Fantasy Value comes in many forms. Drafting a player late and having him exceed his draft position is considered value. Picking up a player off waivers who performs as good as or better than your starters is considered value. And trading for players that fall into either one of those categories while playing a minimum is also considered value. It’s easy to draft the stars, but it’s those value picks that can take a team to the next level – from an average team to a playoff contender.
Below is my 2018 all value team. There are a number of deserving players at each position, but the players below exceeded all expectations that not even the experts at SBG Global sportsbook could have predicted. Most of the players had an ADP outside the top-200 making them a late round flyer or waiver wire acquisition. Yet all of them will, or should, finish in the top-10 at their respective position (top-20 for OF and SP). Enjoy.
Yasmani Grandal (ADP 231 – 42% drafted)
This was one of the harder positions to gauge as far as value goes. Sitting in the top spot, J.T. Realmuto deserves a mention for being the 5th buy off the board with an ADP of 145. Molina, Gattis and Ramos were next off the board (in some order) and they also represent the next three in current rankings production. Grandal, though, wasn’t drafted in 100% of leagues like those players. In fact, he was the 16th catcher off the board by ADP, one slot after the man who many thought would replace him, Austin Barnes.
Among catchers Grandal ranks 2nd in runs (58), 3rd in home runs (22) and 5th in RBI (63). The batting average leaves something to be desired (.223), and that probably isn’t something that will change moving forward. However, ranking in the top-5 in three of the four major categories we judge catchers by (nobody expects steals) is damn good. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Brian McCann, who for years would post top 5-10 numbers in each of those categories and finish among the top-5 or so catchers, yet each year he got little respect in rankings or drafts. This is how I now view Grandal which makes him someone I will probably target late in drafts, and if people are treating Grandal with the same lack of respect in rankings I should be able to get him for a bargain.
Jesus Aguilar (ADP outside top-250 – 1% drafted)
With Eric Thames on the roster and rumblings of Ryan Braun potentially spending some time at first base, Aguilar wasn’t even a consideration on draft day. Aguilar punished the ball in limited April at bats, and while Thames held his own it was evident that Aguilar required more at bats. Thames was shifted to the outfield, and Aguilar responded by hitting .272 with 8 home runs and 40 combined runs and RBI in May. The rest is history. Thames eventually collapsed making him a non-factor leaving Aguilar with zero competition. Aguilar should finish the season as a top-5 first baseman, finishing ahead of popular choices such as Hoskins, Bellinger, Abreu and Votto – that’s how good he has been.
While Aguilar has some contact and swing and miss issues, he does crush the ball so the power is for real. He also showed enough discipline, both in the majors and minors, that suggest a batting average of .260 or better is a reasonable expectation moving forward. Granted this is his first full season and Aguilar did turn 28 this year so he remains a risk heading into 2019. That means he’ll probably receive a similar discount as Thames did this year, being taken in the 200 range – maybe a few round higher for the big believers. In an aging position with little help to replenish the position over the years I can see Aguilar being overvalued, but in the same breath I see an equal number of people underestimating his ability to come close to repeating.
Paul Sporer and Justin Mason at Fangraphs discussed him a few days ago on the sleeper and the bust and it sounds like they are somewhat divided as well.
Scooter Gennett (ADP 198 – 90% drafted)
Before you say it, I had every intention of listing Javier Baez here, and with a 30/20 season he rightly fully deserves top honors. However, despite potentially finishing as a top-10 player I will only award him an honorable mention. WHY? Well, Baez had an ADP of 116 and Gennett was taken 80 players later and will finish third at the position. Gennett is the only player with at least 20 home runs, 80 each in runs and RBI, and a batting average over .300, although Baez could also reach that plateau with a few extra hits.
Baez was the younger sexy choice with upside who just needed 500+ at bats. Gennett had a breakout season in 2017, but at age 29 with a weak track record the words “career year” were in the back of many owners mind. A slow April had many hitting the panic button, but once Gennett heated up he barely cooled off. You got a bonus in leagues where he qualified for either 3B or OF, another check mark he has in common with Baez who also qualified for 3B and SS. You can make an argument for either man, and while both deserve the honor only one can win.
Eugenio Suarez (ADP 220 – 99% drafted)
Few people gave Suarez much credit for the improvements made from 2016 to 2017 – more power, better plate discipline, improvements against rights and both home and away. He took some small steps to show that he could, at the very least, repeat his 2017 season. Still, fantasy owners faded him in favor of either bigger names or youngsters with more upside. Currently Suarez ranks among the top-10 eligible third basemen – borderline top-5.
Most of this is due to an extreme increase in hard hit rate/power which gives us an indication of his future ceiling. Even if he regresses next year his 2017 total make for a decent floor. Suarez may be overvalued in 2018; I’m not sure expecting a repeat of his 2018 line is realistic, but he will be a solid corner man who will not be discounted or dismissed again.
