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February 17, 2012

Preseason Value Picks

Outfielders for 2/17/12

by Rob McQuown

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Preseason Value Picks” is an interesting notion to begin with… who is going to benefit from such analysis?  The obvious answer is owners whose drafts come the earliest, and Scoresheet baseball drafts are already progressing. These are very slow processes, from the perspective of traditional fantasy players, in keeping with the more ponderous tone of Scoresheet. Most Scoresheet leagues allow at least 13 keepers without salaries to worry about. The games are simulated, generating a weekly report with, you guessed it, score sheets for each game. So, before diving in to outfielders this week, I wanted to mention a tool we released yesterday for aiding with Scoresheet drafts (but which is available to all Fantasy and Premium subscribers): The Scoresheet Draft Aid. I'm working on a blog post with some more details, but in the meantime, feel free to utilize it knowing that it's specifically geared toward things that help a Scoresheet team (offense, defense, pitching), not typical fantasy categories.

Returning from that Scoresheet tangent to some “real” fantasy (is that an oxymoron?), drafts are kicking off very soon. Most people know that the top outfielders are Matt Kemp, Jose Bautista, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Mike Stanton, and Andrew McCutchen, in some order (and we've covered several of these guys with Keeper Reaper articles). The order in which they are taken is as much personal preference as cold, hard analysis. In the USA Today mock draft I participated in, those guys went: Kemp, Ellsbury, Bautista, [gap], Upton, CarGo, [gap], Granderson, McCutchen, then Jay Bruce and Josh Hamilton (this draft was held last December) went before Stanton.

Those of us with fantasy experience know that leagues are usually not won with early picks, though, and while there may end up being $4 in separation between a healthy Curtis Granderson and a healthy Carlos Gonzalez (PFM shows them at $33 and $29, respectively), there just as easily may not be. Gonzalez is projected for 100 fewer plate appearances by the crack BP Depth Chart team, and that seems reasonable, but who knows, really? The point is that if you took one of them at random, it's not likely to be the cause of winning or losing a league (barring major injuries, of course).

However—scrolls down the PFM page—if Mets Lucas Duda and Andres Torres play like they have shown they are capable of and figure out how to leverage the new ballpark, they could each be $20 players, whereas PFM shows them checking in at $6 apiece. Making $14 “profit” on a $6 “investment” is a 230 percent ROI, compared to making $4 on a $29 investment (14 percent ROI). Obviously, there's a limit to how much ROI-based bidding (or drafting) you can get away with, since the highest return will be on penny stocks, er, $1 bids (Jason Collette covers dollar players well in his recent article), but you also need to bring your active roster to around $300 in total value (on a $260 budget) to compete in most leagues (sometimes much more than $300 in keeper leagues where the level of team quality is more stratified and the best teams have a huge head start by keeping good cheap talent).

So, for the most part, I'll focus on the sub-$10 guys I think have a shot to make a 100 percent ROI, occasionally throwing in higher-priced players who seem like they'll be overbid. As always, I'm open to suggestions and will evaluate anyone, if asked.

Andres Torres | OF | New York Mets
Mixed: $6 | NL-only: $17 | PECOTA OF Rank: 56 | OF ADP: 95

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

584

.247

12

24

66

67

The Mets are probably doomed to spend the next offseason at home, and Andres Torres may end up being considered part of the problem when they do. His PECOTA-projected line is only .247/.316/.404, after all. He's a high-upside pick, though, and if the Mets need some breaks to contend with the superior pitching of every other team in the division, getting a guy who posted a .269/.343/.492 line in 740 PA between 2009-10 while stealing 32 bases has a chance to help. It at least means that a good break for Torres could result in some star-quality play. For fantasy owners, expecting 740 plate appearances would be delusional, even if he does hold the leadoff spot he's penciled into. He's just not that durable. But combining the fact that his modest PECOTA projection already makes him worth more (per PFM) than his ADP with the fact that the ballpark is expected to raise everyone's stats a bit and that he posted some nice numbers in San Francisco (a pitcher's park) for an extended period, he can lead off for Value Picks any day.

Lucas Duda | OF | New York Mets
Mixed: $6 | NL-only: $14 | PECOTA OF Rank: 55 | OF ADP: 68

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

594

.264

19

1

74

75

Lucas Duda is currently penciled into the Mets order as the number-five hitter and right fielder. He thumped right-handed pitching when he burst onto the scene last year and should collect both RBI and runs in the five hole batting behind David Wright and Ike Davis and in front of Jason Bay. The Mets are expecting the park change to be like night and day for Wright and Bay, returning to their power-hitting ways of yesteryear. Only time will tell, but while the Mets may not have a new Murderer's Row, four straight .280-plus TAvs should lead to some run production if the park turns out to be a positive. Since Duda was already reviewed this offseason (in Keeper Reaper in October), there's not much to add other than to point out that the Mets have kept a spot open for him despite his substandard outfield defense and to reiterate that “he's certainly someone to target.”

