Fantasy baseball preview: Most overvalued players in drafts
It’s good to have an idea of who harbors significant bust potential every fantasy season, but a player doesn’t need to be an outright bust to hurt your team. The key to building a winning fantasy team is turning a profit on as many picks as possible. Every season there will be players who post strong numbers and yet don’t are net negatives based on how much they cost, either in terms of draft position or auction dollars. These insidious value busts are much harder to identify, but they can be just as damaging to your team’s overall performance.
If any of the following players come off the board at a discount in your league, they just might be worth it. At their average draft positions, however, they are landmines for you to sidestep.
ADPs courtesy of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship
Buster Posey, C, Giants (ADP: 20.6)
Posey is a phenomenal real-life player who almost always delivers for his fantasy owners. At the same time, his high ADP is largely driven by positional scarcity. Here are his 2015 numbers, compared with the next three hitters off the board in a typical draft, Jose Abreu, Edwin Encarnacion and Chris Davis.
If Posey played any position other than catcher, he wouldn’t be near these guys—positional scarcity and perhaps batting average are the only justifications for drafting Posey above the others. Posey may be head and shoulders above the rest of the catcher crop, but that doesn’t mean you should pass on elite power hitters—such as Starling Marte, George Springer and Jose Bautista, all of whom have ADPs around Posey—in favor of him. Posey’s actual value places him a full round or two after his ADP, but you’ll never get him there thanks to the positional-scarcity zealots. You’re better off getting Jonathan Lucroy 80 picks later, or Travis D’Arnaud another 30 picks after that.
Zack Greinke, SP, Diamondbacks (ADP: 34.42)
I’ve made ths point countless times already: A reliable fantasy ace must have elite strikeout ability. Greinke is a real-life ace without question, but he doesn’t miss enough bats to be a true fantasy ace. He is, however, being drafted like one, coming off the board before David Price, Jacob deGrom, Corey Kluber and Stephen Strasburg. Greinke was lights out last year, posting a 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP, and he now has three straight seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA. He has fanned a batter per inning just once in the last six years, though, three times falling south of 8 K/9.
Price, deGrom, Kluber and Strasburg will cruise past one whiff per inning, with the latter three all capable of racking up better than 10 K/9. Greinke also left one of baseball’s best pitcher’s parks in Dodger Stadium for one of its worst in the Arizona desert. Greinke is priced as though his real-life value translates perfectly to the fantasy realm, and that just is not the case.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (ADP: 64.7)
Lindor was part of the historic rookie class that swept across the majors last year, hitting .313/.353/.482 with 12 homers in 438 plate appearances. He was always expected to flash the leather at shortstop immediately upon his promotion, but the bat was a pleasant surprise. Before getting the call, he hit .284/.350/.402 at Triple-A Columbus. He split 2014 between Columbus and Double-A Akron, slashing .278/.352/.389. Lindor is just 22 years old, so some natural growth should be expected, but he never showed the hit, or especially the power, tool the way he did with Cleveland at any previous stop in his professional career.
It would be wise to expect some stat regression, especially on a per-game basis, given that nothing Lindor showed at the plate last season diverged from the hitter he was in the minors. His ADP, however, removes all chance of profit. Grabbing him in the early sixth round of a 12-team draft assumes that he’s going to reach his full 2016 potential. If he were going, say, 20 picks later, there’d be some wiggle room where he could still provide value while falling short of his absolute ceiling. This ADP forces him to touch that ceiling to be worth the price. Drafting players like that is a sure way to build a losing fantasy team.
Wade Davis, RP, Royals (ADP: 65.69)
Davis earns this distinction by virtue of being the first relief pitcher off the board in a typical draft. Davis could very well be the best reliever in baseball this season, but he still doesn’t belong anywhere near this fantasy stratosphere. Here’s just a select group of players selected shortly after Davis in a typical draft. Eric Hosmer (.297/.363/.459, 19 homers, 93 RBI, 98 runs last year, last best hope at first base), Matt Carpenter (.272/.365/.505, 28 homers, 101 runs), Adam Wainwright, and Danny Salazar. There are closers nearly as good as Davis 50 and 60 picks later in drafts.
There aren’t any position players like Hosmer or Carpenter, or starting pitchers who can approach Wainwright or Salazar on the board at that stage. The first closer taken is almost always a bad pick, unless your entire league is smart enough to discount closers. If Davis goes off the board in the middle of the sixth round, you do not want to have anything to do with him.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds (ADP: 77.67)
Is this ADP some sort of joke? I really don’t care how many bases Hamilton might steal. He’s a one-category player. This is a guy with a career .224/.287/.330 slash line in 1,087 plate appearances. He has shown himself completely incapable of making the adjustments necessary to get on base with regularity. It isn’t just the fact that he still seems allergic to taking a walk, amassing a 6.2% walk rate last year and swinging at the first pitch in 27.4% of his plate appearances. He also continues to post embarrassingly high fly-ball rates, given his skill set.
Last year, 37.8% of the balls he put in play were in the air. That gave him a fly-ball rate on par with Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and Evan Gattis. You know what Ben Revere’s ground-ball rate was? A healthy 54.7%. Dee Gordon checked in at 59.8%. Hamilton’s was 42.6%. Until he changes that, he’ll be nothing more than a specialist, and that’s not someone you draft with the No. 77 or 78 pick.
Salvador Perez, C, Royals (ADP: 98.56)
The 25-year-old Perez signed a significant contract extension this offseason, and he’s a key member of the defending World Series champions. He’s also one of the most overvalued players in fantasy baseball. So much of what makes Perez valuable in real life is his defensive ability, which matters not a lick in the fantasy world. Perez did hit a career-high 21 homers last year, but his predictive stats all declined. He posted a career-worst 24% hard-hit rate, his walk rate tumbled even further to 2.4% and his strikeout rate ticked up to 14.8%.
Perez has caught at least 127 regular season games in each of the last three seasons. Add in the deep postseason runs Kansas City has made the last two years, and Perez becomes one of the oldest 25-year-olds in the game. On top of all that, he’s the third catcher off the board, behind only Posey and Kyle Schwarber. There is legitimately zero value in Perez at his ADP.
Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins (ADP: 102.62)
The Yelich truthers were out in full force last year, all but guaranteeing that he’d instantly fulfill his potential. They basically did to him what has been done to Francisco Lindor this season, driving his ADP all the way up to 61.8—ahead of Joey Votto and Chris Davis—thereby eliminating all profit potential. Yelich had a strong enough year, hitting .300 with a .366 OBP, 16 steals and 63 runs, but he hit just seven homers in 525 plate appearances. He may be just entering his age-24 season, but the fact remains that he has all of 20 home runs in 1,458 career trips to the plate.
It’s entirely possible that the power just isn’t coming, especially since his 2015 season was essentially a carbon copy of his ’14 campaign, albeit with 36 games missed due to injury. He’s going to be a positive contributor to whatever rate category your league uses, as well as steals and runs, but he won’t help you at all in homers or RBI. That makes him a top-40 outfielder, not a top-25 one, and yet his ADP makes him the No. 27 outfielder off the board in a typical draft. Players at the position I’d take over him with lower ADPs include Adam Eaton, David Peralta and Corey Dickerson.