2019’s Fantasy Baseball Value Drainers

Last week, I looked at the largest auction player bargains of 2019. These were the players who were highly profitable after considering their opportunity cost of acquisition. We defined the bargain amount as:

$Bargain = $Value – $AAV

We defined $Value as the accumulated 5×5 full season rotisserie value of each player, and $AAV as the average auction cost to purchase the player pre-season. We make use of the NFBC Average Auction Values which are readily available to us.

For the full methodology of how these player bargains are calculated, please refer to my introductory post.

Today’s attention will be directed to what I refer to as the value drainers. These are the largest “rip-offs” of 2019 – i.e., the players who earned the most negative profits for fantasy owners on a full season basis (net of their auction price).

Capped Values

Prior to unveiling 2019’s most unprofitable players, we will make one more modification to the analysis – namely, the capping of values.

When a player performs especially lousy or does not play for a long period of time due to injury, etc. – fantasy owners cease to activate that player on their team’s starting roster. They either bench the player, or outright cut him off the team. A player who is not active would be replaced by another player. It would be overly punitive to amass any more negative value after a certain point in the season.

For example, if one drafted Royals catcher Salvador Perez prior to the 2019 season, he would have been dropped off fantasy rosters by opening day, as he would not be healthy enough to play a single game all season long. Any owner who paid the slightest attention to his roster would have replaced him with another backstop, with the next best available un-drafted catcher. Even if Perez valuates to -$20 for example for the full season, there is a strong argument to declare that his value is $1. That is what the final catcher was sold for at the auction table (i.e. replacement level value).

For this analysis, we will use a simplifying assumption called the capping of values. We will let players earn negative value, but not unlimited negative value. For the full season 2019 results, we will not let a player earn less than negative $5. The minimum that a player can earn will be -$5.

Thus, we can define the capping of values as follows:

Capped $Value = Maximum ($Value, -$5)

Capped $Bargain = Capped $Value – $AAV

For a larger discussion on the capping of values, please refer to my mid-season post on value drainers.

The Value Drainers

Below are the top value drainers for the 2019 season. Let’s start with the most unprofitable hitters:

