In 2018, there were 43 qualified players with least a .280 batting average. There were 32 players above the .290 mark, and 16 above .300. Mookie Betts led all of baseball with a .346 BA, followed by his teammate, J.D. Martinez who hit for .330.
Prospective projections though, are typically more conservative. Steamer only projects 11 regular players to bat over .290 in 2019, and only 5 players to hit for at least .300. For the following analysis, I will focus on all players with a Steamer projection of a .280 BA or more. That should give us a nice group of players who can greatly help your team’s batting average in upcoming fantasy season.
For these 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 January 24 to present).
Below are the players selected within the top 30 ADP, who also have a Steamer projection of at least a .280 BA:
These 14 players are projected to provide a nice batting average base for your draft. Juan Soto, a 2nd year player, just missed this list at an ADP of 31.
Below are all of the remaining players in the draft pool with a Steamer projection of at least .280 BA:
The players above are once again 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.
What is nice about this list, is that it contains quite a diverse range of player types and situations. Included in the player set are:
- Injury bounce back players
- Power hitters
- Rookies / Top Prospects
- Part time contributors
- Steady Year to Year players
The fact that these batting average contributors are so diverse in their makeup, might make it easier for you, the knowledgeable drafter – to focus on average before your competition contemplates the task. Every year, I see many fantasy players focus on only accumulating counting stats. Batting average counts nonetheless – and needs to be addressed. You will also find it easier to collect a low BA / one category contributor later on, if your batting average kicked off on excellent footing.
Ketel Marte (Steamer Hitter Rank: 88, ADP Hitter Rank: 126, Overall ADP: 207)
Ketel Marte flashed a touch of power last year, hammering 14 round trippers. I have always viewed Marte as more of a speedster than anything else; his low 6 stolen base total last year was somewhat surprising to me.
Looking at the power, his HR/FB rate has been ticking up in recent years. It is one peripheral reason that he may be able to sustain double-digit homers.
As for his batting average, which has hovered around .260 in the past few seasons – his BABIP was somewhat lowish for a player with excellent speed (.290 in 2017, .282 in 2018). Steamer is projecting a jump all the way to .280!
The increased batting average projection, as well as a jump in his walk rate in the 2nd half of last season – should lead to more opportunities for stolen bases. He currently projects to be the leadoff hitter in Arizona, and any increased volume of plate appearances would surely help his counting stats.
My word of caution is in his platoon splits. He is a far better hitter vs. left-handed pitching than vs. right, which could ultimately lead to a good-side platoon split (possibly with Jarrod Dyson taking away some of his ABs?).
He is not my favorite player on this list, but if you buy Steamer’s batting average upside projection, he is a solid mid-to-late round selection.
Adam Eaton (Steamer Hitter Rank: 106, ADP Hitter Rank: 129, Overall ADP: 210)
Eaton, who is being drafted right around Marte in the early 200s – is the better player from a pure batting average perspective. Eaton has eclipsed the .280 mark in each of his prior 5 seasons in the majors. With his batted ball profile improving throughout last year (GB% down 6%, LD% up 11%), he is a good bet to achieve that for a 6th straight season.
Long removed from his 15/15 destiny, Eaton’s plate skills are still excellent. He should still supply fantasy owners with a good source of runs if he bats at the top of a very good Washington lineup.
Health is the larger concern for Eaton, as he hasn’t managed to stay on the field for a full season since he played on the Southside of Chicago. The Nationals are loaded with capable outfielders, and I worry a bit for Eaton losing playing time to others.
In terms of boosting a team’s average, you could do worse with a 15th round pick according to Steamer – who projects a return to double digit power and steals.
Justin Turner (Steamer Hitter Rank: 55, ADP Hitter Rank: 72, Overall ADP: 113)
Justin Turner is a player that I call a “Low Variance Projection.” That is, all of the projections I look at come close in their 2019 projections.
20 HRs, 4 SB, ~.295 BA, 75-85 Runs & RBIs.
With an 11.5% strikeout rate over the past two seasons, a mid-20s LD% rate, a ~30% GB% rate, and a .319 career BABIP – His batting average looks to be rock solid. While it is tough to pencil in a .300+ BA, bet the over on .285+.
Turner always seems to be undervalued at fantasy drafts, but he shouldn’t be. He is a 4-category contributor … he does everything other than steal.
There is risk attached with Turner – health risk. He only played in 103 games last season. At age 34, he could ultimately lose a few at-bats to Max Muncy or to others, as the Dodgers have many options in the infield.
Jose Peraza (Steamer Hitter Rank: 62, ADP Hitter Rank: 56, Overall ADP: 90)
Let’s dive into Peraza’s batted ball profile and contact/plate patience:
Jose’s walk rate is ticking up, and his strikeout rate was nicely down last year. The mid .280s BA that he hit last year can absolutely be sustained.
What about his power? His groundball rate has been moving downwards, and it has translated into a corresponding fly-ball uptick. Peraza hit 14 HRs last year, 10 of which were in the 2nd half alone. Mid to high teens power is very possible for Peraza.
And his speed? As good as ever – you can bank on the mid-20s stolen bases, or more … if the plate skills persist.
Peraza also has a better lineup surrounding him, so expect a small climb in run production counting stats to boot.
Jose Peraza is not a bargain according to Steamer; he is going roughly in the spot that Steamer suggests he should. However, since speed is at a premium once again in 2019 drafts – the fact that he can be acquired at par value means that he is nicely priced. If you miss on someone like Starling Marte earlier on, Peraza is an excellent fill-in with upside.
Other Assorted Notes:
- Buster Posey is shown as the top batting average bargain. As a catcher though, the magnitude of his bargain may not be as high as indicated here. First, as I don’t know exactly how the replacement level for catchers are set in the FanGraphs Auction Calculator; it is possible that the catcher bump may be too great. However, even if the theoretical bump is accurate – the market for catchers may be depressed depending upon your specific league tendencies, which would skew this analysis.
- As batting average is not a counting statistic, players who accumulate more playing time are more beneficial to your roster. For example, you will get more BA benefit from a player with 500 ABs and a .290 BA, then from a player with only 250 ABs and a .295 BA. Some of the bottom players on the list above (R. Tapia, W. Astudillo, J. Martinez, E Nunez, G. Hampson) won’t have as direct of a full season impact as the others on the list would.
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.