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Finding Discount Values in Fantasy Baseball Drafts

How much does a name matter?  Let’s take a look at some big name players whose stats can be found later in the draft by the poor man’s version of themselves. All projections are courtesy of Fangraph’s Steamer projections. Rankings and ADP come from the consensus rankings on Fantasy Pros. I’m focusing on OBP leagues and not AVG. If you’re using AVG in your league you’ll need to reevaluate some of these guys. For most or all first round players there is no poor man’s version, you’re never going to find a ”Bryce Harper type” in the 3rd round. Once you get a couple rounds in though, there are some interesting players that will give you similar stats and much better draft day value. Let’s take a look at a couple.

I’m not drafting Mookie Betts this year, here’s why. Ranked 18th overall, with an average draft position of 22, he’s great, I’m a big fan. He’s going to be a star sooner than later but he’s simply not worthy of a mid-2nd round pick when you can take Ryan Braun with your 5th round pick ADP 57. Mookie went 18/21 with a .341 OBP last year in 145 games. Braun went 24/25 with a .356 OBP in 140 games and comes with a track record that you can trust more than a year and a half in the majors from Mookie. Tell me again, what’s sexier, an awesome name like Mookie, or better stats across the board 2 rounds later? Why not ditch that Mookie pick for Votto or Bryant? Maybe Scherzer if you want to go for a pitcher and then come back and take Braun 35 picks later.

We Ranked Betts 8th and Braun 16th in our Fantasy Baseball OF Rankings

So now you’ve gotten to the 6th round and you don’t have a stud first baseman yet. Everybody else does and you’re worried. The top 7 (Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, Joey Votto and Chris Davis) are all gone. You could take Freddie Freeman in the 6th round. Pick 72 on average and it wouldn’t be a bad pick. Freeman would be giving you a projected 24/4/.370 line. Or you could wait and take Brandon Belt who’s going in the 11th round who went 18/9/.356 in just 137 games last year. Is Freeman a better fantasy player than Belt? Possibly, probably even. He’ll give you a few more homeruns, but is he 5 rounds better? No, he’s most certainly not. In addition, the Braves are going to be terrible this year and the Giants should be very good. The better supporting cast from the Giants should result in more runs and RBIs from Belt than Freeman.

We Ranked Freeman 10th and Belt 14th in our Fantasy Baseball 1B Rankings

One player going within a few picks of Freeman that might be a better value is Brian Dozier. Dozier is projected out at 20/14/.320. I think that projection is very conservative on the power side seeing as he hit 23 in 2014 and 28 in 2015. He might not hit 28 again but if he were to drop down to his 2014 numbers of 23/21 he’s not only better than Freeman power/speed wise but he’s doing it at 2b where power and speed is much harder to find. He doesn’t have the OBP that Freeman has of course, but nobody is perfect. Francisco Lindor should also be available if you want to gamble on the young shortstop who went 12/12/.353 in 99 games last year, that’s about a 17/17 pace over a full season. Both of these players will end up producing similarly to Freeman at premium positions. Skip on Freeman and take Belt later.

George Springer you say? You could take George Springer early in the 3rd round, average pick 33, and you’d probably be happy with that pick because Springer is awesome. But can you do better? He’s projected to go 26/15 with a .343 OBP. Or you can wait 7 rounds and take Joc Pederson in the 11th, ADP 139. That’s 112 spots lower for those of you that don’t have a fancy calculator on hand. Pederson is projected to give you 24/11/.340. Joc’s batting average will scare people, as it should, but if you’re playing in an OBP league (get with the times and switch to OBP if you haven’t already) he’ll give you a .340 OBP, just 3 points lower than Springer.

We Ranked Springer 14th and Pederson 42nd in our Fantasy Baseball  OF Rankings

What about some pitchers? Raise your hand if you like Gerrit Cole. High five! Last year we saw Cole put up 19 wins, a 2.60 ERA and a 1.19 whip with 202 strikeouts. Those are fantastic numbers. Projecting forward though steamer has him regressing a bit at 15/3.26/1.16/196, still very good numbers. Cole is ranked 43rd overall, 12th among starting pitchers with his ADP at 36. That’s too early for me. Cole took a big step forward last year by lowering his ERA a full run from 3.65 to .260. Steamer is projecting regression to his ERA and roughly splitting the difference between his 2014 and 2015 numbers resulting in a 3.26 ERA. That projection lines up close with his 2015 3.13 xFIP due to him giving up a miniscule and unsustainable 6.5% hr/fb rate. His previous two seasons had an 8.1% hr/fb and a 9.4% hr/fb rate for a little context.

Let’s trust Steamer for this comparison and find someone else who can give us similar numbers with better draft value. Noah Syndergaard seems like a good choice. Last year we saw Syndergaard pitch to a 9/3.24/1.05/165 line. Less strikeouts than Cole but Noah did it in 150 innings, 58 innings less than Cole. Syndergaard actually had a much better strikeout rate- 9.96 k/9 compared to Coles 8.74 k/9. That’s a big difference, more than a full strikeout per 9 innings. If you wanted to look at a different strikeout rate stat we can see that Cole struck out 24.3% of the batters he faced placing him 20th overall among qualified pitchers last year. Syndergaard struck out 27.5%. He was 12 innings short of qualifying but had he done so his strikeout rate would have been 6th best in baseball last year, tucked right in between Kluber and deGrom. Noah is currently being drafted at pick 54, 18 picks after Cole. This seems like a complete no-brainer and by saving that 3rd round pick from Cole it frees you up to draft Nelson Cruz (39th) or Cespedes (40th) with that 3rd round pick and then come back for Syndergaard in the 5th round.

What if we went deeper? All the way down to the 6th round and take a look at Sonny Gray, ADP 61. Last season Gray delivered a 14/.273/1.08/169 line in 208 innings pitched, but count me among the people who don’t believe he can repeat those numbers. His 2.73 ERA is great. Better than great even, but he did it with a FIP of 3.45, a .72 run difference. Now, Gray has outperformed his FIP in each of his first 3 seasons but not by this much. His K rate has also gone down, 9.42, 7.52, 7.31 k/9 in each of his 3 seasons in the majors which is never a good sign.

What do we think about Carlos Martinez instead of Gray? Overall ranking of 114th and 31st among SPs. CarMart put up a 14/3.01/1.29/184 line with 2 fewer starts than Gray in 2015. Martinez is going in the 9th round, ADP 104, almost 45 picks later than Gray.. The WHIP is the only figure here where Gray is significantly better due to Martinez’s highish walk rate. That is a big difference, but it’s the only mark against Martinez. It’s also worth pointing out that while Gray has gone 1.07, 1.11, and 1.08 with his WHIP since coming to the majors, he never had a whip under 1.30 over a full season in the minors.

We Ranked Cole 12th, Syndergaard 18th, Gray 19th and Martinez 30th in our Fantasy Baseball SP Rankings

Passing on Gray should give you the option of taking one of the top 3 closers; Wade Davis, Craig Kimbrel, or Kenley Jansen if you were so inclined. The value you get out of Wade and Carlos is better than the value you would get from Gray and a 9th round closer. David Robertson, who was good last year, is going around the 9th so if you were to take Gray and then Robertson you would get 255 strike outs over 271 innings, for a combined ERA of 2.89.  If you were to go with Wade Davis and Carlos Martinez you would get 262 strikeouts over 246 innings with an with an ERA of 2.44 so clearly better value. The point of all this is that you should be drafting for stats, not for names, and passing on some of these names will get you better stats.

This blog post was submitted by u/AMichael15 via r/FantasyBaseball Fantasy Baseball Mookie Betts