CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
The BP First Take: Tue... (02/14)
No Previous Column
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks:... (02/15)
Next Article >>
Everyone's Perfect: Wh... (02/14)

February 14, 2012

Preseason Value Picks

First, Third, and DH for 2/14/12

by Michael Street

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

For those who have just fallen in love with fantasy baseball, draft day can seem like a box of chocolates: you never know what you might get. Will you get the coveted chocolate caramel, the dreaded orange cream, or the boring plain milk chocolate? Of course, savvy fantasy owners know to come armed with projections and predictions, and the wisest fantasy owners look to Baseball Prospectus for guidance. What better way to distinguish coconut from cherry-filled chocolate—or next year’s Matt Kemp from Carl Crawford?

Like any fantasy lover, I tore into last week’s PECOTA release with reckless abandon to come up with some sweet finds for next season—aka the players predicted for the biggest turnaround (or, if you like, the ones you can catch on the rebound.) Using the Player Forecast Manager, I found the corner infielders and designated hitters with the heftiest projected increase in dollar value, excluding those who are projected to remain below the $5 threshold or who missed most of last season. Rankings are based on a 12-team mixed league, and Average Draft Position (ADP) comes from mockdraftcentral.com.

Chris Davis | 1B/3B | Baltimore Orioles
Mixed: $10 | AL-only: $15 | PECOTA Rank: 130 | ADP: 390
PECOTA Projections:

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

584

.262

25

3

82

72

Long a fantasy stathead darling, Davis has been a frequent topic of discussion in my column, and I covered his keeper prospects in one of my first offseason Keeper Reapers. There, too, I noted his oft-cited potential, and PECOTA seems to agree, at least as far as the power goes. Davis tops this list because of his awful performance last season, at least as measured in fantasy dollars. Hitting a combined .266/.305/.402 (.272 TAv) in 201 plate appearances for Texas and Baltimore, Davis lost his mixed-league owners $12.25 while earning a measly $1.50 for those who took a shot at him in AL-only leagues. That equates to a swing of more than $22 and $13, respectively, between his 2011 value and his 2012 projected value—the biggest differential among corner infielders and designated hitters, though expectations remain modest.

Davis’s PECOTA-projected .262/.301/.466 triple-slash line (.272 TAv) portends gains in the power department, adding 20 longballs to the mere five that he launched in 2011. That more of those 2011 homers came proportionally in Texas (three in 89 plate appearances, vs. two in 129 plate appearances for Baltimore) should give potential owners pause. Davis’s gimpy shoulder undoubtedly contributed to his power outage, and his 10 percent HR/FB rate was only matched in weakness by the 3.4 percent HR/FB he put up in 2010—a year of sporadic playing time that created much inconsistency.

Davis decided against offseason surgery on both his shoulder and sports hernia, adding fragility to the question marks surrounding a guy who hasn’t kept his strikeout rate below 29 percent in the past three seasons and whose swing percentage on pitches out of the strike zone peaked at 45.6 percent last season. This will be Davis’s last chance to fulfill his potential, and he has much to prove in a tough division and in a ballpark that hasn’t been friendly to him. This uncertainty has pushed his Average Draft Position well below his projected rank, however, making him a good selection as a late-round, low-dollar flier. Davis is more like the Jordan Almonds you pluck out of the box of chocolates when only the boring Messenger Boy is left—not a bad choice, but not anything you’d want when better options are still available.

Adam Dunn | 1B/DH | Chicago White Sox
Mixed: $8 | AL-only: $13 |
PECOTA Rank: 152 | ADP: 265
PECOTA Projections:

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

601

.232

30

1

77

79

Unsurprisingly, Dunn was the poster child for Colin Wyers’s rollout of this season’s PECOTA, explaining the difference in how PECOTA weights past seasons. Most of your fellow owners won’t even touch Dunn until the late rounds, much in the way you avoid the generic-looking chocolates, unsure if they contain a shocking surprise. Jay Jaffe plumbed the depths of Dunn’s sucky 2012 season yesterday, with a warning to hide the kiddies at Dunn’s putrid production.

Like Davis, Dunn sits high on this list for dead-cat-bounce reasons: earning just $8 in mixed leagues would be nearly $19 more than the $10.55 Dunn lost owners in 2011. Because he actually earned positive value (a whopping $3.28) in AL-only leagues, his value only rises about $9 for those owners.

