2018 Dynasty Baseball RankingsDigging for Diamonds

Buying Off-Brand: Hitters

One of the best pieces of advice my dad gave me growing up was to buy off-brand. He would always say, “they cost less money, and if you look at the ingredients, they are exactly the same.” This advice can be applied to fantasy baseball too. Who are some underrated players that can match the production of more acclaimed players?

Let’s take a look at some hitters. Some of the things I will be looking at to compare are their ranking, NFBC ADP, age, and the following stats from last season: batting average (BA), expected average (xBA) home runs (HR), expected home runs (xHR), isolated slugging percentage (ISO), runs (R), runs batted in (RBI) and stolen bases (SB).  The expected numbers are courtesy of xstats.org, a fantastic resource that I recommend using for context when evaluating players. The rest are courtesy of Fangraphs.

I extrapolated all numbers to a 650 plate-appearance season so we compare apples to apples for counting stats. Obviously, you can’t always assume two players will have similar at-bat totals, as injuries, maintenance days, platoons, and spot in the batting order all affect that total.

Comparison 1: Two Speedy Centerfielders

Player A 8 (at his former position) 28 30 0.308 0.273 2 2 0.067 107 31 55
Player B 69 200 25 0.269 0.226 9 10 0.098 111 33 43

For starters, xBA seems to be confounded by these two speedsters. I’d speculate the formula struggles to accurately account for infield hits. Player A had 22 of them last year and Player B had 19. You can definitely expect Player A to have a batting average at least .030 points higher than Player B. Since Player B has a much better walk rate though, their runs totals will be similar as they have a nearly identical on-base percentage. Player A is also much better on the basepaths, but given he’s about to turn 30 that might not last much longer.  Player B is also an elite baserunner, and overall their stats from last year look very similar. Even their sprint speeds are nearly identical. Player A’s speed is 29.7ft/sec, where Player B’s is 29.6ft/sec.

Now, some context to the stats: Player B has some hype building at the moment, and he looks like an absolutely fantastic target given that he is going to bat leadoff in a strong lineup. He also made some promising adjustments in the second half last year: his strikeout rate dropped 7% and walk rate rose 4%. He’s set 50 stolen bases as his goal for 2018, and it isn’t that far-fetched to think he could do it.

These two are a lot closer together than their ADPs would have you believe. Add in that Player B is 5 years younger, and the track record for speedsters maintaining value into their 30s is not strong, and I think you can make the case that Player B is a better long-term investment right now. 2018 definitely belongs to Player A, but it’s not hard to see Player B closing the gap. In dynasty leagues, you can likely trade Player A for Player B and another significant piece. I would look into that option, as Player B is on the way up. It will take a leap of faith, but a .260-.270 season with 10 home runs, 40+ stolen bases, and over 100 runs scored or better is well within play for him this year, as he did it on a per-game basis last year, and that’s before factoring in the decent chance he improves.

Player A is Dee Gordon, Player B is Delino Deshields Jr.

Comparison 2: Deep League Shortstops

Player A 33 225 27 0.249 0.249 17 19 0.149 89 67 20
Player B 40 559 29 0.261 0.265 15 15 0.145 69 56 8

When it comes to Player B, our own Jonathan Merkel wrote, “He won’t help you in a dynasty league and if you’re considering picking him up, I think it might be you that needs help.”  It may already be apparent to all of you based on my love for Clayton Richard and some of my other ridiculous takes, but I do indeed need some help. I am intrigued by Player B and have picked him up in some of my deeper leagues.

I have compared him to Player A this offseason. Player A has long been a 20-20 threat, and in an injury-shortened campaign he finally showed that speed, but historically he has been more a low teens threat. He’s essentially a guy who will hit around .250, hit high teens to 20+ home runs, and chip in low teens steals. I think Player B can do that this year, and with a better batting average to boot.

Player B has long been regarded as a strong defensive shortstop who can’t hit worth a lick. He got traded mid-season, and the numbers he put up with his new club piqued my interest. He became a far more aggressive hitter, as he walked less and struck out more.  His quality of contact went up with that change. His hit rates in terms of strength (quality of contact) last year were 15.6% soft, 44.1% medium, and 40.2% hard. Fun fact, last year Carlos Correa’s same split was 15%/45.5%/39.5%. No, he won’t even be on the same planet as Correa as a hitter, but that is just a fascinating statistic.

That improved quality of contact led Player B to a .259/.295/.434 slash line after the break, which was suppressed by a BABIP that could easily be higher given his improved contact.  In September he had a slash line of .298/.348/.512, supported by him hitting the ball hard 50.8% of the time. Player B won’t be that good over a full season, or even remotely close, but there is enough to be somewhat interesting in larger leagues. If you extrapolate his second half, he was on pace for 18 home runs, 11 steals, and 75 runs. That’s close to what Player A has averaged over the past 3 years. Perhaps he takes this improved quality of contact and takes a step forward. He could be this year’s Bizarro-Andrelton Simmons (with power and speed inverted).

So like Jonathan said, I most likely do need help. If you have someone you could refer me to that would be awesome, but I find Player B intriguing in deep leagues. If you’re desperate late for a middle infielder or are just in a really deep league, take a chance.

Player A is Marcus Semien and an interesting bounce-back candidate. Player B is Adeiny Hechavarria.

Comparison 3: Five-Category Corner Outfielders

Player A 9 51 26 0.282 0.274 17 21 0.156 94 76 15
Player B 35 121 26 0.290 0.274 30 30 0.218 87 86 10

These two are the same age and, coincidentally enough, had the exact same expected batting average. Player A has a better pedigree, a longer track record, is seemingly always on the cusp of a massive breakout, and was traded to a significantly better home park this offseason. Hence the significant cost difference.

Player B really isn’t as far behind him as the cost difference implies. He had some prospect pedigree himself, and his breakout 2017 is largely validated by sabermetrics (as noted by his expected home run total matching his actual total). Player A could match his home run power, but he needs to hit significantly more fly balls. I’d give the power edge to Player B. Player A stole more bases, but he actually only attempted one more steal than Player B. If Player B can improve his efficiency, he could easily close the gap. Player A has the advantage, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Player B came close to matching his number.

Player A is likely to win in counting stats though, as he will hit towards the top of a strong lineup in a great park and play more frequently. Player B has some platoon concerns that could lead him to more days on the bench. He did hit well against lefties last year in terms of average, but his plate discipline and power were much worse. That said, Player B won’t trail too far behind in games played, so it’s only a slight edge to Player A. They seem fairly close in overall production.

Player B seems to be vastly underrated in dynasty circles. He’s the same age as Player A, will be hitting cleanup in a strong lineup, and has similar five-category potential. Again, Player A’s track record, pedigree, upside, and opportunity make him a better investment. However, Player B is a great pickup at a much cheaper price.

Player A is Christian Yelich, Player B is Eddie Rosario.

Numbers are fun! Especially when you can use them to find valuable assets later in your drafts.

The Author

Kyler Jesanis

Kyler Jesanis

Kyler is a college admission counselor, currently residing in Rhode Island. An avid fantasy baseball player, Kyler has experience in deep leagues. The smallest league he currently plays in rosters 900 players. He has played in traditional 10/12/14 man leagues, both head-to-head and roto. With a wide array of interests, Kyler plans to dive in deep to a variety of topics, but primarily focusing on vouching for unheralded players.

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