Opening Day is officially less than two weeks away! With fantasy rosters taking shape and the end of spring training on the horizon, managers are certainly eager for regular season action. With a full season on deck this year, we here at NBC Sports EDGE are ready to provide all the knowledge and tools you need to dominate your league.
To celebrate both baseball's return and our updated 2021 MLB Draft Guide, we're continuing to offer looks at what we've produced all the way up to Opening Day. With a loaded arsenal of content -- from positional rankings, ADP reports and season-long projections, to mock drafts, projected lineups and draft cheat sheets -- we are as proud as we've ever been for what we've put together and are eager to share it with you in the coming weeks. No matter the format or size of your league, we are confident we can deliver the tools you need to secure that championship hardware.
We've showed off rankings, positional showdowns, expert outliers and more for the upcoming season, and now we're looking at finding real value in drafts. In his 2021 edition of "Gaming the ADP," Matt Williams (@MattWi77iams) looks at the current average draft positions from Yahoo for potential sleepers, busts, and late-round values in mixed rotisserie fantasy league drafts. This preview highlights three players each from IF, OF and SP groups.
Take a look:
Players being taken later than expected (Good Value)
Gio Urshela - 3B - NYY - ADP: 180
Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela has quietly improved over the last two seasons and that has yet to be acknowledged his projections or ADP thus far. The 29-year old has decreased his swinging strike rate from 13.1 to 11.5 to 8.4 percent over the last three seasons while seeing a 9.3 percentage point drop in his out-of-zone swing rate from 2019.
As a by-product, Urshela has improved his contact rate to 82.6% and most importantly his Z-Contact rate (contact within the strike zone) to 91.4%. That is elite considering the league average for Z-Contact was 84.2%. However, popular projection systems have the infielder down for a batting average between .260-.275 despite hitting .314 and .298 over the past two seasons. I expect Urshela to be a .300 hitter again, or close to it, in 2021.
Adalberto Mondesi - SS - KC - ADP: 31
How risk-averse are you? I ask because Adalberto Mondesi is the only player on the draft board going in the second round that likely has the ability to finish as the number one overall player in fantasy. Sure, he also comes with a floor so low that he could be droppable, but at pick 31 the Royals shortstop can easily outperform this draft price by merely staying healthy for 162-games (even with a career 4.3% walk rate and a 29.7% strikeout rate). Just to give you a preview of what could be, here is Mondesi’s pace if given 575 plate appearances over the past three seasons:
2018 Pace over 575 PA: 27 HR, 93 R, 72 RBI, 63 SB
2019 Pace over 575 PA: 11 HR, 75 R, 80 RBI, 56 SB
2020 Pace over 575 PA: 14 HR, 81 R, 54 RBI, 59 SB
Andres Gimenez - SS - CLE - ADP: 188
Andrés Giménez has had an interesting offseason. The 22-year-old shortstop went from being a rising star in New York to a part of the semi-rebuilding Cleveland Indians. As far as fantasy goes this was lateral news, but when rumors started to circulate that Cleveland may consider demoting Gimenez in order to play the service time game people started to worry. However, according to Zack Meisel of The Athletic, Indians manager Terry Francona all but named Gimenez the starting shortstop to being the 2021 season.
This is great news. In 2019 Gimenez batted .250 with nine home runs and 28 stolen bases in 432 at-bats before going on to win the batting title in the Arizona Fall League. The young shortstop then translated that success into his first extended look in the majors last season but batting .268 with three home runs and eight stolen bases over just 118 at-bats. The only thing you can for sure count on is that Gimenez will have an excellent glove, but if his recent track record is an indication you could be drafting an everyday player with double-digit power and 30-stolen base upside that has eligibility at several positions. Andrés Giménez is a bargain at pick 188.