Also like Davis, Dunn was a frequent topic of offseason discussion. I looked at Dunn’s 2012 prospects a week after writing about Davis, pointing out Dunn’s decent chance for a rebound. Whatever the reason for Dunn’s White Sox misery, it’s rare for a player to go from this consistent to this awful so quickly and at such a (relatively) young age. PECOTA sees him returning to his 30-plus home run days (though getting back to his string of 40-homer years looks unlikely) with a slash line of .232/.357/.460 (.289 TAv) that’s quite Dunn-like, even if it too is below his peak years.

As Colin explained, other systems weight recent seasons more heavily than PECOTA does, and your fellow owners are likely to do the same. Though Dunn should be productive in 2012, and though he could be fueled by frustration at his 2011 enough to exceed PECOTA’s forecast, not many of your owners will want to take that chance. Name recognition has kept his ADP high, but not nearly as high as his projected value, making him another good late-round gamble. Take Dunn the way you might grab the coconut chocolate—not everyone likes it, and maybe it’s not exactly what you wanted, but it’s often times better than you remembered.

David Wright | 3B | New York Mets
Mixed: $20 | NL-only: $26 | PECOTA Rank: 34 | ADP: 33

PECOTA Projections:

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

536

.290

20

19

80

84

David Wright—another 2011 disappointment that should find redemption in 2012—looked all wrong last season, losing about a third of the season to a stress fracture in his lower back. And he never looked the same after returning, hitting balls into the turf at an unprecedented 42.4 percent rate. The disappointing Wright earned just $5.17 in mixed leagues and roughly $15 in NL-only leagues, setting him up for a bounce-back year.

The 20 home runs PECOTA projects would be far from his standards, though; excluding 2011 and his horrible Cain-to-the-brain 2009, Wright’s never hit fewer than 26 dingers, and he generally approaches 30. PECOTA can’t take Citi Field’s new fences into account, so he could beat that projection in 2012, and with a consistent track record of batting averages above .300, Wright could top that PECOTA forecast too. Despite last season’s physical problems and increasing struggles against breaking pitches, Wright maintained his plate approach, posting a 21.7 percent strikeout rate—his best since 2008—and an 11.6 percent walk rate that’s a tad higher than his 11.2 percent career average.

The rest of Wright’s projected triple-slash is similarly modest (as PECOTA tends to be), and his .373 OBP and .475 SLG would be below his own pre-injury standards. But that still puts him very high on the list, both in overall rankings and ADP, meaning that other owners expect him to rebound, too. When I wrote up Wright earlier in the offseason, I mentioned the disillusionment (and consequent devaluation) that other owners might feel, sparking a lively discussion about keeper valuation. He’s definitely someone to take if you can get a discount on him, but I wouldn’t overbid on a player who has scuffled so much in the past three seasons. Consider him a caramel nut cluster—satisfying, well-balanced, and among the favorites every year.

Albert Pujols | 1B | Los Angeles Angels
Mixed: $44 | AL-only: $31 |
PECOTA Rank: 1 | ADP: 3
PECOTA Projections:

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

697

.305

37

11

111

107

Whatever your favorite chocolate is, that’s what Pujols is, too, although he didn’t seem like it last season. After a slow first two months (he hit .265/.335/.412 with just nine home runs through June 2), everyone wondered if the Machine had thrown a rod (which is serious), but Pujols busted out of his slump by cranking five home runs over his next four games, returning to superhuman form for the rest of the season. That awful start still dragged him down to the level of mere mortals for the season, though, as his .299/.366/.541 triple-slash line (.315 TAv) with 37 home runs and 99 RBI earned his mixed-league owners only $30.26 (with NL-only owners netting a similar figure at $31.52). Even those numbers would be fine for most players, but this is Albert Pujols we’re talking about. Except for home runs, all of those stats were career worsts for him, and his 2011 draft day price was surely higher than $30.

PECOTA sees significant rebounds from Phat Albert in all areas but home runs, and why not? His .277 BABIP in 2012 was also a career low, while his HR/FB rates were consistent with his recent performance. About the only areas where he declined were in his walk rate and batted ball profile. His 9.4 percent walk rate was a career low, well below his 13.1 percent career average or the 15.8 percent level he’d maintained over the previous three seasons. His 44.7 ground ball rate was also his worst ever (read: his highest ever, which is not favorable for a power hitter), something that partly explains his slow start, as it returned to more normal levels as the season progressed. He did look vulnerable to fastballs and sliders—not a good sign from a guy who usually feasts on them.

