Consensus Rankings Analysis: Late February (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
Back in early February, I discussed players with wide discrepancies in their Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR) and ADP on the FantasyPros Baseball Podcast with Bobby Sylvester. This conversation led me down a rabbit hole of ECR analysis in a quest for draft value. Aggregating many great minds create a good gauge of a player’s worth. While the experts aren’t always right in their extra like or hate, I found myself agreeing with them more often than the public. The following lists (excluding those discussed on the podcast and recent injuries) thus feature a handful of players I’m targeting or avoiding in 2020 drafts.
Note: The following ECR and ADP were taken on February 25.
Players the ECR Likes More
Officially a boring veteran at age 30, Rizzo is falling even further down NFBC draft boards (68) in February. While the power has sagged, it’s come with a 10-point batting average rise in back-to-back seasons. I was going to call him the A-minus version of Freeman, but Rizzo had a higher wRC+ (141) and wOBA (.390) in 2019.
Those in five-outfield leagues shouldn’t fret filling those spots. There’s a hodgepodge of value, mostly of the”boring veteran” variety. Choo gets no love despite routinely hitting .260 with 20-plus homers and a plethora of runs atop the Rangers’ lineup. Maybe drafters just aren’t paying enough attention to runs. Eaton crossed home plate 103 times last year, and he should still bat second whether or not Washington sticks with the idea of batting Trea Turner third. Health is the only hindrance interfering with the 30-year-old again broaching his .285 career batting average with 15 homers and steals apiece. McCutchen is another great bounce-back bet who could score 90-100 runs as Philadelphia’s leadoff man. Those needing RBIs can instead bet on Justin Upton regaining his health and pop behind Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. If either break away from a planned timeshare, Braun or Garcia will make a great find beyond the top-200 picks. Braun could move over to first — where he’s likely to play some against lefties — if Justin Smoak doesn’t hit his weight again.
The rankers may not be accounting for an increased appetite for high-end pitching. Lynn and Hendricks are two of few top-50 starters with a higher ECR than ADP. Drafters should take note of those contrasting buying opportunities. Lynn makes a superb mid-rotation strikeout find after tallying 246 punchouts in 2019 with the best contact and swinging-strike rates of his career. Hendricks, meanwhile, has posted an ERA below 3.50 and WHIP under 1.20 in each of the last four seasons. Given his steadiness, the sudden price drop is strange without any glaring warning signs beyond the same low velocity he’s exuded for his entire career.
While the analysts are more reticent to reach for pitching, they like several end-game flyers far more than the current draft rates. In many cases, they appear to be overrating innings and name value. Samardzija and Quintana are better suited for deeper leagues than 12-team mixed leagues, where talented streamers are usually on the waiver wire. The viability of stashing Pineda or Hill also depends on your league’s roster constructs. Both coming back from Tommy John surgery, Richards and Cueto could erase any early buying opportunity by pitching well in spring training.
Players the ECR Likes Less
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Once again, it’s apparent that the ECR short-sells pitchers. Yet the skepticism is justified in many cases. There’s oddly no discount given to Nola despite notching a 3.87 ERA with a 4.03 FIP and huge uptick in walks last season. The same goes for Trevor Bauer, who has yet to post an ERA below 4.15 outside of his 2018 breakout. And as many other analysts have already noted, Soroka is essentially a younger, more expensive Hendricks. Go with the experts on that trio, but don’t ignore Greinke as a high-floor SP2. The expected dip has yet to come despite diminished velocity, so the 36-year-old is the perfect complement to a higher-risk, higher-strikeout ace such as Blake Snell, Luis Castillo, or Lucas Giolito.
Notice another trend in the table above? It’s flooded with rookies and other young Shiny New Toys. The analysts often favor a value-based approach. As a result, their projected-orientated rankings don’t love the unproven options as much as drafters blinded by hype. I’m also unlikely to land Lux, May, or Adell at their going rates. Likely a result of last year’s wildly successful rookie class, these neophytes are all too rich for my blood. Interestingly enough, Luis Robert is actually ranked 10 spots higher than his 98 ADP, which will likely keep rising in light of the White Sox buying out his arbitration years.
With that said, don’t be surprised if the experts change their tune on Madrigal if he has a standout spring. Playing time should be fueling the trepidation far more than his skills as a contact fiend who could steal 20-25 bases. Hays should already have a job in Baltimore, but a big March would lead many to look back at his 146 wRC+ during last year’s September call-up.
The ECR on the whole is unforgiving to catchers. Only four catchers have a higher ECR than ADP, and Mike Zunino has the largest difference at eight spots. He’s only usable in a two-catcher AL-only league that doesn’t count batting average. My first instinct was to blame two-catcher formats, but the trend also carries over to Yahoo’s single-catcher leagues. While the ECR and ADP don’t vary much within the position, the experts like Jorge Alfaro, Tom Murphy, and Jason Castro (the other three with a higher ECR than ADP) more than the public.
When first beginning my research, the ECR and ADP among closers were surprisingly consistent. That changed with ESPN and Yahoo drafts bumping up the position’s cost. As of this writing, Edwin Diaz (+2), Hansel Robles (+1), and Nick Anderson (+16) had a higher ECR among top-20 closers. While the experts are skittish about paying a premium, drafters apparently haven’t learned their lesson from Diaz and Blake Treinen and last year.