Overvalued and Undervalued: Outfield Edition
Each week of draft season I’ll take a look at some players that I think are overvalued and undervalued based on their current NFBC ADP. The projections next to the player names are an average of THE BAT, ATC, Steamer, and ZIPS projection systems found on Fangraphs. NFBC ADP data is from the date range 2/01/2019-03/10/2019. Let’s find some outfield values!
Aaron Judge, NYY (ADP 16): 614 PA, 97 R, 37 HR, 95 RBI, 7 SB, .261/.377/.528/.905
I’ll admit I was a little skeptical when Aaron Judge burst onto the scene to begin the 2017 season. As a prospect he was known for plus power but a questionable hit tool. He hadn’t put up 25 HR in a single season in the minors, so I chalked it up to a hot start. Well, 52 home runs later I looked pretty bad for having no Aaron Judge shares. His second season in the big leagues wasn’t quite as successful, as he hit only 27 home runs and missed two months with a broken wrist. Before the injury though, Judge was on track to repeat his 2018, slashing .276/.392/.544/.937 with 25 home runs. I’m buying Judge as if the wrist injury never happened. He may not put up a 1.049 OPS again but he’s UNDERVALUED at pick 16. He should be a top 10 pick, in my opinion.
Lorenzo Cain, MIL (ADP 66): 614 PA, 84 R, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 23 SB, .288/.362/.420/.782
Cain’s second go-around with the team that drafted him went about as well as the Brewers could have hoped. He slashed .308/.395/.417/.813 with 10 HR and 30 SB in 141 games for the NL Central champs. His 11.5% walk rate led to the high on base percentage and made him an ideal leadoff man. While he was excellent last year, there are a few things that make him OVERVALUED for 2019. A walk rate that was 4% higher than his career average may seem sustainable but his O-swing% and Z-swing% (% of pitches swung at outside and inside the zone) dropped considerably from 2017. This means he made an effort to not swing as much, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on the walk rate spike being a new skill of his. I’m most concerned with the fact that he’s averaged just 133 games over the last 3 years. Cain will be 33 this year and he’s a center fielder who’s fantasy value comes from speed. There’s too much injury risk for a reward that isn’t top 75 player material.
Eddie Rosario, MIN (ADP 85): 620 PA, 84 R, 25 HR, 83 RBI, 9 SB, .278/.317/.478/.795
Rosario had a breakout season in 2017 batting .290 with 27 home runs. It looked like it came out of nowhere based on his previous two big league seasons, but he was a former top prospect and prospect growth isn’t linear. Post-hype breakouts do happen and Rosario’s career arc should serve as a lesson for owners to not forget about top prospects when they don’t succeed right away. He followed up his breakout with a .311/.353/.537/.890 slash line and 19 HR in the first half of 2018. He battled injuries and cooled down considerably in the second half leading to a .288/.323/.479/.803 final line with 24 HR and 8 SB in 138 games. He hits the ball hard and in the air, so he should be a lock for mid-20s homers and around 10 SB. He doesn’t strike out much, but could take a few more walks. There’s room for even more growth in Rosario’s game, as he’ll be just 27 this year. Overall, he’s being UNDERVALUED based on his poor second half numbers.
Mallex Smith, SEA (ADP 104): 605 PA, 72 R, 5 HR, 44 RBI, 39 SB, .263/.332/.366/.698
I’ve always had an aversion to speed only players. He batted .296 last season, so he’ll help you in that category, but it’s all about steals for Mallex Smith. He’s stolen 64, 88, and 57 bases in previous minor league seasons; the potential for obscene steal totals is definitely there. The problem is he hadn’t shown it again until last year when he stole 40. Yes, steals are scarce in the fantasy baseball landscape today but if I’m spending a borderline top 100 pick on steals; I want someone with a longer track record than Smith’s. I don’t believe that he’ll be the Mariners leadoff hitter. I don’t believe he’ll stay healthy all year. I don’t believe he’s a true talent .290+ hitter. I do believe that he’s OVERVALUED in fantasy baseball this year.
Harrison Bader, STL (ADP 184): 543 PA, 65 R, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 15 SB, .244/.308/.401/.709
Bader was one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball last season. We don’t have enough of a sample to confirm that that’s what he is for the long term, though. As a prospect, he projected to have an above average glove but not exactly gold glove defense. I’m personally concerned that his bat isn’t going to be good enough to keep his glove in the lineup in the first place. I lean much more towards the projected average of .244 than the .264 he posted last year, because he had a .358 BABIP and strikes out nearly 30% of the time. He’s definitely a 20-20 candidate but I think he’s OVERVALUED because Tyler O’Neil will be the Cardinals CF by May (bonus bold prediction).
Max Kepler, MIN (ADP 234): 598 PA, 76 R, 21 HR, 72 RBI, 7 SB, .250/.333/.446/.779
One of my favorite values in drafts in 2019 is Max Kepler. He’s a player that’s making improvements in his overall game going into his age 26 season. In 2018, he hit a career high 20 home runs, played in a career high 156 games, walked at, by far, his highest career rate (11.6%), struck out at his lowest career rate (15.7%), hit a career high in fly balls (46.2%), and had a .745 OPS vs lefties, easing concern that he’s a platoon player going forward. Unfortunately, he had a .236 BABIP, so his batting average lagged to .224. I’m confident that a player who hits the ball so hard (37.1%) should have a higher BABIP. He’s in the top-50 in the league in Pull%, meaning he’s never going to have high BABIPs, but .236 is exceptionally low. He’s off to a great start this spring and I’m expecting a .250 average with nearly 30 HR and lots of walks. Go grab this UNDERVALUED asset at pick 200+ while you still can.