Here at Hardball Times, we like to pride ourselves on in-depth, highly substantive analysis. But this week, I’d like to do something a bit different.
I’d be lying if I said I’ve been deep into 2011 fantasy research since the sun set on 2010. In fact, I’m just really starting to dig in now. One of the things I like to do early on is to simply get a pulse on the market’s opinions of players outside the top 50. Right now, I’m just going to do a bit of a read and react as I scan ADP, noting quite a lot of names that jump out at me and appear undervalued. I’ll do the same for players I find overvalued in an upcoming column. Again, this is not in-depth analysis, but more of a temperature read based on simple market principles and overall experience. I’ll move through this list in order of ADP.
Keep in mind that especially as you get further down the list, the standard deviation for the ADPs grows, so some of these players may go way earlier or later than their ADP in mock drafts you may have seen.
60. Kendry Morales. If you bought into Morales’s ADP last season, then 60th overall represents a bargain at a point in the draft where it’s pretty difficult to find one. Prior to breaking his leg in that freak accident last season, Morales seemed on his way to justifying his 2009 cost.
94. Grady Sizemore. I can’t blame the market for being down on Sizemore, and there’s no guarantee he doesn’t prove to be a huge bust. And, yes, I know that the 94th overall pick certainly isn’t a throwaway selection, but if you’re confident in your ability to find late value and you’re willing to compensate for this aggressive risk pick early on by taking a boring veteran late when you’d otherwise tempted to roll the dice on a prospect, there’s clear potential value to be had here. This isn’t a no-brainer, but by year’s end it will likely look like it should have been one… one way or the other.
105. Nick Markakis. Bizarrely low RBI and Runs totals drastically marred Markakis’s fantasy value last season, but his overall performance was much more similar to his previous three campaigns. I was among those disappointed that Markakis didn’t become the next Bobby Abreu archetype fantasy beast after 2007, but he’s a known, high caliber quantity coming off his worst season, superficially, in the majors. This sounds like a textbook buy-low opportunity.
116. Jonathan Papelbon. Isn’t it possible we are making a bit too much of Papelbon’s struggles? He had a few exceptionally bad outings last season and ended the season with the worst stretch of his career, but his strikeouts and homers weren’t too far off his career rates. His walks were a bit up, but they were a tad high in 2009 as well. He has a nice size contract, so even if he does find himself being traded, it is highly unlikely he changes uniforms to do anything but close.
131. Ben Zobrist. Zobrist was something of a bust last season, but that was partly a function of expectations and partly due to a very low batting average. If Zobrist modestly rebounds to post a neutral batting average, then even a repeat of last season’s somewhat disappointing production would make for fine middle infielder and justify this price. Should he regain any more of his 2009 glory, that would be all profit. Zobrist will also retain nearly all his positional eligibility going into 2011, making him a nicely flexible piece.
158. Pablo Sandoval. I’m not sure what to make of Sandoval’s struggles last season. He was shuffled all around the order and failed to produce after the first two months or so of the season. Sandoval suffered some BABIP woes, but they weren’t as abominable as you might expect given his drop in average and relative stability in batted ball type and walk and strikeout rate. So, I’m kind of puzzled, but at this price it’s worth the gamble to see if Sandoval redeems himself.
192. Aaron Hill. Hill is another player I’m willing to give a shot at redemption. Hill did suffer horribly from poor BABIP luck in 2010, which also affected his run and RBI totals. Like Zobrist, Hill’s price has fallen to the point where the risk is largely mitigated. At this price, I just see it as much more likely Hill turns a profit than goes belly up.
205. Jason Bay. There’s no way around the fact that Bay was terrible before sustaining a concussion last season. His homerun rate of one per nearly 60 at bats was basically a Black Swan-type event. Proven players coming off of uncharacteristically poor seasons are often investment opportunities, as are proven players coming off of injury. Bay qualifies as both.
208. Drew Stubbs. Stubbs simply has too much upside to be on the board this long. He’s a bit of a batting average risk, but he’s the starting CF in a friendly home park and a part of one of the better offenses in the league. Stubbs accumulated 52 combined homers and steals in his first full season in the league; the fact that this kind of talent is around at this point in the draft is absurd.
216. Carlos Quentin. It doesn’t really look like a return to 2008 form is in the cards for Quentin, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. A 30/100 season however is highly plausible, as part of a line-up with a lot of firepower in homer-friendly confines.