Jose Peraza (ADP 253 – 77% drafted)
Just like with Baez and Gennett I was faced with a dilemma at short. Trevor Story comes in right behind Lindor and Bregman at the position, tied with Baez, and just in front of Machado and Turner. I fully acknowledge he had a terrific season and salute him for that. The fact is his ADP of 103 is 150 spots higher than Peraza, and Peraza is currently a top-10 shortstop, sitting right there with Jean Segura and Xander Bogaerts.
Peraza came in at #24 in our preseason rankings. My initial thoughts were he didn’t possess the upside, didn’t walk enough to garner a top spot in the lineup, and with very little pop if he didn’t hit for a high enough average those 20+ steals mean nothing. While the walk rate did improve it has declined in the second half. That being said: Peraza is currently batting .290 with home run, RBI, run, stolen base, and at bat totals equal to Jean Segura. An article by Mark Sheldon from MLB.com has Peraza explaining his increased power, and if that can be believed maybe double-digit home run totals will be a regular thing moving forward.
You easily got value from Peraza if you drafted him, and if you let him go after batting .222 in May, someone else reaped the rewards. I will be on the fence with Peraza in 2019; I don’t see him as a top-12 option yet, but I will not be so quick to dismiss him.
Matt Chapman (ADP 252 – 65% drafted)
Those few that did take a gamble on Chapman did so expecting 30 HR power with low expectations for batting average. There were high hopes after hitting 6 home runs in April with 14 RBI, 21 runs scored and a better than expected batting average of .269. He was tossed back in many leagues by the end of May after batting .186 with just 3 home runs, and little attention was given to his .368 June average due to limited power and counting stats (1 HR, 3 RBI). However, Chapman and his new-found plate discipline was just getting started, batting over .300 the next few months with 12 home runs, 44 runs scored and 27 RBI. Had Oakland moved him to the heart of the order sooner I’m confident the RBI total would have been higher.
As an owner I watched Chapman’s contact rate increase monthly, his walk and strikeout rate remain steady, and his hard hit rate and ISO grow as the season wore on. There has been some regression in September which may be due to pitcher adjustments or fatigue – the jury is out on this, but overall Chapman has been a boon for owners in the second half. While we may see a drop in batting average next year, an increase in power and counting stats should even things out. Chapman will again come with a slight discount in 2019; maybe not the discount we saw this year, but enough of one to make him yet again a bargain. If Chapman builds on or repeats in 2019 his place among the top-12 will be solidified.
Jed Lowrie (ADP 186 – 3% drafted)
For years Lowrie was viewed as nothing more than a replacement player, someone to plug-in when he was hot (which wasn’t that often) or as an emergency injury replacement. He didn’t even warrant an honorary mention in our preseason rankings, and most assumed heir apparent Franklin Barreto would force him to the bench. Lowrie responded by setting career highs in home runs and RBI (21 and 89 – and counting). He has tailed off in the second half (.285/16HR to .250/5HR) so owners in playoff mode may have found a replacement, but there is no denying that Lowrie is one of the guys that got you to where you are today.
Unlike the players above I have zero faith in Lowrie and believe this is nothing more than a career year. At 34-years of age (35 in April) Lowrie should be given no credit for his accomplishments come draft day. Some team will give him a one or two-year deal, but more than likely it will be in a bench role.
Nick Markakis (ADP 219 – 6% drafted)
Not even the best fantasy analyst could have predicted Markakis would be sitting in the top-20 among outfielders in September (top-12 on Yahoo). The 34-year-old has a lot in common with Melky Cabrera these last few years. He can hit for a decent average and will contribute 140 or so runs+RBI; even with limited power that gives him a little value in larger leagues, but in 12-team formats he is a OF4 at best. And even as an injury replacement, you’re always looking for something better.
Well, Markakis didn’t set any career highs in runs, home runs or RBI this year, but he is on pace for a career average with a current .309 mark. His 88 RBI ranks 4th in his career (3rd once he reaches 90) and is tied for 4th with Rhys Hoskins among outfielders. The run total is average at best, and the home run total is what you’d expect from a catcher, but combined with the average and RBI you get a nice little package. Even after looking at his numbers it’s hard to fathom why he is ranked so high. Is this enough to move him up draft boards next year. Nope! Not in my world. I own Markakis in two leagues and am grateful for what he has done, but I don’t expect lighting to strike twice. He may get a look as a late round pick in 15-team formats with 5 outfielders, but that’s about it.
Michael Brantley (ADP 241 – 62% drafted)
Despite being the highest on Brantley in our preseason rankings I missed out on him. He wasn’t drafted in several leagues, and still I missed my chance. I liked my outfield at the time, and instead recommended him to a fellow league-mate whose outfield suffered a number of early injuries. I’m still kicking myself for that as he might have been a difference maker for me.
Brantley’s numbers dipped in the middle months, but those two sub-par months are sandwiched between four .300 plus batting averages with enough contributions in the other categories to make any owner happy. Outside of the 10 stolen bases his numbers are a mirror image to Markakis, which ranks him outside the top-12 on Yahoo but just inside the top-12 on the ESPN player rater. Unlike Markakis, Brantley has the ability to repeat these numbers so he is someone I would target in 2019. Where he is ranked will determine if he falls within my price range or not.
