AL Hitters: Undervalued & Overvalued

Ben Pernick breaks down the best ADP bargains and the worst rip-offs.

Welcome back to Buy & Sell, well sort of, anyway! I had planned to compliment my NL Hitters on the Rise article with an AL version until it became apparent that most AL hitters have instead tumbled down draft boards. I noticed several names in particular have slipped a good deal later since March without a good reason and are now excellent values. Granted, I’m basing my information on NFBC July draft data which may differ from your league, so results may vary. With that said, get your pith helmet, it’s time to go bargain hunting!

 

UNDERVALUED

 

10-Team

 

Jorge Soler, OF, Kansas City Royals (ADP: 100)

Soler me get this straight… A guy who hit 48 home runs last year isn’t a top-100 player? It’s absolute insanity, if you ask me. Maybe folks were scared off by his struggles in the first spring training, or maybe people are spooked by the regression monster, but they’re getting carried away. Soler was the 55th best player overall according to the NFBC auction calculator. Also he made huge second-half improvements in his K/BB rates and batted ball data in the second half, which were comparable to the performance of Juan Soto. While it’s just one year of strong performance, It’s not uncommon for a player hampered by health issues to sustain gains following a breakout season (See Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista). His numbers last year were arguably superior to Pete Alonso, and he’s only a year older, so the upside for a repeat is too huge to pass up after pick 75.

 

Jorge Polanco, SS, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 159)

It’s all about the Jorges, apparently. Jorge scored 76th on the auction calculator, and Paul Sporer pointed this out in June when Polanco had an ADP of 131. For some reason, Polanco’s slipped further back when right now is no time to sleep on a table-setter for the Bomba Squad. It may seem like Polanco’s power was a fluke, but his 10% HR/FB seems completely believable, since he utilizes the Tommy LaStella approach of combining a high contact rate with hitting lots of flyballs. The Bat X projects him to hit .280 with eight HR, three SB, 33 R, and 29 RBI, and I fail to see why that deserves to go 117 picks later than another player projected to hit .285 with 10 HR, 2 SB, 35 R, and 33 RBI. That player is Xander Bogaerts, at an ADP of 42. I know shortstop is super deep, so I’m increasingly warming up to waiting on shortstop so I can target JoPo after pick 130.

 

12-Team

 

Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros, (ADP: 184)

Tucker has certainly taken a dive lately, with early expectations projecting him as a regular, then being told he’d back up Josh Reddick. But now, Yordan Alvarez was just placed on the 10-day-IL, which virtually guarantees Tucker will be the Opening Day starting DH even if Yordan returns once eligible. Roster Resource does have Tucker penciled in as the #8 hitter, which would be an insult on a lineup not as filthy as the Astros. Tucker is still just 23, and with no minors left to go 30/30 in, he’s likely to get into the lineup not just for Yordan but also for George Springer (injury risk), Michael Brantley (still an injury risk), and Josh Reddick (still kinda sucks). Tucker has the potential to produce at a 30-HR, 20-SB pace, and I’m encouraged by his strong performance and 5/0 SB/CS ratio over just 72 PA in 2019. He’s well worth rolling the dice on after pick 160, if not pick 150, as he still has to- 75 player upside.

 

Giovanny Urshela, 3B, New York Yankees (ADP: 253)

When I saw how his ADP fell from 218 in March to 253 in June, I assumed something terrible happened to him. Nope. But it likely has to do with the fact that many of the Yankees’ previously injured outfielders (and DH in Giancarlo Stanton) have all since returned, forcing a playing time battle at the hot corner between Urshela and Miguel Andujar. However, Urshela should easily have the inside track, as he is the superior defender coming off the more recent offensive success. While many write his success off as a fluke, Urshela’s 2019 season was more supported by Statcast than Andujar’s 2018, which may be why the Yankees are also trying Andujar at first and outfield. Urshela’s The Bat X projection of .271 with eight HR, 25 R, and 26 RBI has him out-earning Hunter Dozier (ADP 198), Ryan McMahon (168), and even besting Yuli Gurriel (159) in both AVG and HR. Aim for him around pick 220 and you’ll be rock solid with the Giodude.

