The UT-Only Market is Booming

I remember entering 2020 drafts thinking the UT-only pool was interesting given some star power headlining it and some sneaky later round guys who could earn eligibility elsewhere but still had to be drafted in the UT spot. It’s always been a soft market given that a lot of fantasy managers are afraid to fill the UT spot too early. OK, maybe “afraid” is overstating it, but they are certainly reluctant to do so just in case a late round gem at a position they already have filled comes available.

It turns out that 2020 had nothing on this 2021 UT-only market. It’s booming! The NFBC is using 7 games in 2020 for eligibility so keep that in mind as we look at this pool. First, a quick look back at the 2020 UT-only factors:

Cruz, Alvarez, and Ohtani were the only three in the top 150 while Davis was a popular rebound pick and Andujar and Solak were sleepers. Cruz crushed per usual and Solak gained 2B/OF eligibility and stole 7 bases to earn his keep but the rest were stone cold busts.

This year’s pool features five players in the top 150 plus a host of once-great veterans in the late rounds.

Yordan Alvarez | 86 ADP

Alvarez is still firmly in the top 100 despite getting both knees scoped and missing virtually all of 2020 (9 PA). I would prefer any of the other four top 150ers over Alvarez in early drafts. I may feel better about him in the spring after seeing him on the field, but until then he’s a pass. Steamer still loves him (144 wRC+, 37 HR in 552 PA). I believe he’s a fantastic hitter, I just need to see him healthy.

Nelson Cruz | 88 ADP

I’m not running from 40-year old Cruz. There’s just nothing in his profile that suggests any real measure of fall off incoming. I get that drafting age can be scary as an overall rule, but don’t let that cloud you from the outliers. Cruz is special. He’s David Ortiz.

I learned from my routine passing over of Ortiz in his final 4-5 seasons only to watch him deliver surplus value on his draft slot year after year after year. He had that 2009 blip (100 wRC+) and everyone thought he was done. Instead he dropped seven more elite years (148 wRC+, 32 HR/yr) with only 2012 cut short by health (90 games). He regularly went at least a 1-1.5 rounds later than he should’ve, often ranging in the 3-5 round range of net value. Cruz was the 26th best hitter in 2019 and 27th in the shortened season.

J.D. Martinez | 99 ADP

A disastrous 2020 plus UT-only has Martinez teetering on the cusp of the top 100. After maintaining a blood red StatCast profile for years, he dropped to pink in the key categories.

Martinez StatCast Profile
Stat 2019 Percentile 2020 Percentile Difference
Barrel 83% 73% -10%
Hard Hit 90% 63% -27%
Exit Velo 88% 63% -25%
xSLG 94% 62% -32%
xBA 97% 27% -70%

Martinez can’t be completely written off at age-33 and this ADP reflects that the market is being careful not to forget him. It’s a noteworthy and earned discount, but it’s still an impact pick. Don’t let him drop too far in your league.

Giancarlo Stanton | 112 ADP

Even in the shortened season, his season came up way short. He played just 23 games and while his 143 wRC+ was good, it just wasn’t enough. The goodwill from his 317 games over 2017-18 has worn off with just 166 total PA over 2019-20. He will still have his believers and his obscene playoff run (1.426 OPS, 6 HR in 31 PA) will bring back some, but that group is shrinking yearly.

Franmil Reyes | 145 ADP

We knew this one was coming. The best part of his trade from San Diego to Cleveland was that he’d come off the field and just focus on raking. He didn’t exactly dominate with a 112 wRC+ and 9 HR, but he did finish 116th on the Razzball Player Rater. I still see him as a 40-homer bat so I’m definitely buying him at this price.

I’m passing on Alvarez and Stanton, but open to buying any of the others. There are some deep league veterans in the UT-Only pool, too, with Miguel Cabrera (451 ADP), Khris Davis (491), Edwin Encarnacion (590), Yoenis Cespedes (595), Daniel Vogelbach (668), and Howie Kendrick (677)

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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1 year ago

The dipped EV for Nelson Cruz nor the uptick in K% aren’t to be dismissed when evaluating his 2021 value. His batting profile went to 30% FB from 40% FB, and to compensate a huge HR/FB% did a fantastic job. He pulled FBs 13% more this season taking most of the distribution away from hitting up the center suggests he was compensating for some loss of power. He did benefit his LD profile by hitting more Med% balls to keep his BABIP strong but it shows a steep drop off for LD Hard%.

While this is still a worthy and elite hitting profile, the declines in EV and slight increases in SwStr% are difficult to overcome without the best hitting possible. At 40, losing EV is a sign things are in motion, and I’m fairly certain had 2020 been longer, we may have started to see more decline.

He should be valuable in 2021 but drafting him is like playing the Penguin trap game with only two icicles to pick keeping the game alive.