Things ain’t like they used to be. A decade ago, the average line of the top-25 first basemen in terms of offensive WAR was 84/28/98/.288, not surprising considering the 2009 bagmen pool included the prime years of guys such asAlbert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Derrek Lee and Adrian Gonzalez.
For 2018, that same average first basemen has more in common with Aubrey Huff than Prince Fielder: 72/22/76/.259. While guys such asPaul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, and Anthony Rizzo are trustworthy staples at the top of the first base pool, there are a lot of more guys with question marks around them that don’t inspire the same confidence. The players below are being overrated based on how the draft market is perceiving them. All of these guys should be owned, just not by you at their current ADPs.
Cody Bellinger (Los Angeles Dodgers, ADP: 45): Bellinger’s appearance here is less a knock on his skills than it is a criticism of his fourth-round ADP. Last year at this time, he was going 26th overall in drafts. While he was serviceable in 2018, I’m sure his owners from this past season will tell you otherwise. If nothing else, his 25 long balls were a pretty massive disappointment after smacking 39 as a rookie in 2017.
What’s more concerning is the pedestrian quality of contact Bellinger made this past year, ranking 74th in 95-plus mph hits, 113th in barrel rate, and 85th in average exit velocity. Compare that with his rookie season, where he ranked 63rd, 26th, and 41st in those categories, respectively. The narrative at the end of 2017 was that pitchers had adjusted to him and he couldn’t hit breaking balls. While that didn’t really end up being the case this past year, at least in terms of his plate discipline metrics, it seems reasonable to assume Bellinger just isn’t able to get the bat on the ball in the same way he did in Year 1.
Also concerning is his overnight erosion against lefties. Despite not seeing much of a split in his 2017 season, Bellinger’s OPS against southpaws dropped from .903 to .681 this past year. He’s only 23 and just a year removed from a monster season, but there’s also not a lot to hang your hat on here to confidently say he’ll be better than he was last year. If he drops a round or two, I’d be happy to swing for him, but I want to have more confidence in my fourth-round pick than I do in Bellinger.
Jesus Aguilar (Milwaukee Brewers, ADP: 79): Something happened to Jesus Aguilar after the All-Star break. It’s not always fair to play the first-half/second-half game in making judgment calls on players, but I’m going to do it here anyway.
There’s clearly something going on, as Aguilar’s decreases in home runs, fly balls, and ISO point to more than just getting unlucky in the second half. Most troubling is that his ground-ball rate increased exactly as much as his fly-ball rate dropped. Not only were those extra grounders sapping his power, but when he did hit the ball in the air, it was less likely to clear the fence. Either Aguilar was hampered by a mechanical issue or he was facing a pitching adjustment. Let’s explore the latter below:
In the first half (the heat map on the left), opposing pitchers hammered the low-and-away part of the strike zone, and Aguilar returned the favor by hammering those pitches accordingly. The heat map on the right shows that pitchers took a more meticulous approach to finding holes in the right-handed slugger’s swing after the All-Star break. Heat maps for his ISO and SLG show similar splits.
The takeaway here is that he just wasn’t seeing his favorite pitches as the year went on. For a guy with only 900 career plate appearances, that potential league-adjustment has me a bit too concerned to invest at pick 79.
Ian Desmond (Colorado Rockies, ADP: 140): Since 2012, only two players have had five seasons of 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. One is Mike Trout, the best baseball player of his generation. The second is being drafted in the 11th round, which still might be too high. If I were forced at gunpoint to wager double-or-nothing on Desmond joining the 20/20 club for a sixth time in that span, I’d only ante-up things I’d be happy to get rid of: the overfilled waste bag in our Diaper Genie, the crate of empty paint cans in my garage the dump won’t accept, my crippling student loan debt — things like that.
Two key batted ball types jump out: his league-high 62% ground-ball rate, and his league top-five HR/FB%. The trouble with the grounders is self-evident in that he’s negating the positive park factors of Coors Field by putting nearly two-thirds of all batted balls into the ground. His dribbler rate of 38.4% was second-worst in the majors this past year, which points to some extremely weak contact.
The high HR/FB rate of 24.7% seems good on the surface, but it’s almost certainly not sustainable. Only four batters with more than 500 plate appearances performed better in that metric this past season: Christian Yelich, JD Martinez, Joey Gallo and Giancarlo Stanton. Of those players, Desmond had the lowest average launch angle (0) and weakest average exist velocity (89.2 mph). Given he’d never even hit more than 20% of his fly balls for home runs prior to this past season, it seems like there was a lot of luck involved. When you combine that with his propensity to swing and miss, you have an aging player with a low floor. No thanks.