Matt Holliday | OF | St. Louis Cardinals
Mixed: $28 | NL-only: $30 | PECOTA OF Rank: 5 | OF ADP: 11

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

656

.299

25

15

92

93

Okay, so the game plan of focusing on low-priced players only lasted for two players, but Matt Holliday deserves some mention among the early-round “value picks”, if ADP is to be believed—even if the ROI possibilities aren't as hot as with lower-priced guys. So far, Josh Hamilton has a higher ADP than Holliday (10th vs. 11th among outfielders, 32 vs. 38 overall). What does Holliday have to do to get respect?  Sure, he hasn't hit 30 home runs since 2007—at the peak age of 27, in Coors nonetheless—but his output of 22 home runs in an injury-limited 2011 represented his lowest total since 2005.

Speaking of injuries, Holliday ended the season rather weakly, hitting just one postseason home run (in 62 PA) after last homering on September 6, and he missed nine games with a finger injury sustained on September 13. Add a June disabled list stint with a quadriceps strain and April surgery to have an appendix removed, and he starts to look like a big injury risk. Add in the fact that his former teammate took quite a few runs and RBI with him to Los Angeles, and there's an explanation for his slide down the ADP list.

Holliday is a tough customer, however, managing to avoid the DL while getting the aforementioned appendix removed and playing 155 or more games in four of the prior five seasons. Even with the injuries—and the quad problem really slowed him down on the basepaths—he managed to tally $13 of value in 2011. While Carlos Beltran can't be expected to hit like the Mighty Pujols, the Cardinals should still provide a good enough run environment for him to again be among the league leaders in runs and RBI.

Nyjer Morgan | OF | Milwaukee Brewers
Mixed: $10 | NL-only: $24 | PECOTA OF Rank: 38 | OF ADP: 60

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

631

.278

5

37

59

71

Nyjer Morgan picks up this season where he left off last year: on the Value Pick list. He's going to miss Prince Fielder batting behind him, but the ever-more-right-handed Brewers with Aramis Ramirez could see even more right-handed starting pitchers, and that's good news for Tony Plush, as those plate appearances he receives against left-handed pitchers are forfeit. If he does reach the projection of 631 plate appearances, however, it will be a strong indicator that his legs are again fully healthy, and the seemingly high stolen-base projection may prove reasonable as well. Even if the stolen base projection is overly optimistic, though, if he bats leadoff 600 times for the Brewers this year, he'll beat that runs scored projection handily; he should bat closer to his .288 career average than the .278 projection as well. So, while he's essentially a two-category player (runs and steals), thus limiting his upside considerably, he's a much better pick than his ADP of 60 suggests.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

Related Content:  Fantasy Drafts,  Andres Torres,  Quad-a

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

BP Comment Quick Links

bubba3m

Good analysis, as usual, despite some obvious typos in the Holliday value line. One player I'm really struggling with is Emilio Bonifacio. His PECOTA line is Nyjer-esque with SS eligibility, but I'm not sure how much his great mid-summer stretch is inflating that value. How would you guys value him?

Feb 17, 2012 08:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

The Holliday values have been corrected.

Feb 17, 2012 08:55 AM
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

After much waffling, I kept Bonifacio in my NL Scoresheet league (13 keepers, 12 teams, 2 'crossover' players maximum per team, otherwise NL only) over guys like Tabata and Leake (and 2 very good relievers), and speed is much less important in Scoresheet than in typical fantasy leagues.

I cheated and emailed the staff Marlins experts and asked them to reply here, I'm curious to read what they write as well. :>

I guess my quick take opinion is that with as much speed as Bonifacio has, he has to be taken seriously, even if the bat experienced a fluky season in 2011... but as a guy who has experience as a utilityman, his floor is very low, despite the speed - if he gets off to a slow start, he could quickly find himself in the "Lillibridge" role, a role which Ozzie clearly likes to have filled. If I had a strong team which needed little to be a favorite, I probably wouldn't mess with him unless he was inordinately cheap or other SB contributors were in very short supply.

