When we are looking for a home to buy, staged furniture can distort our vision so much that we fail to see the flaws in the walls, a rotted baseboard, or rust taking over a washer. Fantasy baseball's recency bias and name value provide the same distraction that staging provides for home buyers. While all of the players on this list have value, we want to let other owners draft these players in one-year leagues because they won't return the proper value on our investment.
Kris Bryant is a star, but he is not worth the ninth pick in the draft, especially when we can draft his teammate Anthony Rizzo for more consistent production. Bryant's low 64% contact rate and 30.6% K% will limit his ceiling in 2016. Yes, he may hit 26-30 HR's this year, but his 195 strikeouts will hurt our points-league teams. He only provides 1% more value than the average 3B in a 15-team points league, and he only dominated 54% of 26 weeks for H2H owners last year. Yes, he crushes the ball by making hard contact 37.5% of the time, but his .378 BABIP in 2015 should regress this year, which will lower his Batting Average. Bryant hit .246 against LHP with 53 K's in 145 plate appearances last year, and he only hit .243 with 5 homers on the road. While Bryant is on his way to stardom in keeper leagues, we want to avoid paying too much for him in 2016.
Like his teammate Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta is going high in drafts at the nineteenth pick. Recency bias reveals that Arrieta pitched supremely well in the second-half of last year, and he induced 61% GB% in last year's second-half with a 0.88 ERA. Unfortunately for 2016 owners, his ridiculously low ERA was almost two runs below his 2.61 xFIP. Those owners that love Arrieta will cite his steady 9.3 K/9 last year, but naysayers will point out that he only threw 56% FpK in the second-half of last year. H2H owners will want to target Arrieta's ability to dominate 85% of his starts, but the second-round is a little too early to draft him when Steamer expects his BABIP to move from .246 last year to .289 this year. 15 wins and a 2.93 ERA will provide good value a few rounds later, but Steamer projects similar numbers for Dallas Keuchal and Chris Archer in the fourth round. Arrieta will keep his ace status in 2016, but he won't be worth the second round price tag in one-year leagues.
|Keith Allison Flickr|
Fourth-Round Health Problems
Even if he stays healthy in Toronto, Troy Tulowitzki will not provide enough return on investment in the fourth round. His inability to stay healthy throughout his career will scare some owners away, but certain owners will draft him for his power. Unfortunately, Tulowitzki saw his HR total drop to 17 last year in 486 AB's. His contact rate dropped five points to 77%, and his walk rate dropped seven points to 7%. H2H owners will stay away when they see that he only dominated 44% of the weeks last year, and points-league owners can find more than 3% of value at another position in the fourth round. Steamer projects his .331 BABIP to fall to .295 in 2016, and 19 HR's, even at SS, will not return enough value at pick #49. Let other owners bet that Tulo can lower his K%, raise his bb%, and stay healthy.
At pick #52, owners that draft Lorenzo Cain are hoping that last 2015 wasn't his career year. He raised his contact rate from 77% in 2014 to 82% last year, and he lowered his K% from 21.5% in 2014 to 16.2% last year. Like Tulowitzki's health issues, Lorenzo Cain has only accumulated two 500 AB seasons out of the last five seasons. (2011 and 2015) In H2H leagues, he dominated 50% of the weeks last year, and his inconsistency hurt his H2H owners during 31% of the weeks. Steamer expects Cain's batting average to fall to .283 if he gives back some strikeouts in 2016 and his BABIP falls to .333. Cain provides league-average value as a #2 OF in points-leagues, but we can find #1 OF value in Carlos Gonzalez at #55 and Jason Heyward at #68. Most services, including Steamer, predict Cain's home run total to drop to 11 homers, even though he should maintain 22-25 SB's. Cain can provide good value a few rounds later, but we will overpay for Cain if we select him at #52 after his career year.
Sometimes we can find aces at a good price, but NFBC owners are selecting Sonny Gray at #62. While Gray created 53% GB% last year and a 2.73 ERA, we should note his 3.69 xFIP and .255 BABIP. Regression is staring at Gray in 2016 once his BABIP moves back to .300. Gray's 7.3 K/9 is on the low-end of the aces, and his hip injury in September provides doubt for 2016. While Gray seems like a lock for double-digit wins, several services predict that his win total will fall to 11 games in 2016. If we select Gray as our ace in points-leagues, we lose 12% of value versus the average ace, and if we want to draft a SP around pick #60, we should select Jon Lester because he will provide 9% more value than Gray. Let owners hoping for another sub-3.00 ERA in 2016 draft Sonny, and wait for him in 2017 if his price drops because Baseball Prospectus projects Gray's WAR to drop from 5.6 in 2015 to 2.4 in 2016.
The Diamondbacks went all in on Zack Greinke, but we should avoid him at #30 this year. His 1.66 ERA masked his 3.22 xFIP last year thanks in part to his .229 BABIP. In 2016, Greinke's 7.3% hr/f should normalize to 10%. His 8.1 K/9, last year, was down from his 9.2 K/9 in 2014, but he was the beneficiary of a 86.5 LOB%, which should fall in 2016. If we select Greinke as our ace in our points-leagues, that will cost us -4% of value this season, and we could lose more value if Steamer's projected 13 wins, down from 19 last year, hold true. While the Diamondbacks selected Greinke as their ace, we should choose a more cost-beneficial ace this season.
We shouldn't let the window dressing of recency bias fool our draft perception in 2016. While statistical projections are often inaccurate, regression is a force that will normalize a number of these players' performances this season.