The 2024 Most Polarizing Hitters

Hate on ADP all you want, but it provides valuable information. In no way, shape, or form should an ADP list ever be used as your official rankings to draft off of. However, it absolutely should be consulted to learn how the market values a particular player, a type of player (power or speed, etc), or even a position group. That could help inform your decision on whether to draft a player now or risk waiting another round. It’s also fun to find out which players are the most polarizing, as in, which players fantasy owners don’t seem to agree on a value for, and therefore end up with large differences between their Min Pick and Max Pick numbers.

So today, I’m going to dive into the NFBC’s default ADP filtering for drafts between Feb 1 and right now, which is March 2 as I type this. I wanted a large enough sample size, but didn’t want to go back too far before free agents were signed and trades were made. I’m going to limit this exploration to hitters only. I also filtered for hitters averaging pick 16 and later.

The Most Polarizing Hitters
Player ADP Min Pick Max Pick Difference Super Secret Ranking Formula*
Bryce Harper 17 2 26 24 22.1
William Contreras 71 17 103 86 15.5
Lane Thomas 110 30 161 131 14.5
Max Muncy 166 48 250 202 14.2
CJ Abrams 41 16 63 47 11.8
Corey Seager 29 13 50 37 11.6
Mike Trout 59 26 97 71 11.3
Justin Turner 241 82 298 216 11.1
Spencer Steer 102 54 193 139 11.0
Whit Merrifield 269 98 347 249 10.9
Cody Bellinger 58 28 98 70 10.8
Yandy Diaz 126 51 176 125 10.7
Elly De La Cruz 26 12 41 29 10.6

Though I can’t seem to remember the article(s) I’ve posted in the past where I try to compare differences between ADP/rankings, I know I struggle to calculate which pair of Min Pick and Max Picks represent a wider gap in value. To clarify, we know that there are larger gaps in value between the first rounders compared to the 10th rounders. So even though a Min Pick of 1 and Max Pick of 8 for Player X represents a seven pick difference, the value gap is significantly larger than when comparing picks 251 and 258.

*In order to account for this, I used a formula that estimates an auction value given an ADP, calculated the Min Pick and Max Pick dollar values, and then took the difference. Finally, I sorted in descending order of dollar value difference to account for earlier picks stepping down in value quicker than later picks. Let’s get to the names.

I’m pretty surprised to find Bryce Harper’s name way up at the top. The default ADP list includes all NFBC leagues, but I don’t believe any of their formats uses OBP instead of batting average, so it’s baffling why he would have been selected second overall! At the beginning of May, Harper returned rather quickly from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in late 2022, and enjoyed another strong offensive year, though probably a bit below his own standards in fantasy leagues. Much of the power decline could be explained by his lowest FB%…ever, so it’s merely a matter of just getting that back up into the mid-to-high 30% range and he’ll be back to flirting with the 30-homer plateau, to go along with double digit steals.

Ahhh William Contreras, the catcher I drafted for a relative bargain in LABR mixed this year, and now I understand better. For some reason, he’s giving fantasy owners problems figuring out his value. Heck, someone apparently liked him so much, they drafted him 17th overall! One issue is that his HR/FB rate was nearly cut in half last year, but that was offset somewhat by a significant improvement in strikeout rate. He also hits way too many ground balls for someone with his power skills, and although it’s helped his BABIP, it ain’t good for his home run total or ISO. Even with the down power, he was a strong all-around contributor last year and should threaten to lead all catchers in PAs, while hitting in a good spot in the Brewers lineup.

Last season, Lane Thomas upped his Barrel%, which in turn resulted in a HR/FB rate spike, all the while his BABIP jumped above .300 for the first time. He also chipped in 20 steals, suddenly becoming a strong four-category guy, without hurting in batting average. He’s overperformed his xwOBA two years running now, so will his good fortune finally run out, or is he doing something the equation is failing to account for? Those drafting him as early as 30th overall are hoping for the latter, while those owners passing on him until someone finally took the plunge at pick 161 are expecting the former. He wasn’t much of a prospect leading up to his MLB debut, so it’s hard to gauge where his true talent lies, but all the projections are calling for typical regression.

You’d think a 33-year-old veteran like Max Muncy would be easy to value! Wow, that is one massive differential between his Min Pick and Max Pick. But you know he’ll kill your batting average, but also give you 30 homers, unless he only gives you 21 like in 2022 when his HR/FB rate suddenly plummeted. The only warning flag I see here is a career worst SwStk% last year, coupled with his highest strikeout rate since 2018. He has also sold out for fly balls, but his BABIP can’t really get any lower, so might as well milk that power for all that it’s worth.

Well gee golly, talk about a fantasy breakout, CJ Abrams! From just two home runs and seven steals during his 2022 debut over half a season, to knocking 18 homers and swiping 47 bases in about double the PAs in 2023. Naturally, fantasy owners are now having a tough time deciding how much of that was real. I think the power is at least close to repeatable, so it really comes down to his steals. He went an incredible 47 for 51 on stolen base attempts last year, so he’s clearly a good enough basestealer to continue running wild. But that doesn’t automatically mean he will. And odds are he’s not quite successful again. He also owns a weak OBP, so he has to run a high percentage of the time he reaches base. The risk here is that his manager finally realizes a .300ish OBP has no business batting leadoff, and burying him at the bottom of the order will really knock down his counting stats.

Are injury questions confounding fantasy owners when deciding whether to draft Corey Seager? Or perhaps they aren’t sure whether he bats the .245 he did in 2022 or the .327 he did in 2023. Health continues to remain a question mark here, but performance does not.

