With each new draft comes a new opportunity and a new challenge. Often times the biggest challenge is determining when to follow your gut or when to follow your brain with player selection. There are many players that pique each owner’s interest. Some are from your favorite team, some are players that have done you well in the past and others are players that provide you with what you need to win. Finding hidden values in drafts is where a successful team is born.
Too frequently owners make picks entirely off of name value, projections or just pure fallacy. In an attempt to shed light on some examples of hidden value, I have put together a few player comparisons which look at players I find to be either similar in approach, skills or just plain counting statistics and thus ultimately value. By displaying last year’s stats as well as a composite projection for the coming year, I intend to show that many similar players are not being drafted as such. Perhaps these few examples will help shape or redefine how you look at players and enable you to find your own hidden values in your upcoming drafts.
All projections, average draft positions (ADP) and average auction values (AAV) were taken from the FantasyPros.com Composite Rankings.
Buster Posey (ADP 41/AAV $19) vs Salvador Perez (128/$9)
This year, there are a number of catchers in a position to finish the year atop the position rankings. Players such as Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Carlos Santana, Brian McCann and Joe Mauer have garnered support as the top catcher for 2014, with Posey regularly selected ahead of the rest of the field. With a host of options worthy of serving as your starting catcher, this is not the year to spend a 3nd or 4th round pick filling the position. A more prudent strategy would be to wait 10 rounds or save $10 in an auction and select a player with a comparable skill set and approach in Salvador Perez.
Posey and Perez had rather similar statistical seasons in 2013. No, I am not saying that Perez is Posey’s equivalent, one needs to just look at Posey’s 2012 MVP to tell that. But, at age 23, Perez is still on the upslope of his development. He is a key cog both offensively and defensively, thus guaranteeing playing time when healthy in what is an improving Kansas City team. Perez displays a mature approach at the plate and although he does not walk as much as Posey, he regularly puts the ball in play which increases the likelihood of a productive at bat.
Both San Francisco and Kansas City look to have improved offenses in 2014, and while Perez may not match the overall line of Posey, he will not hurt your team in any category. The substantial savings in an auction league could allow you to go the extra mile on a player like Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera, while passing on Posey in a snake draft may result in locking up a very good SS such as Ian Desmond (36/$22) or Jose Reyes (39/$22). With the depth at catcher this year, let someone else use an early pick on Posey and reap the benefits of adding an elite option at a more thin position to your team.
Mike Napoli (141/$9) vs Nick Swisher (193/$4)
First base is not what it used to be. This year many people will find themselves using an early pick to acquire one of the premium options, which is a smart play. However, there will be those that choose to wait or those that play in deeper leagues looking for a solid mid to late-round bat to fill their corner infield slot. When evaluating options at this stage of a draft, owners may be sorting by individual categories in an attempt to gain certain counting stats thus resulting in the drafting of a player that helps but also hurts their team. Middle tier options are out there however when searching for a reliable source of power in the later rounds, it may be best to wait.
Mike Napoli is currently being drafted about 5 rounds earlier than Nick Swisher. The return on investment here is much greater if you use a late pick and nab Swisher. Outside of additional positional eligibility (Swisher qualifies at 1B and OF while Napoli loses C eligibility this year), Swisher has been a consistent source of R, HR and RBI for almost a decade. In 2013, Swisher tallied his 9th straight 65R/20HR/60RBI season. 65R, 60RBI and a career .255 batting average are not exactly numbers to get excited over, but the remarkable consistency of obtaining these counting stats in the last rounds of your snake draft allows you to gamble on a high upside player with a mid-round pick rather than selecting a player who may only provide marginal improvement on what Swish brings to the table.
Yes Napoli hits in a potent Red Sox lineup, but his high strike out rates have the potential to sink his (and your) batting average. Additionally, Napoli will be without Jacoby Ellsbury who provided many RBI opportunities last year. Saving $5 and drafting Swisher over Napoli in your auction would give provide additional flexibility when it came to acquiring a high upside player such as Xander Bogaerts (174/$5) to fill your middle infield position, or could give you the extra money to ensure the acquisition of a top-tier talent at your position of choice.
Starling Marte (51/$20) vs Leonys Martin (129/$11)
How much is a steal worth? That is the true question when discussing players like Starling Marte. Marte got off to a hot start last year, but his aggressiveness at the plate resulted in a sharp decline in the second half of the year. Looking at the overall 2013 stat line, Marte appears to be a valuable player, but this was greatly influenced by the torrid pace to begin the season. Marte ended 2013 with a line drive rate of 21.6% which does not bode well for the elevated .364 BABIP he attained. Additionally, his 25% K rate atop the Pirates lineup limited the number of productive at bats he was able to amass. Although Marte’s average HR distance was over 400 ft (which suggests there may be some additional pop this year), the majority of Marte’s value comes on the base paths. While he does find his way on base enough to provide substantial value, using a top 5 pick on a steals and 10-15 HR player seems to be a steep price to pay when similar players are available at a discounted rate.
Better value would be passing on Marte and waiting to select a player such as Texas’ Leonys Martin. Throughout the minors Martin demonstrated a superior walk and contact rate to the numbers he put up in 2013 as well as those numbers being better than what Marte put up on his trip through the minor leagues. These rates lead many to believe that his second year in the majors should bring improvements to Martin’s game as he continues to adjust to the advanced level of pitching. Martin also holds an advantage in stolen base percentage, successfully stealing at a clip of 80% compared to Marte’s 73%.