Feb 17, 2012 21:22 PM
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

Bubba3m,

Bonifacio is assured a job in center field more or less, especially given how much the organization adores his skills. I think PECOTA is a bit more bullish than necessary given the very real changes in walk rate and patience that Bonifacio has displayed (a product of more heavy weighting of his disastrous 2009 season). A .270 batting average isn't out of reach, and he should be able to steal another 30-plus bases again. Combine that with shortstop eligibility and he is not a bad late pick-up. Consider that Angel Pagan picked up just seven home runs and 32 steals with a .262 average and ended up being worth $10 in deep mixed leagues last year. Juan Pierre was worth $11 and he only stole 27 bases with a .280 average. You are looking at Bonifacio putting up numbers somewhere in between those while qualifying for the more scarce shortstop position.

Feb 18, 2012 13:11 PM
 
MaineSkin

My view on Bonafacio, is that Hanley ends up in CF and Bonafacio ends up at 3B platooning w/Dominguez until the deadline when they ship Matty away for Garza. Dominguez is a glove man, but is not growing into the Longoria bat they are looking for as they try and build their roster as if they were contending in the AL East. I'd keep Dominguez and slot him 2nd to allow him to get good pitches and build his confidence.

Feb 17, 2012 14:59 PM
rating: 0
 
Bradley Ankrom

If Bonifacio winds up with a regular job, I think it's in center field. Ramirez has the athleticism and instincts to play third base and I expect him to thrive there.

The club likes Petersen's range in center and believes there's more upside in his bat than he showed in the second half, but he really hasn't hit outside of hitter-friendly leagues in the minors (SAL, PCL). If the club sends Cousins to AAA at the start of the year, center field could be ripe for Bonifacio's picking.

One of the reasons Bonifacio was able to break out last year was because McKeon told him he wasn't going to lose his job if he had a bad stretch. With McKeon out and Guillen in, it's difficult to predict what kind of role he'll ultimately have come April.

For what it's worth, I believe in what he did last year and think he's capable of repeating it, and possibly even improving upon it if he can settle into a defensive home (center field?) that suits him (read: anywhere but shortstop).

Feb 18, 2012 07:54 AM
rating: 0
 
Bradley Ankrom

Oh, and as for Dominguez... I think he's out of the Marlins' plans, but if I were another club I'd be trying to add him to my organization. The glove is still special and there' upside in his bat. He was a bit overmatched in AAA last year but was one of the youngest (21) everyday players in the PCL. He could be a guy that benefits from a change of scenery and a different set of coaches working with him.

Feb 18, 2012 08:03 AM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

Scoresheet Draft Aid? Looks intriguing - love the real-time availability list - how does one use it to best effect? What about weighting in prospects?

Feb 17, 2012 19:47 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

We've been discussing a way to include prospects, but so far SS/SIM is for current-season performance, based off the Depth Charts playing time estimates. If you have any suggestions, feel free to contact me, we want to give people what they want.

Feb 17, 2012 21:11 PM
 
R.A.Wagman

emailed you

Feb 17, 2012 21:58 PM
rating: 0
 
Jack Thomas

Saying Andre Torres is a potential $20 player is a real stretch to me. PECOTA's 12 HR/24 SB are 4 HR/2 SB less than career highs 16 HR/26 SB in 10. 584 PA would be a creer high. He had 4 HR/19 SB last year. It is a lot to expect from a 34 yr old player who had only a total of 7 HR/15 SB 02 to 09. His "modest" PECOTA projection is greater than other projections. "Rosy" Bill James has Torres at .255-8-16/396 PA for 2012. He looks like .260-10-20 upside to me.

Feb 17, 2012 20:57 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Oh, I agree - I'd be shocked silly if he produced $20, the point was that he's performed at that level in the past - his 740 PA from 2009-2010 in SF produced:

740 PA, .269/.343/.492 with 22 HR and 32 SB

740 PA is a normal number of PA for a team's leadoff hitter, and the New Citi Field is supposedly a much better hitting environment than either Old Citi Field or AT&T Park. If it was reasonable to assume there is a good chance he'll produce $20, the bidding wouldn't stop at $6 (or less) in the auctions. Clearly there are a myriad of reasons why he won't produce that much, but you have to admit that every year, there are players who exceed all expectations, and often owners who win their leagues have one or more such players.

Feb 17, 2012 21:09 PM
 
Jack Thomas

Also, Nyjer Morgan will not get 631 PA in 2012. He is slated to platoon in CF w/Gomez v. RHP as he did last year. With his career .200 BA v. LHP, that is unlikely to change. Repeating his 429 PA from 2011 would be more realistic. Is it the jump in PA that causes his jump from 13 to 37 SB?
Unfortunately, it is gotten to the point that I can not take PECOTA projections at face value. I have to compare each one to other projections & add my own spin. That is what I have always done for players that I am interested in drafting. Maybe I have been expecting too much from PECOTA. To end on a more positive note, BP Player Cards definitely help in the process of arriving at my final projections.
I was surprised to see you role out 2 very suspect PECOTA projections as Preseason Value Picks.

