A month ago, I compared “name-brand” and “generic-brand” players using blind résumés, an exercise we’ve reiterated across several authors and years at RotoGraphs. A few years ago, you’d never find me in a mock draft, let alone several in one preseason. (More a matter of blocking out three hours on a whim, but also I probably (very foolishly) thought I didn’t need to partake in such trivialities.)
I’m super, super into the whole slow draft mock thing, though; I’ve completed a few this preseason, and I think they have already helped me understand the kinds of market inefficiencies (i.e., differences between perceived and actual values) that will arise on draft day. One of the easiest ways to identify said inefficiencies is to compare similarly skilled players, then assess their other pros and cons — the intangibles, if you will, such as health and age — to determine who’s the better value.
Here are a couple more pairings:
Comparison #1: Five-Tool Guys
This is one of the better blind résumés I’ll ever compile, dare I say. Each player hits for modest power, steals bases at rates bordering on elite, and hits for high average. None walk a ton, but all use their wheels to hit for high batting averages on balls in play (BABIP), helping to offset this deficiency.
What’s obscured here is how each hitter’s playing time has been accrued the last two seasons. No. 66 broke out in 2017 and logged a full season’s worth of plate appearances for the first time; #78 mostly served his teams in a super-utility role in consecutive seasons; and #84 recorded the most plate appearances of his career after a 2016 season shortened by injury — which is, frankly, an apt way to describe most of his career. All three produce nearly identically, yet one stands above the rest with more prolific speed: #78, who, in case this decision needed to be a little more difficult, is a free agent in search of (but not guaranteed) another super-utility role or something more.
All are defensible picks in the first five or six rounds of 15-team leagues (seven to nine rounds of 10-team leagues). However, #66 had a much earlier “maximum” average draft position (ADP of 72nd, compared to 102nd and 112th for the other two). He’s the shiny new toy — not saying this disparagingly, but compared to his contemporaries, he just is — and will almost assuredly be drafted a couple of rounds before the others when it finally matters in February and March.
I understand any reluctance to draft a player without a certain role (or even a team). Still, I’d roll with #78, if only because he’s slightly better and healthier than #84 and he buys me at least one or two more rounds (as many as three or four in smaller leagues) to acquire #66’s skill set, almost to a ‘T.’ One or two rounds of additional marginal value created for other lineup slots are integral to arbitraging value in the early rounds where it matters most.
*plus that multi-positional eligibility
Comparison #2: Great-but-Not-Excellent Power Hitters
(Alternatively, Dime-a-Dozen-but-Still-Underrated Power Hitters)
I intended to focus on #147, but as I found more and more similar hitters, I cultivated more and more fantasy implications. And with five hitters to compare, there are so many ways to hack this up. Again, all five hit for unappreciated amounts of power with league-average batting averages and the occasional stolen base.
Let’s start with the top three, clumped almost perfectly together in the 6th round of 15-team leagues (right next to Cain!). No. 80 is the model of consistency, currently; #82 has youth on his side but has yet to put together a cohesive, consistent season; and #83 was one of the models of consistency prior to his relatively disappointing 2017 season. If one had to pick, one might be inclined to select #82 based on his superior isolated power (ISO) and an extra couple of stolen bases. However, #80 will likely give you an extra 10 points of batting average — over the course of 650 plate appearances that’s nothing to sneeze at. And #83, while slightly deficient in speed, has shown #82’s power before coupled with a batting average superior to both #80’s and #82’s.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have #147 and #153 who… hit for more power? And hit for just as much batting average? And compile more counting stats on a rate basis? And also steal enough bases to keep you honest? What’s with the discount? My high school English teachers would roll in their graves if they were dead (but they won’t, because they’re alive) for my flagrant overuse of rhetorical questions, but I’m not sure actually they’re rhetorical. I’m sincerely curious: why are #147 and #153 so underrated? It can’t be attributed to Major League Baseball’s currently power-saturated run-scoring environment because all five hitters specialize in the same skills. And it’s not a matter of injury, as each has averaged more than 600 plate appearances the last two seasons.
This was supposed to be about #147, and it still is. He plays for a decidedly awful team (although the blame lies mostly on its rotation, not its lineup) whose window of contention is still forthcoming, yet he has assembled a robust fantasy profile the last two seasons. As I alluded, though, maybe this is #153’s time to shine — #147, who has been doing the same ol’ thing for so dang long that we’ve all taken it for granted. (It floored me just now to learn he only recently entered his 30s. I bet if you knew who it was — if you don’t already — you’d have tacked on an extra three years to his age.)
It’s perfectly acceptable to draft the mid-80s sluggers at their aforementioned price point just inside the top 100. (In fact, I have already drafted #80 several times in mocks this preseason, albeit a round or two after his ADP, typically.) Among 14 player-seasons compiled by the trio the last six seasons, seven hit top-100 value (50%) and 13 hit top-150 value (93%). In a world where no players bust, this is disappointing; in a world where, realistically, as much as 40% of players bust, this high floor is delightful and welcomed.
Ultimately, I’m fading the former three to wait on both #147 and #153 (both, because if I can snag them in consecutive picks in a snake draft, I will). No matter my needs at that junction of a draft, I will happily select these two at their currently prices; I have routinely reached for #153 this preseason because I can’t resist “overpaying” for his mis-priced stock. It also seems like I should pay better attention to #147, too. In eight player-seasons compiled by these two, just one has fallen outside the top-85. That’s not only consistency but also massively underrated ability.