 

Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Cleveland Indians (ADP: 258) 

Just like the so-called pizza, there’s nothing sexy about Little Cesar, but he satisfies your five-category hunger. The offseason acquisition has been announced as the Cleveland leadoff batter, where he should have plenty of run-scoring opportunity setting the table for Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Franmil Reyes. His value dropped last year due to his lack of stolen bases, but this could have been due in part to a strained hip flexor he suffered last spring. Even then, his 29 ft/sec sprint speed was still 40th best in the league. In his age-30 season, he should have a much safer floor than the picks going before him (Rougned Odor, Garrett Hampson) and can easily out-earn them through sheer volume. The Bat X pegs him to hit .279 with four HR, four SB, 27 R, and 22 RBI, and I think he can beat those projections as Cleveland hitters avoid the best rotation in the AL Central. He’s the Keystone Light version of Tommy Pham and is a boring but underrated add after pick 230.

 

15-Team 

 

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, OF/3B, Tampa Bay Rays (ADP: 361)

Yoshi can give your team quite the power-up. I have no idea why Tsutsugo has backslid from 319 in March to 361 now when there have been no big roster or status changes. Maybe he’s just been forgotten after he went back to Japan during the break, but he’s reportedly even better adjusted for Spring 2.0, getting along well with teammates and blasting batting practice moonshots. He’s most likely to alternate between OF and DH, but I think he could get playing time at 3B even as a mediocre defender there as Yandy Diaz isn’t much better there now as he can’t have soft hands with rock-hard biceps. He may get platooned against lefties, but he should be an underrated late-game power bat with strong OBP and multi-position eligibility. The Bat X is bearish, calling for seven HR and a .233 AVG, but every other projection has him hitting at least .250. I’m getting him everywhere I can after pick 325.

 

Anthony Santander, OF, Baltimore Orioles (ADP: 376)  

Santander can help you make bank. He’s yet more evidence that outfield has plenty of late values, though his ADP drop may have been due to concerns about him having not reported to camp until a few days ago. While the former Rule 5 pick lacks name recognition or mammoth tools, Santander is penciled in as the #3 hitter, which has value even in a bad lineup. His season line of .261 with 20 HR isn’t bad for a rookie, and while he had lousy plate discipline, he made up for it with a strong 81% contact rate and a super high 43% FB% rate that should keep him contributing in power and average with half his games at the Camden hotbox. I still don’t think he’s a top-300 player, but with the ability to help in average, power, and run production late, after pick 340 you don’t have to worry about overdrafting… unlike the bank.

 

Marwin Gonzalez, 1B/3B/OF, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 440) 

Mr. Gonzalez, welcome to Marwinnesota. It’s rather puzzling that his ADP has nosedived from 373 in March to 440 in July, even though he’s listed as an Opening Day starter. It’s increasingly apparent that his stellar 2017 was just a lucky blip that won’t be repeated, but he’s likely to provide near-everyday at-bats as he cycles in to rest players in what will be a short but intense season. Not only will he be in an easy division and on a jacked lineup, but his three-position eligibility will be extremely useful in 2020, and deserves way more love for that. The Bat X projection calls for a  .262 AVG, five HR, one SB, 22 R, and 21 RBI, which is slightly better than their projection of another utility guy starting the year as a DH-only going at pick 281… That’s Nick Solak. You won’t regret going for the vet after pick 400, if not earlier if you need versatility.

 

18-Team and AL-only

 

Daniel Vogelbach, 1B, Seattle Mariners (ADP: 451)

He just keeps getting pushed further and furtherbach. Look, I get that his batting average was a complete sinkhole in the second half, but I think The Hate Has Gone Too Far. Look, the dude still popped 30 bombs with strong run production numbers, and while his .208 AVG was ugly, his .341 OBP was rather acceptable. His 45% FB% rate is high, but his .232 BABIP seems influenced in part by bad luck as his contact rate is surprisingly decent. His The Bat X projection of a .221 AVG with seven HR certainly seems bearish, but I think the 27-year-old can make some adjustments with a bit more aggressiveness and a bit less launch angle to get his average in the .230-.240 range, if not .250. He’s slated as the #5 hitter and should still be an underrated run producer. He may not be in vogue but I’ll roll the dice on him after pick 400 wherever I can.

 

Ryan McBroom, 1B/OF, Kansas City Royals (ADP: 589)

Okay, understand that this is only for AL-only and super-deep leagues only. But Ryan O’Hearn was placed on the IL Wednesday, and although he’s likely to return shortly, it gives McBroom another chance to prove himself. McBroom seemed destined for Quad-A life, but seemed to have a mechanical breakthrough in Triple-A, hitting .315/.402/.574 with 26 HR in 482 PA, leading the International League in OPS. He managed to stay afloat in his 2019 cup of coffee, and if he starts hot, it won’t be hard for him to wrest the job from O’Hearn after O’Hearn’s sub-Mendoza line in 2019. Don’t expect McBroom to pull a 2018 Luke Voit, but he has some potential to post a decent average with moderate power and useful dual-position, eligibility, which is more than enough after pick 500.