2019 Top 35 Hitter Value Drainers
No. Player R HR RBI SB AVG $Value Capped $Value $AAV Capped $Bargain
1 Giancarlo Stanton 8 3 13 0 .288 ($15.8) ($5.0) $34.0 ($39.0)
2 Aaron Judge 75 27 55 3 .272 $9.1 $9.1 $37.0 ($27.9)
3 Jose Peraza 37 6 33 7 .239 ($8.1) ($5.0) $18.0 ($23.0)
4 Khris Davis 61 23 73 0 .220 $1.0 $1.0 $23.0 ($22.0)
5 Andrew Benintendi 72 13 68 10 .266 $7.8 $7.8 $29.0 ($21.2)
6 Jose Ramirez 68 23 83 24 .255 $17.2 $17.2 $38.0 ($20.8)
7 Justin Upton 34 12 40 1 .215 ($8.1) ($5.0) $15.0 ($20.0)
8 Mitch Haniger 46 15 32 4 .220 ($5.5) ($5.0) $15.0 ($20.0)
9 Jesus Aguilar 39 12 50 0 .236 ($5.5) ($5.0) $15.0 ($20.0)
10 Andrew McCutchen 45 10 29 2 .256 ($6.1) ($5.0) $14.0 ($19.0)
11 Rhys Hoskins 86 29 85 2 .226 $9.2 $9.2 $28.0 ($18.8)
12 Carlos Correa 42 21 59 1 .279 $2.7 $2.7 $21.0 ($18.3)
13 Mike Trout 110 45 104 11 .291 $32.8 $32.8 $51.0 ($18.2)
14 Scooter Gennett 15 2 11 0 .226 ($17.2) ($5.0) $13.0 ($18.0)
15 Mookie Betts 135 29 80 16 .295 $30.6 $30.6 $48.0 ($17.4)
16 Dee Gordon 36 3 34 22 .275 ($0.2) ($0.2) $17.0 ($17.2)
17 Ender Inciarte 30 5 24 7 .246 ($9.2) ($5.0) $12.0 ($17.0)
18 Robinson Cano 46 13 39 0 .256 ($4.8) ($4.8) $12.0 ($16.8)
19 Matt Carpenter 59 15 46 6 .226 ($1.8) ($1.8) $15.0 ($16.8)
20 Aaron Hicks 41 12 36 1 .235 ($6.5) ($5.0) $11.0 ($16.0)
21 Trea Turner 96 19 57 35 .298 $25.4 $25.4 $41.0 ($15.6)
22 A.J. Pollock 49 15 47 5 .266 $0.4 $0.4 $16.0 ($15.6)
23 Daniel Murphy 56 13 78 1 .279 $5.5 $5.5 $21.0 ($15.5)
24 Manny Machado 81 32 85 5 .256 $14.6 $14.6 $30.0 ($15.4)
25 Paul Goldschmidt 97 34 97 3 .260 $19.4 $19.4 $34.0 ($14.6)
26 Jose Altuve 89 31 74 6 .298 $19.8 $19.8 $34.0 ($14.2)
27 Billy Hamilton 41 0 15 22 .218 ($8.0) ($5.0) $9.0 ($14.0)
28 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 52 15 69 0 .272 $3.2 $3.2 $17.0 ($13.8)
29 Joey Votto 79 15 47 5 .261 $4.2 $4.2 $18.0 ($13.8)
30 Lorenzo Cain 75 11 48 18 .260 $6.7 $6.7 $20.0 ($13.3)
31 Stephen Piscotty 46 13 44 2 .249 ($3.9) ($3.9) $9.0 ($12.9)
32 J.D. Martinez 98 36 105 2 .304 $27.3 $27.3 $40.0 ($12.7)
33 Brian Dozier 54 20 50 3 .238 ($0.6) ($0.6) $12.0 ($12.6)
34 Joey Gallo 54 22 49 4 .253 $2.6 $2.6 $15.0 ($12.4)
35 Wil Myers 58 18 53 16 .239 $4.6 $4.6 $17.0 ($12.4)

For the pitchers, below are the top value drainers for 2019:

2019 Top 25 Pitcher Value Drainers
No. Player K W SV ERA WHIP $Value Capped $Value $AAV Capped $Bargain
1 Corey Kluber 38 2 0 5.80 1.65 ($8.1) ($5.0) $33.0 ($38.0)
2 Carlos Carrasco 96 6 1 5.29 1.35 ($4.4) ($4.4) $32.0 ($36.4)
3 Chris Sale 218 6 0 4.40 1.09 $5.9 $5.9 $38.0 ($32.1)
4 Trevor Bauer 253 11 0 4.48 1.25 $2.2 $2.2 $33.0 ($30.8)
5 Blake Snell 147 6 0 4.29 1.27 $0.4 $0.4 $31.0 ($30.6)
6 Noah Syndergaard 202 10 0 4.28 1.23 $1.8 $1.8 $31.0 ($29.2)
7 Aaron Nola 229 12 0 3.87 1.27 $6.3 $6.3 $34.0 ($27.7)
8 Jameson Taillon 30 2 0 4.10 1.13 ($2.7) ($2.7) $24.0 ($26.7)
9 Max Scherzer 243 11 0 2.92 1.03 $21.1 $21.1 $43.0 ($21.9)
10 Blake Treinen 59 6 16 4.91 1.62 ($2.1) ($2.1) $19.0 ($21.1)
11 Chris Archer 143 3 0 5.19 1.41 ($9.7) ($5.0) $15.0 ($20.0)
12 Edwin Diaz 99 2 26 5.59 1.38 $1.4 $1.4 $20.0 ($18.6)
13 David Price 128 7 0 4.28 1.31 ($0.7) ($0.7) $16.0 ($16.7)
14 Zack Wheeler 195 11 0 3.96 1.26 $3.8 $3.8 $20.0 ($16.2)
15 Nick Pivetta 89 4 1 5.38 1.52 ($10.8) ($5.0) $11.0 ($16.0)
16 Wade Davis 42 1 15 8.65 1.88 ($12.2) ($5.0) $11.0 ($16.0)
17 German Marquez 175 12 0 4.76 1.20 $1.0 $1.0 $17.0 ($16.0)
18 Miles Mikolas 144 9 0 4.16 1.22 $0.4 $0.4 $16.0 ($15.6)
19 James Paxton 186 15 0 3.82 1.28 $8.0 $8.0 $23.0 ($15.0)
20 J.A. Happ 140 12 0 4.91 1.30 ($3.7) ($3.7) $11.0 ($14.7)
21 Jose Berrios 195 14 0 3.68 1.22 $8.9 $8.9 $23.0 ($14.1)
22 Masahiro Tanaka 149 11 0 4.45 1.24 ($0.6) ($0.6) $13.0 ($13.6)
23 Rick Porcello 143 14 0 5.52 1.39 ($10.5) ($5.0) $8.0 ($13.0)
24 Jake Arrieta 110 8 0 4.64 1.47 ($8.7) ($5.0) $7.0 ($12.0)
25 Cole Hamels 143 7 0 3.81 1.39 ($1.7) ($1.7) $10.0 ($11.7)