David Peralta (ADP 234 – 95% drafted)
I was one of three people on our site that did not rank Peralta in the top-75. I didn’t buy the improvements against lefties. I didn’t see the power exceeding what we had already seen. And I never expected at age 30 that he would find his game. In short, I plopped him down in the same bucket as Nick Markakis. Well, 26 home runs later and I’m left eating crow – along with playing in a lot of consolation brackets.
Peralta started off strong, but I’m sure a .211 in May with 2 home runs and 5 RBI had some owners ready to jump ship – some did. Peralta crushed it the rest of the way, and while he only hit one home run in July the strong batting average and double-digit run total held his value until things corrected. Both Yahoo and ESPN place Peralta near the back-end of the top-20 for the season. I’m sure this will be enough to bump him up some in 2019, but how much. A big increase in hard hit rate is largely responsible for this year’s numbers as many of the underlying metrics are in line with his 2017 season. The big question is will that hard hit rate carry over? This debate may split his value next year which means someone will reach before they should.
Blake Snell (ADP 170 – 100% drafted)
Scherzer, Sale, deGrom, Snell, Verlander, Kluber. Remember that song from when you were a kid “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things doesn’t belong”. Snell’s name sticks out like a sore thumb, yet there he is ranked among the top-10 with the big dogs. Among qualified starters Snell ranks 1st in Wins, 3rd in ERA, 7th in WHIP and 15th in strikeouts. Despite his upside he is not the Tampa Bay pitcher we expected to be the club ace this year.
There was some luck to his season, but there are also a lot of positives in his underlying metrics that suggest it wasn’t all luck. I’m going to reserve judgement on Snell until I take a deeper look at him this offseason. He is someone I like for 2019, but I’m not sure how much yet.
Patrick Corbin (ADP 216 – 83% drafted)
Corbin sits just below the players mentioned above, which means he was Only as good as Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. Not bad company. Corbin is currently 5th in strikeouts, 7th in WHIP (tied with Snell), and 12th in ERA among qualifiers. This is the breakout we’ve been waiting years for, but even those that drafted him never expected this. Corbin was drafted as a SP6 and performed as an ace.
Like Snell I am going to reserve judgement on Corbin. However, I get the feeling many will bump him into the top-20 next year inflating his value out of my price range. I do have some concerns with a few of his metrics – enough that would make me avoid him as a top-20 arm. How much further outside the top-20 will have to wait until January after I examine the rest of the field.
Mike Foltynewicz (ADP 236 – 5% drafted)
Yes, the guy with a last name I can’t pronounced and a career ERA over 4.50 prior to this year is tied with Corey Kluber with the 7th best ERA among qualifiers. In addition to the ERA Folty has a career best in WHIP (1.12), BAA (.201) and strikeouts (179). His 10.26 K/9 ranks 13th in the league and is something we’ve only seen flashes of. Like Corbin, Folty owns a big chuck of his success this year to a dominating slider – Corbin and Folty rank one and three for value on that pitch. There is no denying what Foltynewicz has done, and it’s not too often you can pluck a top-20 arm off the waiver wire. A few more wins would be nice, but I’m nitpicking here.
Sadly, I recommended Folty to the same guy I told to pick up Michael Brantley. I may have given away two players, but at least my recommendations were spot on – so there’s that. Looking at the ERA leaders I see Folty with the biggest differential in his xFIP. That combined with some BABIP love puts him outside, or maybe just inside, the top-40 for me. Like Corbin and Snell, final judgement and ranking will have to wait.
Clay Buchholz (ADP outside top-250 – 1% drafted)
He may only rank #34 on the ESPN player rater, but he is a top-20 arm on Yahoo. Buchholz may not rank among the qualifiers due to a lack of innings from a late start, but if he did he would rank 3rd in ERA (behind deGrom and Sale) and 10th in WHIP (between Cole and Greinke). Due to personal bias I dismissed Buchholz and his early success, and even when Jordan Lyn did a feature on him in August I still wasn’t buying. Since then he has only gotten better. Buchholz has posted an ERA below 3.00 each month with three of the five months being below 2.00 (including September).
I’ve said it a number of times over the years, better lucky than good. Buchholz has a scary high hard hit rate (15th among qualifiers) and a lucky BABIP (8th among qualifiers). The improved walks and sudden success of his fastball, cutter and change had me skeptical, enough so that I dismissed him. Had it not been for bias and going against my own advice of riding the hot streak I would be enjoying his season. Congratulations to those that overlooked his track record and invested.
I doubt my views will change much next year. A 34-year-old pitcher having a career year is not someone I will consider next year, even with a late round pick. Although next time I see a pitcher in the midst of a breakout I won’t be so quick to judge, so Buchholz has taught me something.
So who were your value players this season? Which players exceeded their ADP? And which waiver wire darling saved your season? Post your comments below.
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