In last week’s edition of this series, we uncovered several undervalued speedsters for 2020 drafts. We did so by comparing the Steamer projections to current NFBC Average Draft Position reports. Today, we will go through a similar exercise for potential power bargains.
For this article’s draft value comparisons, I look at:
- The player ranks as computed by the FanGraphs Auction Calculator with Steamer projections (standard NFBC 15 team roto league settings).
- The current NFBC ADP (of Draft Championship leagues from November 27, 2019 to present).
In 2019, 5 players launched at least 45 round trippers (Peter Alonso 53, Eugenio Suarez 49, Jorge Soler 48, Cody Bellinger 47, Mike Trout 45). This differs quite a bit from 2018 where there was only 1 player with over 45 HRs (Khris Davis 48).
There were 5 additional players who smacked between 40-44 longballs (Christian Yelich 44, Alex Bregman 41, Nolan Arenado 41, Ronald Acuna Jr. 41, Nelson Cruz 41). In 2018 there were a total of only 3 players who hit at least 40 HRs.
2019 was certainly the year of the longball. Looking at the 35 HR threshold – in 2019, 28 players were able to meet or exceed this lofty power total. In 2018, that figure was a mere 15. The following table summarizes the number of players who exceeded key HR levels for the past few MLB seasons:
With all-time home run records being broken in 2019, we will have to set our power filters higher than ever for 2020. For this analysis, we will look at all hitters with a projection of at least 29 HRs.
First, here are the players selected within the top 30 ADP, who also have a Steamer projection of at least 29 HRs:
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||593||37||108||93||29||0.282||1|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||598||31||94||82||23||0.265||19|
The first key item to note is that this list comprises 19 of the possible 30 players. Additionally, there are 9 pitchers that are currently being selected in the first two rounds of drafts. That leaves only 2 players with an ADP of no greater than 30 with a HR projection of less than 29. One is Anthony Rendon, who just missed the list (28) – but Rendon did hit 34 HRs in 2019. The other is Trea Turner, projected for only 22 homers.
This differs from the stolen base population, in that we dubbed only 9 of the top 30 overall players as “speedsters.” Stolen bases are more difficult to deal with in drafts – there are fewer sources available, and as we have seen, the better speed options incur premiums in order to roster.
Power in some ways is easier to deal with than speed, in that there are a multitude of power options available at every stage of the draft – from the first few rounds, all the way to the endgame. At the same time, since power levels in baseball are on the rise, home run totals needed by fantasy teams are also on the rise. In fact, the home run environment has changed so drastically, that power today not only CAN be addressed – but NEEDS to be addressed at each stage of one’s draft.
There are two truths:
- Power is a-plenty.
- We need MORE power than ever.
I have talked about these juxtaposing notions on my podcast, The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational – Beat the Shift several times over the off-season. [We specifically addressed this topic on the December 12th episode with Ron Shandler.] At first glance, the two concepts seem to be conflicting pieces of information. On one hand, we see a desperate need to grab power, but on the other hand, power is everywhere.
Additionally, there is the question of when we need to roster home runs. Do we need to pound the power immediately, or can we forgo it early on and grab HRs in later rounds?
So how should we approach power in 2020 drafts?
I believe that the answer lies not in WHEN we need to acquire power, but in HOW we acquire it. The ‘when’ is at almost every single hitting draft slot – but the ‘how’ is the key. In 2020, power NEEDS to be purchased at a discount. More than any other category, home runs must be acquired via a price bargain.
Fantasy owners will be acquiring HRs both early and late in the draft, and everywhere in between. Nearly all roster slots have to amass power. The shrewd owner needs to be mindful – more than any other scoring category – to scoop up power efficiently and economically. Whereas it may be okay to buy some steals at a premium, the same isn’t true regarding home runs. If any article in this series needs to be considered more importantly than another this draft season – it would be this one.
Let’s now dive into potential power hitter bargains from the 3rd round and on:
The players above are ordered by their difference in Steamer Hitter Rank versus ADP Hitter Rank. Differences highlighted in GREEN are the players who are going later than their Steamer values indicate that they should; differences in RED show the overvalued players.
** Note that the above table has been updated from a previous version of this article, which used an earlier version of the FanGraphs auction calculator.
Unlike for speed, there are twice as many power hitters who appear as undervalued than overvalued. There are 31 bargains listed here in GREEN vs only 15 overcharges.
Before we jump in for a deeper dive on a few of these potential player bargains, we should note that there are only 3 players on this list that also appear on last week’s speedster list (Rougned Odor, Javier Baez & Austin Meadows). In fact, including the first and second round players, there are only 11 “combo” players that meet our power/speed thresholds of 29/14 by Steamer.
