2020’s Fantasy Baseball Auction Value Drainers

Introduction

Previously, I looked at the largest auction player bargains of 2020. These were the players who were highly profitable after considering their opportunity cost of acquisition. Value should always be considered relative to cost.

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 made use of the July NFBC Average Auction Values, which was one of the best sources of “market” data this year.

Whereas I previously looked at the players who generated the most excess value in 2020, today’s attention will be directed to what I refer to as the value drainers. These are the largest “rip-offs” of the season – i.e., the players who earned the most negative profits for fantasy owners on a full season basis (net of their auction price).

Prior to unveiling 2020’s most unprofitable players, it is important to discuss one additional step in the analysis – the capping of values. I have previously spoken about this concept, but I will touch on it again today.

Eduardo Rodriguez was a player that I drafted on a few of my fantasy rosters this season. His NFBC average auction value during July drafts (auctions) was $7. In Tout Wars, I acquired the Boston pitcher for $10. Unfortunately, Rodriguez came down with COVID-19. He developed heart complications due to the virus, and consequently did not pitch a single inning in 2020.

The question is – what value did Rodriguez accumulate in 2020? What damage did he cost to your team’s aggregate value? Owners certainly lost their original investment on him, but how much more were they penalized? He wouldn’t have made it to one’s active roster – but how much did it cost owners for Eduardo taking up a bench spot?

Let’s take another player example – Frankie Montas. Montas pitched 53 innings with an ERA of 5.60 and a WHIP of 1.51. Those ratios were detrimental to fantasy owners. With a $20 AAV – I’m sure his owners had Frankie in their active lineups for a fair amount of his starts.

Or how about Robbie Ray? He finished with a massive 6.62 ERA and an ungodly 1.90 WHIP. He would have amounted to a value of -$44 if left in a team’s lineup all season long (Montas returned -$25).

One could argue that Montas was more harmful [than Ray] to fantasy teams in 2020. Frankie’s initial acquisition cost was higher, and for that reason – he was likely activated in team lineups more often than Ray was.

So how should we value either of these player examples? What value should a fully injured Eduardo Rodriguez compute to? What about a partially injured player? How punitive should a ratio killer like Robbie Ray be valued for the full season? Is there a cutoff of value drainage?

These are not easy questions to answer. Ideally, value should represent the affect of a player on [the average] fantasy baseball roster during the season – for each particular format.

Fully engaging in settling these questions is beyond the scope of today’s article, but the concept must be addressed in order to obtain a value drainer leaderboard. We have to make some assumption on how to handle outsized negative values that arise from standard full season valuation algorithms.

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. In today’s work, we will not let a player earn less than negative $5. The minimum that a player can earn will be -$5.

Yes, this is far from a perfect catch-all safety net, but it should cut off much of the unwanted noise. The true value drainers should ultimately bubble up to the top with this simple gimmick.

We define the capping of values as follows:

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

Capped $Bargain = Capped $Value – $AAV

The value drainer leaderboard will then be a sort on the Capped $Bargain metric. Let’s now see who lost fantasy owners the most auction value in 2020!

2020’s Largest Value Drainers

Below are the top value drainers for the 2020 season. Here are the 35 most unprofitable hitters:

