Consensus Ranking Analysis: Early February (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
Hype, hype, and more hype. If there’s one thing that drastically moves a player’s average draft position over the course of a given preseason, it’s… you guessed it… hype!
The hype is, however, subjective. We could easily argue that a player gains momentum in the draft rankings for a legitimate reason — more projected playing time, for one. Still, the best way to track how a player has moved is by noting where the said player was early in the preseason. Hence, this article.
It works in both directions, too. Some will lose favor in the eyes of fantasy owners in the coming weeks. Either way, it’s important to take note at various checkpoints along the way.
Right away, we see the impact of actually drafting a team as compared to ranking players. Two shortstops — Trea Turner and Trevor Story — hold a higher ECR than ADP, and this is largely because of how a fantasy team is assembled. Turner and Story may be better fantasy assets than some other players drafted in the same range, but they also carry less of a premium because the shortstop position is so deep.
Two more infielders steal the show in terms of ECR versus ADP in the range of the 20th picks, and it’s another reminder of how depth at a position plays a role. Anthony Rendon, in particular, is an interesting case. It’s likely that long injury history is pushing his ADP lower, but, at one point, someone will be finding extreme value. The same can be said about a player like Alex Bregman — who only missed time due to an injury last year.
Shortstops and third basemen continue to show a large disparity between ECR and ADP in one direction, but outfielders are not lagging too far behind. This is another positional scarcity situation, where outfielders in the middle rounds are generally plentiful. Need proof? People are frequently passing on the likes of George Springer, Aaron Judge, Starling Marte, and Yordan Alvarez, to name a few. Indeed, each carries risk, but therein lies the purpose of looking at ranks against draft position. Objectively, it’s not difficult to argue that these players are “better” than others at their position. At the time of the draft, however, it’s easier to make a less risky selection elsewhere and still find an outfielder later.
A few veterans caught my attention in the 60’s range of ECR, and each has had moments of fantasy baseball brilliance. Those ranking players are still believing in Charlie Blackmon, J.D. Martinez, and Paul Goldschmidt far more than those drafting a fantasy team. Perhaps this changes as the season gets closer, but there will either be outstanding value in veterans moving past their best days, or the drafting consensus will be proven right.
The final batch of players worth noting are not tied to a specific segment of the rankings but simply names that have also fallen quite far from their ADP over the last year or two. Carlos Correa was a consensus first-round pick years ago, and the experts still like him — more than the fantasy owners, that is. Giancarlo Stanton still carries enough potential to rank highly but isn’t being selected as aggressively as he had been years ago. Rhys Hoskins is still trying to return to the form we saw in his electric debut, and his ADP is being punished while we wait for said rejuvenation.
No surprise here. If the ECR ignored position scarcity compared to ADP, then the opposite must be true when looking at players the ECR likes less. Pitchers reign supreme in this table and, in a spoiler of what’s to come, this will be a running theme throughout this column. The reasoning is simple: people need starting pitcher and pay a premium for it. In the first round, alone, we see Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber drafted higher than their ECR. In the second round? Trevor Bauer — who is currently unsigned — followed by Yu Darvish and Walker Buehler.
In fairness, there is a certain connectivity within positions. Pitchers getting drafted earlier will usually lead to pitchers continuing to get drafted earlier. It’s cyclical, and in the net-zero sum of a draft, some positions are gaining while others are falling. We continue to see this even as we scroll into the range of the third and fourth rounds. Nearly every player who is valued higher among fantasy owners as compared to the ECR is a pitcher.
Stepping aside from starting pitchers, two names that pop out from the list and have a startling amount in common are DJ LeMahieu and J.T. Realmuto. Forget that both players use initials as their first names, the two are both being drafted well above their ECR. We can’t claim position is playing a role here, as LeMahieu is extremely versatile while Realmuto plays one of the scarcest positions in the game. Instead, the differentiation between ECR and ADP comes from the rankings playing it safe while fantasy owners were aggressively adding these players. Carrying the similarities further, both players re-signed with their 2020 clubs, albeit after a free-agent period. Most likely, both also see their ECR and ADP converge in the coming weeks.
Continually forcing myself to avoid writing about more pitchers — this is a trend that simply won’t stop — Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Trent Grisham are two more noteworthy names. Grisham was a breakout in 2020, while Guerrero continues to carry immense promise. Both are being drafted more aggressively than their ECR would suggest, which is interesting to note in that people are projecting improvement from both players.
I’ll close this article with a handful of players from both the rotation and lineup, as they all share one common trait: upside. Whether it’s in the form of Jesus Luzardo, Dominic Smith, and Dylan Bundy carrying former prospect pedigree with them or the steps we saw players like Dansby Swanson, Framber Valdez, and Ian Anderson take in 2020, the bottom group in the list is built on low-risk, high-reward with a mix of potential. Granted, they are all being selected in the range where it’s likely that at least one over-performs in a massive way, but these are also some of the players to watch as Spring Training begins. As I wrote in the introduction to this piece, if we want to track how hype is playing a role in ADP, we need to start now.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.