Still, his projected 305/.402/.556 line (.340 TAv) puts him right back where he used to be, and only the uncertainty of a new league, team, and park could diminish it any. I take 2011 as a reminder that even the Machine is actually human inside and that sometimes even a river of pure chocolate can be spoiled by a fat, greedy kid. I’d still take Pujols at the top of my draft list for sheer consistency. Matt Kemp—currently drafted at number one—has yet to show it, while Cabrera—the second player off the board—may have his glove more than his bat on his mind. After all, sticking by the one you love is what Valentine’s Day is all about.

22 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Benjamin Harris

I think you have to AL-only/Mixed numbers switched for Pujols.

Feb 14, 2012 03:59 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Hey Ben,
Those values are correct:
http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6434
http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6430

Feb 14, 2012 06:53 AM
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

The numbers gave me a double-take, too, Benjamin, and I had to double-check them. The fact that he earns less in the AL speaks to the increased level of hitting talent there, particularly after the trans-league migration of Pujols and Fielder. He's now a slightly smaller fish (due to last year's slippage) in a much bigger talent pond.

Feb 14, 2012 10:38 AM
 
wjmyers

I saw Dunn play around 30 games last year. He was so horrible, and looked so completely lost at the plate, that there is no way I would touch him on my fantasy team. I'll happily let other owners take that risk. People lose sight of the fact that he would have to improve significantly just to reach replacement value. He played in MLB because of his contract and reputation. If you didn't know his history, you'd probably conclude that his level of play belonged somewhere between AA and High A. And people may not be aware that his defense at 1B was almost as bad as his bat.

Feb 14, 2012 07:00 AM
rating: 0
 
fairacres

Players are humans - obviously - but a collapse of the magnitude of Dunn's in 2011 was both unprecendented and unexpected.

The problem going forward is that models like PECOTA cannot take into consideration the human element very well. Barring injury, Dunn's problems were likely confidence more than anything. Hitters slump; getting out of slumps is hard, and the sometimes the harder a hitter "tries" to improve, sometimes the worse the slump becomes (hitters end up "in between"). Dunn look "in between" much of last year -- guessing, late on fastballs, out in front of off-speed, etc.

My hunch is that Dunn is likely to either not improve much in 2012, OR come close to his established levels of production. He will either figure it out this spring, or stay mired.

He obviously has evidenced tremendous power and patience skills over most of his career, and it is unlikely that he "forgot" how to do what he does. The issue is whether he can get back to the approach that has worked well for him for many years.

If pressed, I think he'll be close to getting back to his established level of production in 2012.

Lance Berkman looked "lost" in for much of 2010 (his season was not the disaster Dunn's 2011 was, but it was far below his established level of hitting, and he was hurt) - but he obviously figured things out in 2011. Berkman in 2011 might be a good template for Dunn in 2012 (although Berkman had the advantage of hitting in a better lineup than Dunn will be in this year).

Dunn's disadvantage is that even when he is "on" he doesn't make a lot of contact. According to the data at Inside Edge, his contact rates were even worse last year, AND when he did make contact, his "well hit average" was .181 versus an MLB average of .208. Clearly, Dunn will have to improve this year in making harder contact on balls he does hit because he will likely still strike out a lot. Interestingly, his "Plate Discipline" in 2011 was not that bad (Inside Edge rated it B+ overall, and A+ in terms of not chasing with 2 strikes).

Dunn's 2011 batting average on fastballs was .182 versus a .290 MLB average - rated an F. In 2010, it was .311, and in 2009 it was .304, and in 2008 it was .282. Dunn had been a fairly consistent fastball hitter until collapsing in that area in 2011. To me, that is far more "mental" than being evidence of a player who suddenly lost the ability to square up fastballs at age 32.

If Dunn is around late, I think he could be very undervalued; the key will be whether he can make harder contact on balls he does put in play.

Feb 14, 2012 08:30 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Good points and nice analysis, and I completely agree on the human aspect of baseball. I think wjmyers is a bit harsh saying that Dunn's talent level belongs lower minors, despite how he looked last season.

What was going on in his side (post appendectomy) and between his ears (moving to a new league, team and park) is much harder to measure than what was going on in the sweet spot of the bat, even if all three are related. What seems clear is that it's too early for a decline from a player with this established level of talent--you don't average 40 home runs for seven straight seasons by stinkin' up the joint. Berkman is a great example of a player who went from zero to hero after everyone had given him up for dead, too (and he's four years older than Dunn). And, yes, he's not a player who makes contact much (he's typically a TTO leader), but when he does, watch out (hence, the TTO label)

But the pessimism of owners like wjmyers, whether warranted or not, should be exactly what makes Dunn a good value pick. Don't overpay for him, but leverage the short memories of other owners to grab him at a discount.