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||570||37||108||93||29||0.282||1|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||616||31||94||82||23||0.265||19|
It isn’t hard to see that one of these players is markedly different from the others. It is the one that can be acquired roughly 200 picks later than any other player on this list. The player I refer to of course is Rougned Odor, who is also the only player on this list which the market is currently discounting. Tuck that fact away in your back pocket.
Getting back to the home run bargains, let’s take a look at a few of the key power hitters that can be purchased at a profit:
Marcell Ozuna (Steamer Hitter Rank: 27, ADP Hitter Rank: 67, Overall ADP: 102)
It is hard to give a blessing for scooping up Ozuna without knowing which team he will sign with in 2020. Very often in the pre-season, drafters may discount a player (sometimes severely) who is not yet signed for the coming year. In addition, Steamer’s projection may or may not be a park neutral player evaluation, and at this time we aren’t sure of what his surrounding lineup will look like. In other words, this bargain is uncertain and will be in flux.
Although Marcell may very well be a steal this year, some of the resulting profit may be simply attributable to his unknown future contract status.
Justin Upton (Steamer Hitter Rank: 108, ADP Hitter Rank: 146, Overall ADP: 241)
In Justin Upton’s case, I feel that the exhibited player discount may result from too high a playing time projection. 547 at-bats coming off an injury-plagued season may be overly optimistic. Early ATC projections project Upton for only 481 ABs, which squashes much of the profit that Steamer is calculating. Although Upton may be a profitable injury rebound candidate, I’m not ready to call him a top value just yet.
Randal Grichuk (Steamer Hitter Rank: 126, ADP Hitter Rank: 176, Overall ADP: 285)
Amazingly, Randal was also the #1 power bargain last year according to the Steamer projections.
|2019 Steamer Projections||491||29||69||82||4||0.243|
|2019 Actual Stats||586||31||75||80||2||0.232|
|2020 Steamer Projections||502||30||72||84||3||0.245|
As far as the counting stats go, it seems that Steamer was nearly spot on in their 2019 projections. The batting average ended up worse than expected (although it came with an unlucky .266 BABIP). The power and speed were within range. RBIs were almost exactly correct and runs scored turned out better than expected. Steamer was indeed spot on … for the raw counting stats. But, in terms of stats per plate appearance, Steamer was a bit too heavy. Grichuk was able to make up for it by accumulating almost 20% more playing time than we had expected.
In short, there is no reason to think that Grichuk cannot do more of the same this coming season. For 2020, Steamer is projecting a very similar line to his 2019 figures. In fact, with Randal now a regular in the Toronto OF, the playing time projection may be low once again. Barring injury, the 30 HR threshold should again be attainable.
The verdict: Grichuk had a wRC+ in 2018 of 115. His skills diminished slightly in 2019 (90 wRC+). However, due to his increased role, Grichuk was able to meet expectations and was a power bargain. With an even lower ADP this year, Grichuk is again a low risk discount to fantasy owners.
Renato Nunez (Steamer Hitter Rank: 125, ADP Hitter Rank: 163, Overall ADP: 268)
Like Davis, Nunez sports a high flyball tendency (46% in 2019), together with high hard and medium contact rates. He also sported a high HR/FB% ratio in the first half, which collapsed in the second half likely due to several mid-season injuries. After the first half of 2019, he was on pace for almost 40 HRs.
Despite the 2H decline, Nunez was still able to exceed the 30 HR plateau and simultaneously drive in 90 runs. His batting average was poor – but it hovered right around where Khris Davis traditionally sits; he finished the season at .244.
Steamer is essentially projecting a repeat season for Nunez. It is possible that last season’s summer injuries cost him 5-10 homers and has depressed his price for the coming season. He also lost 3B eligibility heading into ’20 which does not help his perceived value. As a 30+ HR power source with 40 HR upside going in the 18th round, I believe that Nunez is a gamble worth taking.
Edwin Encarnacion (Steamer Hitter: 88, ADP Hitter: 125, Overall ADP: 205)
Edwin Encarnacion has been aging rather gracefully in his baseball career. He has now amassed over 30 homeruns in each of the past 8 seasons. In 2019, he was a 2.5 WAR player and he hit for a 129 wRC+.
Sure, his strikeout rate has been creeping up in the past few seasons, but at a snail’s pace. Sure, he no longer can effectively play the field – but E5 was never that great anyways. Sure, his batting average is in decline; he no longer is a .260-.270 hitter – he is now a .240 hitter. But these declines have been gradual in nature, and his old man skills (walking and mashing) are still terrific.
