Fantasy Baseball draft prep: Overrated hitters not worth price tag

Roto Arcade

We offered up our favorite bargain bats earlier in the week. Now let’s look at overvalued hitters as dispassionately as possible by comparing Yahoo ADP to their ranking among hitters with at least 200 at bats in the broad spectrum of statistics tracked by stat provider to major league teams, Inside Edge.

Mookie Betts (ADP 8.5, Inside Edge hitting rank T-54)

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Betts is a very good player and unlikely to hurt your team enough to matter no matter where you pick him. The floor is high given the ability to combine serviceable power with very good base-stealing ability. But the bottom line is he’s being drafted very often above Bryce Harper (ADP 9.1). While Betts was an A-minus hitter tied for the 54th best hitting grade among players with at least 200 at bats last year, the numbers say to take Harper instead, and another Yahoo scribe agrees with me. Harper was an A-plus hitter, tied for the third best overall score in baseball behind Mike Trout and Joey Votto. I get that Betts gets you steals but I give Harper the edge in batting average, homers (widely) and RBI with runs being a push. I caution you that I felt the same way last year and was proven marginally wrong. But let’s dig a little deeper.

According to Alex Patton’s great website, Harper earned $26 (out of a hypothetical $260 budget) in 5 x 5 last year in 111 games or $0.25 per game. Betts earned $28 in 153 games or $0.18 cents per game. So you really have to buy Betts playing about 50 more games than Harper to justify this pick. And Harper could get double-digit steals this year without shocking anyone.

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Manny Machado (22.1, T-123)

An overrated player put in the pantheon with guys like Trout and Harper where he’s only marginally on a Hall of Fame path. I mean, you have to squint to see Machado in Cooperstown. Machado’s well-hit rate was an excellent .213 (of at bats) compared with the MLB average of .155. So he’s no way the 123rd best hitter, I stipulate. I’m merely saying he’s being taken about a round or two too high. Great hitters are rarely significantly below average in on-base percentage with two strikes. Machado’s was .234 and the MLB average is .253. In 2016, it was .261. I’d take Jose Ramirez (tied for the 24th best hitter) over Machado 100 out of 100 times.

Rhys Hoskins (46, N/A)

Yes, N/A because Hoskins did not have 200 at bats. I can’t see taking a hitter who was never an elite prospect this highly based on a small, largely September sample size. Hoskins faced a bunch of pitchers laboring to the finishing line or fresh out of the minors. There is a non-zero chance that Hoskins is the new Sam Horn or Kevin Maas and that’s not being priced in at all. Hoskins flashed more late season power than Horn or Maas did but this is also a homer-inflated era. I don’t think ADP 46 is close to the midway point between his upside and risk — that would be about ADP 70. Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski recently debated Hoskins vs. Byron Buxton.

Rougned Odor (103, T-340)

I get the combo attraction. And as a hitter you can say he’s no more flawed than Joey Gallo, who I have happily drafted this season and landed our the bargain bats list. But Gallo’s overall hitting profile ranked about 200 spots higher. Odor seems to be the poster boy for hit trajectory NOT being some magic elixir. He pops up or strikes out on 31.5% of at bats — it’s hard to survive this way. If you must, take somewhat better hitter according to Inside Edge Javier Baez over Odor and get similar categories at the same position plus additional positional flexibility. Or better yet, wait three rounds on average and get Marwin Gonzalez, who was an A-minus hitter (Odor was C-minus). No one is making you pay to see if Gonzalez is real. Instead people are paying to see if Odor’s terrible year was NOT real. Weird.

Javier Baez (124.6, T-234)

Just because he’s a better pick than Odor doesn’t make Baez a good pick. Yes, he’s fun with the multi-positional ability and great defense and hint of being a good hitter. But it’s just a hint. The bottom line is depressing: on-base percentage barely .300 and a quality-at-bat rate of 34% compared with the 40% big-league average. Also his career OPS+ where 100 is exactly average is 91 and has never been higher than 103. Quality at-bats are not outcome biased but rather a compilation of things like at bats that last at least seven pitches or where you hit the ball well regardless of whether that resulted in a hit. Gonzalez’s quality-at-bat rate for comparison was 44% — very good. Again, no one is saying to take Gonzalez over Baez and Odor because no league will make you. Just take someone else knowing you’ll get Gonzalez a couple of rounds later.

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