Where My Rankings Diverge

Recently, those of us at Rotographs who share a specialized interest in Ottoneu released our dollar values for 2017. We finished this process last Friday with our rankings of SP and RP. Today I thought it would be interesting to see where I diverge from Chad and Justin, both in optimism and pessimism. Our values are different in that I ranked everyone based on what I believe their value to be for 2017, accounting for the trade value prospects posses. Neither Justin or Chad ranked prospects, however, so I have excluded them from this analysis. Beyond prospect, I knew there would be some divergences.

Dollar Differences
Name Team Elig Justin Joe Chad C&J AVG Diff
Aaron Sanchez Blue Jays SP $4 $16 $12 $8 $8
J.D. Martinez Tigers OF $28 $33 $23 $26 $8
Freddie Freeman Braves 1B $35 $40 $30 $33 $8
Alex Reyes Cardinals SP $1 $8 $0 $1 $8
Shawn Kelley Nationals RP $13 $8 $18 $16 -$8
Jose De Leon Dodgers SP $12 $6 $15 $14 -$8
Maikel Franco Phillies 3B $14 $8 $20 $17 -$9

I did not expect to be the high man on Aaron Sanchez. I like him just fine, but wouldn’t consider myself to be a strong supporter. I guess I’m more optimistic than I thought. I want to focus on him today.

In my rankings, I have him with the tier of young pitchers of James Paxton, Jameson Taillon, Robbie Ray,  Julio Urias, Daniel Duffy, Aaron Nola, and Jon Gray. That’s how I’d rank them, with those names spanning $10-$20 by my values. I could certainly see an argument for anyone in that tier depending on your preferences, so shuffle them up if you feel so inclined. However, why is my ranking $8 higher than Chad and Justin? The first reason I can think of is likely because projections are not kind to Sanchez. Despite his successful 2016 season, the depth charts here (a 50/50 Steamer/Zips blend) call for regression on Sanchez in the HR department. Considering this is Ottoneu Fangraphs points, those added HR cause large swings in pitcher values. Additionally, Sanchez does not have the strikeout upside that some of the other’s in this tier posses. He also plays in the AL east in a somewhat unforgiving park.

While I don’t expect him to post elite strikeout numbers, his heavy sinker  raises the floor on potential a potential HR surge. (Link to leaderboard in table heading)

Name # Sinkers Velo Whiff/Swing GB/BIP HR/9 FIP xFIP
1 Aaron Sanchez 1603 95.44 14.93% 60% .70 3.55 3.75
2 Noah Syndergaard 840 98.49 16.22% 60% .54 2.29 2.67
3 Johnny Cueto 660 91.93 14.98% 60% .61 2.96 3.42
4 Yordano Ventura 582 96.89 17.06% 60% 1.11 4.59 4.59
5 Clayton Richard 498 91.19 15.53% 70% .53 4.17 4.41
6 Robert Gsellman 296 94.16 19.21% 63% .20 2.63 3.38
7 Chad Bettis 287 91.76 16.13% 62% 1.06 4.26 4.14
8 Carlos Carrasco 266 94.05 22.03% 61% 1.29 3.72 3.32
Average 16.15% 61% .71 3.44 3.67

As Dave Cameron pointed out with Robert Gsellman, sinkers that get both whiffs and ground balls are rare. Sanchez, who is top-25 by both metrics on his sinker, does both. On top of that, he threw nearly double the amount of sinkers as others with this elite pitch. While many others at the top benefit from other elite pitches, and variety, Sanchez is using his elite sinker the majority of the time. The fact that he can still maintain top groundball and whiff rates, while throwing the pitch constantly, is impressive.

Certainly he would benefit from inducing less contact and raising his K rate, but even if he doesn’t I see him as a comfortable mid tier SP with upside. I’d take him over every SP under $10 in our rankings without hesitation.

Alex Reyes, Shawn Kelly, and Jose De Leon all have similar justifications.

With Reyes, I believe that in spite of his tommy john surgery, he will still have trade value this season. Give his potential upside, it is unlikely that, even at $8 teams rebuilding would not take a chance on him. Even if competing, I would be trying to hold him. So, I’m higher than Justin and Chad, who don’t have him (correctly) with 2017 production value. De Leon, is a case where I don’t expect him to play enough to justify his price. Tampa Bay is notoriously stingy with promotions and playing time, unless it’s advantageous for them. My projection is based on him only accruing 60-75 innings in the big leagues, as I don’t expect Tampa will have much reason give him a full season’s worth of innings. Kelly is a similar situation as I expect Washington to acquire a closer to take the role from him. While I think he would be a competent closer, the loss in role would ding him a bit.

J.D. Martinez was one name I expected to be higher than everyone else on. Which will flow into my bold predictions. As I look at the OF landscape for 2017 two things stand out. First, that Trout is in a tier by himself (a $20 price increase over out #2 OF). Second, that beyond Harper, Betts, and Stanton (Bryant at 3B) there may not be a $30 outfielder in 2017. With Bautista, CarGo, Springer, Blackmon, and Braun ranking ahead of him, I see a bit of profit potential on JD. He is my 5th OF, with Springer ranking just behind him (both in the low 30s). Since 2014, he has put up .391, .372, .382 wOBA seasons and projections have continued to project him near .355. While I definitely encourage everyone to build their values off projections, this is one area where I would bet against them.

Freddie Freeman, like Martinez, was someone I expected to be higher on than my constituents. Depth Charts, and our ranks, have him at the 5th 1B. So we are all in agreement there. However, Justin and Chad both have him between $30-$35, While I have him at $40 – basically at the bottom of the 1st tier.  I can’t say I disagree too much with Justin or Chad here, but I think the changes Freeman made in 2016 are significant and data from statcast helps to support this. In fact, he may have actually under-performed. I’ve linked to Andrew Perpetua’s piece on the changes to Sun Trust park. He does a deep dive into Freeman that you should check out.

Lastly, Maikel Franco. There are certainly things to like about Franco. He strikes out at a below average rate while maintaining power, and that skill is uncommon. Many of the best hitters in baseball have that skill. However, Franco also has two major warts as I see it. First, he hits infield fly balls at a very high rate (14.8% in 2015, 17.1% in 2016). Second, he does not hit the ball to the opposite field (16.6% and 19.8% over his first two seasons). When you have a pop-up problem, and you can be shifted heavily, it is unlikely that you will post league average babip rates. On top that, the middle tier of 3B is deep, and while he is in the same tier as Moustakas, Lamb, Kang, and Castellanos, I prefer each to Franco. He is a useful player. I would definitely own him near $10, but at the $14-$20 range that Justin and Chad value him at, I’ll pass.

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Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades

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Out of curiosity, do each of you create your own projections for every player or do you use a projection system and adjust to your specifics?

Justin Vibber

I use a weighted average of multiple projection systems to generate my $ values. I then make only minor manual adjustments.