217. Carlos Pena. Pena will be the 33 this season. You have to think he has about two more seasons where he remains roughly the entity he is now. Within that window you expect him to hit homers in the high 20s to the low 40s and hit anywhere from .200 to .265. At this price, it’s probably worth seeing if you get one of the better seasons within that variation. See, I told you this wasn’t going to be particularly in-depth analysis.
227. Gaby Sanchez. I’ve covered Sanchez a few times already this offseason. He seems like a solid value here. I’m not sure there’s a ton of breakout potential in Sanchez, but if you’re filling out your roster and looking for take-nothing-off-the-table contributions at this point in the draft, Sanchez probably fits that bill and makes you a bit of a profit.
230. Brett Gardner. Ichiro minus the batting average at a nearly 200 draft slot discount? Gardner’s ability to get on base and his wheels will keep the runs and steals pouring in. The potency of the Yankees line-up enables a fair amount of RBI opportunities even in the ninth hole.
230. Brad Lidge. Lidge rounded into somewhat vintage form toward the end of last season. He’s locked in as the closer, and couched behind one of the best rotations in recent memory. Lidge proved a fine value last season and his price hasn’t really jumped despite a generally reaffirming performance. At this point, you have to think he’s only healthier and further removed from his nadir.
237. Carlos Beltran. Is it possible for a player so shortly removed from the game’s absolute elite to play a full season and not justify this price? I think it will be important to keep your eye on how Beltran looks on the bases during the spring. As long as he seems capable of stealing double-digit bases, it seems this ADP is laughable.
251. Jonathan Broxton. With an admittedly tenuous grasp of the bullpen situation in Los Angeles, I’m just going to act based on the assumption that common sense will prevail in some way, shape, or form for Broxton. Given Broxton’s track record, he should first be given every opportunity to earn the closer role back. Even if that doesn’t fall into place, you’d think there would be numerous teams interested in giving him a shot. A middle relief role on the Dodgers doesn’t seem all that likely to me because if he’s pitching like he can, he should be closing and if he’s not pitching well, then why should he be pitching high leverage innings at all? I think this is a situation where Broxton is worth more alive than dead, so to speak.
255. Ike Davis. Davis is a bit like Carlos Pena, but with a presumed narrower variance of expectation – higher floor, lower ceiling.
262. Ted Lilly. I’m really sick about writing about how underrated Lilly is. Insert combination Groundhog Day, Rodney Dangerfield reference here.
270. Joe Nathan. I don’t expect this ADP to stay here for long, but it seems like the earlier your draft, the better the price you’ll pay for Nathan.
274. Angel Pagan. And the parade of Mets continues, but don’t worry fellow Flushing faithful, .500 would still be overachieving. In regard to Pagan though, he was in the 100th rank range last season. Does any of last season’s production look so wildly unrepeatable?
281. Matt Thornton. If Thornton had an uncontested claim on the closer job in Chicago, he’d shoot up the list in a heartbeat. Given that he is the favorite for that job and he has proven effective enough to have legitimate fantasy value even in a non-closer role, he’s a no-brainer this late. Basically, he’d still most likely turn a profit at this price even as a set-up man.
287. Rajai Davis. Batting order demotions (sometimes well-deserved ones) and a weak offense suppressed potentially higher run totals in 2009. Still, 40-plus steals, a neutral to positive batting average, and adequate lead-off RBI totals makes Davis an easy bargain here. What exactly makes Michael Bourn 170 picks better than Davis?
342. Chris Johnson. It’s going to be quite difficult for Johnson to maintain a good batting average with his walk rate, but he’s young and will be given the chance to back-up last year’s surprise performance in Houston.
350. Neil Walker. For pennies, it’s worth finding out if he can maintain plus-pop as a middle infielder.
369. Domonic Brown. If even a portion of the hype is real, this is golden. One thing about blue-chip, widely-known prospects is that if they get off to a hot start, sometimes you can really cash in on them in a trade,
376. Josh Willingham. Willingham could be the clean-up hitter in Oakland, right?
387. Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is likely to stay in the bullpen in 2011. He’s also not slated to supplant Francisco Cordero as closer. Still, with the K-rate he’s likely to produce, it doesn’t even matter how the Reds plan to use Chapman when you’re buying him for a song.
387. Koji Uehara. With Kevin Gregg in the mix, Uehara will have to do a lot to win the closer role in Baltimore. Still, he’s probably good enough to warrant this price without closing and if Gregg is his main competition, he’s never more than an arm’s reach from save chances.