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Players with ZEILE Projections Better or Worse Than Their Draft Position

by Carmen Maiorano | @carmsclubhouse | Featured Writer
Mar 10, 2020

Willy Adames is routinely undervalued in drafts, getting overlooked at the deepest position this year. 

The vast majority of fantasy players are unaware of the Zeile projections, which is a great draft prep tool. Zeile projections pull data from a wide range of sources, including CBS Sports, ESPN, Razzball, THE BAT, Projecting X, and more. I’ve done the hard work for you and compared where hitters are going relative to their Zeile projections – see below for the pitchers and hitters that I’m targeting based on those comparisons.

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Hitters

Targets

Willy Adames (SS – TBR): Zeile Hitter Rank: 167; ADP Hitter Rank: 207
Adames is routinely undervalued in drafts, getting overlooked at the deepest position this year.  He has shown the propensity to hit above the league average in batting average, despite a career 27% strikeout rate in the majors. This is likely due to his sprint speed (ranking in the top 20% percentile) and raising his launch angle to hit more line drives, which typically increases batting average:

2018 2019
GB 52.1% 46.8%
LD 17.5% 22.5%
FB 30.4% 30.3%
Launch Angle 8.6 degrees 10 degrees

 
He is likely to regress in home runs, given that he has a league-average barrel rate and doesn’t hit the ball hard. Based on his scouting grades, he has another level to reach, and I’m expecting him to get there this year based on the potential the scouts see, plus his continuous elevation of the ball. Entrenched as the Rays’ starting shortstop, Adames should accumulate 20 homers, a combined 145 runs and RBI, 6-8 steals, and a .255-.260 average. That makes him a top 135 hitter in my rankings.

Justin Smoak (1B – MIL): Zeile Hitter Rank: 185; ADP Hitter Rank: 206
Smoak was one of my positive regression candidates last year, but it never came to fruition – despite a Statcast page that looked like this:

I’m guessing that Smoak does not get that unlucky again, especially with a 5% decrease in strikeout rate and a near 2% increase in walk rate. The fun part about this exercise is that Zeile has Smoak accumulating only 390 at-bats when he has a great chance to win the everyday job at first base (especially with injuries in an injury-prone Brewer outfield likely keeping Ryan Braun from playing first, if he can stay healthy himself). I’m expecting 25 homers over 500+ at-bats, but you can get him a full 20 picks later than value.

Other Targets: Trent Grisham (OF – SDP), Anthony Santander (OF – BAL), Jesus Aguilar (1B – MIA), Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL), Avisail Garcia (OF – MIL), Travis Shaw (2B/3B, TOR), Ian Happ (OF – CHC), Cesar Hernandez (2B – PHI), Justin Upton (OF – LAA), Nelson Cruz (UT – MIN)

Avoids

Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/3B – WAS): Zeile Hitter Rank: 181; ADP Hitter Rank: 149
I bet if you were asked the question, “Asdrubal Cabrera had 78 RBI last year” that you would answer false. Guess what – you’d be right…because he had 91 RBI! I am in disbelief as well – and this is why RBI should not correlate with how good or bad a player is, much less be a Hall of Fame credential.

Many players are drafting Cabrera based on the Nationals signing him to play third base, but Carter Kieboom should take the job away from him within the first month of the season, if not outright win the job this spring.  The underlying metrics suggest that major negative regression is coming, and the bottom is about to drop out on the 34-year-old.

Dylan Carlson (OF – STL): Zeile Hitter Rank: 213; ADP Hitter Rank: 175
The hype is officially through the roof on Carlson as a result of his monster Spring Training, slashing .400/.520/.650. However, my guess is that the Cardinals take it slow with him, given that he has just 79 plate appearances in Triple A. While I believe that Zeile is a bit low on at-bats (285), I have him at 400 at-bats – and still outside the top 200 hitters. Drafting upside is a good option at this point in the draft, but you can also draft Brendan McKay or Sandy Alcantara at a shallower position at a similar point in the draft.

Other Avoids: Christian Vazquez (C – BOS), Yoenis Cespedes (OF – NYM)

Pitchers

Targets

Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA): Zeile Pitcher Rank: 113, ADP Pitcher Rank: 168
Much like Adames, Lopez will not give you extra juice in one particular category but will provide value in the rate stats and strikeouts over a full season provided he stays healthy. Many players are looking at last year’s 5.09 ERA and letting out a heavy sigh, but he was rather unlucky last year. His strand rate of 66.4% was roughly seven percentage points below the league average. Lopez upped his 4-seam usage while ditching his sinker throughout the year, which didn’t lead to better results in a vacuum, but it shows that he is thinking correctly on his pitch usage:

4-Seam Usage/xBA/xSLG Sinker Usage/xBA/xSLG
May 37.5%/.225/.380 20.3%/.256/.471
August 49.7%/.287/.462 18.1%/.401/.739
September 49.8%/.308/.523 13.1%/.317/.451

 
His secondary offerings (curve and change) are both above-average pitches. All of the ERA indicators point to a low-4 ERA, yet he is being drafted around the same time as Michael Pineda and Domingo German – guys who are slated to miss about half of the season! I’m perfectly fine with Lopez as a reserve starting pitcher.

Brendan McKay (SP – TBR): Zeile Pitcher Rank: 90; ADP Pitcher Rank: 121
The shine has worn off on McKay, as a result, the 5.14 ERA and 1.41 WHIP he posted over 49 innings in the bigs last year. However, he still has four above-average pitches, was unlucky with a 64% strand rate last year, and routinely posted 30%+ strikeout rates in the minors. All of the public projections have him at a sub-4 ERA with nearly a 10 K/9. He’s worth drafting as your SP5 in every single draft in every league.

Other Targets: Dylan Cease (SP – CWS), Mitch Keller (SP – PIT), Yoshihisa Hirano (RP – SEA), Spencer Turnbull (SP – DET), Jordan Yamamoto (MIA)

Avoids

Dakota Hudson (SP – STL): Zeile Pitcher Rank: 128, ADP Pitcher Rank: 96
Hudson might as well be nicknamed “The Grinch,” because I’m not going near him with a ten-foot pole. His 57% groundball rate is fantastic, but his career .269 BABIP will inevitably regress to the league average. Grounders result in hits more than flyballs, which then results in a higher BABIP. Combined with his career 12% walk rate, his already rough WHIP will only get worse. On top of it, Hudson’s Statcast page is a lot of blue, something you don’t want:

Daniel Hudson (RP – WAS): Zeile Pitcher Rank: 146, ADP Pitcher Rank: 109
Hudson central over here! Hudson is being drafted higher than his Zeile ranking as a result of potentially replacing Sean Doolittle as the Nationals’ closer. However, I’m not buying it. While he improved last year, his strikeout rate is too low and his walk rate is too high for him to be an elite reliever. Further, his .247 BABIP from last year is significantly lower than his career .291 BABIP. While his groundball rate did go down (which could result in a lower BABIP) his hard-hit rate increased ten percentage points from 2018 to 2019, suggesting that his BABIP should have at least been similar to his career average. Zeile and I agree that he can nab ten saves. But expecting him to take over the closer role all season is fool’s gold.

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Carmen Maiorano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Carmen, check out his archive and personal fantasy blog and follow him @carmsclubhouse.

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