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Navigating the Shiny Toy Syndrome Using THE BAT Projections

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Feb 7, 2021

Sean Murphy is the shiny toy at catcher.

We all love new things … until we don’t.

It’s like what you hear parents say a week after Christmas when their kid(s) say they are bored.

“You have all of these new gifts you got last week; how can you be bored?”

The new, shiny toy is fun to have, but you either get tired of it, or something that’s perceived to be better comes along, casting that former shiny toy to the side.

It’s the same with fantasy baseball. Each year, some players have a ton of hype going into drafts, who shoot up draft boards and see their ADP go higher and higher as drafts near.

Sometimes, it’s for good reasons, such as signing with a new team or being named a starter at a position. But many times, it’s a young player, who put together a nice performance over a small sample the previous season, or they are going to debut in the upcoming season.

We all want these players in hopes that they become the next Fernando Tatís or Juan Soto, but the likelihood of the young players achieving that amount of success right away is rare. 

Instead, they get cast aside, and in their second or third year in the league, they break out into those superstars that we hoped they’d be. 

What happens when we elevate these shiny toys is that we suppress the ADP of established veterans who don’t have the hype around them but can return similar – if not better – value as the exciting player. 

Coming off a year that wasn’t only just one small sample, but also a year where we saw more than 200 players make their Major League debut due to the shortened season, expanded rosters, players missing time due to the pandemic, and no minor league season, figuring out what to do with these players is going to be a challenge.

Remember, sometimes boring is better or at least just as good.

We’ll look at a shiny toy at each position based on their NFBC ADP from January 1 to February 6 and find a comparable option based on THE BAT projections on FanGraphs.

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Catcher

The Shiny Toy: Sean Murphy (OAK) ADP 161
Murphy was a popular sleeper last year, so it makes sense that he’d carry over that status a year later when we see players – especially catchers – take longer to put it all together. THE BAT projects Murphy for a .224/.308/.392 slash with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs in 428 plate appearances. 

The Veteran: Buster Posey (SF) ADP 250
Is Posey a safe pick? No, not at all – especially after he missed last year, and he’s an older veteran with injury history and a top prospect breathing down his neck. But, 89 picks after Murphy goes off the board, you can get a projected .269/.341/.383 with 9 home runs and 53 RBIs in 500 plate appearances. I’ll take a slight hit on projected home runs.

First Base

The Shiny Toy: Dominic Smith (NYM) ADP 108
Smith had his long-awaited breakout last year for the Mets, and he’s set to see the majority of his playing time in left field this year. But this was the real first extended run that we’ve seen Smith get, so we’re putting a lot of faith into pedigree and 60 games. He’s projected for .260/.325/.456 with 24 homers and 81 RBIs in 605 plate appearances.

The Veteran: Jesús Aguilar (MIA) ADP 321
Aguilar was a late bloomer, and after his scorching 2018 season, he left fantasy managers scorned with his 2019 season. However, a full season in Miami last year, Aguilar was quietly a solid option as a corner infielder. If his 2021 projections are a preview of what’s to come, he’s a way better value than Smith 213 picks later. Aguilar is projected for .250/.330/.441 with 25 home runs and 78 RBIs in 600 plate appearances. 

Second Base

The Shiny Toy: Nick Madrigal (CHW) ADP 190
We have to go a little deeper here at second base since it’s a little shallower than most positions. Madrigal is the 19th second baseman at his position off the board, but there are many people who are Madrigal believers (I have no idea why) who should push his ADP up. He’s projected for .282/.329/.360 with three homers, 55 RBIs, and 15 steals. 

The Veteran: Kolten Wong (MIL) ADP 405
OK, maybe this isn’t fair. Wong just signed last week, so the market hasn’t corrected quite yet, but we all knew Wong would sign somewhere in a starting role. Wong should go ahead of Madrigal in every single league. His defense is elite. He has power, speed, and he’s playing in a fantastic ballpark against weak pitching. He’s projected for .264/.347/.393 with 11 home runs, 55 RBIs, and 15 steals.

Shortstop

The Shiny Toy: Dansby Swanson (ATL) ADP 104
Shortstop is tough because there are so many good options that you can wait until late in the draft to get your starter in a shallower league. Swanson is everyone’s favorite breakout every year, and last year, he backed up his good metrics. He’s projected for a solid .258/.329/.432 with 23 home runs, 81 RBIs, and four steals in 679 plate appearances. 

The Veteran: Marcus Semien (TOR) ADP 143
Semien wasn’t as good as his MVP-contending season in 2019. We all know that. Regression was going to happen, but it went too far in the other direction in 2020. He’s somewhere in the middle of those two seasons. Thirty-nine picks don’t seem like a huge gap, but that’s a few rounds where you can acquire value elsewhere. He’s projected to have a similar line as Swanson with .259/.337/.455 with 25 home runs, 80 RBIs, and four steals in 645 plate appearances on a loaded Blue Jays team.

Third Base

The Shiny Toy: Ke’Bryan Hayes (PIT) ADP 141
Hayes is a polarizing player for fantasy this year. He far exceeded any expectations at the plate after his defense was his calling card in the minors. Suddenly, he’s the face of and, really, the only recognizable name on a terrible Pirates team. You have to wonder how this hurts his counting stats and if we should put so much stock into his tiny big-league sample. He’s projected for .266/.334/.431 with 16 homers, 10 steals, and 68 RBIs in 604 plate appearances.

The Veteran: Justin Turner (FA) ADP 223
Turner doesn’t have a home yet, but the Dodgers, Brewers, or Atlanta should soon lock him up. He’s always underrated due to age and injury concern, but he always outproduces his ADP. Expect that again in 2021. He’s projected for .273/.364/.461 with 20 home runs and 71 RBIs in 560 plate appearances. 

Outfield

The Shiny Toy: Randy Arozarena (TB) ADP 57
Is there a smaller sample that we are putting as much stock into as Arozarena’s performance that was mainly driven by his out-of-this-world playoffs? Alex Fast summed up the concerns with Arozarena perfectly:

Could he be great? Yeah, he absolutely could. Is his 57 ADP a pretty insane investment to make off of his sample? Absolutely. Both can be true. He’s projected for .259/.337/.447 with 23 homers, 75 RBIs, and 20 steals in 626 plate appearances.

The Veteran: Tommy Pham (SD) ADP 126
I was out on Pham last year with his draft price with his increased groundball rate. I’m back in, though, as his price has fallen too far as a true OF2. He’s projected to have a similar season to Arozarena at a bigger discount at .266/.360/.441 with 19 homers, 68 RBIs, and 17 steals in 574 plate appearances.

Starting Pitcher

The Shiny Toy: Sixto Sánchez (MIA) ADP 134
This one hurts because I’m a fan of both Sánchez and Edward Cabrera, who is going to be every bit as good if not better than Sánchez. But it feels like we are overreacting a bit to Sánchez’s rookie season. He struck out 7.62 batters per nine (20.9 K%), which is pretty in line with his minor league numbers. He doesn’t rack up a bunch of strikeouts. He also had a 75.9 LOB%, which would have been top 25 if he were eligible. Without a high K%, that’s hard to buy into. Sánchez is projected for a 4.10 ERA (4.00 FIP) with a 1.29 WHIP and a 7.65 K/9 in 139 innings.

The Veteran: Marcus Stroman (NYM) ADP 216
Stroman is back in New York after opting out of the 2020 season. He’s featuring a new pitch this year, and he’s a pitcher who can consistently give you volume, which is more valuable than ever. He’s projected for a 4.14 ERA (4.27 FIP) with a 1.37 WHIP and a 7.25 K/9 in 170 innings.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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