Excessively Reacting To 2020 – Fantasy Baseball Third Base Strategies

Baseball fans know that last season was the most unusual season of our lives due to a global pandemic. There was the initial spring training, followed by a long layoff, and then a second spring training. The season has been shortened to 60 games, with teams playing only against teams from the same region of the country. The rosters were expanded, the double heads featured seven inning matches, there was universal DH, and the extra innings started with a runner in second. Two teams, the Marlins and the Cardinals, had significant rest time due to the Covid outbreaks, which also affected the schedules of many other teams.

With that in mind, the consensus during the offseason has been that we shouldn’t overemphasize a 60-game season played during a pandemic. Players who exceeded expectations did so in a two-month season, which led to three pitchers qualifying with under 2.00 ERAs (Shane Bieber, Trevor Bauer, Dallas Keuchel). The last time this happened was in 1972. On the flip side, some very good hitters performed well below expectations during the two-month season, including Nolan Arenado, JD Martinez and Jose Altuve.

The thing is, we’re human. As much as we tell ourselves not to overreact to the results of a two-month season, we can’t help but. We have more vivid memories of the 2020 season than of 2019 and the recency bias is setting in. The rookies who debuted and far exceeded expectations are like the shiny new toy we receive on our anniversary.

This is especially evident in the world of fantasy baseball, where players who come out of great seasons are probably drafted higher than they should be and players who collapsed in 2020 fall too far on the draft tables. To analyze this, we can compare a player’s average draft position (ADP) in 2021 to their ADP in previous years to see who rose through the ranks and who fell out of favor largely based on the shortened schedule of Last year.

I compiled ADP data from the Fantasy Baseball National Championships website based on the drafts from March 1 to 14.

This is the third basic version in a series of publications on different job groups. You can check out the others here:

Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pirates of Pittsburgh

  • ADP 2018: n / a (minor leagues)
  • ADP 2019: 728 (minor leagues)
  • ADP 2020: 624 (95 PA, .464 wOBA)
  • ADP 2021: 134
  • ADP movement: up 490 places
  • ATC 2021 projection: 573 PA, 73 R, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 8 SB, .276 / .345 / .454, .344 wOBA

Ke’Bryan Hayes first appeared on the Top 100 Prospects list ahead of the 2019 season. Right now, he’s up to the game’s # 7 prospect by Baseball Prospectus, # 9 by MLB Pipeline and # 15 by Baseball America. Despite those rankings, the Pittsburgh Pirates started last season with Hayes on their alternate site and Colin Moran in their third base roster.

In the midst of an ugly season, the Pirates raised Hayes in early September. He was 2-for-5 with a double, homerun, 3 runs scored and 2 RBIs in his debut, then had eight more multi-shot games this month. In the final two days of the season, Hayes was 7-for-9 with 4 runs scored and 3 RBIs. He finished the shortened season with a .376 / .442 / .682 batting line in 95 home plate appearances.

This performance and pedigree has Hayes with an ADP 134, which is the 9e round of a 15-team league. He took 12 picks after Kris Bryant and 31 picks ahead of Gio Urshela. I love the Pirates and I love Ke’Bryan Hayes. Heck, he’s one of the few exciting players on a team that should be among the worst in baseball. But the effect of the “shiny new toy” is in the foreground with the young third baseman.

Considering Hayes has never beaten more than .444 in any minor league season, his percentage of .682 last year was ridiculous. In five seasons in the minor leagues, Hayes has a career batting line of .279 / .354 / .399. One of the things that made him such a beloved prospect was the superlative third baseman defense, which doesn’t matter in fantasy baseball. Again, I love Hayes, but I wouldn’t take him where he went in drafts.

Gio Urshela, New York Yankees

  • ADP 2018: 749 (46 PA, .270 wOBA)
  • ADP 2019: 748 (476 PA, 0.369 wOBA)
  • 2020 ADP: 231 (174 PA, .365 wOBA)
  • ADP 2021: 165
  • ADP movement: up 66 places
  • ATC 2021 projection: 541 PA, 68 R, 19 HR, 74 RBI, 2 SB, .276 / .331 / .448, .334 wOBA

Gio Urshela is one of those random New York Yankees (like Luke Sees) acquisitions that writer Joe Posnanski likes to hate. Where do the Yankees find these guys? Urshela hit 0.225 / 0.274 / 0.315 (0.261 wOBA) in 499 home plate appearances in the first three seasons of his career with Cleveland and Toronto. Then he joined the Yankees and smashed back-to-back seasons with .369 and .365 wOBAs.

Fantastic players weren’t ready to dive straight into Urshela after the 2019 season. His ADP before last year was 231, between Brian Anderson and Yandy Diaz. After another solid season in 2020, they take him 66 spots earlier, on average, but still 31 picks behind Ke’Bryan Hayes, who has a significantly shorter record in the major leagues.

Josh Donaldson, Minnesota twins

  • ADP 2018: 32 (219 PA, .345 wOBA)
  • ADP 2019: 103 (659 PA, 0.377 wOBA)
  • ADP 2020: 93 (102 PA, .362 wOBA)
  • ADP 2021: 189
  • ADP movement: drop of 96 places
  • ATC 2021 projection: 540 PA, 75 R, 27 HR, 71 RBI, 2 SB, .243 / .363 / .475, .360 wOBA

Donaldson slipped up the ADP charts thanks to a 2020 season cut short by injury (28 games, 102 home plate appearances) and at 35. I understand that, but even in his abridged season, he still arrived on base with a great clip and punched for power. His six home runs in 102 home plate appearances are prorated to 32 dingers in 550 home plate appearances.

