It is now that time of year when your inbox pings and dings with notifications from Ottoneu. Is that a good trade proposition? Should you keep player A? Are you over-paying player B? These are all questions you should be asking yourself this off-season. Luckily, FanGraphs has all the data you need to make informed decisions. Here are three easy steps you can take this offseason to ensure you’re ready for your Ottoneu re-draft.
1. Merge your league rosters with new 2023 projections.
In order to do this you need two things:
(a) a fresh .csv download of auction calculator values (both pitchers and hitters) using steamer projections, tuned to your specific league settings.
(b) your league csv, which you can easily download by clicking on the tools icon at the top of your Ottoneu league page.
From there, you’ll need to merge your new 2023 values with your current players. Here’s an example from one of my teams:
You can do two things with this table. First, you can compare the salary you’re paying a player with what Steamer 23′ thinks a player is worth. Clearly, I am overpaying Taylor Walls. Steamer thinks he’ll be worth negative value, so realistically if I wanted to keep Walls going into 2023, he would need to only be $1 with a lot of upside for that keep to make sense. Second, you can use the same process to see where your league mates stand. If you know your competition is underpaying a few players, you could target them as off-season trade candidates.
2. Use the roster organizer to place cuts on any over-paid players and decide if any players have trade value.
From the way my top five over-paid players table looks, I’ll be clicking over to the “Roster Organizer” tab and making a few cuts. This is a nice tool because it allows you to see how your budget changes depending on what cuts you make. Not all over-paid players need to be cut, but most of them should be cut or traded. Maybe you’re only overpaying by a few dollars and you think a league mate might be interested, slot them into the trade category. On the flip side, you can look for a few players that you are underpaying, but don’t believe in. It’s possible your hunch could be right, but it’s pretty hard to outsmart the projection systems.
3. Analyze your team’s needs for the upcoming season.
Now that you have your roster all organized and tidy, it’s time to figure out what you need for next season. Take your team exactly how it is and calculate the points your players will provide per category. My Ottoneu leagues are all FanGraphs points leagues, so I can take a steamer projection .csv, merge on my players and total out the points they will score based on the projections:
Without being able to compare to other teams, this bar graph only gives me a general sense of my offensive projections, but what I can tell is that my team is full of high-average players. Here’s a breakdown of where my points are coming from:
From what I see above, I believe I’ll need to shop for some power this off-season. It’s time to start looking for low-power/high-average players that I may be overpaying and use them as trade chips to acquire more power.
Breaking your and your league mates’ teams down in this way will give you the opportunity to make informed keep/cut, trade, and draft strategy decisions.
Tye Tolberman sat in his favorite armchair on the coldest day of mid-January in western Maryland, steam coming off his morning coffee as he looked out the window. He took one glance at the ice covering his driveway and decided he just wasn’t going outside today. On his side table sat a pile of unopened letters, a checklist of things needed to be done, and a printed-out spreadsheet a friend had given him the last time he went east to see the Bowie Baysox play last summer.
“It fell out of some scout’s binder the last time I was here. He went flying out of there after the starting pitcher got taken out, so I couldn’t catch him to give it back”, his friend told him as they sat and took in a night game. “Anyways, you can have it if you want. I’m not wasting my time with that fantasy baseball crap this year. I’ve got too much real life to live”, and he placed it in the hands of ol’ Tye Tolberman, manager of the going-on 14-year-old “Buck’s Bucks” fantasy team.
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In 2022 the average number of plate appearances among big leaguers was 121. A plate appearance marks any time a player walks up and digs into the batter box. Each spit, every toe twist, and all of the glove-tightening times in the box accumulate together into plate appearances. Let’s start with the easy one. Who had the most? Marcus Semien. He had 724. In fact, he had exactly 724 last season as well. That’s roughly 4.5 plate appearances per game.
He played in 161 games in 2022 and he wasn’t even the player who played in the most games this year. That would be 162 games and, actually, two players did it; Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson. Teammates! The Ironman Cal Ripken, Jr. averaged 4.3 plate appearances (12,883) per game (3,001) for his career. What Semien, Swanson, and Olson did this year is special. It should be an award in itself. If it is already and I don’t know it, don’t blast me. But I’m pretty sure people would just say, “Oh, an award just for showing up?” and I would argue that showing up is rare these days.
