5 Volume-Dependent Players to Avoid in Fantasy Baseball Drafts
Yesterday here on numberFire, we gave y'all a reason for hope. We presented five guys that made the most of their limited plate appearances last year and could see an up-tick this year. They brought sunshine to all of the land.
The fun stops here, kiddos. The following guys blot out the sun with their piggish volume dependency. Their fantasy production comes solely from the number of plate appearances they record, not their efficiency within those plate appearances.
This is a problem for several reasons. If this player's real-world skills are as low as his fantasy numbers, then he's likely to lose that volume. Also, if you're playing daily fantasy, the sample size is so small that volume doesn't help you at all. If you only get them for that day, then you want guys that score more fantasy points per plate appearance.
We'll do this using a similar method to the one we used for the efficiency players yesterday. First, we'll narrow the field down to just players that recorded at least 500 plate appearances last year. Next, we'll calculate the number of fantasy points they scored in those plate appearances. This will be based upon the scoring used at DraftKings, which you can see right here. Finally, we'll divide the points scored by the number of plate appearances.
I'm not just going to take the people who had the lowest points per plate appearance, or else it'd just be a list full of shortstops, and ain't nobody want that. I instead tried to limit to just guys listed within the top 15 of their respective positions (with the exception of outfield) on ESPN's Top 250 list. This isn't because I disagree with this list (much to the contrary -- I plan to use it as one resource for my drafts), but rather because many of the people you're going against will be using this same list. This may help you avoid some potential busts.
It should be noted that the average major-leaguer with at least 500 plate appearances last year averaged 1.73 points on DraftKings per plate appearance. You can use this as a point of reference for the guys below, all of whom came up short of that total.
Let's take a look at which guys you may want to think twice before drafting this spring or rolling out early on in daily leagues.
Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox
Plate Appearances: 594 | DraftKings Points: 842 | Points per Plate Appearance: 1.42
There are tons of reasons to love Xander Bogaerts. He's super young, he has position flexibility, and he is part of a line-up that should produce plenty of runs. But that does not mean I'm touching him in season-long re-draft leagues.
In drafting Bogaerts (who is ranked 10th at third base, sixth at shortstop and 93rd overall), you are banking on his showing significant progression. Anything less than a giant leap will leave you with lost value in your selection.
Bogaerts wrapped up his rookie year with a .240/.297/.362 slash and a .294 wOBA (the league average was .310). And it's not as though things got better as the season went a long -- his wOBA decreased to .289 in the second half from .297 in the first.
Steamer does project a sizable jump for Bogaerts with a .256/.319/.406 slash and a .321 wOBA. The problem is, with how aggressively the Red Sox have spent, can you be certain they will be patient with him if he doesn't hit those marks? For a guy ranked in the top 100, that's enough to give me pause before drafting him.
Austin Jackson, OF, Seattle Mariners
Plate Appearances: 656 | DraftKings Points: 999 | Points per Plate Appearance: 1.52
Back in 2012, Austin Jackson was the man. He batted .300/.377/.479 with 16 bombs in 617 plate appearances. We're not in 2012 anymore, Toto.
Jackson's wOBA tumbled to .292 last year from a .371 mark in 2012 and .332 in 2013. He hit only 4 home runs despite recording 656 plate appearances. This was a home run to fly ball rate of 2.6 percent, the 11th lowest total in the league among qualified batters, checking in right behind noted homer hater Ben Revere.
It wasn't as if Jackson saw some crazy drop in his BABIP, either. It did fall, but only to .325 from .333 in 2013, as you might expect from a guy who will be 28 on Opening Day. He's not old, but he's not a spring pup, either.
Jackson is ranked 156th overall and 43rd among outfielders. While he does provide value with his stolen base totals (he swiped 20 last year), is it enough to counteract his total loss of power? This doesn't even mention this will be his first year playing his full home slate at Safeco Field, which ranks last in ESPN's Park Factor, whereas Comerica Park is 14th.
Jackson's defense has slipped in center, with his Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) per 150 innings dropping from 7.9 runs above average in 2011 to -10.0 runs in 2014. If his offense remains where it was in 2014, the odds that his volume decreases, thus sending the odds that you get a return on your investment through the floor.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers
Plate Appearances: 529 | DraftKings Points: 807 | Points per Plate Appearance: 1.53
This is the second consecutive day Shin-Soo Choo has been featured on this website. This is the second consecutive day Shin-Soo Choo has been featured on this website because he was doggy doo in 2014.
Yesterday, John Stolnis tabbed Choo as a guy who was in need of a bounce-back season in 2015. As John points out, Choo had a plethora of injuries that set him back significantly last year and hampered him the entire way.
While he should, certainly, be better than he was last year, there's a decent possibly that he doesn't. After all, he's 32 years old, and recovering from injuries doesn't exactly become a breeze at that age.
If you take Choo where he is ranked (142nd overall and the 39th outfielder) and he goes back to his 2013 form, you are golden. But the odds that he does regain that production are slim at best. At the end of the day, you're looking at a 32-year-old who carries an astronomical degree of risk.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
Plate Appearances: 710 | DraftKings Points: 889 | Points per Plate Appearance: 1.54
Castellanos, like Bogaerts, will be only 23 on Opening Day. He shot from High-A ball to the majors from the start of 2012 to the end of 2013. He's an exciting prospect. But, also like Bogaerts, you are banking on a crazy progression from rookie to sophomore campaign if you end up drafting him.
Castellanos finished 2014 with a .259/.306/.394 slash and a .307 wOBA. This, coupled with his stone glove at third, saddled him with a -0.5 fWAR.
Steamer sees all of those numbers rising to .264/.314/.408 with a .318 wOBA this year. While that is improvement, is it enough to have Castellanos as the 183rd player overall and the 18th third baseman?
I will provide a counterpoint on Castellanos, though. Dan Szymborski's ZiPS Projections (which you can see for Detroit right here) have Castellanos leaping to a .280/.327/.442 slash with a .335 wOBA, far more optimistic than Steamer. And, keep in mind, this is a median projection, meaning he would exceed that 50 percent of the time. I'd say Castellanos has more upside than Bogaerts for 2015, especially with being rated below him on ESPN's rankings. That just doesn't mean I'm quite ready to pull the trigger just yet.
Nick Markakis, OF, Atlanta Braves
Plate Appearances: 710 | DraftKings Points: 1,098 | Points per Plate Appearance: 1.55
Nick Markakis finished 2014 as the 18th-highest scoring outfielder using ESPN standard scoring. This was despite having the most plate appearances of any outfielder in the entire league. There's your volume dependence, y'all.
Now, Markakis is out of the American League. Sure, he was only used as the designated hitter six times last year, but six games is significant for a guy who is so volume dependent.
Then you toss in his neck surgery. From the time of the surgery, Markakis was expected to resume baseball activities in late February, which would be right before spring training. If Markakis misses any time this year for this (or any other injury), as would not be uncommon for a 31-year-old outfielder, then his aggregate production will drop off the table.
So, if you draft Markakis, you are getting a 31-year-old mild-hitting outfielder who now has an injury risk attached to him. That's gold, Jerry! Gold!
The ESPN rankings have already taken these concerns into account. He is ranked 235th overall and as the 65th outfielder. That is more than fine, but it's also ahead of guys we tabbed yesterday as the kings of efficiency in (Markakis's replacement in right field) Steve Pearce, A.J. Pollock and Michael Saunders. For me, when I'm drafting that late, I'd rather take a guy that has any semblance of upside than a guy dependent on volume that may no longer exist this year.