Four Overrated Second Baseman to Avoid in Drafts
Throughout life, we encounter many things that, for your health’s sake, you should actively avoid if you want to live a good, clean life.
There’s that guy on the subway with the runny nose who is sneezing every 30 seconds. Give that man a wide berth. Any reality show set south of the Mason-Dixon line? Just change that channel. Making your way to the dance floor at a family wedding after hitting the champagne too hard? Please, for your dignity’s sake, sit down and keep that tie off your head. Snakes? No sir, they’re called nope ropes for a reason. Drafting an overrated second baseman? Talk about bad for your health.
Oftentimes in draft prep articles such as this one, you’ll hear a lot of the focus turned toward finding the underrated second baseman, the guys who give you great return on investment and can win you your league. Trust me, we’ll get to those guys. The thing is everyone focuses on finding that positive ROI, and I would like to argue that one of the keys to leading a happy and healthy fantasy life is avoiding those players who are going to give you negative ROI, aka the overrated.
Here are four overrated second baseman who I will be avoiding in drafts if for no other reason than to give my blood pressure a rest. I’ve broken them up into tiers based on things I tend to avoid like the plague.
The Reality TV Division
NFBC ADP — 41; Pitcher List staff consensus — 70; my rank — 93
NFBC ADP — 81; Pitcher List staff consensus — 111; my rank — 145
I will be the first to admit I want to believe in Adalberto Mondesi. I really do. Just as I want to believe that everyone on The Bachelor is really there to find true love or that everyone on Survivor is a terrible person. But let’s face it: We all know they’re probably terrible people.
At first glance, Mondesi’s numbers look like something borne of the Jose Ramirez/Javier Baez mold, only Mondesi is so much faster than either of those two players. We’re talking about a guy who was on pace for 30 home runs, and 69 stolen bases if played out over a full season. That sounds fantastic, and if he manages to put that up over a full season, we’re debating Mondesi or Mookie Betts next year in the first round.
So why am I down on him you ask? I just don’t see it being sustainable in any way over a full season. First, here are some of the advanced stats from Mondesi’s 2018 season and a quick comparison with a mystery player:
|Mystery Player X||.260||26.8%||.339||.312||94||8.0%||47.2%||13.4%||30.8%||72.2%|
A few things jump out at me right away as red flags.
First, that nice .276 batting average is being propped up by a .335 BABIP, whereas Mystery Player X has a similar BABIP but worse results. Now, given Mondesi’s speed (Mystery Player X is pretty fast too) and how hard he hits the ball, that BABIP might well be legit, but it would still be the third-highest BABIP of his career, and over three different stints in the majors since 2016, he has never had a BABIP over .300, let alone .335. The strikeout rate isn’t godawful these days, but for me, every single strikeout is an at-bat where Mondesi doesn’t get to use his greatest weapon: his legs. Ditto for Mystery Player X.
It’s also worth noting that even if you think his roto hitting stats were spectacular, wOBA and wRC+ tell us a different story. I understand that neither of those stats are fantasy stats, but personally, I can’t justify taking a player who was only above average in wOBA and only 14% better than the average hitter by wRC+. That’s not to belittle the numbers he put up, but I think that those measures are really important, especially in points leagues, as they give us a better picture of how they’ll contribute across the board as opposed to having their value skewed by a single category.
In case you haven’t noticed, Mystery Player X is the other batter I’m going to recommend avoiding in this tier, and that hitter is Jonathan Villar.
This brings me to the real elephant in the room: Mondesi and Villar’s plate discipline stats. A 3.8% walk rate for Mondesi is atrocious by any measure, but then when you factor in the plate discipline numbers, it gets even worse. Mondesi swung at 38.4% of pitches outside of the zone, which is problematic by itself but even worse when you factor in that pitchers threw chase pitches at Mondesi more than half the time. If you add in a truly ugly 18.2% swinging-strike rate and a 67.4% contact rate, I just don’t see how he can get on base enough to put up the numbers you’re expecting him to in the fourth round.
Villar’s are better but not by much. He doesn’t chase pitches nearly as often or whiff as much, but either way, he just doesn’t anywhere near enough contact. Have speedsters found success with that kind of walk rate? The comparisons that come to mind right away are guys such asDee Gordon back in 2017. I’ve included Villar’s numbers from his 2016 season, when he stole 62 bases, for reference.
|Adalberto Mondesi 2018||.276||32||26.5%||.335||.341||114||3.8%||47.4%||18.2%||38.4%||67.4%|
|Jonathan Villar 2016||.285||62||25.6%||.373||.356||120||11.6%||47.1||10.6%||24.1%||75.2%|
|Dee Gordon 2017||.308||60||13.4%||.351||.312||94||3.6%||45.0%||6.9%||36.6%||86.85%|
But before we dive into their similarities, let’s look at Gordon’s 2017 real quick. At the end of the day, stealing bases is all about opportunity and desire. Sure, Gordon’s walk rate lines up nicely with Mondesi, but the similarities end there. Basically, if you aren’t going to walk your way to first base, then you better darn well hit the ball as much as possible. Even then, you are pretty much leaving your fate up to your legs and the BABIP Gods (who are mostly cruel and super judgy). Mondesi and Villar simply don’t hit the ball enough for me to expect their BABIPs to stay at that level.
