I ran the 2015 Steamer projections through Zach Sanders’ Fantasy Value Above Replacement system and compared the results to early ADP data. Below I’ve got a player at each position that the Steamer projections think are unlikely to live up to their draft day price.
Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
I wrote about Mesoraco at length last week for another publication, which you can read here. But the short story is that Mesoraco adopted a swing-for-the-fences type approach last year, and it worked to the extent that he did clear the fences more than any other catcher. However, the approach led to him making significantly less contact. His strikeout rate rose significantly yet his batting average also spiked thanks to some luck on balls in play. Early drafters are buying the breakout, drafting Mesoraco third among catchers, which is exactly where he finished at the position last year. But Steamer has him outside the top ten. You can read the other post for my full thoughts, but I lean toward the Steamer side here.
Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
It’s a bit weird to list Davis as a bust when he was such a bust last year. After being drafted top 20 overall last year, Davis barely cracked the top 20 among first basemen. But early drafters are hoping for a bounce back as he’s the 10th first baseman being selected on average. Steamer is expecting a bounce back as well, just not one that makes him a starting first baseman in 12-team mixed leagues as he ranks 14th at the position per Steamer. The big reasons for Davis disappointing were his ISO falling over 100 points, thanks to fewer fly balls and not hitting his fly balls as far, and his average being below .200 thanks to less contact and some rough luck against the shift, which Podhorzer discussed recently. I think the case for Davis at 10 as opposed to 14 is that no one else in that range has his upside, save maybe Joey Votto. But Steamer isn’t super optimistic.
Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Wong finished 2014 as the 13th ranked fantasy second baseman and drafters are expecting the sophomore to take a step forward while Steamer expects him to take a step back. He’s going eighth among second basemen, but Steamer has him ranked 15th at the position. I find it hard to go with Steamer on this one as Steamer is projecting 85 more plate appearances for Wong but one fewer and home run and three fewer steals. As for the power, Wong basically had a .165 ISO in AAA and a .139 ISO in his debut last year. I find it hard to believe he regresses to a .125 ISO as Steamer projects. And as for the speed, Scott Strandberg noted this offseason that Wong is 51-for-56 in steal attempts between AAA and the majors. With the extra plate appearances and a projected uptick in OBP, it makes no sense to me that Wong is going to fail to get to 20 steals again. As Strandberg also noted, the OBP is a concern as Wong’s walk rate post All-Star break was just 3.9%. But it doesn’t have to improve too much for Wong to be able to steal 25. The real problem with Wong is not really Steamer’s pessimism but that Wong’s ADP takes away any value he could have potentially had if he were being drafted in the position in which he finished 2014.
Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
Frazier seems like an obvious regression candidate, but drafters think he can repeat his top five third baseman performance. Steamer isn’t seeing it and has him 12th at the position. There were some signs that Frazier could improve off his 2013 season. His BABIP has swung from one end of the spectrum of the other, and it was on the bad end in 2013. And his HR/FB rate was lower than his career average. So it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect him to hit .255 with 23-24 home runs. But his BABIP swung all the way back to the good end of the spectrum, and his HR/FB rate was well above his career average, so he hit .273 with 29 home runs. His average home run and fly ball distance did improve by a decent margin, but it’s risky to think that rate and his BABIP stay on the high end of things. That doesn’t mean he’s going to crater, it just means we should probably expect him to land in the middle of the range he has established, even though he’s avoided the middle of that range. But even if his fortune continues, surely he won’t steal 20 bags again after stealing just 10 in the first three years of his career. Again, he shouldn’t collapse, but paying a top five 3B price for him seems risky.
Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Like Davis, it’s weird to list Segura here since he bombed pretty hard last year, but drafters are taking him eighth among shortstops. Meanwhile, Steamer has him 15th at the position after he finished 16th last year. As mentioned when discussing Davis, I can understand why drafters are taking Davis earlier than the projections would suggest because Davis has at least some chance of turning back into one of the top options at his position. But Segura does not have that upside. The league average wOBA over the last two years is .316, and in the 12 months of his career Segura has topped that mark in just three months. Two of those months were his incredibly hot start to the 2013 season. In those two months his ISO was basically .200, and it’s easily under .100 in the other ten months of his career. The other month where his wOBA topped .316 was September of 2014 when his BABIP was .373. He could improve a bit in average and thus steals with more turns on base, but unless that random power from the start of 2013 comes back, he really has no chance of being the eighth best fantasy shortstop or better.
Justin Upton, OF, San Diego Padres
Upton finished last year just outside the top ten outfielders and drafters have him just inside the top ten this year, but Steamer has Upton 32nd among outfielders. Presumably the move to Petco is driving the negative projection. Here is Upton’s projected triple slash line along with what he did last year and his career averages.
Whether you think that’s too pessimistic or not, it’s hard to argue that no decline should be expected. As a result, it’s hard to make a case for paying a top 10 price for Upton.