The question is whether Donaldson will have 550 or more plaque appearances. During his four-year peak of 27 to 30, he averaged 694 plaque appearances. Then he had two injury-scarred seasons before rebounding with 659 home plate appearances for Atlanta in 2019. His old calf injury resurfaced last year and limited him to about a month of playing time.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and Donaldson discussed Donaldson’s health issues and agreed that he probably wasn’t the 155-game third-baseman workhorse he was in the past, but even 550 appearances at the Donaldson’s marble is worth more than his 188 ADP.

Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

  • ADP 2015: 85 (650 PA, .371 wOBA)
  • ADP 2016: 13 (699 PA, .396 wOBA)
  • 2017 ADP: 5 (665 PA, .399 wOBA)
  • ADP 2018: 15 (467 PA, 0.359 wOBA)
  • ADP 2019: 33 (634 PA, 0.379 wOBA)
  • ADP 2020: 56 (147 PA, .285 wOBA)
  • ADP 2021: 122
  • ADP movement: down 66 places
  • ATC 2021 projection: 620 PA, 90 R, 25 HR, 74 RBI, 2 SB, .260 / .355 / .464, .349 wOBA

Kris Bryant is the ‘what have you been doing for me lately’ ultimate player in 2021. He was a heavy hitter for five straight years before stomping on friendly limits in 147 home plate appearances last year and the fantasy owners responded by relinquishing its 66 ADP spots. Before the 2020 season, his ADP was two picks ahead of Manny Machado. Now they are separated by 102 points.

Yes, Bryant was really bad in 2020, hitting .206 / .293 / .351. He walked less than he ever did and recorded his second-highest strikeout rate of all time. His Statcast numbers were just as ugly, with a 10e percentile xwOBA, 11e exit speed percentile, and 18e percentile hit percentage. As bad as his .285 wOBA was, his .282 xwOBA was even worse.

He also had a BABIP of .264 which was 75 points below his career mark of .339. This was the first time he had a BABIP below 0.331 and it’s hard to imagine that this will be his new standard. More than anything, it looks like 2020 has been a losing season for Bryant as he has had to deal with various injuries, including an oblique strain that ended his season earlier.

As bad as Bryant is, we have to remember that it was only 34 games, a little over a month of games, really. He has had two similar stretches in the past. During his rookie year, he walked out the gate with wOBAs of 0.389, 0.377, and 0.351 in April, May, and June. Then in July he had a wOBA of 0.280 which is worse than his 2020 season. He bounced back with a wOBA of .443 in August and a wOBA of .389 in September / October.

In 2016, Bryant had arguably the most productive season of his career, hitting .292 / .385 / .554, with 121 runs, 39 HR and 102 RBI. Its individual months have been mostly glorious: 0.377 wOBA in April, 0.370 in May, 0.425 in June, 0.400 in July, and 0.501 in August. Then came September and an ugly .221 / .296 / .375 hitting line that produced a .293 wOBA. Despite these struggles, he returned to his old self in the playoffs, helping the Cubs win their first World Series title since 1908. Now he is a pending free agent playing in his season at 29 who could add the eligibility to the field and he lost 66 spots in ADP. It’s an overreaction if I’ve ever seen one.

This guy or this guy?

Let’s end this look at the risers and takers with a good old-fashioned game from This Guy or That Guy for players with similar ADPs in 2021 at third base.

Kris Bryant — 122 ADP in 2021 (56 ADP in 2020)

Ke’Bryan Hayes — 134 ADP in 2021 (624 ADP in 2020)

620 PA, 90 R, 25 HR, 74 RBI, 2 SB, .260 / .355 / .464, .349 wOBA — Bryant (ATC projection)

573 PA, 73 R, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 8 SB, .276 / .345 / .454, .344 wOBA — Hayes (ATC projection)

My take: Bryant was the sixth third baseman drafted in 2020 who has now fallen to 10e in this position, only one place and 12 picks ahead of a player still eligible for rookies in a bad formation who had the hottest month of his life last September. Bryant has fallen too far and Hayes is drafted too high based on less than 100 home plate appearances in his rookie year. There should be more than a round of difference between those two given Bryant’s long history of excellent hitting at the major league level.

Note # 1: I am referring to the weighted average on the basis (wOBA) above. This is a rate statistic that assigns a batter the value of each result rather than treating all strokes or times on base equally. It’s on the same scale as Percent On Base (OBP) and is a better representation of offensive value than batting average, RBI, or OPS. I realize wOBA is not a fantasy baseball stat, but in general, the best hitters in wOBA will be the best hitters in fantasy baseball, with the caveat that there are a lot of bad hitters out there who mostly deliver hitters. Fantastic baseball value by stealing bases.

WOBA scale:

  • Excellent – ​​.400 or better
  • Excellent – ​​.370
  • Above average – .340
  • Average – .320
  • Below average – .310
  • Poor – .300
  • Awful – .290 or less

Note # 2: I am referring to the ATC projections above. These are composite projections created by Ariel T. Cohen using a ‘wisdom of the crowds’ approach and are available on FanGraphs.

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