By the way, check out the .373 BABIP Villar required to put up his legendary 2016 fantasy season. That’s insane. It took a BABIP nearly 40 points higher than Mondesi’s to get to 60-plus stolen bases!
Let’s also look at this comparison from one more angle: earned times on base (eTOB), aka every time they got on base that wasn’t the result of an error or fielder’s choice. The only way you can steal a base is to end up on base. It’s really that simple. So let’s compare the eTOB data for these players as well. Note that I have scaled Mondesi’s numbers to Gordon’s season total of 550 at-bats
|Player||Hits||BB||eTOB||eTOB at 1st or 2B||SB||TOB/SB|
|Adalberto Mondesi 2018 (Prorated)||151||22||173||160||60||2.67|
|Jonathan Villar 2016||168||79||247||229||62||3.69|
|Dee Gordon 2017||201||25||226||190||60||3.17|
As you can see, Gordon had exactly 30 more eTOBs than Mondesi would have over a 550 at-bat sample, and Villar had 69 more, which obviously raises their stolen base floors considerably. Mondesi is going to need to attempt to steal bases at a much greater rate than Gordon or Villar did to make up for those lost opportunities if he wants to get to the 50-60 stolen bases we need him to get to justify taking him in the fourth round.
Why not 40 to 50 stolen bases for both of these guys? Because I have massive concerns about both their batting averages. Mondesi doesn’t have the walk rate to keep him getting on base, which costs him stolen base opportunities, and he needs to make the most of them. Villar doesn’t make nearly enough contact to make me believe he can consistently get on base enough to ever even come close to stealing 50-plus bags. Suddenly they’re not nearly as valuable as we thought they were.
Let’s take a look at what the projections say about Mondesi. Note nTOB/SB is the how often he would need to attempt to steal a base to reach 60 stolen bases.
OK, so take a look at that average row. We’re talking about a player who isn’t even projected for a full season of at-bats and is going to hit .251/21 HR/72 R/38 SBs. It just doesn’t strike me as a player I can afford to take in the fourth round.
To round things out, though, I want to note one last number in that average row. Note that 2.20 neTOB/SB? That means in order to reach that hallowed 60-stolen base mark, he would pretty much have to attempt a stolen base every other time he ended up on first or second base, which seems like a nearly impossible mark for him to hit. I feel like taking Mondesi anywhere before the eighth round is paying the price for that 60-stolen base ceiling instead of paying for his floor, and that’s a price I’m not willing to pay. Now, what about Villar?
Much like Mondesi, observe the average row. No one is going nuts over a .247 batting average, no matter how many bases the player steals. Villar’s ability to walk at a league average rate certainly saves him here, but just like Mondesi, I just can’t see him getting on base nearly enough to even come close to stealing enough bases to make up for the red flags and other flaws in his profile.
Also, given where he is being drafted, we’re seeing Villar projected on average as an active detriment to average, home runs, RBI (mainly because he’s leading off) and runs! Let them drag down someone else’s team on draft day.
The Drunken Wedding Dance Division
NFBC ADP — 126; Pitcher List staff consensus — 119; my rank — 161
Here’s an interesting twist: Rougned Odor made some big improvements this past year in a lot of important places. He lowered his strikeout rate to 23.7% and managed to nearly double his walk rate to 8.0%. If Odor is ever going to have continued success in the majors, he’s going to have to maintain that walk rate and continue to show growth. Odor’s only 25, so there’s still a lot of time for him to make that leap.
So wait, it sounds like I’m not all that down on Odor, so why is he in the overrated article? I feel that by taking him at his ADP in the 10th round, you are paying for him as if that continued growth has already happened, and much like that person who stops you from going out on the dance floor when you’ve had too much champagne, I can’t let you pay for Odor’s ceiling just yet. I mean, you know I love a guy who walks, but he’s merely reaching the league average. It’s not like he’s Joey Votto out there (no one is Joseph Daniel Votto in my eyes #BAE4LYFE) or anything, but it is encouraging. Despite all that, I have some concerns.
First, let’s take a look at Odor’s line from this past year and make another blind comparison.
|Mystery Player X||.230||18||65||75||7||345|
Lines up pretty nicely right? It is worth noting that Mystery Player X did get about 125 more plate appearances, but even if you account for the plate appearance discrepancy, it still holds up as xStats states that Odor got gifted a few home runs, so it all likely comes out in the wash either way.
In case you haven’t figured it out, Mystery Player X is Indians second baseman, Jason Kipnis.
Now, of course, I’ll be the first to admit that Odor has way more upside, but still, no sees Kipnis’ numbers and thinks to himself, “That’s production that I just have to have on my team.” Even if you prorate those numbers for the missing 140 plate appearances, we’re still only talking about 23 home runs and 15 stolen bases. That’s better but certainly not worth taking in the 11th round.