Thanks for the great conversation!

Feb 14, 2012 10:44 AM
 
davinhbrown

Given that he's almost 30, and had significant back issues - do you think Wright will even come close to the 19 steals projected?

Feb 14, 2012 16:10 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

That's a good question, Davin, but he stole 13 last season in 102 games, when the back problems were bothering him worse than they will be next year. Over a full season, that would be 19+, so 19 for 2012 seems pretty good to me.

Thanks for the question!

Feb 14, 2012 20:57 PM
 
moremoose

Mikey!!! What's up brother? Any chance we could duel it out in a redraft league this year? Let me know, you can email me wideright22@gmail.com. I would prefer al or nl only.

Thanks

Feb 15, 2012 03:30 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Good to see you again, too, Sarge! Let me think about joining another league--I'm in four already and busy up to my eyeballs. But I'd love to lock horns with you to test our different valuation methods!

Feb 15, 2012 12:32 PM
 
JoshC77

OK, so in my keeper league (12 team, mixed, 5X5 plus OPS and holds), I am allowed to keep one more hitter (aside from Justin Upton and Jay Bruce). I can keep David Wright this season for a 9th rounder or I can keep Mike Trout for a 17th rounder. Given the limited number of keepers (5 total), this is essentially a re-draft league, so any team can win any year. Per our rules, I am allowed to keep Wright for this season only. I can keep Trout for 2 more seasons. I am seriously leaning towards dropping Trout and keeping Wright. My concern is that Trout will not be fully established until the time I have to give him up anyways. If I drop him and then get lucky enough to re-draft him, I can keep him for 3 years. Does it make sense to keep Wright in this situation?

Feb 15, 2012 04:54 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Josh--

With so few keepers, I would take short-term over long-term value. Trout should be better a few years down the road, but that's a big gamble to take; he's more likely to struggle before that happens, if he even sticks in the bigs for entire season (it's a crowd in ANA, and there's no need to rush him).

Given the length and number of keepers you're describing, I'd keep Wright, who is also playing at a thinner position.

Feb 15, 2012 12:30 PM
 
JoshC77

Michael,

Thank you very much for confirming my thoughts. I hate to dump such a promising talent as Trout, but given our league format, it just seems like the most logical conclusion.

Feb 15, 2012 17:28 PM
rating: 0
 
CalledStrike3

Regarding Pujols Michael .... If you replace his April numbers with his October numbers - the stat line then looks alot more consistent with his HOF greatness. He will have to adapt to a new league, new park, new position (some DH) ....

But the bottom line is that in my 40 years of Baseball participation and observance he has the most textbook right-handed swing I have ever seen. That asset made the trip to Orange County.

Feb 15, 2012 12:39 PM
rating: 0
 
CalledStrike3

I'll throw a couple...

DH Value pick non "Pecotal" - 26 year old Billy Butler reported to camp 30 pounds leaner and gets to pound AL Central pitching all season with powder blue guys on the sacks all season.

1B Value pick in an NL only league ... Deep Sleeper Cardinal Matt Adams ....especially in an OBP% league

Feb 15, 2012 12:44 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Good to see you again, CS3--

Butler's always a fave of mine, even if his power isn't optimal for a DH. As for Adams, I don't know if you can call the Cards' Minor League POY (and Texas League MVP) a "deep sleeper," except inasmuch as he's a longshot to grab the 1B job in ST, since he has yet to play in AAA.

As Kevin Goldstein points out (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15998),if Adams is going to play in 2012, it'll be late in the season. But deep keeper leagues better have him on their radars (if not their rosters); he may have be part of the reason St. Louis was willing to let Pujols walk.

Feb 15, 2012 14:16 PM
 
swarmee

Can a guy really be a value pick if he can't be drafted at least a round after his PECOTA prediction? It's strange seeing Pujols and Wright here when they're within two picks of their projected placement. How does it help in a straight draft league to know he's a "value pick"? Can we say there must be at least a 12-player delta between their ADP and their projected rank before they can be a value pick?

Especially with Pujols, expecting that in an auction league, he won't go for less than $50 (maybe not even in an AL-only league), making him a non-value with $44 or $31 in earnings.

