Fantasy Baseball 2013: Overrated Players, Underrated Value

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison

Like every other fantasy baseball player in the weeks before the draft(s), I often find myself trying to figure something out. How do I get my hands on a good sleeper? If it’s an auction, how do I get good value from a player I paid $5 or less for? If it’s a snake draft, how do I get my hands on a valuable player in the late rounds? 

There are plenty of secrets and honestly, they’re all a little hit-or-miss. Still, there’s a group of players that’s can be something of a goldmine, and you don’t even need to know about the farm systems of any team, or any Spring Training under-the-radar studs. Nope, quite the opposite. The group of under-the-radar guys I’m talking about are players generally considered overrated, or at least overpaid by their real team.

You see, people often associate the word “overrated” with “terrible,” which is really a false association. Take a step outside of baseball for a moment. I always considered Brett Favre to be an overrated quarterback, but only against people who talked about him as one of the best quarterbacks ever, if not the best quarterback ever. I just never saw that in him. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t one of the best going, or doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. I just didn’t think he belonged in the same discussions as quarterbacks like Joe Montana, John Elway, Roger Staubach, Johnny Unitas, and a few others.

Favre is actually an interesting example. While plenty of people feel the way I do, plenty others do continue to put him in that class. But today, I am talking about players that are seen as overrated/overpaid by just about everyone. Jumping back into the world of fantasy baseball, there are a few relevant examples headed into 2013.

Take someone like Alfonso Soriano. Is anyone really going to argue that he’s worth anywhere near as much as he’s being paid? I would doubt it. The Cubs signed him to a huge deal after a 40-40 season, who had gone 30-30 in three of the previous four years, missing 40-40 by home run in one of those campaigns. Well, 2006 might as well be 1906 now. In 2013, we all know that he’s overrated and paid way too much money.

So, fantasy owners get it stuck in their heads that Soriano isn’t any good. How valuable can a guy be if he’s making $18 million for a team that lost 100 games? It’s quite the stigma, no doubt. But Soriano’s home run total (32) was tied for 14th in the league, while his RBI total (108) was tied for seventh.

Sure, his .262 average left a lot to be desired, but that’s not the same drain that Adam Dunn provided with his whopping .204 clip. Curtis Granderson slugged 43 homers with a .232 average, while Josh Reddick and Ike Davis each equaled Soriano’s 32 homers, coming in at .242 and .247, respectively. None of those players met Fonzie’s RBI total and only Granderson even got to 100. That’s not to say they weren’t better in other areas but overall, they were no more valuable than Soriano was. But Soriano is pretty well accepted as an overrated player and is certainly overpaid.

Just remember that in fantasy, nothing matters but the numbers. Those guys, notably Davis and Reddick might have brighter futures, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be more valuable in 2013.

Two other good examples of this are Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. Both have battled some injuries over the last few years and like just about everyone else associated with the 2011 and/or 2012 Red Sox, are a touch overrated. Also, like just about everyone associated with those two Boston teams, there’s a stigma attached to them.

That’s where you want to step in. So many fantasy players associate those Red Sox teams as a joke that they will be really hesitant to touch anyone from those teams. That may seem ridiculous, but that kind of thing happens every year. Owners are afraid to touch players associated with under-achieving, big market teams. Crawford under-performed, while both dealt with injuries, so they deserve some blame, but not as much as they’ll get in your draft rooms.

Let’s take a look at our Draft Kit and see what you can expect from an outfield of Soriano, Ellsbury, and Crawford in 2013.

H AB R HR RBI SB AVG
Alfonso Soriano 139 541 72 26 83 5 .257
Jacoby Ellsbury 175 600 93 15 62 35 .292
Carl Crawford 160 571 79 11 59 29 .280
Totals 474  1712  244  52  204  69  .277

Obviously those numbers pale in comparison to what something like Mike Trout, Matt Kemp, and Ryan Braun would get you, but the Soriano/Ellsbury/Crawford outfield is realistic. A Trout/Kemp/Braun outfield can only be attained if you’re a very skilled traded, or are in about a two-team league. Also remember one more perk about the overrated outfield. That’s not only a realistic assortment, but if you’re using them as your outfielders, you can use early round picks on some top of the line infielders, catchers, or pitchers.

But what if you want those elite outfielders? I’m glad I pretended to be you and asked that hypothetical question, because there are some overrated guys at every offensive position that will scare people off, giving you some good late-round value.