So why are we so excited for Odor? He’s only 25. There’s always the chance he figures it out and we end up with the 27 home run/20 stolen base guy we’ve been promised since he first came up back in 2015. If this were the 2020 season, I’d be on board maybe with taking that risk, but I think Odor still has at least one more season of incremental improvement before we can start looking for that breakout. While his plate discipline numbers improved greatly in 2018, almost all of his Statcast numbers stayed pretty much the same or regressed downward, which is not what you want to see from someone who you are expecting to break out this year and especially from someone I’m drafting in the 11th round.
To finish up the Wedding Dance Division, let’s real quick take a deeper look at that 11th-round ADP. According to NFBC, that ADP means he’s going up about a round after notable second basemen Gordon and Scooter Gennett while he’s currently going ahead of Robinson Cano (who is currently forecasted to bat third in the Mets lineup) and Brian Dozier (a player on a rebound season with a much greater track record of success and potentially more upside)! I would much rather bet my 2019 on either of those two players than pay up for the possibility Odor breaks out without any real evidence to support it.
Draft day in fantasy is always about creating value and then maintaining that value. With Cano and Dozier, you are paying for their respective floors. I will always support paying that price as it maintains any value you’ve already created/will create while raising the floor of your team’s potential. Heck, I’ll pay a little extra for a player’s upside. I just can’t support the cost of buying a player on draft day at the cost of his ceiling. That takes any value you’ve created or will create AND lowers your margin for error drastically. Get it wrong and you’ll spend your entire season trying to fix that mistake.
Much like I’ve spent the past few years trying to destroy all pictures from my cousin-in-law’s wedding and that time no one stopped me from finding that dreaded dance floor.
The Nope Rope Division
Snakes are just bad news, OK? I don’t care if they qualify at second base and are a sneaky yet popular sleeper pick, snakes are terrifying. Avoid them at all costs.
The Sick Man on the Subway Division
NFBC ADP — 183; Pitcher List staff consensus — 159; my rankings — 180
Like the sick man on the bus, Jonathan Schoop should be a pretty easy player to avoid as every single telltale sniffle (peripheral stats) or sneeze (his 2018 season) screams at you to stay far, far away from grabbing Schoop. I don’t care if it’s to fill your middle infield slot, I’d still rather wait a few rounds later and take a shot at Nick Senzel, Garrett Hampson, Marwin Gonzalez, or Asdrubal Cabrera.
It’s honestly not even the 183 ADP price tag that’s the problem. That’s the 15th round. I just don’t believe in Schoop. Let’s take a look at the whole picture that is Schoop starting with his season stats and working our way down the list. Here is how Schoop has performed every year since 2016. For you points-leaguers I have also included doubles, walk rate, and strikeout rate as those numbers help us get an idea of points-league value as well. I like using walk rate and strikeout rate because it scales for plate appearances so you know if their walks are going to be useful to you or their strikeouts harmful to you regardless of their playing time. League average walk rate is roughly 8.0% while really any strikeout rate below 20.0% is considered above average.
So Schoop is below average when it comes to walk rate and strikeout rate. This drastically lowers Schoop’s margin for error. Everything has to go right for him to succeed. In points leagues that give negative points for strikeouts, he’s practically unusable.
Think about this way: In most standard points formats, walks are worth one point, right? Over the past three years, Schoop has averaged 25 walks per season. Most of these leagues also subtract a half point for strikeouts. Over that same time period, Schoop averaged 131 strikeouts, which would have lost you 65 points, meaning that overall Schoop cost himself a net 40 points on average over that three year period with his terrible plate discipline. If the league happens to penalize players a full point? Now we’re talking about more than 100 points just taken right off the board.
I know at times I can be a bit redundant by fixating on walk rate, but this is the perfect example as to why. Players such as Schoop actively negate any positives they bring to the table because of these damaging peripheral stats. To make matters worse, he whiffs at an alarming rate while chasing way too many pitches out of the zone and making way too little contact for us to have a reasonable expectation that he will mix the issue.
Now, I don’t really like piling on players, which is why I usually don’t write too many negative pieces, but just in case I haven’t fully made my case for avoiding Schoop this draft season, let’s take a look at Schoop’s xStats data as they do not paint a pretty picture either. Let’s saunter over and check what they can tell us about his 2018 season.
Yikes. The xHRs actually show that according to his batted-ball data, he got gifted nearly six home runs! I know he had a hurt oblique, but we all know you wouldn’t even be considering Schoop this season if he had hit 15 home runs instead of 21.
Look at that xwOBA as well. That .279 mark would have easily been one of the worst in the league by a long shot, and his wOBA+ bears that out. 100 is considered a league average wOBA, and each additional point above or below is a percentage better or worse. In other words, Schoop’s .297 wOBA was 30.0% worse than a league average hitter. Can you imagine how bad it would have been if it was 12 points lower as his xwOBA indicates it should have been?
This is the hard part about Schoop. There just seems to be red flag after red flag with the upside being few and far between, much like shaking hands with that guy on the subway who just can’t stop sneezing. I’d suggest making sure Schoop is on someone else’s team on draft day … and you should probably buy some hand sanitizer.
(Photo by: Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)