Feb 15, 2012 13:07 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

swarmee--

That's a great point. During the regular season, Value Picks looks only at guys with <10% ownership in the Big Three leagues (CBS, ESPN, Yahoo!) but for the preseason, we're looking more to help with draft prep.

You're right that Wright and Pujols aren't sneaking under anyone's radars, but I was more excited to look at the guys who are expected to gain the most value from '11-'12. Next week, I'm planning to look at guys predicted to lose the most value in 2012. In either case, understanding what the market sees for a player, as compared to his projected returns, can help you calculate his value.

I think it's surprising that Pujols is going #3 and not #1, given my concerns about #1 and #2. I think it's similarly surprising that owners are disregarding Wright's bad 2009 and 2011 and are apparently ready to pay full price for him. On the one hand, you have classic short-sightedness (assuming that Kemp has arrived after one stellar season or that Cabrera will stick at 3B); on the other, the longer view of Wright's talent prevails, despite his recent struggles.

As the season gets closer and Spring Training gets underway, we'll be looking at overlooked guys in camp, as well as in drafts that "mean" more because they're closer to Opening Day.

Thanks for an excellent question!

Feb 15, 2012 14:11 PM
 
CalledStrike3

Swarmee - If you are in a 12 team AL Auction league where Pujols goes for more than $45 this year, Respectfully I would like to apply for entry

Feb 15, 2012 13:58 PM
rating: 0
 
Robotey

Any chance Ike Davis would make this list in a deep NL league? He could be an injury bounce back sleeper pick.

Feb 16, 2012 07:30 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Robotey--

I covered Ike and his 2012 outlook in one of the Keeper Reapers last season (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15370), but I'm sure I'll cover him again at some point in the preseason.

Feb 16, 2012 20:20 PM
 
CalledStrike3

Thanks Michael - love your forums ...who doesnt love talking baseball? (escept my wife) ....
Back to Adams ...Lets look at this scenario.... you "end game" him for $1 - 6 hours into your NL only draft (in a league with OBP% instead of BA as one of the 5 x 5) - to fill a corner spot ... he goes to the Pacific Joke League (Joke from an offensive stat standpoint) - and by mid May he has 15 bombs and either Beltran is hurt or Jay is not hitting .... Berkman goes to OF ... In the interim you've rostered Houston's 3B or Jason Giambi for a buck ... you might squeezr $15 plus out of that $1 ... A caluclated gamble but one with upside considering its an OBP% league...getting pumped for the season!

Feb 17, 2012 07:25 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
The BP First Take: Tue... (02/14)
No Previous Column
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks:... (02/15)
Next Article >>
Everyone's Perfect: Wh... (02/14)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Rounders: Go Big or Go Home
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, April 24
Premium Article Daisy Cutter: Carlos Rodon and the White Sox...
Eyewitness Accounts: April 24, 2015
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: Of Signals and Sausages
Raising Aces: Debut Ante: Raisel Iglesias
Painting the Black: No D In Desmond?

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 14, 2012
Premium Article Future Shock: Boston Red Sox Top 11 Prospect...
Transaction Analysis: More on Yoenis Cespede...
Western Front: Dirk Hayhurst's Search for Su...
Baseball ProGUESTus: The Ballad of Roy Oswal...
Premium Article Painting the Black: Examining the Beane Stoc...
Everyone's Perfect: What Yu Darvish Represen...
The BP First Take: Tuesday, February 14

MORE BY MICHAEL STREET
2012-03-06 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: First, Third, and DH ...
2012-02-28 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: First, Third, and DH ...
2012-02-21 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: First, Third, and DH ...
2012-02-14 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: First, Third, and DH ...
2012-01-31 - Premium Article The Keeper Reaper: First, Third, and DH for ...
2012-01-24 - Premium Article The Keeper Reaper: First, Third, and DH for ...
2012-01-13 - Premium Article The Keeper Reaper: First, Third, and DH for ...
More...

MORE PRESEASON VALUE PICKS
2012-02-17 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: Outfielders for 2/17/...
2012-02-16 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: Starting Pitchers for...
2012-02-15 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: Second, Short, and Ca...
2012-02-14 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: First, Third, and DH ...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2013-01-03 - Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: First, Third, and DH for ...
2012-09-25 - Fantasy Article Value Picks: First, Third, and DH Review
2012-04-17 - Fantasy Article Value Picks: First, Third, and DH for 4/16/1...
2012-02-28 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: First, Third, and DH ...
2012-02-21 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: First, Third, and DH ...
2012-02-16 - Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: Starting Pitchers for...