Here’s a histogram of 2022’s every plate appearance:
What was the best possible fantasy combination of infielders (1B, 2B, SS, 3B) this season? That is an easy question to answer if you use the year-to-date settings on the auction calculator and you simply look at the best player at each position. It would look like this:
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, $33.7
2B: Jose Altuve, $25.2
SS: Trea Turner, $32.5
3B: José Ramírez, $31.2
But, if you were in a 12-team roto snake draft and were able to get both José Ramírez and Trea Turner, you likely played in a league full of clowns. J-Ram’s average draft position (NFBC) was 3.2 while Turner’s was 1.2. It’s unlikely any fantasy teams had both of those top players. So, what was the best possible infield within reasonable ADP? Here’s how I tried to answer this question.
How do you really know how well a pitcher’s fastball will perform before the season starts? You don’t. You basically just make an educated guess. Choosing good fastballs from the previous year seems to be a good way to go. But, choosing changeups that performed well in the past can bite you. While it may seem silly to get this micro, this niche, it can be a lot of fun to make picks before the season begins, and then forget about them. There’s no IL, no waiver claims, and no bench to ride. It’s just your preseason picks and the ever-rolling season and when it ends, you get to look back and either ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”, or, you get to puff your chest out and spend the winter months assuring yourself that you are a pVal prediction wizard. Pitching coaches should really be calling you when spring training kicks off again. Let’s take a look at where each of us FanGraphs contingent pVal competition participants finished out the 2022 season. As a reminder, here are all the picks you can make, provided to us by our friends at Pitcher List.
To qualify for this totally made-up award, a player must have been projected to earn positive value in the stolen base category (mSB) on our Auction Calculator (default settings, steamer projections) and negative value in every other category. They then needed to earn positive value in at least three of the four non-SB categories (mR, mHR, mRBI, mAVG).
Finalists: Bobby Witt Jr., Daulton Varsho, Dansby Swanson
Surely there will be plenty written about Bobby Witt Jr.’s rookie season in fantasy realms this offseason. His preseason projections were likely low due to the uncertainty of his playing time/call-up situation. It was clear that he was going to be good. But, would you have guessed he’d finish as the fifth-best third-baseman by auction value earned? It was clear that he was going to steal bases, and in the end, that’s what drove his value. If you look at any one of his 15-game rolling charts not involving base running, it would tell you a story of a 22-year-old rookie who has a lot of potential but may not have lit the world on fire in his first year. It happens.
Witt outperformed all of his roto-category projections except for his batting average. He was projected to hit .257 and he hit .254. Not bad, steamer projections. Compared to his 2021 AAA stats, his line-drive rate was down and his ground ball rate was up. He also put out fewer fly-balls for home runs than he did in AAA. However, he still showed that he has the 22-year-old ability to absolutely smoke the ball with his 92nd Statcast percentile maxEV. But, he had a difficult time with major league four-seamers, putting up a -7 Statcast run value and a 23rd worst (among qualified hitters) -2.6 pitch-info p-val on wFA. However, Witt accumulated 632 plate appearances in his rookie season (second behind Steven Kwan) and that experience must be worth a few extra dollars going into 2023.
One thing to keep in mind is Varsho’s increased projected value due to his eligibility at catcher. The positional scarcity earns him a higher value. But, Varsho was a catcher-eligible player who was expected to run and he did not disappoint, stealing a career-high (MLB) 16 bases. He also put together a close-to-full season with 592 plate appearances in 151 games. He was a workhorse this season and everything but his batting average (.234) showed it.
However, these roto-value gains don’t seem to be accompanied by much underlying Statcast data:
He did catch 31 games in 2022, so depending on your league rules, he may or may not be eligible again at the catcher position in 2023. Regardless, no matter which way you look at it, 27 home runs and 16 stolen bases at the catcher position in 2022 play nicely on any fantasy team under any league parameters. For a player who has only had roughly one and a half seasons at the major league level, I’m looking forward to seeing his 2023 projections.
…and the award goes to…
As Swanson heads into free agency this offseason, his 2022 totals indicate that he intended to make a statement. In 2022 he put up the most plate appearances of his career, scored the most runs, hit the most RBI, and stole the most bases. He also put up his lowest BB%, which didn’t help those rostering him in OBP leagues. His K% has been on an upward trend in the past three seasons, but so have his home run totals, FB% and SwStr%.