Feb 17, 2012 22:04 PM
rating: -1
 
jonathanaustin

Morgan should almost certainly get more PA than last year. He didn't have a regular role until almost two months into last season. Assuming he had played the same amount in April and May as he did the rest of the year, that adds about 120 PA to his expected playing time. Add in the fact that he's likely to play a bit more during the first 50 games while Braun is out and that PA projection doesn't look that far off.

Regarding the steals, unlike you, PECOTA doesn't look only a players stats from last year. While he may have only stolen 13 last year, he stole 34 in 2010 and 42 in 2009. I think based on that a projection of 37 seems pretty accurate.

Feb 17, 2012 23:31 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Thanks for the support, but my initial reaction was the same as that of Jack Thomas. And so, when I was writing this, I realized this may have been a PECOTA issue with slightly overrating steals for certain players and think I found something in the code which would reduce Holliday and Morgan SB totals somewhat if it's changed.

If I'd thought some issue with the projections had made these players into less desirable "buy low" candidates, I wouldn't have covered them, but I think both are being undervalued on the ADPs by enough to warrant serious attention.

We'll keep everyone posted - if I don't comment here (I will, but it may not happen before a Blog post), look for Blog posts by one of myself, Colin, or Dave Pease.

For the record, I agree that any projection system should be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism. Not to knock PECOTA past, but there were some pretty major mis-projections in the past, as well... Brooks Conrad is one I distinctly remember, as he was projected for an EqA very near the top among second basemen. This season, I have seen projections with Chris Parmelee projected as having the 5th-best offensive rate stats among position players and another with Yu Darvish leading MLB in ERA... and yet another had no TB starting pitcher with a sub-3.95 ERA in 2012. None of those three forecasts pass my personal "sniff test", either, but there are quirks in every system. We've run the current PECOTA algorithms against past seasons and done all sorts of tests to optimize the system, such as Colin's article about backweighting discussed. And yet, it's good to examine the outliers and quirks to see what still can be improved.

-Rob

Feb 18, 2012 01:21 AM
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Forwarding this concern to the Depth Chart guys, which can be reached at dc@baseballprospectus.com. Glad to have people hold us accountable on these, so thanks for the feedback.

Feb 18, 2012 01:05 AM
 
Jack Thomas

Does anyone at BP make adjustments to PECOTA projections that appear to be outliers or do we just get the system? I used PFM for the 1st time this week-end allowing PECOTA to settle & was stunned when I looked 3B values. Jose Bautista was tops at only $22 v. his $35 PFM for 2011. He is the 5th player being drafted according to MDC ADP. His PECOTA projection was .257 BA w/32-91-90-7/656 PA. The seond highest PFM value was Mark Reynolds at $19-20 (119 ADP -- Projection .234 BA w/35-91-83-11/656). Anyone think Bautista at $22 & Reynolds at $20 is realsitic? A projection systems that considers itself "The Best" should not have these types of outliers.

Feb 20, 2012 05:58 AM
rating: 0
 
swarmee

They regularly tinker with the system when they find things that are odd. Not all of them are intended consequences, and when subscribers point out irregularities, they're normally checked out.
They also do a pretty good job of explaining the process each year. You can see a sample here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15999 or this chat: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/chat/chat.php?chatId=897

The biggest change this year has been increasing the weighting of previous seasons, so players that had bad 2011s but good years previous (Hanley Ramirez, etc) are expected to regain their touch since last year isn't weighed as heavily.

However, this actually disputes the finding at baseballnotebook.com, who sees it the opposite:
http://www.baseballnotebook.com/essay.asp?esource=e_123111.asp&topt=Year End Review Part 3

Interesting, huh?

Feb 20, 2012 06:41 AM
rating: 0
 
swarmee

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15992 also has a good explanation of the changes this year.

Feb 20, 2012 06:51 AM
rating: 0
 
CalledStrike3

Nyjer had a great year in 2009 and then was strong at the end of last year. Given the Brewers' depth at outfield and the inability of CGomez to get on base with regularity - He may have his best year yet this year. He also gets to against NL Central pitching all season. I think I personally would bid up to $14 or so in an NL Auction league for him.

Feb 20, 2012 12:03 PM
rating: 1
 
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