Bad Hitters With an Early ADP

In 2019, I participated in AL LABR and struggled to stay out of the cellar. Coming out of the auction, I thought I would accumulate too many stolen bases but could trade one of Mallex Smith or Dee Strange-Gordon. I ran into the simple problem, they played themselves out of their jobs. From that point forward, I told myself “I will no longer rely on sh##ty baseball players”. Talent declines during a draft, but I don’t want a core piece of any team demoted to the bench or the minors. I’m going to examine a few hitters drafted in the first 10 rounds and fall into this playing time trap.

Looking back at Smith and Gordon, I should have had an inkling that they’d disappoint. Going into the season, Steamer projected Smith for a .695 OPS and Gordon for a .664. For the 2020 edition of The Process (after the fact research), I researched the production level needed to keep a hitter in a lineup. Depending on the player’s defensive ability and position, the average production level that gets a hitter demoted is between .600 OPS and .650 OPS with the average being around .635 OPS. The following chart shows the chances a player’s in-season OPS may drop to knowing their projected OPS.

While Smith had about a 22% chance of dropping below the .650 mark, Gordon was almost starting there. There was just too much downside risk to rely on either one as a foundational piece.

Since that point, I’ve tried to roster core hitters with a projected OPS over .750, preferably .800. Hitters in the .800 group have a 91% chance of maintaining replacement-level production.

The following are the ten hitters with the lowest projected Depth Chart OPS who are being drafted in the first 150 picks of NFBC ADP (first 10 rounds of a 15-team draft)

Worst Real-Life Hitters Being Drafted Early
Dylan Moore .686 113
Jonathan Villar .705 142
Kyle Lewis .709 132
Tommy Edman .713 128
Adalberto Mondesi .726 26
Dansby Swanson .745 109
Eric Hosmer .749 134
Starling Marte .750 53
Cavan Biggio .760 58
Whit Merrifield .764 40
Tim Anderson .774 45

Here are my thoughts on a few of them.

Dylan Moore and Kyle Lewis

Moore came out of nowhere last season and hit eight homers to go with 12 steals in 38 games. The steals and homers are safe, but projections have him barely getting on base with just over a projected .300 OBP. His power is hovering around the .400 SLG range. He just on the edge of being viable and with Shed Long Jr. on the team, Moore could head to the bench if he struggles at all.

While Lewis has a bit more projected power than Moore, he also struggles to get on base. And Mariners have a ton of major league outfielders, so Lewis can easily be platooned or demoted. Winning the Rookie of the Year Award will give him some leeway, but many rookies hit the sophomore slump.

Even when Seattle isn’t winning, they’ve been willing to demote players as seen with Smith and Strange-Gordon. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if either one struggles.

Jonathan Villar

Just look to 2020 for how a top fantasy pick struggles so much he’s on the bench by season’s end.

Tommy Edman

Edman helps fill a team’s stolen base void while being qualified at nearly every position including tight end. But he could struggle as he did with his .685 OPS last season. The Cards didn’t move him from the top of the lineup so maybe he’s safe again. Or maybe after three months of a sub.-700 OPS they’ll demote him.

Adalberto Mondesi

Mondesi struggled to start 2020 and steadily dropped down the Royals lineup.

On September 3rd, he had a .440 OPS and looked to be a fantasy bust. From that point on, he posted a 1.130 OPS and gave fantasy managers enough to make him a second to third-round pick this year. I won’t be one of those managers taking the gamble.

Dansby Swanson

Swanson has been playing a yearly game of add 50 points to my OPS going from .636 to .699 to .748 to .809. Projections have him repeating his 2019 production, but signs point to him improving with his launch angle and max exit velocity up. It’ll be interesting to see if the gains stick.

Eric Hosmer

Hosmer has finally been adding a little loft to his swings going from -1.5 degrees in 2018 to 2.0 in 2019 to 8.7 last season. The extra lift helped him post a career-high .231 ISO.

His two 2020 months (156 PA) combined for his best “season” ever (.851 OPS). It’s tough to put too much stock in them when he posted a .728 OPS (1344 PA) over the previous two seasons.

Starling Marte, Cavan Biggio, Whit Merrifield, and Tim Anderson

These four are projected to produce at or above the .750 OPS threshold and are being drafted highly because they can steal bases. I find it’s better to pay up for one of them than take my chances will a weaker-hitting rabbit.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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1 year ago

AKA why you should punt steals

1 year ago

Or focus on points leagues.

1 year ago

I’m sure a lot of us do leagues w overall prizes which makes it massively -EV