It's also because he's not someone who profiles as an elite fantasy play when he's in a thicker atmosphere.
Throughout his entire career, Arenado has never had a barrel rate higher than 8.2%. The league-wide mark last year was 7.6%, and Arenado has been under that each of the past three years. He has missed it by at least 0.8 percentage points two consecutive seasons.
I have no doubts that his batting average will go back up this year. He puts the ball in play far too often for it not to. And he should get a decent number of runs scored and RBIs thanks to his spot in the order. But I just don't see a ton of power or speed potential, and that's tough for me to stomach in the fourth round.
Kenyatta Storin: Yeah, I buy that -- he seems like kind of a “meh” pick to me this year.
Austan Kas: Man, we think alike. I nearly wrote up both LeMahieu and Arenado. I didn't do Arenado because I ended up thinking that his ADP was mostly stomachable.
Kenyatta Storin: I’d just as well wait for Eugenio Suarez, who is going roughly 20 picks later and has far more power potential.
Austan Kas: At the risk of derailing this, I don't understand why Suarez isn't going higher.
Kenyatta Storin: Even Arenado’s batting average projections aren’t exciting in the .260s, too.
Yeah, Suarez seems like a great value this year.
Jim Sannes: Arenado in St. Louis is expensive Jeff McNeil. I love McNeil. But if I can get the actual McNeil 45 picks later and with extra positional eligibility, gimme that.
McNeil also works for the LeMahieu conversation, if I'm being honest.
Kenyatta Storin: McNeil kind of seems like a LeMahieu-lite, but at least you’re getting him much later.
And by then, you can factor in whether you need the average or not, rather than the other way around.
Kenyatta Storin: Would you guys take Alex Bregman over Arenado? They’re approximately the same ADP.
Austan Kas: I'd prefer Bregman.
Jim Sannes: Bregman's ceiling is much higher than Arenado's to me, so yes.
Kenyatta Storin: Same, same.
Alright, Austan, let’s see if you dig up some disagreement between all of us.
Austan Kas: For me, Aaron Judge is a guy I have a hard time trusting at his ADP of 51st overall (OF14). It mostly comes down to his injury history. Judge had had more than 500-plus plate appearances just once in his career, and that came back in 2017. In 2018 and 2019, he had 498 and 447 plate appearances, respectively, before logging 114 in just 28 games in the shortened 2020 campaign.
Steamer has Judge projected for a .249 average, 35 jacks, 96 runs and 87 RBIs in 601 plate appearances. While that's clearly #good, Judge is likely to produce in just three of the five standard roto categories as he's pegged for only six steals, which may even be high given the injury history and the fact he's heading into his age-29 campaign. And the 601 plate appearances feels ambitious. ZiPS has Judge with 499 plate appearances. Judge also had just a 42.0% hard-hit rate last season, a career-low clip for him. It may be small-sample noise, but maybe the injuries are catching up to him.
We know the talent is there, and I suppose you could argue we should take the injury-prone discount on an elite talent. If Judge drops, at some point the risk would be worth the potential reward. But with guys like Alex Bregman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Starling Marte and Randy Arozarena going in Judge's ADP range, I can't take the plunge. I'll get my Judge exposure in DFS.
Jim Sannes: Oooohh, I actually do like Judge. We can finally fight.
Kenyatta Storin: So, I totally get where you’re coming from -- but I think I’m more with Jim on this, too.
Austan Kas: I'm listening.
Jim Sannes: For me, it's all due to personal philosophy, so it might not sway you. I'm just totally okay taking on guys with injury risk.
If that guy gets hurt, I still get replacement-level numbers in their absence. And when Judge is healthy, I can feel awesome about the production. He had a rough year last year, but it seemed like all of that stemmed from the lingering effects of his injury. Before he went on the IL, Judge had a 17.8% barrel rate. After he came back, it was 0.0%. So that does help your injury argument, but it also shows how good his season could have been had he not gotten hurt. Judge isn't hitting for power in spring training, and I actually do care about that. But he's also not striking out much. So personally, I think he's a worthwhile risk.
Austan Kas: Assuming missed time, Judge has to produce like a stud when he's healthy. If he doesn't miss time, then he's well worth a pick at his ADP. I guess it's not all injury worries for me. I'm not sure he'll give you elite numbers when he does play.
Kenyatta Storin: I’m the same way with injury risk for hitters (different for pitchers). I think it’s a hard thing to quantify unless it’s the same recurring thing every year. It’s sort of like what we’ve seen with Giancarlo Stanton when he’s been healthy -- Judge could be a monster if he does in fact stay mostly healthy. I also think Judge is a guy who will still mash dingers with a deadened ball, which could be more important this year.
Austan Kas: That is a good point about his power. Hopefully he shows some of it this spring to ease those concerns.
Jim Sannes: On the same line of thought, I'm also good snagging Stanton later in the draft. If both stay healthy, you will lead your league in dingers. If one gets hurt, you still get the production of the other. If both get hurt, we can split a pint of Ben & Jerry's.
Austan Kas: I'm way more open to Stanton just because of the difference in ADP (112th for Stanton).
Kenyatta Storin: You could also arguably see risk in some guys going around Judge, too. We expect Bregman to bounce back, but he still has to do so. Arozarena is basically going off a red-hot postseason. I love Vlad Jr., but we haven’t seen him do it yet.
All those guys could be great! But I think it shows the risk/reward in that area of the draft.
Austan Kas: Yeah, that's more or less the Arenado neighborhood, too.
Kenyatta Storin: And I give a +1 to Stanton, as well.
Austan Kas: I'm really good at poking holes in these types of players -- you know, good ones -- but then irrationally loving way more iffy players later in the draft.
Kenyatta Storin: I definitely think taking more risk the later you go isn’t a bad way to think, so it’s a sound philosophy!
Austan Kas: Do either of you have anything else?
Kenyatta Storin: i think we good unless Jim wants a last word.
Jim Sannes: Last word. Get bent.
Kenyatta Storin: Jim has left the chat.