2015 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base VORP Revisited
Fantasy baseball players often base their selections on two things: the average draft position for the player and preseason rankings from the particular site they are using. Funny, but those average draft positions (ADP) are based mostly on the preseason rankings. It all comes down to those rankings for most players. Yet, most of us have found ourselves scratching our heads at least once or twice at some of the rankings. It behooves us to figure out how they arrive at those rankings.
If we do that, then we can determine for ourselves whether those rankings make sense or not. For the last couple of seasons, I’ve been using value over replacement player (VORP) to rank players. It tends to fit on the upper end, but it often breaks down as we get to the middle rounds or late rounds. I’ve been tinkering and have found a weighted system that works better. It doesn’t work perfectly, but the closer we get the better. The closer we get the closer we get to peaking behind the curtain.
The weighted system is fairly crude for the time being and really the braintrust of colleague Chris Garosi. The most recent season is multiplied three times, 2013 is multiplied twice, and 2012 is multiplied once. Then, that total is divided by six to give us a new one season score. Most of the time the scores are similar to the three year average, but sometimes we see some discrepancies. Those discrepancies can explain why we see some funky rankings sometimes.
Naturally, some of these rankings on the VORP side are a bit out of whack because I simply ranked them within the players you see above. Javier Baez would probably rank somewhere between forty and fifty if we included everyone. Furthermore, players like Yunel Escobar and Justin Turner both scored better than 20 VORP on the adjusted scale. They didn’t even register within the Yahoo top 20 at second base. However, given our limitations, let’s take a look at the most overrated players and most underrated players.
Most Underrated Players
Ben Zobrist— Oakland Athletics (+12)
This is one area where I partially get it. Zobrist does things that don’t register in the traditional fantasy baseball universe. Let’s not even mention the fact that he was traded to what may be one of the least productive offenses in baseball. Zobrist became a regular in 2009. Since 2009, he has never drawn fewer than 72 walks. In most leagues, those walks don’t count. However, there are more and more leagues where walks and/or OBP do count. In those leagues, you would be nuts to wait that long to pick Zobrist.
Of course, Chris had access to the VORP chart when drafting for our expert league. He prioritized taking Zobrist. The difficulty is that you don’t want to waste an early pick on a guy everyone else is pushing to the middle rounds. Chris was able to walk that thin line with ease. Keep in mind, Zobrist has had double digit steals every year since 2009. He’s hit ten or more home runs every year since 2008. That alone makes him valuable.
Chase Utley— Philadelphia Phillies (+8)
I have the opposite feeling about Utley and actually am in agreement with Yahoo. The problem with the VORP approach (even the weighted version) is that it measures where you have been and not necessarily where you will be. It tends to hurt younger players and it tends to help older players. Utley had a renaissance season last year, but even if you paid much attention last year you could see signs of decay late in the season. Simply put, Utley is a lot closer to the end than he is to the beginning.
Even if there was no decay in his game personally, there is decay going on everywhere around him. Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd are already gone. You get the feeling that if someone offered two cartons of Sunny Delight for Ryan Howard, the Phillies would take it. All of this is not Utley’s fault, but as long as he’s there, his numbers are going to suffer. If he gets dealt to a contender at any point he could be a nice value pickup.
Asdrubal Cabrera— Tampa Bay Rays (+6)
The little time he spent at second base is working in Cabrera’s favor here. He rates as the 20th best second baseman, but I guarantee he ranks higher on the shortstop list. As a matter of course, when you have a player that fits at multiple positions, he ends up playing up on most people’s cheat sheets. Cabrera will likely play shortstop while Nick Franklin plays second base, but his flexibility will likely give him more plate appearances. The Rays have guys like Tim Beckham and others that might force their way at either position. His ability to play both helps.
Most Overrated Players
Dee Gordon— Miami Marlins (-11)
Is Dee Gordon better than his VORP? I suppose in some respects he is. Someone that dominates an offensive category like Gordon does with steals has to be a fantasy factor. Still, I hate one category players. It remains to be seen whether Gordon will ever amount to more than just Vince Coleman playing second base. The key will be his ability to get on base. If he can consistently do that then he will score more runs and at least give you bang for your buck on half of the categories. Otherwise, you have a guy that steals a bunch of bases.
Kolten Wong— St. Louis Cardinals (-9)
Wong is likely as close as you can get to the mirror image of Chase Utley. When you look at Wong’s minor league numbers you see a .305/.367/.451 hitter. Some players never reach those minor league numbers, but we see obvious areas where Wong can grow. Plus, in his two full minor league seasons, he managed to steal more than twenty bases. I can see the idea that Wong will eventually turn into a 20/20 type of player. Even if he only reaches 15/15 this season, then he will outproduce this ranking.
Mookie Betts— Boston Red Sox (-9)
On the one hand, we have the obvious point that Betts spent much of the season in the minors. Some would say the 16.5 VORP could reasonably be doubled if he had spent the whole season at the big league level. That kind of thinking will get you in trouble. For one, pitchers have a way of adjusting to hitters when they see them more than once. It is likely that Betts would have struggled some if he had more exposure. The biggest problem is finding playing time for Betts. Rusney Castillo is also vying for center field time. Shane Victorino and Allen Craig are vying for time in right field while Hanley Ramirez looks like he has left field locked down. There are too many people for not enough positions.