Hitter Auction Calculator Awards: Nobody Saw You Comin’ Award 2023

To qualify for this totally made-up award, a player must have earned positive value by the season’s end (2023) 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.

2022 Finalists: Jon Berti, Brendan Donovan, Brandon Drury

2023 Finalists: Josh Lowe, Jake Burger, Nolan Jones

Finalist #1: Josh Lowe, Projected: -$27, Earned: $22

Steamer PA projection: 367, 2023 PA: 501

Lowe had been a touted prospect for a number of years as he came up the Rays farm system ranks and in 2023, he lived up to his potential. In 2022, he had nearly 200 plate appearances in the big leagues but did not stick with a 33.3% strikeout rate hitting only .221. Down in AAA, however, he stole 25 bases and hit 14 home runs while hitting .315. Lowe had clearly outgrown AAA, but projection systems likely had a hard time determining his playing time for 2023. Most projection systems had Lowe in the range of 320 to 380, but the Rays rolled him out in 135 games in 2023 and he accumulated 501 PAs by season’s end. It seems odd that a player who hit 20 home runs would have a negative mHR value, but in a world where 50 qualified players whose primary position is in the outfield hit 21 home runs on average, Lowe needed a handful more dingers to return positive value. However, the combination of speed and power (20-20 season) and a near .300 batting average (plus positional adjustments), allowed Lowe to return a fantasy profit of over $20 in total. That made him good for the 16th-best outfielder by our auction calculator.

For the most part, Lowe’s power and speed combined very nicely with opportunity in 2023. It might not be wise to count on Lowe to continue hitting near .300, but he should probably be expected to continuously hit above league average. He swung outside of the zone too often in 2023 and continued to strike out over 20% of the time. His statcast expected batting average of .277 discounts him somewhat, but it’s not by a huge margin. Lowe hits the ball hard, has speed, and seems like a natural high BABIP player who will fuel average to above-average hitting lines for years to come.

Josh Lowe Career Rolling Chart (O-Swing, FB%, Hard%)

Josh Lowe 2023 Value
Value POS PA mAVG mRBI mR mSB mHR Dollars
Steamer Projected OF/DH 366 -$6.39 -$13.24 -$13.87 -$0.39 -$8.65 -$27
YTD OF/DH 501 $3.85 $0.61 -$2.68 $6.54 -$2.48 $21
*Steamer Projections

Finalist #2: Jake Burger, Projected: -$48, Earned: $8

Steamer PA projection: 99, 2023 PA: 540

Thanks to way more plate appearances than expected and 34 bombs, Burger returned positive value. That is, sadly, the only aspect of Burger’s game that generated positive value. His 27.6% K% and 5.9% BB% represent the mark of a power hitter with a lot of swing and miss. Just take a look at his statcast percentile rankings:

Burger Statcast Percentiles

I won’t try to project Burger for 2024 or beyond, but as a 27-year-old, he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2026 and won’t hit free agency until 2029. It will be interesting to see what the Marlins do with Burger next season as Jean Segura and Joey Wendle hit free agency. However, the point of bringing him to Miami at the deadline was likely to add some pop to the lineup and you could certainly expect Burger to provide that next season for fantasy teams as well…as long as he stays in the lineup.

Jake Burger 2023 Value
Value PA mAVG mRBI mR mSB mHR Dollars
Steamer Projected 99 -$1.14 -$22.02 -$23.81 -$4.77 -$12.23 -$48
YTD 540 -$3.27 -$0.25 -$2.68 -$3.99 $5.43 $8
*Steamer Projections

…and the award goes to…

Finalist #3: Nolan Jones, Projected: -$49, Earned: $8

Steamer PA projection: 91, 2023 PA: 424

Jones earned himself 94 plate appearances in 2022 with the Guardians and was traded to the Rockies in November of that year. In 187 AAA plate appearances in the Rockies system, he dropped his AAA K% and increased his BB%. Those improvements may have been easy to miss since his slash line also jumped to .356/.481/.711, the highest marks of his career for each stat. When he was brought up to the big-league roster in Colorado, his K% increased and his BB% decreased, but his power stuck around and suddenly, he became a base-stealer. The highest stolen base mark he had reached in his minor league career, 10, came in 2021 in AAA. Now, Jones has a 20-20 season under his belt and a 2023 MLB slash line of .297/.389/.542.

Nolan Jones 2023 Value
Name POS PA mAVG mRBI mR mSB mHR Dollars
Steamer Projected OF 91 -$0.51 -$22.50 -$-24.00 -$4.47 -$12.80 -$49
YTD OF 424 $3.71 -$5.44 -$5.55 $2.46 -$2.47 $8
*Steamer Projections

Much like Lowe, Jones’ value came from stealing bases and hitting for average. Yes, he hit 20 home runs but so did 22 out of 50 qualified hitters with a primary outfield position. It is hard to imagine Jones continuing to hit for a high average with a K% nearing 30%, but perhaps Coors Field will give him some wiggle room. He did have a .401 BABIP in 2023 and that certainly fueled his unexpectedly high average.

Congratulations to Nolan Jones on an amazing season and to any fantasy managers who rostered him.

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Another Old Guymember
5 months ago

Great article! I just want to point out the Marlins released Jean Segura. He was briefly picked up by Cleveland and released on August 1st. I had a fantasy team suffer through my patience with him as I kept looking at his much higher BABIP.