Behind the dish, you have Mike Napoli. People, myself included, overrated him a great deal heading into 2012. It was hard to avoid doing that, as his 2011 was so dang good. Okay, so he’s not a .320 hitter. Once we get over that fact, we need to realize that as ugly as 2012 was, he still hit 24 homers in only 108 games. Now, he’s got a home park made for his swing that he has great numbers at. People will look for Buster Posey, or trendier younger catchers like Salvador Perez, Wilin Rosario, or Jesus Montero, and avoid the aging Napoli. But even at 31, he’s still as sure a bet for homers as the catcher position has to offer.

At first base, I’d like to draw your attention to two names: Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau. Howard is grossly overpaid and will probably not crack .260 as a hitter anymore, but he can still hit the ball hard. Despite a pretty nasty injury that caused him to miss much of the 2012 season, he produced a rate that would have extrapolated out to about 30 homers/110 RBI over a full year. He enters 2013 with no injury questions looming. If you can’t get a truly elite first baseman (Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder), getting massive power is a good fallback plan.

Morneau is similar to Soriano. Once you get past the fact that it’s not 2006 anymore and he’s not that kind of player, the guy can still produce at a solid overall level. 2012 was his first year back from what was basically a two-year injury and he showed solid form. Again, probably not a .300 hitter anymore, but don’t be surprised if he’s around .280.

At second base, I’d direct you to Chase Utley. I’ve already written about him in the past so I won’t rehash those arguments. He’s dealt with injuries in recent years, but doesn’t appear to have any right now. Plus, the guy can still hit. In 2012, he missed roughly half of the year and was in the Top-12 among second basemen in most counted stats. That’s truly remarkable. If he gets even 120 games played, look for Utley to be a Top-8 second baseman. People will be scared because of his injury past and tired of overrating him as they’ve done in recent years. That’s where you swoop in.

Third base was a tough position, mainly because it’s a much deeper position than it’s ever been in the past. I won’t tell you that I’m the biggest fan of Michael Young in the world, but he’s capable of hitting around .300, a pretty good bet to be around .280, and isn’t a drain in power. Depending on where he bats in the order, Philadelphia can be a nice home for him, at least in 2013.

The last name I’d like to point out is Derek Jeter. Now, I don’t think Jeter’s overrated, but I do think people will stay away from him because of his ALCS injury, and a general stigma that seems to be around the Yankees this year. Rest assured, in a position where the best players are injury prone (Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes), possible head cases (Hanley Ramirez), or a bit raw (Starlin Castro), Jeter is still about as sure a bet at the plate as there is at shortstop.

Now, this isn’t a full fantasy offense. Most leagues have five OF slots, plus another infield spot (either corner or middle), but take a look at how we’re projecting this team to perform.

Pos. Player  H AB R HR RBI SB AVG
C Mike Napoli 121 462 78 26 83 1 .262
1B Ryan Howard 126 521 76 31 94 0 .242
2B Chase Utley 109 368 64 15 68 10 .296
3B Michael Young 162 571 63 10 66 3 .284
SS Derek Jeter 164 564 90 11 57 10 .291
OF Alfonso Soriano 139 541 72 26 83 5 .257
OF Jacoby Ellsbury 175 600 93 15 62 35 .292
OF Carl Crawford 160 571 79 11 59 29 .280
UTL Justin Morneau 142 510 74 22 82 1 .278
Totals 1298 4708 689 167 654 94 .276

It’s really not bad. Yes, there are holes in that lineup but remember, I’m not suggesting that this be your team. I’m suggesting that these guys all have the stigma of being overrated, overpaid, or both. People in many drafts will stay away from them, looking for trendier picks. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of that by rostering any of these guys.

Topics: Carl Crawford, Draft, Fantasy Baseball 2013, Jacoby Elsbury, Matt Kemp, Mike Trout, Outfield, Sleepers, Value

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  • redsoxu571

    Good stuff. When people look for “upside” or “values” in a draft, they often go for youth, but targeting these kinds of players has long been my preferred tactic. A veteran aiming for a rebound has as much risk as a young player, but with the latter, we’re paying for production we HOPE the guy is capable of, while with the veteran we’re only hoping to see the player rekindle former production.
    I rode this a couple of times with Joe Mauer…I basically have a policy of “buy Mauer when he comes off a down year”, and it pays off handsomely. In fact, that’s my goal every year for catcher…considering the wear and rankings turnover the position sees every year, the top guys are long shots to repeat production (and therefore be worth the price you’ll pay), while guys coming off down years have a much lower price despite a similar probable level of production. There was no way I was investing in Napoli last year, but he’s my #1 target this season at the position.

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