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Wednesday, February 02, 2011
This week, I return with the second part of my read and react column. As I mentioned in the first half of this column, the opinions presented here are generally not based on much advanced analysis. Rather, my goal is to gauge the market for certain players by analyzing their ADP and identify positions to take on those players based on fairly simple market principles. Last week, I focused on players who, at first glance, struck me as undervalued. This week, I’m pegging players who strike me as overvalued.
Honestly, this type of work represents a lot of my research on a yearly basis. On individual cases, I will dive more deeply into advanced numbers, but I think the bang for your buck in research is in adhering to core market principles, keeping up to date with the going rate for players, and having positions on enough players to enable you to act on your positions no matter how your draft or auction progresses. While I do hold some general principles, such as not paying top dollar for a catcher in mixed league with fewer than 14 teams, I normally build my teams by moving on the positions that evolve to represent what I feel to be the most value from draft to draft. As one who follows baseball rather closely and consumes a lot of analysis as a function of my brand of fandom, I’d rather invest in learning how others behave than spend that time marginally refining predictions or developing tight ordinal rankings.
With that out of the way, let’s get into some of the players whose ADP (courtesy of Mock Draft Central) raises red flags. Some of these players may have also been discussed by my colleagues in recent columns. With THT’s growing fantasy staff, I think we do our readers a service by exposing them to different opinions on the same players. We generally don’t confer on these matters, formally at least, so I think there’s value in seeing dissent as well as consensus.
7. Carlos Gonzalez. Yes, CarGo is young, and should still be improving. And, yes, he plays in a hitters’ haven. But, the fact is we don’t even really need to get into his individual situation for me to have an opinion. We all know about the seemingly unsustainable BABIP, but that too plays second fiddle to simple market principles. Here we have a player who made a quantum leap last season and who is now commanding the top price at his position. His price tag is asking you to pay for something that happened only once, and unexpectedly so at that. I think I’d prefer the peace of mind of Joey Votto or Adrian Gonzalez here, or the positional advantage of a Robinson Cano. Moving back a few slots, I think I might even prefer David Wright if I have to make this choice at 10 or so. Essentially, you’d be happy enough with CarGo if he gave you .305/ 103/27/107/22—those are David Wright’s career per-162s, by the way.
12. Josh Hamilton. First things first, Hamilton is not going to hit .359 again. It’s also important remember that he’s coming off his second straight injury-plagued season. Hamilton’s ADP is half a slot ahead of Ryan Braun, and I couldn’t even imagine leaving Braun on the board for Hamilton. I’d also rather invest in Mark Teixeira’s stability or see what Carl Crawford does in Boston, both of who are going around three picks behind Hamilton.
21. Joe Mauer. If you are in an AL-only league, or deep, or two-catcher mixed league, I can see emptying the bank account for Mauer, but in the standard 12-team mixed format, you just can burn a top 20 pick on a player whose second-highest single season home run total is 13, and who does not steal any bases. I don’t care what position he plays, Mauer is only going to make good on this pick if he goes deep more than 20 times and history tells us that is unlikely. This seems like a better time to take the consistency of Matt Holliday, or to make a modest gamble on a rebound from Matt Kemp.
27. Jose Reyes. I don’t exactly hate this pick, but coming off an injury and entering 2010, Reyes was coming in at about spot 20. I would think that now, coming off that same injured season with a disappointing season sprinkled with injury stacked on top of it, his price would dip even further. Two things help save this ADP in my eyes. The first is that as unlikely as I think the proposition is, there is theoretical room to make profit here, given what Reyes has done before. The second is that the shortstops who follow him, Jimmy Rollins (41) and Derek Jeter (45), are also coming off poor seasons and haven’t seen their prices fall far enough either.
28. Shin-Soo Choo. I think Choo is a fantastic player, both in fantasy and on the actual diamond, but he essentially had the same season twice in a row. I’m just not sure there’s much room to profit on him at this price.
31. Brian McCann. The same league type disclaimers apply here as did for Mauer. But seriously, McCann has never topped 68 runs or 24 HRs. These premium catchers simply don’t earn their ADP unless your league set up offers extremely deep positional value.
33. Ichiro Suzuki. Simply, when was the last time Ichiro was worth his preseason ADP? He hasn’t really gotten it all together from a fantasy standpoint since 2007. Either his steals are up over 40, but his batting average is just very good but not amazing, or he posts his .350, but doesn’t run enough. He’s also averaged a mere 81 runs and 45 RBI over the past two seasons. I’d rather scoop Kevin Youkilis for around the same price, or gamble on Nelson Cruz’s health or Justin Upton doing what he was supposed to do last season, and then come back for Andrew McCutchen a round or two later.
42. Rickie Weeks. Weeks made a lot of us feel proud last season—some of us have been preaching for years that he had valuable fantasy seasons in him. However, we must keep our composure—this ADP surely doesn’t look like the keeping of our composure. Weeks achieved great value last season by finding the power stroke many of us thought he had (although maybe not to a 29 HR clip) and by staying on the field for a full season. Keep in mind that Weeks had never stayed healthy for a full season prior to 2010. Additionally, he only swiped 11 bases last year. While that number could pick back up, I wouldn’t count of 29-11 as being the way Weeks consistently reaches the 40 combined steals and home run plateau. Weeks is the type of player for whose potential you should never pay 95 cents on the dollar.
43. Jimmy Rollins. I mentioned Rollins a few items above, but the simple fact is that he hasn’t been an elite fantasy shortstop since 2007. The ugly batting averages and injuries have been piling up, and I just don’t think that at age 32 there’s enough upside to be had here. I’d rather take Jeter (yeah, I know, he’s even older) who is going three picks later. Actually, I think Jeter has the less risk than Rollins and Reyes, and is most accurately priced of the three.