Kyle Tucker - OF - HOU - ADP: 41
Kyle Tucker is a ceiling play in 2021 who has been aggressively drafted early in high-stakes formats but is currently slated to begin the season batting towards the bottom of the Astros lineup. The 24-year-old hit .268 with nine home runs and eight stolen bases in 2020, so you can imagine the potential. Again, investing early depends on how risk-averse you are but let me leave you with Tucker's combined totals in 2019 between Triple-A and the majors: .267 with 38 home runs, 107 runs, 108 RBI, and 35 stolen bases. If you want to draft Tucker, you might have to jump earlier than pick 41 in Yahoo leagues.
Victor Robles - OF - WSH - ADP: 182
Victor Robles has a lot of flaws and I am not going to try to convince you otherwise. What I am going to tell you is that in a very flawed 2019 season, in which the Nationals center fielder carried brutal plate discipline metrics, Robles still hit .255 with 17 home runs and 28 stolen bases. The 23-year-old may have had a rough 2020 campaign, like many others, but Washington has made it clear that they intend to bat their young outfielder leadoff in front of Juan Soto and Trea Turner. How is everyone in Yahoo leagues allowing Robles to last to pick 182 when he should be going closer to pick 100?
Eddie Rosario - OF - CLE - ADP: 125
Luis Castillo - SP - CIN - ADP: 42
Luis Castillo is on the verge of becoming an elite ace in fantasy baseball. The 28-year-old ended 2020 with a 3.21 ERA, 2.65 FIP, and 2.82 FIP along with increasing his K% for the third consecutive season. Not only did he carry a career-high 30.5% strikeout rate, but also lowered his walk rate from 10.0% to 8.2%. This is despite allowing the highest WHIP of his entire career which seemed to be an outlier due to a BABIP that was 50-60 points higher than his career average.
Castillo is an extreme ground ball pitcher with the ability to punch hitters out, which is an extremely rare and elite skill set. In fact there were only five pitchers to have at least 50% groundball rate and carry and strikeout percentage above 25: Framber Valdez, Clayton Kershaw, Sonny Gray, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Luis Castillo (58.4%/30.5%). In addition, Castillo was one of only five pitchers with a K-BB% of at least 20 percent with a Barrel rate against of less than five percent.
The Reds ace gained velocity on his entire arsenal and had three pitches with an SwStr% over 15.0 percent, the third being his slider which allowed only 59 percent contact rate. Those are three legitimate putaway pitches that are difficult to elevate. Castillo could be a top-5 pitcher that is going at pick 42 in Yahoo leagues.
Zac Gallen - SP - ARI - ADP: 47
Zac Gallen allowed three runs or less in each of his first 23 career starts, the longest streak to start a career in MLB history. The right-hander also averaged six innings pitched per start and had quality starts in 9-of-12 (75%). In all nine of Gallen’s quality starts, the 25-year-old allowed no more than two runs. Some will point to Gallen’s peripheral numbers and FIP as a reason to predict regression, but the fact of the matter is that the Diamondbacks ace has outperformed those numbers at every stop since 2017:
2017 (High-A) 2.07 FIP, 1.62 ERA
2017 (Double-A) 4.48 FIP, 3.79 ERA
2017 (Triple-A) 4.06 FIP, 3.48 ERA
2018 (Triple-A) 4.33 FIP, 3.65 ERA
2019 (Triple-A) 3.66 FIP, 1.77 ERA
2019 (MLB) 3.61 FIP, 2.81 ERA
2020 (MLB) 3.66 FIP, 2.75 ERA
Zac Gallen is one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball and had a very difficult schedule in 2020. You should draft him like the ace that he is, and at pick 47 on Yahoo that is a steal.
Brandon Woodruff - SP - MIL - ADP: 54
To see all the top value picks in addition to rankings, season-long projections, ADP reports, mock drafts and much more you can purchase EDGE+ Roto here for as low as $3.99 per month, which also includes access to NHL, NBA and NFL tools as well. And if you're into DFS and betting, be sure check out our EDGE+ Pro package that includes our DFS Tools, our EDGE+ Bet package with just our Betting Tools, both as low as $7.99 per month or get it all with EDGE+ Max for as low as $11.99 per month.