As a veteran fantasy player, it has taken a lot to get comfortable with the fact that not only is Mike Trout no longer a first-rounder, but he is now not even a top-50 fantasy player! Injuries have really ravaged his recent seasons, as he last crossed 600 PAs in 2019, and has only played 140 games once in the past five seasons (excluding 2020). His power was off last year, as he posted his lowest HR/FB rate since 2016, despite an in-line maxEV and typically elite Barrel%, while his strikeout rate spiked to a career worst. Adding to the reduction in fantasy value is a complete lack of stolen bases. Once a true five-category fantasy stud, he’s stolen just six bases total in the last four seasons! So the steals are absolutely gone, making him far more generic than he used to be. I feel like he’s probably a good gamble at this price even without the steals, and my gosh, certainly at pick 97!

Justin Turner signed with the Blue Jays end of January/beginning of February, so that shouldn’t have impacted the Min Pick/Max Pick numbers here, so it’s surprising to see such disagreement about the veteran. I don’t know who’s drafting him inside the top 100, and I also don’t know what kind of league lets him slip to pick 298! His strikeout rate has been slowly creeping up, his Barrel% hit its lowest since 2015, and he’s entering his age 39 season. So I’m not exactly bullish here and he seemingly does warrant more of a value disagreement than other, younger veterans.

The projections like Spencer Steer a lot less than the market, as he both overperformed his xwOBA, and also is at risk losing playing time if he hits a slump, given how overcrowded the Reds roster is with talent. On the surface, everything looks pretty decent, though there’s little chance he repeats that .318 BABIP, which means he’s going to be neutral at best in batting average. He also had stolen just 17 bases throughout his entire minor league career before swiping 15 with the Reds last year, so one wonders if he’ll keep up the running with the new steals-friendly rule changes implemented last year. There’s too much risk here for me at his ADP, but I’d surely steal him at pick 193!

Is the pick gap for Whit Merrifield a disagreement on playing time? Do some expect him to play regularly, while others expect him to fill a utility role, but I guess still earn enough PAs to earn value at picks 300-347? Despite his advancing age, he still owns a touch of power, with good speed and is clearly a bargain at this ADP if he had a full-time job. But Bryson Stott is the Phillies’ starting second baseman and they simply have better players at the outfield spots he could play, though it’s possible he earns some PAs over Johan Rojas. Unless he could find himself with regular playing time, I wouldn’t bother stashing him away, especially as early as just inside the top 100, which seems nuts.

Cody Bellinger’s ADP did improve slightly after resigning with the Cubs, and perhaps rerunning this only after he signed wouldn’t produce as wide a gap. There are lots of question marks about his performance last year. He dramatically reduced his strikeout rate, back to his 2019 and 2020 years, can he sustain that rebound? His HR/FB rate rose for the second straight season from the dead, since bottoming at sub-10% in 2021, but his Barrel% fell to a career low of just 6.1%. His maxEV, meanwhile remains stuck below 110 MPH. His BABIP jumped to a career high, despite remaining a fly ball hitter and posting an almost identical batted ball type profile to his career average, where he owns just a .285 career BABIP. Finally, he significantly overperformed his xwOBA, posting a .331 mark, well below his .370 actual wOBA. All the question marks scream to me that it’s not worth paying market price here. However, he’s still just 28 years old, so he could easily morph back into his elite self that we saw back in 2017 and 2019.

It’s no surprise to find Yandy Diaz’s name here after he cleared 20 home runs for the first time, while also hitting .330, for his best fantasy season yet. He did overperform his xwOBA by a bit, but his numbers mostly look legit. That said, can he do it again? He’s shown this kind of HR/FB rate power before, so that shouldn’t really be in question, but perhaps his .367 BABIP is. Given that even his career best 22 home runs is barely above replacement level in a shallow league, fantasy owners needs a big batting average to justify his cost. I don’t like betting on batting average, so he’s not my cup of tea.

This wouldn’t be a post about polarizing hitters if Elly De La Cruz was missing from it. So I intentionally ended this list here. The top prospect in all of baseball, with future power and speed grades of 70, was electric for fantasy owners during his 2023 debut. He was a lot less so in real baseball, as his .305 wOBA disappointed, driven largely by an inflated 33.7% strikeout rate. So where’s the disconnect? Perhaps fantasy owners are thinking about how his season progressed. He debut with fireworks, posting a .375 wOBA in June, when he first debuted. Since, he posted wOBA marks in the low-to-mid .280 range each month thereafter, while his power disappeared in September. His HR/FB rate also declined each month, as did his BABIP. So from the charts, it certainly looked as if “pitchers figured him out”. I don’t really get wrapped up in half season splits, let alone monthly splits, but surely that’s playing a large role in his pick range. All I can say is that he’ll need to get that FB% way up to fully utilize the massive power in his bat.

********

So tell me — which side of the aisle do you shop in when eyeing these polarizing hitters, the bullish or bearish side?





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

17 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
dickaspis
1 month ago

I’m staying far away from Elly. Love the speed but he’s going to hit like .170 this year.

DoubleJ
1 month ago
Reply to  dickaspis

Championships are won with risks at the *bottom* of the roster, friends.

I sold high on Elly in a keeper league last summer. Never looked back and doubt I ever will.

cartermember
1 month ago
Reply to  dickaspis

While I agree with you, the new stance is at least something to monitor. If his contact rate improves he might be better than a lot of us expect…but I agree, early pick, not really much upside built into his cost but a whole hell of a lot of downside.

Last edited 1 month ago by carter
cartermember
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

Heh, right. I guess I was stating the obvious. But my main point was there is not a ton of upside at his current cost. But we have seen some guys make tremendous strides in K rate (Acuna) but then other guys like Matt Olson had a season where he was a contact hitter somehow, then reverts back to striking out a lot and has his best season ever.