January 25, 2016
Early ADP Analysis
Welcome to the third installment of our new fantasy series focused primarily on analyzing early average draft position (ADP) trends. The goal of the series is to identify early trends in the data to determine what we can learn to improve our draft-day strategy. This week’s edition shifts our attention away from burly sluggers to the keystone, which features a plethora of dynamic fantasy contributors, especially elite speedsters, in the early rounds, along with a handful of intriguing youngsters and undervalued veterans to speculate on in the later portion of 2016 fantasy drafts.
A Brief Position Eligibility Primer
The standard we use for our pre-season content at BP to determine position eligibility is 20 games played. Some league providers set their eligibility threshold at just 10 games played, so make sure to check with your specific league settings if there is any question as to where a specific player may quality in your league.
Hitters (and pitchers) are ranked at the position deemed to be more valuable fantasy-wise. Fantasy owners should remain cognizant of hitters who qualify at multiple positions, but instead of rankings them at every position for which they are eligible at, we have chosen to rank them only at the position with more fantasy value. A prime example of this from the pool of second base-eligible hitters is Addison Russell, who qualifies at both second base and shortstop. Currently being selected as the 10th second baseman off the board in ADP, Russell is far more valuable at shortstop, where he is the seventh hitter off the board at the position right now. Prospects or major-league hitters who do not have 20 games played at a single position (like Javier Baez, Jose Peraza, and Jurickson Profar in this edition) are ranked at the position they played the most in 2015.
Why Care About ADP?
Fantasy owners should be advised against reading too much into the early data, which can be subject to small-sample-size outliers, since a majority of leagues haven’t drafted yet. However, the ADPs to date do give us a window through which to evaluate how the general public perceives specific players’ values heading into 2016. Even if you’re competing in an auction, this data will give you a good idea of which studs a majority of fantasy owners are willing to shell out the extra dollar to purchase and which second basemen might slip through the cracks and make for excellent value targets.
The early ADP data referenced for this entire series, housed at STATS.com, is from 2016 National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) leagues, which are comprised of 15 teams. Therefore, the average round data is reflective of that league size. It’s also worth pointing out that the data is both relatively thin and updating in real time at the link above, so be sure to check back frequently for the latest updates. Without further delay, let’s dive into the keystone…
The Early Rounds
In a fantasy landscape deprived of stolen bases, Altuve and Gordon stand alone amidst a barren wasteland…
Jose Altuve, Astros
Dee Gordon, Marlins
A recurring theme throughout our offseason fantasy content here at BP, whether it’s Mike Gianella’s retrospective player valuation series or our fantasy categorical breakdown series, is the league-wide decline in stolen bases. It’s had a major impact on the fantasy value of elite speedsters. Last season, just seven hitters stole 30 or more bases. Of those seven, only Billy Hamilton ($21) and Ben Revere ($25) earned less than $30 in standard mixed leagues. The best of the bunch were Altuve, who finished as the top hitter ($39) in the AL, and Gordon, who finished in a tie with Paul Goldschmidt for the top spot ($41) in NL-only formats this past season.
From a pure valuation standpoint, there is a legitimate argument to be made for selecting Altuve and Gordon in the first round of 2016 drafts. So far, more fantasy owners are embracing the idea of building around the extremely high floor these two elite speedsters offer. It sounds like a crazy, unconventional strategy, but it’s really not when you look objectively at the numbers. Do not be afraid to embrace speed in 2016.
Robinson Cano, Mariners
Every fantasy owner loves a blind player comparison, so let’s allow ourselves to indulge briefly:
Unfortunately, these aren’t two different hitters. Surprise! They’re both Robinson Cano. You can probably guess which line represents the first half of the season, during which he was reportedly still dealing with the lingering effects of a stomach parasite that had been discovered over the previous offseason. He’s no longer a lock for the first round, but it’s important to remember that he and Brian Dozier were the only second basemen to hit 20-plus home runs last season. It’s extremely encouraging to see fantasy owners drafting the 33-year-old like the hitter he was in the second half and wisely ignoring his dismal, injury-maligned first half.
Anthony Rendon, Nationals
The “if he can stay healthy” brigade is out in full force, drafting Rendon early and often. After a 21-home-run, 17-steal campaign in which he hit .287/.351/.473 over 683 plate appearances in 2014, the former Rice University product’s follow-up campaign was derailed by knee, oblique, and quad injuries, which limited him to just 80 games last season. The soon-to-be-26-year-old’s rebound potential is immense, but if it comes with a fifth-round price tag, that’s a lot of risk to assume up front on draft day. Still, it’s much lower than the second-round investment (29th overall) fantasy owners had to make to get him last year.
Ian Kinsler, Tigers
Despite setting the table for a reloaded Tigers offense, the 33-year-old has seen his stock drop from the fourth round (56th overall) last year to the seventh round in 2016. While his home-run (11) and stolen-base (10) totals fell to their lowest levels since 2010, he hit .296, his highest average since 2008. The durability (600-plus plate appearances), along with double-digit homers and steals in five straight seasons, makes Kinsler an excellent value at the position. This may just be early ADP noise driving down his value, so his stock could rise as we move towards Opening Day.