45. Buster Posey. This strikes me as having all the problems of Mauer and McCann with less track record. I’d pass here and look to Geovany Soto, Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana or Miguel Montero several rounds later, where there’s greater profit potential. Posey may indeed deliver, but I’m not eager to find out first hand.
50. Adrian Beltre. I want to dislike this ADP more than I can completely rationalize. So, I will simply say that Beltre’s 2010 and Aramis Ramirez’s 2010 are likely to meet somewhere in the middle, and Ramirez is going more than 50 picks later. Casey McGehee is also a player who is just coming off a season similar to what Beltre has typically done from year to year, and he’s 60 slots cheaper.
70. Paul Konerko. It’s unlikely Konerko will find the fountain of youth for the second straight season. ADP-wise, he’s in something of a no-man’s land. Kendry Morales is going ten picks earlier, and Billy Butler going 15 picks later; I prefer either of these value propositions.
101. Alfonso Soriano. Why is Soriano hovering around the top 100? He’s 35 and doesn’t do anything particularly well anymore. He no longer steals bases. He doesn’t hit for average or score runs. He’s good for 20 or so home runs, a mediocre RBI total, and 30 or so missed games.
107. John Danks. I don’t mean to pick on Danks, because there are plenty of pitchers around this price range who don’t thrill me. The short story on Danks is that his strikeout potential is too low for me at this spot. I’d prefer each of the three pitchers following Danks in ADP ranking, Matt Garza (109), Colby Lewis (113), and Wandy Rodriguez (119). Plus, there’s even more value to be had even deeper into the draft.
111. Kelly Johnson. Once again, I doubt this pick would break a team, but are you really investing any less risk for any more reward in Johnson here than you would be in Ben Zobrist at 131 or Aaron Hill at 171? You can still grab a high quality closer, strong starter or solid outfielder here. I’d consider going aggressively after a top second baseman and then hoping to grab Zobrist or Hill to fill out my middle infield, which would give me great MI trade bait if either of those picks hit.
156. Alex Gonzalez. Perhaps, this is more of a commentary on the 2011 shortstop crop than on Gonzalez himself. It’s not as if the player pool is glimmering with tempting SS options at this point in the draft, but prior to 2010, Alex Gonzalez has been some combination of injured and replacement to below-replacement level since 2005. Unless you’re desperate for some pop at this spot, it’d most likely behoove you to target Ian Desmond or Starlin Castro and hope you stumble onto a breakout. Or, you could play it safer and take Marco Scutaro at 240. Finally, if you’re really just looking for the best shot at 20 HR and 80 RBI, why not roll the dice on Jhonny Peralta who isn’t even being drafted in most conventional 12-team mixed leagues. Meanwhile, at 156 there are still solid starting pitchers to be had.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:04am
Risk is one of the most overused words in fantasy baseball advice. Sometimes we’re told to seek out players with more risk so that we can harness their upsides. Other times, we’re told to play it safe and stay away from risk, particularly in the early rounds of draft (or for the high dollar players in auctions). There are indeed several minor strategies where it is best to minimize or maximize your risk exposure but only if risk-adjusting is low cost. But the truth is, properly understood, risk matters comparatively little.
Unfortunately, risk is often misunderstood. A player’s upsides and his downsides should all figure into his forecast performance. A mediocre player with a small chance of an all-star, breakout season will have (or should have) higher expectations than an identical mediocre player with no chance to breakout. This difference in forecast, average performance is important and valuable. That is, these players should have different dollar values.
But if a player has a higher upside but the same forecasts as another player, then the first player must also have a higher downside (to balance things out, note that, by “forecasts,” I mean their expected average results—the number you’d get if you looked at, say, their Oliver projections). So when an expert says that one player is more valuable than another because he has a higher upside, he must mean that this player is more valuable because he’s riskier. Otherwise it’d hardly be news that a particular player is more valuable simply because he has higher projected stats.
I would much rather have a player that is correctly valued using only three sets numbers: his forecasts given health (e.g. how well the pitcher pitches when he does actually pitch), how much time he’s expected to miss, and the forecasts for the replacement level player at his position. Forget about upside or downside.
Experts who do care about risk usually do so for one of three reasons:
—They are misunderstanding risk and they haven’t adjusted their forecasts for both upside and downside. For instance, forecast home runs should be adjusted for injury concerns. Once done, there is much less reason to double emphasize the injury concerns (or the upside).
—They are double emphasizing the risk of injury, for example, because of strategic concerns. Here’s where you need to be extra careful, since these strategies can only apply in narrow cases. There are only a few if any roster spots that are truly available to players with high upsides (a topic of mine in a past article). That is, there’s a cost to holding on to high upside players, waiting for them to break out—you have to forgo the opportunity to hold on to steadier reserves, a Jason Kubel type rather than a Michael Brantley.
—They are risk averse or risk seeking, excessively so. The risk from any one player contributes very little to the overall risk of your lineup. While it is true that the cost of risk for a first-round player is higher than for a fifth-round player, the difference in cost is or should be small.
Likewise, while you’ll need to make profits on your players in order to win your league, it really isn’t more effective to try to find large dollops of profit from a few players than it is to get small contributions from most of your players. You don’t need to start buying lottery tickets.
Making the case for ignoring risk is tough because the experts’ arguments are literally true without being practically useful. By all means, once you’ve got good, injury-adjusted forecasts, go ahead and contemplate risk-based strategies. But there is a risk worth considering first: the risk that you’ll overemphasize risk concerns on your draft day as much as the experts overemphasize them before.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 3:20am
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