Is he selling out for power? Maybe. But he also outperformed his batting average projection (steamer) of .245 by over 20 points (.277) and the 2022 major league average was .243.
Don’t call him a rabbit, but he did run, stealing a career-high 18 bags. However, he’s not being given this award because he stole bases, he’s being given this prestigious award because he did everything else.
Congratulations to Dansby Swanson on an amazing season and to any fantasy managers that rostered him. Next week, I’ll begin my dishing out these highly coveted awards to pitchers.
To qualify for this totally made-up award, a player must have earned positive value by the season’s end (2022) and show the largest difference in projected value versus end-of-season value. Simply put, I subtracted earned value from projected value, called it ‘Diff’, and sorted descending. It should be noted ahead of time that these three players were negatively valued due to very low plate appearance projections.
Finalists: Jon Berti, Brendan Donovan, Brandon Drury
Finalist #1: Jon Berti, Projected: $-27, Earned: $6
PA projection average: 183, 2022 PA: 404
In his age-32 season, Jon Berti stole 41 bases. He did it in 404 plate appearances. The next four hitters with the most stolen bases in at least 400 plate appearances (Jorge Mateo, Cedric Mullins, Tommy Edman, and Randy Arozarena) averaged 620 plate appearances. Berti swiped the most bags in the majors this season and did it in significantly fewer PA’s than his competition. He was only caught stealing five times. Unfortunately, Berti’s value was driven solely by base-stealing production. Though he finished the year with a .240 average (MLB: .243) and a .324 OBP (MLB: .312), his four home runs squashed his run production. He finished the year with only 47 runs and 28 RBI. If you go to the Auction Calculator and sort by mSB, you’ll find that Jon Berti is the first on the list, but that the next 16 players all returned more overall value. Regardless, a $33 difference in what was projected and what was earned means that if you paid $1 for Berti, you made a profit and that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Finalist #2: Brendan Donovan, Projected: $-32, Earned: $3
PA projection average: 19, 2022 PA: 468
Check Donovan’s FanGraphs blogroll and you’ll see that he’s been written about thoroughly in the past few months. Eric Longenhagen’s July 1st ranking of Donovan placed him 7th in the organization and he really nailed this bit:
“Donovan grinds out great at-bats, he is tough to make chase and even more difficult to beat within the strike zone”
Donovan’s profile and prospect write-ups may eliminate him from the “Nobody Saw Him Comin'” qualifications, but I certainly did not see/hear anyone touting him prior to the 2022 season. Like Berti, Donovan was limited to one single category when it comes to returning a positive value, but he certainly helped fantasy managers playing in OBP leagues who rostered him. Among hitters with at least 450 PA’s in 2022, Donovan placed 7th in OBP with .394, finishing right behind Juan Soto who finished the year at .401. He did so with an excellent 12.8% BB%, well above the league average 8.2%. One more great quality of Donovan’s in 2022 was his ability to play all over the field. Here’s a count of his games played at each position from his player page:
2022 Games Played:
2B: 38 3B: 31 RF: 20 LF: 19 1B: 16 DH: 16 SS: 7
While Donovan’s year was a success from a player standpoint, it would be hard to consider him a full roto fantasy asset in 2023.
Finalist #3: Brandon Drury, Projected: $-31, Earned: $17
PA projection average: 56, 2022 PA: 568
Drury cooled off some between the first half (133 wRC+) and the second half (107 wRC+), but stayed above average to end the season (123 wRC+). During the trade deadline, Luke Hooper detailed Drury’s improved batted ball skills, including an increased barrel rate coupled with a career-low swinging strike rate. But realistically, Drury finally found consistent playing time. His 568 plate appearances beat his career high of 499 back in 2016 and blew his 2020 49 PA’s and 2021 88 PA’s out of the water. But Drury also tapped into some pull power in 2022, pulling 22 of his 28 home runs over the fence. Yet it would seem like an easy route to take to boil Drury’s production down to simply increased pull power. Yes, his batting average on pulled balls was .385, good for a 237 wRC+, but he also showcased above-average (SLG .457) production on opposite-field batted balls at .523, most of which came off of line drives:
Finally, like Donovan, Drury played all over the field and gave fantasy managers flexibility:
2022 Games Played:
3B: 67 1B: 30 2B: 27 DH: 26 SS: 2 RF:1
In truth, it’s hard to look at Drury’s 2022 stats and notice huge sweeping changes beyond the steady accumulation of PAs. Sometimes, players get opportunities and make the most of them.