There are three categorical ways for a player to waste your auction capital. In general, players are value drainers for one of these three reasons (or some combination of them). They are:

  • Players who missed significant time
  • Players who played poorly
  • Players who were expensive

The first category (missing significant time) accounts for a large portion of the total. The top hitter (Giancarlo Stanton) and pitcher (Corey Kluber) fall into this category. Stanton accumulated only 59 ABs in 2019, which left owners with a key player on the bench for almost the entire season.

I participated in an NFBC auction this season, winning Stanton for $31. That amount was $3 below his $AAV, and a couple of dollars lower than my projected valuation. I was elated at the time to acquire him, but obviously I did not enjoy his presence on my roster in ’19. That was quite a large hole to dig out of this year, as Stanton owners can attest to.

The second category (poor performance) includes players such as Khris Davis, Noah Syndergaard and Chris Archer. Fantasy owners expected Davis to put up close to 40 HRs, with a .247 BA – which he typically does. Perhaps there was an injury that hampered him for a long stretch of the season, but unfortunately, fantasy owners still rode him for almost the entire season.

Syndergaard displayed glimpses of brilliance over the course of the season and amassed excellent strikeout figures – but he had too many 4+ ER outings, including a 9 ER outing in late August. Despite decent strikeout totals, Chris Archer was simply horrendous all season long. Earlier this season, one FanGraphs writer warned the public not to roster him.

The final category (expensive players) includes players such as Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Max Scherzer. By no means did any of these players perform poorly. Quite the contrary – Trout and Betts finished as the 9th and Betts finished as the 12th most valuable hitters, and Scherzer was the 10th most valuable pitcher.

Herein lies one large difference between the draft vs. auction settings. There is no question that in a traditional snake draft, if you had drafted either Mike Trout or Mookie Betts with the first/second overall picks in 2019 snake draft (in any order), you chose a fantastic player – worth 1st or early 2nd round value. It is hard to be upset with that kind of result.

But in terms of pure profit, having an elite pick in the snake is problematic. With the first or second pick, you possess an extraordinarily high value draft slot. The first pick of the draft is the equivalent to some $45-$50+ $AAV. However, Ronald Acuna Jr. earned only $42 as the highest valued hitter. Justin Verlander at $44 was the highest valued pitcher. Neither out earned what the top overall selection of the draft was theoretically worth. In other words, the first pick of the draft was set to be an auction value drainer no matter who you had selected.

In a snake draft, you don’t have a choice. You must select a player with that draft slot, even if it is a theoretical profit loser. You simply draft a player with a high floor – someone who aside from injury, is assured to amass a large portion of his projected statistics. Related to this notion, I previously showed that the first few selections in drafts led to a lower probability of winning in 2019. This might be one reason why that is true.

Turning our attention back to auctions – owners may instead choose to distribute their monies differently, by not obtaining the highest valued players. Rather than drafting Betts for $48 and Kole Calhoun for $2, for similar money – one could have purchased Starling Marte for $29 and George Springer for $20, etc. As I pointed out in my previous article, Trout’s return of ~60% of his auction value may still be a good purchase, however, it is an inefficient one. $45+ is simply a prohibitive auction cost.

