Undervalued Fantasy Baseball Draft Targets (2023)
Recency bias is a hell of a drug. Gamers will frequently overvalue the surface stats for future rankings. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Digging a little deeper can reveal undervalued players based on the prior year’s stats.
Undervalued Players Based on 2022 Stats (Fantasy Baseball 2023)
A closer and three hitters stand out as values based on their 2022 stats.
Josh Hader (RP – SD): 62.3 ADP and 43 ECR
Have gamers learned nothing about the variance for relievers, even elite bullpen arms? According to last year’s FantasyPros average draft position (ADP) data captured from the Wayback Machine, Hader had an ADP of 40.4 in early February 2022. Meanwhile, Edwin Diaz’s ADP was 89.0. Per FanGraphs, Diaz had a 3.45 ERA, 2.62 xERA and 3.47 xFIP in 2021 after a more dominant 2020, and gamers no longer treated Diaz as an elite closer.
Yet, Diaz’s 3.45 ERA was primarily impacted by a 67.8 LOB%. Before 2021, he had an 81.2 LOB% in his career. Hader’s coming off a worse season in 2022 than Diaz’s 2021 campaign. San Diego’s closer had a 5.22 ERA. However, his 3.51 xERA and 2.94 xFIP were markedly better. What was the most significant difference? You’ve probably guessed it. Hader had a 66.9 LOB% in 2022 after sporting an 87.3 LOB% in his first 282.1 innings in the majors.
Additionally, Hader had an outstanding finish to 2022, assuaging concerns about his full-season marks. The lockdown reliever had a 0.87 ERA, 2.61 xFIP, 0.58 WHIP, 5.1 BB% and 33.1 K% in September and October in the regular season. Then, Hader had a 0.00 ERA, 1.31 xFIP, 0.38 WHIP, 5.6 BB% and 55.6 K% in 5.1 innings in the postseason. Hader’s a steal at his ADP and should be selected closer to his expert consensus ranking (ECR), closer to Diaz’s 40.7 ADP and Emmanuel Clase’s 42.0 ADP.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF – NYY): 128.7 ADP and 112 ECR
Unfortunately, Stanton isn’t an iron man. Gamers should expect him to miss time with an injury or for maintenance days. However, Stanton was also incredibly unlucky last year and had a .211 batting average as a result. The following table compares some of Stanton’s most glaring statistical anomalies via FanGraphs.
Stanton’s BABIP and batting average on grounders took a nosedive last year. Yet, he is still recording elite exit velocities. The veteran slugger’s .240 xBA was significantly higher than his actual batting average. Sadly, Stanton’s swinging-strike percentage was up 1.5% from 2021, and his zone-contact percentage was down 5.0% in 2022. So, he’s unlikely to rebound to a .269 batting average if he doesn’t make more contact this year. Regardless, Stanton’s power is elite, and hitting north of .240 is probable. The rankers are correct, and gamers should reach for Stanton before his ADP.
Max Muncy (1B/2B/3B): 145.3 ADP and 150 ECR
Things aren’t always black and white or apparent. However, Muncy’s 2022 campaign was cut and dry. He clearly struggled for most of the year while playing through a torn UCL. Fortunately, Muncy returned to form by the end of the year. The following data is encouraging for his 2023 outlook. Specifically, Muncy’s surge in exit velocity and batted-ball data suggests he was healthier to close 2022 than at the beginning of the year, which makes logical sense.
Muncy is a drag on batting average. Still, he’s an excellent source of run production and power. Muncy also gets a value boost in OBP leagues, and his multi-position eligibility is a bonus. Gamers should feel comfortable pulling the trigger for Muncy with a top-140 pick. The veteran infielder’s homer pace from August 1 through the end of the regular season would have produced over 30 homers if he repeated his 592 plate appearances from 2021, and his .249 batting average that year was only two ticks higher than his .247 batting average to finish up 2022. Thus, the bounce back was already underway late last year and should extend into this season.
Jesse Winker (OF – MIL): 258.0 ADP and 285 ECR
Winker exploded in 2021 and faceplanted in his only campaign for the Mariners in 2022. The sweet-swinging lefty’s power and batting average cratered. Winker’s BABIP drastically dropped, and so did his homer rate. He also had notable differences in his batting average against the shift and against no shift.
First, if it seems odd that Winker’s averages versus the shift and average versus no shift from 2019-21 are higher than his total batting average, those don’t include strikeouts. In other words, those averages are calculated on his balls in play, and his overall batting average has his strikeouts.
Second, Winker’s sky-high average against no shift for the three-year period is exciting considering MLB’s instituted a shift ban beginning this season.
Winker’s homer rate should also tick up substantially this season. The Mariners traded Winker to the Brewers, and the outfielder receives a park-factor boost for homers. According to ESPN, the park factor for homers in Seattle was 1.032 in 2022, and it was 1.108 in Milwaukee. However, Winker’s new home doesn’t amplify homers as much as Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. So, a full rebound to his pre-2022 HR/FB isn’t guaranteed. Nevertheless, Winker should reach the seats more often in his new home digs. Winker’s a dreamy late-round dart. The risk is low since gamers can cut him after using a late pick on him if he continues to stumble. However, the upside is returning to his breakout 2021 form.
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