Eric Hosmer (San Diego Padres, ADP: 170): Don’t take this as some sort of bold stand, but Hosmer seems to be a perennial resident of these types of do-not-draft lists. Thinking I was being edgy with this call would be the equivalent of making “Nickelback sucks lolz” memes in 2019 and patting myself on the back for originality. But still, I feel compelled to state the obvious in all caps because his ADP is somehow not lower: DON’T BE THE PERSON WHO DRAFTS HOSMER.
If my hand-wringing isn’t enough to convince you, try this: His -1.2 launch angle was worst in the league this past year among qualified batters (min. 300 plate appearances) and is the second-worst launch angle ever recorded in the Statcast era, which explains his 60% ground-ball rate. Not only that, but 38% of his batted balls qualified as dribblers, which was third-worst in the league. His strikeout rate rose to a career-worst 21%, a troubling trend supported by career-worsts in swinging-strike rate (12.1%) and contact rate (74.7%). Hosmer also struggled mightily against lefties last year, posting a career-worst OPS of .527 against southpaws.
He may bounce back, but Hosmer’s never had enough upside appeal to be worth betting on, even in the 14th round. At that stage in the draft, I’d rather wait a few rounds and chase higher-upside guys such as Luke Voit, CJ Cron or Justin Smoak.
Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire
I assume you are using NFBC ADPs. You don’t really seem to be paying much homage to that, but you should. NFBC is super old-school and really values SB, with no value for BB or anything like that, which is why a lot of the ADPs look funny. In a “normal” league nobody wants Desmond and he is going to be a great value where you draft him as your backup somewhere. His SBs are the reason he has that high of an ADP in NFBC – I don’t think he is overvalued in that format. I agree that Bellinger is always over-drafted, but it is his SB what give him some value in NFBC. I also agree that Aguilar is a prime bust candidate based on his second half. If people are using NFBC ADPs for their non 5×5 leagues they are going to have terrible drafts. I am going to make it my mission to spread the word about NFBC ADPs this year lol. In NFBC, simply hitting in the heart of the lineup and playing every day (weekly lineups and counting stats) is a valuable player.
Thanks for reading! I’ll keep that in mine when I reference ADP data in the future, as I can see how there could be some anchoring in relying on just one platform. I personally just like to have the ability to filter by date so I can track more recent draft trends.
For the record, the Fantasy Pros consensus ADP of the four mentioned here:
Bellinger – 44
Aguilar – 84
Desmond – 141
Hosmer – 152
Doesn’t that seem a little fishy that they are all so similar? Especially when you are saying they are overvalued and I agree… Just saying that I think their rankings are just twists on the ADP. There is certainly anchoring. Its like when you take a set of rankings and just shuffle guys around – which we all do.
Thanks for the reply. That is interesting. I imagine that they must be working off of NFBC and altering them as opposed to creating scratch rankings, which is 100X more work and actually requires the author to put themselves out there (bless you Nick Pollack). I actually think that most people are overusing those ADP – certainly not just you. Its out there, publicly available, and respected – you will be hard pressed to find an author who doesn’t look at it… rely on is probably more accurate than look at. They have become the default, and I don’t really ever see much mention of what they actually are. I recently did my first NFBC, so now I get how where the wackiness comes from. They fit the format well.
I am certain that there are huge profits to be had in understanding that NFBC is: weekly lineups, 12/15 teams, redraft, many have no waivers and its 5×5 roto – and understanding why their rankings don’t fit your league (unless they do). I agree that they are very useful in tracking trends, but they are for a very specific format. I kind of doubt that many people are drafting Desmond as their starting 1B, unless they are chasing steals, which someone is in that format – especially in a 15 teamer.
Agree on your overrated. It seems Josh Bell is getting mixed reviews. What is your opinion of him in a 10-team points league. Thanks
Thanks for reading!
The consensus ADP on Bell is 221 right now, which seems right. I really want to like Bell but I just don’t see a ton there right now with his current profile. I wouldn’t put much stock into his 2017 numbers, as his expected slugging was 33 points below the .466 he posted. It seems like a lot of those 26 homers were just plain lucky and his elevated HR/FB rate that year was way out of line with his career norms. I’d put his HR total at about 16-18 this year pending some sort of mechanical adjustment, and his counting stats will fall in from there (maybe >150 R+RBI). For a low-power 1B I’d at least want a higher average out of him.
I feel like he’s a guy who would benefit greatly from a launch angle lift.
Thanks for the follow up. In our keeper league, the guys available in draft are Freeman, Rizzo, Abreu, Votto, Augular, Hosmer, Voit, Miggy, Bell. First three will be gone before I can draft. I have Hoskins I can move to first after 25 games. Bell finished strong last year and with his age and potential, I can take a chance on him. He’s slated to hit fourth in Pirate lineup. There are a few exports high on him.
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