The Middle Rounds
What’s that smell? Just kidding…
Rougned Odor, Rangers
The 22-year-old’s stock has skyrocketed since he hit .292/.334/.527 with 15 home runs and five stolen bases over his final 367 plate appearances. He’s not an adept base-stealer (46 percent success rate last year); he also has the wheels to swipe double-digit bases and is a prime candidate to at least repeat the power output he displayed last year. There is a lot to like about Odor’s profile and a seventh-round ADP isn’t exactly breaking the bank.
DJ LeMahieu, Rockies
A meteoric rise from a most unlikely hitter, LeMahieu hit .301/.358/.388 with just six home runs, but he stole 23 bases and earned $24 in standard mixed leagues last season. Those numbers are impressive to say the least, but they look even better when you factor in that he went undrafted in most fantasy leagues a year ago. He doesn’t offer much in the way of power, despite his advantageous home venue, but he was one of just four second basemen to swipe 20 or more bags a year ago. If your league offers the ability to make daily lineup changes, he’s an even more attractive target, considering he owns a career .314/.361/.416 line at Coors Field. LeMahieu’s not a sexy name with monstrous upside, but his realistic floor remains immensely high if he continues to run (and stays in Colorado) going forward.
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
The Red Sox stalwart was a sixth-round selection a year ago, but he missed significant time due to injury last season. At 32 years old, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which he stays healthy and his power and speed combo returns to 2012-esque (15 homers with 20 stolen bases) levels. A renaissance campaign could happen—it’s more likely to occur in the power department than on the basepaths—but the odds of that are slowly fading as he continues to age and injuries sap his playing time. Still, it’s hard to bet against Pedroia, who showed real potential of a power bounce-back before getting hurt in 2015.
The Late Rounds
We’ve got the versatility like Jagger in this tier…and well…Brandon Phillips...
Ben Zobrist, Cubs
Losing shortstop eligibility is a major hit, but while we are on the subject of late-career renaissance campaigns (insert Peyton Manning comment/metaphor here), Zobrist was stellar last year. Despite missing a month due to knee surgery, he hit .276/.359/.450 with 13 home runs (his most since 2012) over 535 plate appearances. The speed is all but gone, but the versatility and solid production make the 34-year-old a valuable commodity in deeper mixed leagues. Hitting near the top of a stacked Cubs lineup, with his old manager Joe Maddon in the dugout, should also help tremendously. The Zorilla isn’t coming back, but there’s a reason everyone is vying to find “the next Ben Zobrist,” because he’s still got it despite his advancing age. His fantasy stock may be trending south, but the stable floor is worth the investment over uncertain upside this late in a draft.
Brandon Phillips, Reds
Speaking of elder statesmen, the 34-year-old turned on the jets in 2015, swiping 20 bases (23, to be exact) for the first time since 2009. He earned $24 in standard mixed leagues and finished in a tie for the third-most-valuable fantasy second baseman last season. I’m just as shocked as you were at the contents of the previous sentence. It would be foolish to pay for a full repeat on draft day, but he’s not going anywhere close to that right now. The 15th round is a step up from last year, when he was an 18th-round pick, but it’s still nowhere close to where the raw numbers say Phillips should be taken. He’s not going to earn you any compliments on draft day, but if Phillips continues to run like he did last year, he’s a lock to outperform his current ADP.
Brett Lawrie, White Sox
It’s hard to believe that he’s only 26 years old. The underlying numbers reveal some serious issues, most notably his contact rate, which dropped from 81 percent in each of the previous two seasons to just 74 percent in Oakland last year. He’s also almost completely stopped stealing bases. Still, Lawrie possesses the upside to crush 20 home runs and couldn’t have landed in a better spot than U.S. Cellular Field, which grades out as the third-best park in the AL for right-handed power.
Don’t Panik…There are plenty of late round bargains for potential Baez to Schoop up at a steep discount…
Jonathan Schoop, Orioles
It’s hard to envision a scenario (excluding injury) in which the 24-year-old doesn’t swat 20-plus home runs in 2016. Unfortunately, the power is tethered to a batting average well overdue for regression to his career mean and a complete lack of stolen bases. He’s a one-category free-swinger, which has value, but this isn’t a player with the potential to emerge as five-category superstar.
Javier Baez, Cubs
Howie Kendrick, Free Agent
I’ve already submitted my #HotTake on Baez in our “Fantasy Players to Target: Second Basemen” article, which is up on BP right now, so be sure to check that out. Hint: I’m a believer. The precipitous decline in Kendrick’s ADP is notable because it appears to be mostly injury-driven. It also doesn’t help that he’s still a free agent as we approach February. He missed time with a hamstring injury once again last year and his home runs and speed totals declined. Still, he remains a consistent producer in average. He’s hit above .285 in each of the last five years, There isn’t a ton of downside here with Kendrick, which is why it’s surprising to see him being taken outside the top 250 picks at the moment.
The Undrafted Crop
These are not the droids you’re looking for… Except Profar…
Jurickson Profar, Rangers
He may begin the 2016 campaign in the minor leagues, but the former top prospect in the game is going to be fully healthy entering spring training and could be up with the Rangers shortly. There were nothing but positive reports coming out of the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .267/.352/.453 with nine extra-base hits in just 91 plate appearances, after missing nearly two full seasons due to shoulder injuries. He’s back and he’s still only 23 years old. There might not be a more intriguing late-round lottery ticket than Profar in 2016.