Congratulations to Brandon Drury on an amazing season and to any fantasy managers that rostered him. Next week, I’ll take a look at the overall largest differences in projections versus earned value with the Don’t Call Me a Rabbit Award.
To qualify for this totally made-up award, a player must have earned at least $5 by the end of the season and accumulated at least $5 more than expected. This query logic allows for players who we already knew would be good, but we just didn’t know would be this good.
Finalists: Aaron Judge, Paul Goldschmidt, and Freddie Freeman
Finalist #1: Paul Goldschmidt, Projected: $19, Earned: $34
The man has never really been bad, but if you had faded him in your rankings headed into his age 35 season due to some of the dips witnessed in 2o21, it’s likely that no one gave you a hard time.
If you didn’t fade, you came out with a player who exceeded his z-scores in every single category excluding stolen bases, but even his stolen base value was nearly average with 7 on the year. Here’s a look at his projected and earned value:
Goldschmidt has very little in his skills profile that would indicate an age decline. There is hardly anything that has gone through significant change or deviation from his career averages. Simply put, he has been one of the most steady and productive fantasy players in history and if you had him on your team, you were likely one of the top teams in your league.
Finalist #2: Freddie Freeman, Projected: $26, Earned: $33
Freeman was the 12th most valuable player listed on the preseason auction calculator (steamer, default settings) and the fourth best player with 2022 YTD settings. It should not be a surprise that he finished as a top-five hitter, but if you got Freeman and you didn’t overpay, you generated some good value. There was very little time this season that Freeman’s 15-game rolling wRC+ was below 100.
Freeman outperformed his z-scores in every category except for home runs. He was projected for 32 and he only hit 21. While his HR/FB rate may indicate that he was unlucky, his HardHit% declined this season and has been declining over the span of the last four seasons. Freeman ended the year with a 12% HR/FB while the league averaged 11.4%:
Finalist #3: Aaron Judge, Projected: $27, Earned: $55
Are you surprised? Judge was slept on this season. I write that knowing his ADP was in the third round, but I think many fantasy managers were hesitant due to his injury history. Sure, Judge outperformed all of our projection systems’ home run totals by over 20, but did you see those 16 stolen bases?! This was one of the most dominant fantasy seasons by a single player in a long time. The only player to come close to his end-of-season $55 value was Miguel Cabrera’s 2014 $44.8 and Mookie Betts‘ 2018 $44.0. That’s just what happens when you break the American League (AL) single-season home run record and make a push for the AL triple crown. It is truly remarkable what Aaron Judge did this season from a fantasy perspective. To think that he could have been a 20-20 player with only four more steals is somewhat mind-boggling. Anyone who rostered Judge was taking a risk. Here’s a look at his “Five-Year Injury Log” courtesy of Ron Schandler’s 2022 Baseball Forecaster:
18 – 50 days, right wrist fracture
19 – 62 days strained L oblique
20 – 34 days strained R calf
21 – 12 days COVID-19
Fantasy managers who realized the potential in a healthy Aaron Judge season likely gambled and took him early. If you saw his $27 pre-season projected value and thought, “No, that can’t be right”, and you tacked on an additional $20, you would have still underpaid by $8. Simply amazing.
Congratulation to Aaron Judge on an amazing season and to any fantasy managers that rostered him. Next week, I’ll take a look at the overall largest differences in projections versus earned value with the Nobody Saw You Comin’ Award.
The 2022 version of Bullpen Report includes five different sections, as well as the closer chart, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
We will always include a link to the full Closer Depth Chart at the bottom of the Bullpen Report each day. It’s also accessible from the RosterResource drop-down menu and from any RosterResource page. Please let us know what you think.
The “RosterResource” link will take you to the corresponding team’s RosterResource depth chart, which will give you a better picture of the full bullpen and results of the previous six days (pitch count, save, hold, win, loss, blown save).
Click HERE to view the full Closer Depth Chart.