 

OVERVALUED

 

10-Team

 

Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 154)

The Bux stops here. I do feel kind of bad to kick a player while he’s down, as he just had a foot injury a few days ago that may or may not impact his status for opening day. But this is emblematic of a whole flawed mentality in this shortened season that injury risk guys are somehow safer than normal. Perhaps there is some truth in that the injury playing field is leveled by an illness that can affect anyone regardless of propensity for physical injury, but aside from that, even a small injury in a 60-game season can be far more devastating to your team. Even if Buxton is “healthy”, I have doubts he’ll be 100% and willing to be as aggressive on the base paths… not to mention aggravating the injury with more theatrics in center field. There’s still a chance of a big fantasy season, but higher odds of a disappointing one. I wouldn’t take interest until he slips past pick 200 at the earliest.

 

12-Team

 

Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels (ADP: 268) 

I know you can’t wait to say Hello to Adell. But if you do, you might set fire to your reign. He’s more or less been told he won’t begin the year as a starter, with Brian Goodwin patrolling right, Justin Upton in left, and Shohei Ohtani at DH. Sure, Mike Trout could miss some time and sit out, or one of the other guys gets hurt or canned, but with just 60 games, the typical patience/marathon talk does not apply. Even a few weeks of holding a bench player could sink your season. Seeing as the team feels Adell still needs more polishing, even with major league reps, his performance likely wouldn’t be all that different from Kyle Lewis (ADP: 357). If it’s not a keeper league, just wait on him til 2021.

 

15-Team

 

Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles (ADP: 284)

Hays has gotten buried in Needlestacks. He fell from 255 in May to 284 in July, even though he’s guaranteed as much playing time as ever, especially with the recent news that Orioles failed to sign Yasiel Puig. That being said, I think the reason he’s falling is that the projections point to the idea that people were overreacting to a successful small sample size in the majors in 2019, ignoring the fact that he hasn’t put up good numbers in the minors since 2017 due to injuries. His projections are actually virtually identical to Anthony Santander, who is going at pick 376. I wouldn’t feel comfortable rostering Hays until pick 335 or so, as he may be more of a Nolan Reimold-type than any kind of star.

 

18-Team & AL-only

 

Michael Chavis, 1B/2B, Boston Red Sox (ADP: 301)

It might be time to Chave off a bit from those projections. Red Sox skipper Ron Roenicke announced Jose Peraza will be the starting second baseman (who is a solid but at an ADP of 288), but that does leave Chavis’ playing time up in the air. He should still spell Mitch Moreland at first, or cover the keystone when Peraza fills in at other positions, but expecting him to play even 2/3rds of the time may be wishful thinking. He boasted a terrible 33% K-rate and .222 xBA in 2019 which, which his .413 xSLG didn’t exactly make up for. While it may improve in his sophomore stint, the juice is not worth the squeeze. I’m not interested before pick 400, and if someone else bites I’ll gladly rock out while laughing at Chavis & Butthead.

 

Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (ADP: 315)

The news that Vlad Guerrero Jr. will be focusing on 1st base is good news for Travis Shaw, and bad news for basically everyone else. It’s probably bad news for Rowdy Tellez, but Roster Resource currently has him penciled in at 1B with Lourdes Gurriel in left, Randal Grichuk in center and Teoscar in right, with Derek Fisher on the bench. However, Grichuk will likely be stretched at center and may move to right for the defensively superior Fisher to take over. This could bump Teoscar out, as he was just second percentile in Outs Above Average… and also second percentile in expected batting average at .219. He has amazing speed he fails to utilize, but right now I’d much rather have Mike Yastrzemski, Santander, or even Vogelbach than the strikeout-prone bat-only. If he’s not falling after pick 360, I’m throwing Teoscar the Slouch into the trash can. 

 

Featured Image by Alyssa Buckter – alyssabuckter.com

 

Ben Pernick

Fantasy baseball nerd, music therapist, and comedy singer/songwriter and stand-up/sketch comedian. I am also an insufferable enthusiast of puns and dad jokes. I grew up as a Red Sox fan in New York, but now I declare allegiance only to my fantasy teams.

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