2020 Top 35 Hitter Value Drainers
No. Player R HR RBI SB AVG $Value Capped $Value $AAV Capped $Bargain
1 Christian Yelich 39 12 22 4 .205 $14.40 $14.40 $48.0 ($33.60)
2 Alex Bregman 19 6 22 0 .242 ($0.80) ($0.80) $32.0 ($32.80)
3 Gleyber Torres 17 3 16 1 .243 ($6.30) ($5.00) $27.0 ($32.00)
4 Nolan Arenado 23 8 26 0 .253 $4.70 $4.70 $35.0 ($30.30)
5 Francisco Lindor 30 8 27 6 .258 $12.80 $12.80 $40.0 ($27.20)
6 J.D. Martinez 22 7 27 1 .213 $2.90 $2.90 $29.0 ($26.10)
7 Ketel Marte 19 2 17 1 .287 ($0.90) ($0.90) $25.0 ($25.90)
8 Kris Bryant 20 4 11 0 .206 ($8.40) ($5.00) $20.0 ($25.00)
9 Javier Baez 27 8 24 3 .203 $1.20 $1.20 $26.0 ($24.80)
10 Austin Meadows 19 4 13 2 .205 ($3.60) ($3.60) $21.0 ($24.60)
11 Ozzie Albies 21 6 19 3 .271 $4.30 $4.30 $28.0 ($23.70)
12 Jose Altuve 32 5 18 2 .219 $1.40 $1.40 $25.0 ($23.60)
13 Josh Donaldson 14 6 11 0 .222 ($6.80) ($5.00) $18.0 ($23.00)
14 Giancarlo Stanton 12 4 11 1 .250 ($4.50) ($4.50) $18.0 ($22.50)
15 Victor Robles 20 3 15 4 .220 ($1.20) ($1.20) $21.0 ($22.20)
16 Cody Bellinger 33 12 30 6 .239 $20.30 $20.30 $42.0 ($21.70)
17 Tommy Pham 13 3 12 6 .211 ($2.30) ($2.30) $19.0 ($21.30)
18 Jonathan Villar 13 2 15 16 .232 $5.10 $5.10 $26.0 ($20.90)
19 Yordan Alvarez 2 1 4 0 .250 ($14.10) ($5.00) $15.0 ($20.00)
20 Oscar Mercado 6 1 6 3 .128 ($15.00) ($5.00) $15.0 ($20.00)
21 Bo Bichette 18 5 23 4 .301 $5.20 $5.20 $25.0 ($19.80)
22 Yoan Moncada 28 6 24 0 .225 $1.20 $1.20 $21.0 ($19.80)
23 Ronald Acuna Jr. 46 14 29 8 .250 $30.30 $30.30 $50.0 ($19.70)
24 Amed Rosario 20 4 15 0 .252 ($5.00) ($5.00) $14.0 ($19.00)
25 Mitch Garver 8 2 5 0 .167 ($5.80) ($5.00) $14.0 ($19.00)
26 Andrew Benintendi 4 0 1 1 .103 ($25.00) ($5.00) $14.0 ($19.00)
27 Scott Kingery 12 3 6 0 .159 ($16.20) ($5.00) $13.0 ($18.00)
28 Ramon Laureano 27 6 25 2 .213 $5.00 $5.00 $22.0 ($17.00)
29 Elvis Andrus 11 3 7 3 .194 ($12.30) ($5.00) $12.0 ($17.00)
30 Danny Santana 6 1 7 2 .145 ($12.80) ($5.00) $12.0 ($17.00)
31 Josh Bell 22 8 22 0 .226 $0.40 $0.40 $17.0 ($16.60)
32 Mike Moustakas 13 8 27 1 .230 $1.00 $1.00 $17.0 ($16.00)
33 Eduardo Escobar 22 4 20 1 .212 ($4.90) ($4.90) $11.0 ($15.90)
34 David Dahl 9 0 9 1 .183 ($13.30) ($5.00) $10.0 ($15.00)
35 Lorenzo Cain 4 0 2 0 .333 ($14.20) ($5.00) $10.0 ($15.00)

For the pitchers, below are the top 35 value drainers for 2020:

2020 Top 35 Pitcher Value Drainers
No. Player K W SV ERA WHIP $Value Capped $Value $AAV Capped $Bargain
1 Max Scherzer 92 5 0 3.74 1.38 ($5.90) ($5.00) $36.0 ($41.00)
2 Justin Verlander 7 1 0 3.00 0.67 ($50.00) ($5.00) $36.0 ($41.00)
3 Jack Flaherty 49 4 0 4.91 1.21 ($5.80) ($5.00) $33.0 ($38.00)
4 Walker Buehler 42 1 0 3.44 0.95 $1.00 $1.00 $36.0 ($35.00)
5 Stephen Strasburg 2 0 0 10.80 1.80 ($50.00) ($5.00) $28.0 ($33.00)
6 Chris Paddack 58 4 0 4.73 1.22 ($10.50) ($5.00) $26.0 ($31.00)
7 Mike Clevinger 40 3 0 3.02 1.15 $1.30 $1.30 $32.0 ($30.70)
8 Charlie Morton 42 2 0 4.74 1.39 ($13.00) ($5.00) $25.0 ($30.00)
9 Patrick Corbin 60 2 0 4.66 1.57 ($30.80) ($5.00) $25.0 ($30.00)
10 Zack Greinke 67 3 0 4.03 1.13 ($5.00) ($5.00) $22.0 ($27.00)
11 Jose Berrios 68 5 0 4.00 1.32 ($7.00) ($5.00) $22.0 ($27.00)
12 Frankie Montas 60 3 0 5.60 1.51 ($25.00) ($5.00) $20.0 ($25.00)
13 Luis Castillo 89 4 0 3.21 1.23 $2.10 $2.10 $27.0 ($24.90)
14 Kirby Yates 8 0 2 12.46 2.54 ($50.00) ($5.00) $19.0 ($24.00)
15 Corey Kluber 1 0 0 0.00 1.00 ($50.00) ($5.00) $18.0 ($23.00)
16 James Paxton 26 1 0 6.64 1.48 ($14.60) ($5.00) $16.0 ($21.00)
17 Roberto Osuna 3 0 1 2.08 0.69 ($50.00) ($5.00) $16.0 ($21.00)
18 Gerrit Cole 94 7 0 2.84 0.96 $23.60 $23.60 $44.0 ($20.40)
19 Blake Snell 63 4 0 3.24 1.20 $3.10 $3.10 $23.0 ($19.90)
20 Ken Giles 6 0 1 9.82 2.18 ($50.00) ($5.00) $14.0 ($19.00)
21 Lucas Giolito 97 4 0 3.48 1.04 $8.80 $8.80 $27.0 ($18.20)
22 Mike Soroka 8 0 0 3.95 1.32 ($8.50) ($5.00) $13.0 ($18.00)
23 Aroldis Chapman 22 1 3 3.09 0.86 ($50.00) ($5.00) $13.0 ($18.00)
24 Tyler Glasnow 91 5 0 4.08 1.13 $4.00 $4.00 $21.0 ($17.00)
25 Hector Neris 27 2 5 4.57 1.71 ($6.70) ($5.00) $12.0 ($17.00)
26 Hansel Robles 20 0 1 10.26 1.74 ($23.80) ($5.00) $12.0 ($17.00)
27 Jesus Luzardo 59 3 0 4.12 1.27 ($9.90) ($5.00) $11.0 ($16.00)
28 Brandon Workman 23 1 9 5.95 2.24 ($13.70) ($5.00) $11.0 ($16.00)
29 Matthew Boyd 60 3 0 6.71 1.48 ($36.80) ($5.00) $11.0 ($16.00)
30 Sonny Gray 72 5 0 3.70 1.21 $1.70 $1.70 $17.0 ($15.30)
31 Jacob deGrom 104 4 0 2.38 0.96 $22.90 $22.90 $38.0 ($15.10)
32 Craig Kimbrel 28 0 2 5.28 1.43 ($7.60) ($5.00) $10.0 ($15.00)
33 Madison Bumgarner 30 1 0 6.48 1.44 ($28.70) ($5.00) $10.0 ($15.00)
34 Robbie Ray 68 2 0 6.62 1.90 ($44.20) ($5.00) $10.0 ($15.00)
35 Jose Leclerc 3 0 1 4.50 2.00 ($50.00) ($5.00) $10.0 ($15.00)

For value drainers, there are three main categories of ways for a player to waste your auction capital.

  1. Players who missed significant time
  2. Players who played poorly
  3. Players who were expensive

These are not mutually exclusive categories. Players who fall under more than one of the above cohorts will rise quickly to the top of the value drainer list.

