2015 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide: Players Projection Systems Like More Than ADP
I really love projection systems. They do all the work for you, and they’re way smarter than we are. There’s no better place to start your fantasy baseball research than with systems like ZiPS, Steamer and Mike Podhorzer’s projections ($).
The knock on projection systems is that they “project to the middle.” Every player obviously has a range of possible outcomes, but the projection systems provide specific projections for each statistic, not a range of outcomes. The projections try to land in the middle of that range and thus don’t really project breakout performances. This is a fair criticism, and you’ve got to put in some extra work to find the really high upside guys. As an example, you might use Eno Sarris’ arsenal score to find pitchers who have great stuff that has yet to translate into great results.
But just because projection systems might not tell you who the next Corey Kluber is, they can still give you a very good idea of what a player’s value is. Most guys don’t greatly exceed or fall short of their projections. A good percentage of them finish within the range of expected outcomes and thus reasonably close to their projection.
What I’ve done for this post is take each of the three projection systems mentioned above and calculated how they rank each hitter. To do that I used Zach Sanders’ z-score method which essentially just determines how far above or below average a player’s production is projected to be in each category and then adds up the difference from all categories. After a positional adjustment is made, you get a final number that tells you how far above or below replacement level each player is. I calculated these numbers based on a 12-team mixed league with 13 starting hitter slots and three bench slots, which means replacement level is around the 170th best hitter.
After I had the ranking for each projection system, I pulled the consensus ADP of ESPN, Yahoo and NFBC from FantasyPros. Then I looked for every hitter that was ranked higher than their ADP by all three projection systems. Of the 350 or so hitters I looked at, 54 fit that description. Below I’ll discuss the names with the biggest differences between projection and ADP. At the end of the post, I’ll list all 54 guys that look like draft day values according to all three projection systems.
Ryan Braun ⋅ OF ⋅ Milwaukee Brewers
On a percentage basis, no one comes even close to being as undervalued as Braun. His ADP is 25th among hitters, but Steamer has him 18th, Pod has him ninth, and ZiPS has him fourth. The average of the projections basically comes to 25/15 HR/SB with somewhere between 160-190 R+RBI and a batting average slightly above .280. That’s some nice multi-cat contribution. Now, every projection system has Braun getting to the plate at least 600 times, a number he has failed to reach in consecutive years, though he came close last season at 580. But the long and short of it is that if Braun stays healthy enough, he helps in too many categories not to be worth a pick at least in the late second or early third round.
Melky Cabrera ⋅ OF ⋅ Chicago White Sox
Melky has an ADP of 104 among hitters, but each projection system has him right around 50th with an average hitter ranking of 48.33. In a league where strikeouts have been on a precipitous rise in recent years, Cabrera has made his living by avoiding strike three at a very high rate. From 2011-2014 his strikout rate is just 12.3%, which is tied for the 37th lowest rate of the 286 qualified hitters over that time span. Of the 36 hitters who have struck out less, only four have posted a better wOBA than Melky in the last four years: Victor Martinez, Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre and Yadier Molina. That’s some pretty good company. Expect Melky to keep doing the very unsexy routine of putting the bat on the ball a lot and hitting just enough of them out of the park to be more than just a contact guy.
Eric Hosmer ⋅ 1B ⋅ Kansas City Royals
With an ADP of 100 among hitters, it’s obvious that fantasy players have given up on Hosmer reaching the stud potential we all thought he had back in 2011. But the hate has gone too far, and Hosmer is being sold short with a triple digit hitter ADP. Pod isn’t wild about him with a rank of 84th among hitters, but ZiPS and Steamer have him 39th and 45th, respectively. Both systems are projecting his home run total to bounce back into the high teens, which seems fair given his 6.8% HR/FB last year was much lower than the 12.6% mark he had from 2011-2013. They’re also projecting his strikeout and walk rates to bounce back to his career averages after a down year, which is probably what is driving the projection for his batting average to tick back upwards. If Hosmer does return to a .280+ hitter with at least 15 HR, he’s definitely undervalued at his current ADP.
Rougned Odor ⋅ 2B ⋅ Texas Rangers
Maybe ADP hasn’t quite caught up to drafts conducted after news broke that the 2B job in Texas is all Odor’s with Jurickson Profar out for the entire season (again). But even if we assume the ADP will tick upward as we get closer to Opening Day, the difference between his ADP and the projection rankings is just too large. His ADP among hitters is 166 while Pod has him at 112, ZiPS has him at 62 and Steamer has him at 118. ZiPS seems to be more optimistic on young guys, and that system is primarily driving the gap between his ADP and average projection ranking. But even the more conservative projections still have Odor ranked much higher than his ADP. ZiPS thinks he is a starting second baseman in 12-team mixed leagues, but Steamer has him 13th and Pod has him 14th among second basemen. He’s a great target for your middle infield slot and also an option for your 2B slot if you happen to miss out completely on the veteran second basemen.
Below are all 54 guys whose ADP is worse than all three projection systems have them ranked. I’m breaking them up by position and listing them in order of their ADP.
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich, Alex Gordon, J.D. Martinez, Melky Cabrera, Denard Span, Torii Hunter, Adam Eaton, Nick Markakis, Desmond Jennings, Josh Reddick, Angel Pagan, Alejandro de Aza, Dominic Brown, Drew Stubbs, Nori Aoki, Michael Bourn, Juan Lagares, Jake Marisnick, Ender Inciarte, Matt Joyce, Will Venable, Delmon Young