FanGraphs Points Leagues: What Hitters Will Be Underrated by Traditional Fantasy Rankings?

Last week, we looked at hitters who are likely to be overrated by traditional fantasy rankings when playing in ottoneu leagues using FanGraphs Points (built on linear weights).  Today, we’ll look at the other side of the coin: which players will have better value in lwts leagues than in traditional leagues?

Based on what we found last week about overrated players (steals, mostly), this is what I expected to find as the typical profile of someone who would be underrated by traditional fantasy rankings:
1) slow, with no steals
2) low batting average
3) high OBP
4) maybe someone who hits lots of doubles, but relatively few home runs.

Essentially, we’re talking traditional “moneyball” here, right?

To test that idea,went back to my simple ranking system, which is based on FG Points but adjusted for replacement level (specific to ottoneu’s rules) at each position.  Here are the top 10, along with ESPN player rater rank:

1. Jose Bautista 3B (#7)
2. Albert Pujols 1B (#3)
3. Miguel Cabrera 1B (#5)
4. Joey Votto 1B (#4)
5. Josh Hamilton OF (#6)
6. Robinson Cano 2B (#8)
7. Carlos Gonzalez OF (#1)
8. Adrian Beltre 3B (#17)
9. Troy Tulowitzki SS (#18)
10. Joe Mauer C (#60)

Aside from Mauer, they’re all pretty close!  Certainly nobody was underrated to the degree that Juan Pierre was overrated as discussed last week.  And the thing with Mauer seems to be an issue not with Mauer himself, but with a difference in how ESPN and I implement position adjustments (I think I’m right, but who knows?).  Even looking through the top-100 in my system, it was very difficult to find someone who is massively underrated in a lwts league based on the ESPN player rater.

Next, I went to the FanGraphs leader board for 2010, sorted qualified players by OBP, and looked for guys with unusually low batting averages.  That seemed like the obvious place to look for underrated players.  Here’s a few:

Prince Fielder: .261/.401/.471
Jose Bautista: .260/.378/.617
Mark Teixeira:  .256/.365/.481
Adam Dunn: .260/.356/.536
Bobby Abreu: .255/.352/.435
Ben Zobrist: .238./.346/.353
Carlos Quentin: .243/.342/.479

And here are their ranks in “my” ranking system for a FG Points league vs. EPSN’s player rater:

Fielder: 41st vs. 65th
Bautista: 1st vs. 7th
Teixeira: 56th vs. 43rd
Dunn: 34th vs. 50th
Abreu: 115th vs. 56th
Zobrist: 125th vs. 100th
Quentin: 97th vs. 105th

Wha??  So, here I’m intentionally targeting classic “moneyball” players–guys with huge differences between their AVG and OBP–and they’re all doing quite well in fantasy baseball.  In fact, some of them actually may have been “overrated” relative to their value in a lwts league!  The average rating of this group via my ranking system was 67, but by the ESPN player rater it was 61.  This was a surprise.

A nice feature of the ESPN player rater is that it gives us the components that go into their rankings for each category.  Let’s look at these components for our “moneyball” players:

Prince Fielder 1.96 2.71 1.65 -0.45 0.0
Jose Bautista 2.46 5.15 3.00 0.49 -0.1
Mark Teixeira 2.59 2.82 2.47 -0.57 -0.3
Adam Dunn 1.67 3.38 2.31 -0.57 -0.1
Bobby Abreu 1.77 1.38 1.48 2.25 -0.4
Ben Zobrist 1.4 0.27 1.39 2.25 -1.2
Carlos Quentin 1.27 2.05 1.78 -0.34 -0.9
Averages 1.87 2.54 2.01 0.44 -0.4

None of these guys rewards you with their batting average in traditional roto.  That’s by intent.  But the interesting thing is that all of these players still have other attributes that help them rate well in traditional fantasy.  All are everyday players, and competent hitters who get on base, so they all have at least decent runs scored and RBI totals.  And all of them also seem to have other skills that rate well in roto, which makes up for their batting average limitations.  For example, most of the guys who are on this list also have substantial power, which results in a) good HR totals, and b) a tendency to bat near the middle of the order and rack up RBI’s.  And, for those with middling power, they seem to have speed to make up for it (e.g. Zobrist and Abreu).

Surely there are some guys who are underrated!  So I kept looking for guys with above-average OBP’s but below-average AVG’s.  Chris Young?  Nope, steals.  Figgins?  Nope, steals.  Lyle Overbay?  Some power, and not very good anyway given the strength of his position.  Even after going through every qualified player with an above-average OBP, I really could not find anyone who was grossly underrated by traditional fantasy rankings.

I’m sure that there are players out there who could fit this mold.  A 2010 Ben Zobrist, but with zero speed, for example, would fit.  But they are pretty rare.  And, at least in 2010, they didn’t have full time jobs.

In short, it’s much easier to be overrated by traditional roto than to be underrated when playing using FanGraphs Points.  So, avoid the pure speed guys.  And you probably should also avoid Joe Carter-type players with high batting average, RBI, and HR totals, but low OBP’s.  But aside from that, you’re going to do reasonably well with traditional fantasy hitter rankings playing in a FanGraphs Points league.

We hoped you liked reading FanGraphs Points Leagues: What Hitters Will Be Underrated by Traditional Fantasy Rankings? by Justin Merry!

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Justin is a lifelong Reds fan, and first played fantasy baseball on Prodigy with a 2400 baud modem. His favorite Excel function is the vlookup(). You can find him on twitter @jinazreds, even though he no longer lives in AZ.

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Mauer was the first name that came to mind. He doesn’t look that much better than the low AVG, 20+ HR catchers in 5×5, but he’s a doubles machine and points rewards his general awesomeness.

John Jaso is a lower-end C who is better in points. A .335 wOBA hitting leadoff is solid in the C slot. Good walk rate, low HR.

Also, Daric Barton.