Although Martin has displayed reduced power in comparison to Marte, Martin should be able to attain double-digit home runs. Accounting for the total skills package, Martin seems to be a more efficient player on the real life diamond as well as providing your fantasy team with a cheap alternative to a relatively overvalued player. Targeting Martin over Marte would allow you the opportunity to draft a risk/reward player such as Matt Kemp (49/$20) or Billy Hamilton (74/$14) while replacing Marte’s counting stats 5+ rounds later. Or perhaps you could use the auction savings to bolster your pitching staff, or upgrade your 3B from Mike Moustakas (281/$2) to Manny Machado (116/$10).
Domonic Brown (101/$16) vs Colby Rasmus (243/$2)
Talk about two players that were billed to be breakout stars for years on end. Domonic Brown and Colby Rasmus both dealt with exceedingly high expectations in their young MLB careers. For varying reasons like consistent playing time, trust of the manager or mental toughness, these two players were seriously underwhelming for fantasy owners. Then came 2013 when anyone bold enough to take a late round flier was rewarded with a season that returned much more value than the cost of admission. Brown came out of the gates hot and was hitting homeruns left and right, but with every hot streak comes a cold one as the second half was not near as kind to big Dom.
Rasmus didn’t have the same feverish start to the season, however he continued to steadily amass the home runs and the trademark strikeouts we have come to expect. Perhaps selling out for power, Colby was on a career pace for long balls as well as sprinting towards 200 Ks as if he were in a race with Dan Uggla. Unfortunately for owners (fortunately for his career strikeout tally), Colby was injured and his season ended prematurely. So what should we make of these two hitters going forward? By current draft position, Brown seems to be overvalued on the back of his hot start, and Colby undervalued coming off his injury.
Looking at the overall stat lines of the two players shows a quite even comparison. Brown strikes out less and likely hits for a bit better average as a result. Brown also runs a bit more often, but let’s not forget he bats in a Philadelphia lineup full of (30+ year old) question marks. On the other hand, Toronto vastly underperformed in 2013. With the expected return to health of Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes, Rasmus should be in line for a healthy dose of RBI opportunities. On the face value of counted stats, we are looking at two relatively equivalent players in a standard league, but yet they are separated by 140 picks come draft day.
Are owners thinking that Brown can have a similar first half and not go ice-cold in the second? With more consistent production Brown could be expected to hit around 30 home runs, which is a number Rasmus was on his way to reaching had he not lost 40 games to injury. In a snake draft, give me Brian McCann (98/$11), Aaron Hill (112/$12) or Alex Cobb (119/$14) any day before selecting Brown. In an auction, $14 is less than the average difference between a player like Josh Hamilton (70/$17) and Bryce Harper (15/$29) and I would rather have the Harper/Rasmus combo than Brown/Hamilton any day.
Matt Moore (139/$13) vs Andrew Cashner (161/$7)
Two promising arms, two very different development curves. Matt Moore flew up prospect lists by dominating the minors and culminated his rise with complete domination of the Texas Rangers in Game 2 of the 2011 ALDS. Moore has been touted as the ace apparent once the inevitable departure of David Price from Tampa occurs. While he has had success at the big league level, he is yet to put all the pieces together and be as consistently dominant as his stuff suggests he should.
Andrew Cashner has had a much tougher time establishing himself in San Diego’s starting rotation. After being traded from the Cubs for Anthony Rizzo, people questioned whether he had the ability to stay healthy and give the Padres 200 innings in the rotation. Many said he was going to be an impact closer who would bring near triple digit heat night in and night out. Cashner knew he had the ability to thrive in a major league rotation and after a couple of years flip-flopping between starts and bullpen duty, he was able to start 26 games in 2013 (once he returned from an offseason thumb injury). Cashner acquitted himself well, but he did not provide the strikeout totals many expected to come along with his raw stuff.
In late July of 2013, the injury bug, which had previously ravaged Andrew Cashner was passed along to young Matt Moore who was shut down with soreness in his elbow. This injury can bring serious concerns with it as we have seen in the recent case of Matt Harvey along with countless others. Luckily for Moore he was able to return after spending a few weeks on the DL, however in 2013 his average fastball velocity dropped 2 MPH and his peripheral stats rose significantly from the year before. May the decrease in velocity and the elbow soreness of 2013 be a precursor to a more significant injury in 2014? For the sake of baseball (and Matt Moore), let’s hope not. About the same time as Moore’s injury, Andrew Cashner began using his sinker and slider more. This increased usage led to a rise in his groundball rate and eventually his strikeout rate. If Cashner can continue to utilize his effective mix of pitches, log innings and keep the ball in the park we may yet see the powerful ace early evaluations portrayed.
The considerable upside that Moore presents yields good value at his current snake draft position. However, owners who may be wary of the decreased fastball velocity when coupled with the 2013 elbow injury and his inconsistent command may want to pass and take a player such as Pablo Sandoval (137/$6), Brandon Moss (132/$8) or Brett Lawrie (145/$8) followed by Cashner a couple of rounds later. For auction drafters, the savings from passing on Moore and buying Cashner could leave you with enough money to acquire a closer like Grant Balfour (154/$6) or Jim Henderson (170/$4) or a starter along the lines of Hiroki Kuroda (180/$6) or AJ Burnett (208/$6).