Justin Verlander falls under both categories 1 & 3. Max Scherzer belongs under category 3, but also partially in category 2 due to his 1.38 WHIP. Christian Yelich fell under categories 2 & 3 like Scherzer. Amed Rosario and Mitch Garver were mostly part of category 2, etc.

Whereas the 2019 value drainers were dominated by category 1 (players missing significant time), upon inspection – this year’s value drainers were driven more by combinations of the latter two categories. The reason for this is almost entirely due to the short season.

Fewer Category 1 Players – Aside from injuries in the first weeks of the season, players who were healthy for at least 3-4 weeks essentially played half of a season! Because 2020 was only 60 games long, injury time as a percentage of the season had a very unusual distribution this year.

More Category 2 Players – In a regular 162 game season, a poor month of April still leaves 5 months for a player to “right the ship.” A bad stretch in a full season is not so harmful, but a cold streak in a short season severely hampers aggregate seasonal value. See Devers, Rafael.

More Category 3 Players – This goes somewhat in hand with the reasons for category 2 players. The probability of hitting on an expensive player in the short season is lower than during a full season. To that end, auction drafters should have skewed their rosters more towards middle-middle players for 2020. Magnitudes of success (severity) were larger this year, but hits (frequency) were lower. Since we are capping values, value drainers are more a measure of misses (frequency) than anything else.

Assorted Player Notes

  • Christian Yelich led all hitters with a -$33.6 capped bargain. Max Scherzer led all pitchers at -$41.0. Yelich’s value was not capped, while Scherzer’s was.
  • Gleyber Torres is the first hitter on the list to have a capped value. He only hit 3 HRs and accumulated a .243 batting average, yet cost $27 to acquire.
  • Walker Buehler was the first pitcher on the list not to have a capped value. He coincidentally returned exactly the $1 replacement level roto value. Buehler was fairly decent with a 3.44 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP, with 42 Ks in 36.2 IP. His value drain came from only 1 win (unlucky), the limited number of innings pitched in 2020, and the high acquisition cost.
  • Gerrit Cole lists as the 18th largest value drainer, despite his successful 2020. Cole was far more valuable in snake drafts than at auctions, as most first-round players tend to be. Every season, you will see plenty of successful first-round type players on this list primarily because of the high pre-season cost.
  • The following players lost owners at least $20 of capped profit yet cost less than $20 to roster:
  • There are 9 players in the preceding bullet, which is more than typical. As mentioned earlier – magnitude of gains/losses were up in the short season. Everything was more variable!
  • None of the top 35 value drainers (for hitters or for pitchers) had an $AAV of less than $10. This is yet another short season oddity.
  • The most unprofitable hitters with an $AAV of less than $10 (not shown) were Khris Davis and Kevin Newman. On the pitching side, the most unprofitable were Jake Odorizzi and Mike Minor. All four of these players hit the -$5 value cap.
  • There are a number of “speed” players on the hitter list. There are two reasons for this. First, speed was purchased at a premium during auctions. This is typical. The second reason is due to a larger bust rate of speed players vs. others. As I previously have written, power hitters typically have a higher chance at retaining their auction cost as compared to speed centered players – but it was even more pronounced in 2020 with the short season.
  • The average cost of the top 35 hitter value drainers was $22.6. The average returned capped value for the group was $0.8. Comparing figures to last year, the average cost was almost identical in 2019, but last year’s average value was over $5. 2020 produced a far greater value drain due to the short season.
  • The average cost of the top 35 pitcher value drainers was $21.3, which was in line with last year. The average returned capped value for the group was -$1.8, lower than last year’s levels.
  • The relative effect [of the short season] on the magnitude of the value drain was larger for hitters than for pitchers. Pitcher value drainers hit the “cap” more often than hitters do.





Ariel is the 2019 FSWA Baseball Writer of the Year. 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 Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational - Beat the Shift Podcast (@TGFBI). 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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Christopher Gore
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Christopher Gore

Oh it’s like all my roster gathered for a party!