Reading the ADP Tea Leaves
Information is power. When competing for championships, it’s helpful to glean as much information as possible, from any source, to try and project not only statistics, but also trends in player value. Heading into the 2016 season, the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) has been compiling average draft position statistics, providing a sample of how players are currently being viewed by the market place. I would advise against reading too much into these ADP’s since, well, it’s January, but they do give us a general sense of player value as we prepare for our own drafts. Now, these numbers aren’t exactly apples to apples as a comparison to dynasty leagues, but they are apples to apple juice. Or whatever, you get it.
Typically, in dynasty leagues, veterans get tossed aside, in favor of bright, shiny young players (who haven’t failed at the major-league level). By scanning through the average draft position data, a lot can be learned about which of those veterans could be undervalued by your fellow owners.
OF Alex Gordon, Royals
Gordon went into the offseason with a shiny new ring and buzz about being a potential $100 million guy in free agency. For some reason, his market cooled off and he stayed put in the land of barbecue and a World Series title. In NFBC drafts, Gordon’s stock also seems to have cooled. Currently, he is the 50th outfielder off the board, going right behind Mark Trumbo and just ahead of Jay Bruce. This seems a bit low.
Since taking over left field for the Royals full time in 2010, Gordon ranks ninth in all of baseball in WAR, one spot behind Buster Posey and ahead of Ben Zobrist and Josh Donaldson. Taking defense out of the equation, Gordon ranks 24th in the league, just behind Chris Davis. Sure WAR isn’t an omniscient stat, especially in fantasy baseball, but still, that’s pretty good. Over that span, Gordon has hit .281/.351/.432 and has averaged nearly 18 HR, 82 runs, and 10 stolen bases per season.
It’s possible that Gordon’s stock has plummeted due to questions about his health, as he played in only 101 games due to injury in 2015. The skepticism for an outfielder who will turn 32-years-old this year is warranted. However, Gordon has been remarkably durable in his career. Prior to hurting his knee last year, Gordon hadn’t played less than 150 games in a season since 2011, and in that year, he played 148 contests. In 2014, Gordon’s last complete healthy season, he hit .266/.351/.432 with 19 home runs, 87 runs scored, 74 RBI and 12 stolen bases, proving that, when healthy, Gordon can really be a contributor in all five major categories. The main reason for optimism is his health.
SP Wei-Yen Chen, Marlins
You probably won’t win the adoration and envy of your league by selecting Chen, because all you will be getting is a dependable, consistent, and above average starting pitching. Currently being drafted as the 64th starting pitcher off the board, he’s being taken in a range where dependability and consistency can be scarce. To put it into more perspective, the 30-year-old Chen is being taken behind Marco Estrada and Jason Hammel, a pair of pitchers who can hardly be considered fantasy rotation stalwarts.
For his career, Chen has averaged 176 innings, carries a 3.61 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP per year. He has never been a strikeout artist, per se, but his 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 2015 were the most in a single season of his career. This number could easily increase with Chen’s move to the NL East, where several bottom dweller lineups currently reside.
The move to Marlins Park itself could also be of great benefit to Chen. Since he doesn’t rely on strikeouts as his main weapon, he is more susceptible to giving home runs. He surrendered 1.32 homers per nine innings in 2015, putting him ninth in the league among starters for this unsavory stat. However, he’ll be leaving the second worst ballpark for home runs and moving to the third best park for suppressing homers. Chen also showed a knack for inducing softer contact, giving up hard hit balls only 28.2% of the time in 2015, ranking in the top 40 among starters. Chen’s ability to eat innings, as well as his proclivity to stifle hard contact will play very well in the National League, and especially in Miami. He’s also still young enough to be very useful, but old enough to not have the hope of unrealistic projection that comes with prospects.
1B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Ryan Zimmerman just needs to stay healthy. In 2012-2013, Zimmerman paid off on his pedigree, averaging .278/.345/.472 with 26 homers and 87 RBI per year. Injuries struck in 2014, and he’s been battling uphill ever since. Although
Zimmerman is injury prone (to be kind) his position as the 18th first baseman off the board seems ripe for value.
One thing with Zimmerman’s game has remained consistent, when he’s in the lineup, he hits for power. Even in an abbreviated 2015 season, he swatted 16 home runs and slugged .465 in 390 plate appearances. Despite maintaining solid power numbers, his batting average cratered to .249, the lowest single season mark of his career. Taking a closer look at the numbers, there may be room for optimism that his batting average could regress towards his career .283 mark. In 2015, Zimmerman carried a career-low .268 BABIP despite a batted ball profile that remained largely the same. Zimmerman’s career ground ball to fly ball ratios, as well as his hard, medium, and soft contact numbers largely mirrored those same numbers for his career. He struck out a little more than usual, but not at an alarming rate. This points to his .249 batting average mostly being a product of bad luck, and could be prime for a rebound. It also points to tons of value, especially at the cost currently displayed by the market. Ryan Zimmerman just needs to stay healthy.
Utilizing ADP, even for redraft leagues, will help in gauging the marketplace and could even give something extra to construct credible trade offers. Sure it’s never the sexiest thing to stock your dynasty roster with 30 year olds, but the name of the game is finding value, and if owners stigmatize anything that starts with three, targeting veterans could be a good way to solidify a roster and make a push toward that championship.