Finally, as noted earlier, there are players that lie in combinations of all three value draining categories. Andrew Benintendi was on the expensive side, but he also underperformed. In fact, most of the value drainers will have some element of a high price. Underperforming players who cost $5 can only lose at most $10 (capped), whereas underperforming players bought for $25 could lose $30. There is an inherent skew towards the third category from the methodology of this process.

Assorted Player Notes (in no particular order):

  • As previously mentioned, Giancarlo Stanton and Corey Kluber led all hitters and pitchers (respectively) as this year’s largest value drainers. They each lost close to $40 of capped value. As they were both injured for most of the season, they were also at the top of the value drainer leaderboards at mid-season.
  • Stanton finished the season with only three homeruns. All of the projection systems on FanGraphs, including ATC, projected him to hit over forty HRs. That is a very large number of homeruns for a fantasy roster to lose to injury.
  • Kluber not only missed a tremendous amount of time in 2019, but he also did not pitch well. In the 35+ innings that he did pitch, he accumulated an ERA of 5.80 and a WHIP of 1.65.
  • The underperforming but healthy Khris Davis ’19 types are often more hurtful to fantasy teams than the players who are completely injured and go on the IL. Underperformers are usually still active in fantasy lineups each and every week amid cold spells, while injured players can be replaced in the starting lineup, or even cut.
  • I will argue that poor performance affects the pitchers more than the hitters. For starting pitchers, 2 out of the 4 effective scoring categories are ratios, whereas only 1 out of the 5 scoring categories for batters are ratios.
  • Blake Treinen and Chris Archer were the only two pitchers who lost owners at least $20 of capped profit yet cost less than $20 to roster.
  • Edwin Diaz saved 26 games, yet lost owners nearly $19 of profit. It is hard to be valuable with a 5.59 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. He still managed to finish above replacement due to the saves, earning $1.4 roto dollars.
  • The first two pitchers on the list to have less than a $10 $AAV are Rick Porcello and Jake Arietta. Porcello’s ERA ballooned to 5.52 this season, and Arietta is now squarely on the decline phase of his career.
  • The first hitter to appear on the list with an $AAV of less than $10 is Billy Hamilton. Putting up anemic counting stats with a batting average not far from the Mendoza line still has value if you can steal 55+ bases. Now two years removed from those big swipe years, Hamilton’s 22 SBs just doesn’t cut it, even in this MLB steals-starved environment. With other speedsters on this list such as Dee Gordon, Jose Peraza, Treat Turner, Lorenzo Cain, etc. – this was a poor year for investing heavily in them. This was the year to invest more in combo players, or even power-only hitters.
  • The average cost of the top 35 hitter value drainers was $22.8. The average returned capped value for the group was $5.2.
  • The average cost of the top 25 pitcher value drainers was $21.6. The average returned capped value for the group was $0.6.





Ariel is the 2019 FSWA Baseball Writer of the Year. Ariel is also the winner of the 2020 FSWA Baseball Article of the Year award. He is the creator of the ATC (Average Total Cost) Projection System. Ariel was ranked by FantasyPros as the #1 fantasy baseball expert in 2019. His ATC Projections were ranked as the #1 most accurate projection system in 2019. Ariel also writes for CBS Sports, SportsLine, RotoBaller, and is the host of the Beat the Shift Podcast (@Beat_Shift_Pod). Ariel is a member of the inaugural Tout Wars Draft & Hold league, a member of the inaugural Mixed LABR Auction league and plays high stakes contests in the NFBC. Ariel is the 2020 Tout Wars Head to Head League Champion. Ariel Cohen is a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA). He is a Vice President of Risk Management for a large international insurance and reinsurance company. Follow Ariel on Twitter at @ATCNY.

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Will H.
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Will H.

I’m not sure if you’re actually saying Trea was a speed only guy, but he would have been worth much more had he not broken his finger; he popped two homers in his first four games, missed the rest of that month and much of May, and was clearly not in form the rest of May before showing pretty good power the rest of the way.