Last year we spoke about the undervalued Nelson Cruz. Part of Nelson’s depressed market value was due to the “Pumpkin Syndrome.” We all know that Cruz is terrific, but we also know that at some age – the clock would strike midnight. There would be some year that either his skills would completely collapse, or that he would begin to be ravished by injury. We just didn’t know which year it would happen, and the market annually priced in this risk.
This may be one of the reasons for Encarnacion’s low market value. Edwin will be playing in his age 37 season and has already shown signs of decline (however gradual it may be). While there is opportunity for profit with a healthy season, there indeed is age risk here – totally valid – for the longtime slugger. Essentially, the market is pricing in risk and feels that projecting an expected 578 plate appearances is a bit too high.
I believe that the right amount of risk lies somewhere in the middle. Very early ATC figures are projecting about 40 PA less than what Steamer has modelled. Steamer is a bit too optimistic on his durability, and the market has factored in too much pessimism. Encarnacion’s new home is now the South side of Chicago, and I do trust that he can flourish there. I believe him to be a small fantasy bargain heading into 2020.
Eddie Rosario (Steamer Hitter: 30, ADP Hitter: 63, Overall ADP: 97)
Those who have followed my writing and who listen to my podcast know that Eddie Rosario was one of my favorite bargains heading into 2019. He was also one of my favorite undervalued players prior to the 2018 season. Upon seeing his name close to the top of this list – I shouted, “There ya go!” I then subsequently banged my desk in awe and delight.
What amazes me is that Rosario was going earlier in drafts last year – by almost a full round. He then put up a fantastic 2019 season – hitting 32 HRs, knocking in 109 runs, scoring 91 runs while batting a very respectable .276. So why is Rosario going for even more of a discount now?
Rob Silver of Baseball Prospectus posted almost the identical question on Twitter earlier this week:
Eddie Rosario’s ADP arc is interesting to me.
2018’s ADP: 125
Finishes 2018 as player #51.
People are a bit sceptical so his 2019 ADP is a hedge at 81.63
Finishes 2019 at a nearly identical player #49.
2020 people are even more sceptical and his ADP has risen to 94.32. Why?
— Rob Silver (@RobSilver) January 5, 2020
Without going through several of the possible reasons why the market is discounting Rosario in 2020 (the Twitter thread above goes through them) – there is no reason to think that Rosario will not be worth at least his market price in his age 28 season.
The batting average should regress up slightly if any. His career BA mark is a few points higher than it was in ’19, while his BABIP was nearly 40 points lower than his norm. His FB% and HR/FB% rates are stable. His K% rate was at the lowest mark of his career in ’19. The Twins should compete once again for the AL Central title, with plenty of offense to sustain excellent run production.
The one area of his game which appears to be lacking is his running game; he only stole 3 bases in 2019. Of course, as a team – the Twins only stole 28 total bases last season. His dive in steals has more to do with the organization’s outlawing of thefts, rather than with his skills decline.
Similar as to Randal Grichuk above, with low risk – Eddie Rosario should be able to simultaneously provide fantasy owners with power and with profit.
For these last few names today, I am not going to do a deep dive on any. I simply want to point out that all four players:
- Have an ADP in the 10th or 11th rounds
- Provide power
- Are bargains
Kepler/Schwarber/Santana/Reyes make up one of 2020’s player hotspots according to Steamer. In any one specific draft that you participate in, all four of these players won’t be available in the 10th or 11th round. If one individual owner values Santana higher than others, Santana will be scooped up earlier.
However, since there are four – we are reasonably confident that at least ONE of these similarly profiled players will be available. That is – you can count on acquiring your power bargain in the 10th/11th round. You should even plan your drafting strategy around it ahead of time.
Finding player hotspots is a fantastic tool to implement in your draft prep. Along with the other players bargains found across the player pool above, we can also mine for potential profit using hotspots. Pencil in one of the members of the quartet into your draft day manifesto.
Ariel is the 2019 FSWA Baseball Writer of the Year. He is the creator of the ATC (Average Total Cost) Projection System. Ariel was ranked by FantasyPros as the #1 fantasy baseball expert in 2019. His ATC Projections were ranked as the #1 most accurate projection system in 2019. Ariel also writes for CBS Sports, SportsLine, RotoBaller, and is the host of the Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational - Beat the Shift Podcast (@TGFBI). Ariel is a member of the inaugural Tout Wars Draft & Hold league, a member of the inaugural Mixed LABR Auction league and plays high stakes contests in the NFBC. Ariel Cohen is a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA). He is a Vice President of Risk Management for a large international insurance and reinsurance company. Follow Ariel on Twitter at @ATCNY.