We started out this series looking at Starting Pitcher values and over-drafts. For this edition, we will head over to the hitting side of things. First Base is a great deal shallower than we are used to heading into 2020. That said, perhaps we can utilize the Fantrax hitting projections to identify a few sleepers. Should we believe the projections though, or do drafters know more than the projections?
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ADP vs Hitting Projections: Projected Bargains
Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles
Fantrax Projection: 668 PA, 98 R, 32 HR, 92 RBI, 1 SB, .276/.348/.503
Trey “Don’t Call Me Mankini” Mancini had a huge 2019, hitting .291/.364/.535 with 106 runs scored on a very bad Orioles team. He also hit a career-high 35 HR with 97 RBI and a .291 average over 679 plate appearances. The question is, of course, how much of the breakout is to be believed? Mancini’s projection isn’t far from Freddie Freeman’s 94/32/105/5/.290 projection and Freeman’s ADP is 17.
Mancini’s contact rate has risen every year of his career. That said, his 75.4% contact rate from 2019 doesn’t equate to a .290+ hitter. His 2019 XBA was .283, which is certainly close enough to .291, but he is just a year removed from a .242 season with a .257 XBA. The projection splits the difference, which is fair enough.
Despite a similar projected plate appearance total compared to 2018, Mancini’s power is expected to regress. That makes sense, given some slight over-performance in home runs considering his modest 7.8-degree launch angle, 90.3 MPH average exit velocity, and 31.7% pull%. Even with all this regression in every category, Mancini sets up as a solid value with his 100 ADP. Perhaps overlooked on a very bad Orioles offense, all it would take is a bit of BABIP luck to push another .290 season – a rare find with the power he also provides.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
Fantrax Projection: 663 PA, 93 R, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 2 SB, .265/.378/.479
Drafting Carlos Santana in 2019 was a very smooth move. He posted career-highs nearly across the board, finishing 110/34/93/4/.281. He is also an absolute iron man, playing between 143-161 games every single season following his debut season in 2010. However, coming off of a career year and barreling into his age-34 season are fair reasons for drafters to be wary.
2020 was only Santana’s second 30+ homer season, so even a projection of 29 HR may be rosy. Particularly if the baseball goes back to what we would consider normal, a mid-20’s HR total could be in the cards. That would obviously hamper his R+RBI totals, although the runs are relatively safe considering his elite walk rate and PA totals. The steals are a nice bonus, but you could easily get a negligible 2-3 SB as projected.
With a career .250 batting average and .268 XBA in 2019, he could easily fail to meet the projected .265 average. This adds up to the ADP looking wiser than the hitting projections in standard roto. However, Santana’s elite plate discipline makes him very valuable in points and OBP leagues. His 103 ADP would be a steal in those formats.
Eric Hosmer, San Diego Padres
Fantrax Projection: 655 PA, 80 R, 21 HR, 85 RBI, 2 SB, .265/.325/.429
Even the juiced balls couldn’t help Hosmer achieve a career-best HR total in 2019. He managed just 22 bombs with a meager .265 average but used his 667 plate appearances to amass 99 RBI. He didn’t steal a single base for the first time in his career, however, and his 72 runs were painfully mediocre. To make matters worse, he posted the worst BB/K ratio of his career at 0.25. Woof.
Hosmer’s hitting projections aren’t any better than his final 2019 numbers. However, there is something to be said for his consistency. Even his consistent mediocrity can lead to 160+ R+RBI, which is plenty valuable in itself. His projected line is pretty easily replaceable in standard 10- and 12-team mixed leagues, but if you’re even looking at Hosmer, you’re probably in a 15-teamer or deeper.
You could do worse than Hosmer as your corner infield bat…but not much worse. The projections like Hosmer over someone like Christian Walker (projected for a .233 average) because Hosmer doesn’t hurt you in any one category. In most mixed-league scenarios, it makes sense to look for someone with more upside than Hosmer at this point in your draft.
Renato Nunez, Baltimore Orioles
Fantrax Projection: 577 PA, 70 R, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 1 SB, .247/.315/.438
Another Orioles slugger! Are we detecting a bias here? Renato Nunez finally worked his way into full-time at-bats in the form of DH duties in Baltimore in 2019. He was your typical all-or-nothing power hitter, smashing 31 bombs but hitting just .244 with an ugly .311 OBP. Without much in the way of a statistical foundation from prior seasons, our 2020 projections aren’t far from his 2019 line.
Statcast metrics for Nunez’s 2019 season support his results. His xwOBA of .331 is actually slightly higher than the .323 mark he posted, although still not impressive by itself because of his mediocre walk rate. The flyball-heavy approach (20-degree average launch angle) Nunez utilizes could combine with his 41.8% pull% for another 30+ homer season. That would make his season even more profitable than the projections say, which already marks him as a bargain. If you’re looking for pure power, both Mancini and Nunez seem to be getting bad-team shamed into a low ADP.
Luke Voit, New York Yankees
Fantrax Projection: 565 PA, 78 R, 29 HR, 80 RBI, 0 SB, .258/.357/.486
A year ago I was very down on Luke Voit. I didn’t think he could make enough contact (68.9% contact rate in 2018) to be an everyday player for the Yankees. I even said on this very website that they would likely trade for an upgrade and run Voit out of a job. Well, Voit’s contact dropped to 66.7% and the Yankees indeed traded for Edwin Encarnacion, yet Voit was still a useful player while healthy. He did miss a fair chunk of time with a sports hernia and abdominal strain but earned a 126 wRC+ over 510 plate appearances.
Voit’s prodigious .350 ISO from 2018 expectedly dropped to .200, but he still hit 21 HR with 72 R and 62 RBI over 118 games. He overachieved in the batting average department, living on a .345 BABIP to float a .263 average compared to a .249 XBA. While we should brace for an average potentially even lower than his projected .258, Voit walks at a massive clip and could easily compensate with a .350 OBP.
He could easily flirt with 30 HR over a full season but could struggle to score runs. The Yankees lineup is loaded, and Voit is likely to hit in the bottom half of the order consistently. That said, he should drive in plenty of runs with his power as well as the on-base threats ahead of him in the lineup. He is easily a better bargain in OBP formats, but even in standard roto, he makes for a nice, cheap corner infield bat.
For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2020 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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