In the endless pursuit of being the fantasy baseball equivalent of Albert Einstein, or maybe more appropriately, the fantasy equivalent of Theo Epstein, I have embarked on an exercise to identify the one guy on each MLB roster who is the MOST VALUABLE UNDERVALUED PLAYER for his team.
Looking for value team-by-team is like adding a third dimension to the positional and overall rankings lists. It provides depth into a player’s hidden potential due to team construct, role, and opportunity. Statistical projection systems can take these “intangibles” into account to some degree, but I have found this process to be very beneficial in building a narrative about each team and to see each player as an integrated part of that system, not just a faceless, independent compiler of numbers.
My criteria for identifying the player on each team with the BEST chance of returning meaningful draft day profit is based on the likelihood of the reward outweighing the risk relative to draft position. A safer floor and risk aversion being the primary factor early in the draft. More boom or bust risk tolerance accepted as the draft moves into the later rounds.
Each undervalued player has been given a grade to help prioritize and establish a confidence level in his selection.
A – high floor, low risk, strong potential for significant return on value based on current ADP
B – solid floor, some risk, likely potential for moderate return on value based on current ADP
C – higher risk, elevated uncertainty, but high upside is worth the bust risk at the current ADP
National League West
Value Grade: B
Role: strong 5th outfielder in deeper leagues
The D-Backs had a couple of breakout players last year in Jake Lamb and Yasmany Tomas. Both players are affordable on draft day, but the question of whether they can sustain a HR/FB rate of 20%+ makes them both regression candidates this year. Maybe this year’s surprise D-Back is David Peralta. Peralta is somewhat a forgotten man due to a wrist injury that limited him to 171 at bats in 2016. Peralta, a converted pitcher, already had a bit of a breakout in 2015 when he slashed an eye-popping .312/.371/.522 and swiped 9 bases in 462 at-bats. His success was aided some by a .368 BABIP, but even with some regression there, Peralta historically has had a higher than average BABIP and is likely to hit .280 or greater. He will lose some at-bats against lefties, but batting in the heart of the order on most days should generate 17/75/10 and 60-65 runs. That’s respectable help in all five categories beyond pick 300.
Value Grade: B+
Role: #2 Catcher with potential to be a top-10 by mid-season
All Rockie hitters get a Coors boost, and most fantasy owners are willing to pay up to get a piece of the action. That mostly leaves the draft value in Colorado to be found in the up-and-comers, such as Tom Murphy. Murphy crushes the ball… when he makes contact. Nobody denies his enormous power potential (39 HR in just under 700 minor league at-bats the last two years, and 8 HR in 79 career MLB at-bats), but detractors will note his propensity for strikeouts, including a 33% K rate in those 79 MLB at-bats. For some players, the K rate would be cause for concern, and it is a bit for Murphy. However, he has shown throughout his career that the production plays despite the high whiffs, and in today’s baseball climate, K’s are tolerated when accompanied by big slugging numbers.
Even though Rockies manager Bud Black says that Murphy will split catching duties with Tony Wolters, at the end of the day, talent wins out in the major leagues, and Murphy has plenty of it. Even with 60% of a timeshare, Murphy has 20-25 home run potential at a position in desperate need of fantasy depth. His floor might be Brian McCann, but at 80 picks later.
Now I realize that Murphy has a broken arm and will miss the next 4-6 weeks. For me, all that means is a greater discount on draft day that needs to be taken advantage of. DL spots are made for this. You may have to wait until May to reap the benefits, but good things come to those who wait.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Value Grade: B
Role: Middle Infielder in deeper leagues
Forsythe doesn’t have a very high ceiling, but he has a very safe floor and the realistic opportunity to score 100 runs hitting at the top of the Dodger lineup in front of Seager and Turner. He will add 15-20 HR and chip in 8-10 SB. That’s about Ben Zobrist production, but at 50 picks later.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Value Grade: B
Role: Speedy 5th outfielder for deeper leagues
The fantasy value of Manuel Margot is all about the speed, and this may be the last time you can get him late in the draft. His minor league career is highlighted by 30-40 SB seasons and a tremendously low strikeout rate of about 10%. He’s only 22 years old and has some development to make, but the Padres are in a position to put him 1 or 2 in the order and let him fly. Margot has a slight knee injury that should be monitored, but that may work to the advantage of the savvy owner as it may keep his draft stock low. There is a strong play for “speed at the end of the draft” this year, and Manuel Margot may be the cream of the crop in that category.
Runner-up: Hunter Renfroe, OF (ADP: 234) – Renfroe is the other Padre rookie ready for a possible breakout in 2017. He is the power to Margot’s speed. These two can be considered 1 and 1A for value, with Renfroe a bit behind due to his higher draft day cost and less disciplined plate approach – which may get exposed early on.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Value Grade: C-
Role: early to mid-season call-up
In the real world, the Giants are a solid group of hard-nosed baseball players who have experienced lots of success as a team. In the fantasy realm, this translates to established veterans and platoon roles that are appropriately slotted or overvalued on the draft board, leaving very little untapped value on draft day. When I am looking for fantasy value this year, I’m fading the Giants. Therefore, I would like to put Tyler Beede on your radar. A former first round pick in 2014, he will be next in line when Matt Cain ultimately fails, and the Giants have seen enough of the “blah” Ty Blach.
Beede has some inconsistency in command and control, but progressed well in the minors last year and will likely get a shot in the rotation at some point. He’s not a guy to stash unless you have a deep bench, but keep an eye on the situation and beat your competition to claim him during the season if a call-up becomes imminent. The friendly home park will help ease his MLB transition, and he may provide back-end rotation depth that you may need due to injury or ineffectiveness in your rotation.
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