Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018 Bounceback Players (WIP)


As fantasy baseball players -- and as humans, frankly -- we tend to fall prey to a phenomenon known as recency bias. Essentially, recency bias theory suggest that we're inclined to use our recent experience as the baseline for what will happen in the future. More specific to fantasy baseball, my interpretation is that we overweight the most recent information more than we should. Baseball is a variance-driven game; there are tons of variables that contribute to odd things happening.

Of course, I'm not really telling you anything you don't know. The question is, how can we exploit recency bias to our advantage? I don't have the perfect answer to that question, but I believe I have a good start: who was highly valued a year ago, in 2017 drafts, but isn't today? In other words, who are some of the biggest decliners in ADP year-over-year? And of those, who, perhaps, shouldn't be? Or, which players are victims of recency bias and are worth a bet this season?


If you're a normal person, unlike me, and find the sausage-making process boring, please feel free to skip this section and dive directly into the players. I did want to briefly touch on how I'm devising this breakout list though, which is a triangulation of several different data points:

First, I'm using 2017 ADP minus 2018 ADP as the starting point, and sorting by the largest decliners. Next, because I largely play in auction leagues, I've assigned an implied auction value based on my league's historical data ($300 budget, 22 players drafted). I've also included additional auction value data points: 2018 median projected value and 2015-2017 historical values. These data points are especially important for two reasons: 1) To understand the 2018 cost, or "risk" needed to deploy in order to capture value from a bounceback and help answer the question, "is the discount large enough?"; and, 2) The level of upside that may exist. Sure, if a player fell 100 spots from 400 in 2017 to 500, and their highest production to date has been $3, there could be a bounceback in there ... but is it worth our attention? Because of this, I only looked at players going 350 or earlier by 2018 ADP. (ADP data is as of 3/10).

Anyway, that's our starting point. I'll also be leveraging:

1. xStats: Calculates what a player should be producing based on exit velocity and launch angle
2. 2017 Injuries: Identified which players were playing through injury in 2017, particularly useful for less-publicized "nagging" injuries that are unlikely to be chronic
3. Spring Training News: Any news out of spring training? Changes in swing, new pitches, health, improved approach, different lineup spot, etc.
4. Projected Batting Slot: Likely lineup slot, per Roster Resource

That should do it! With that, let's dive into the best bounceback bets for 2018.

2018 ADP 200+

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL
ADP: 2017: 63 | 2018: 295 (Diff: -232) | Proj Batting Slot: 3
2018 Values: ADP Implied: $1 | Projection: $3 ($1-6)
Historical Values: 2015: $28 | 2016: $22 | 2017: $1

CarGo is the poster boy for this season's bounceback analysis, being drafted 63rd overall last season and producing an absolute dismal season. While the 295 ADP is artificially low as he didn't have a team, since he re-signed with the Rockies on 3/10, his NFBC ADP has pushed up closer to 258. Still, that implies a $1-2 player. Projections alone think he's worth $3 this season, and he's produced seasons of $22 and $28 just prior to 2017. He's also still in Colorado and the bandbox that is Coors Field, and FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan thinks he'll play everyday. Roster Resource projects him to bat third in a good lineup. What happened last season though!? CarGo was reportedly dealing with insomnia, which he purportedly fixed late in the season. To wit, his xStats in September were .313/.413/.622 with 5 xHR (33 HR per 600 PA pace).

Verdict: Still just 32 and playing regularly in Coors, at $1-3 he's a strong buy late in drafts for me.

Hanley Ramirez, DH, BOS
ADP: 2017: 76 | 2018: 301 (Diff: -225) | Proj Batting Slot: 3
2018 Values: ADP Implied: $1 | Projection: -$9
Historical Values: 2015: $3 | 2016: $26 | 2017: -$6

Admittedly more of a dart throw than CarGo, Hanley has still shown near $30 upside as little as one year ago. Additionally in his favor, his xStats last year suggest he should have been better: .271/.346/.479 and 27 xHR per 600 PA (553 PA). That's not bad! There are a few knocks against him, however. First, he's 34 (two years older than CarGo) and has shown this non-existent floor throughout his career. Second, due to an interesting clause in his contract, the Red Sox actually have a bit of a disincentive to play him. If he reaches 497 PA this season, an option for $22M in 2019 is automatically triggered. It's not hard to envision a scenario where the Red Sox want to keep him "fresh" while avoiding paying $22M to a 35-year-old and injury-prone DH. He also underwent "minor" offseason shoulder surgery to repair issues he was dealing with last season -- on one hand, this could be good news that the issue is fixed but on the other, he seems to always be dealing with these kinds of issues.

Verdict: Worth a $1 or reserve pick, although I like CarGo more.

Matt Kemp, OF, LAD
ADP: 2017: 95 | 2018: 322 (Diff: -227) | Proj Batting Slot: 3
2018 Values: ADP Implied: $1 | Projection: -$32 (ZiPS: $8)
Historical Values: 2015: $22 | 2016: $23 | 2017: -$1

Kemp feels like a hybrid of the CarGo and Hanley stories above: he's shown more consistent annual value similar to CarGo, but he also suffers from the a similar potential playing time issue as Hanley. Reports out of spring training are glowing for Kemp, who's reportedly lost 40 pounds this offseason and has produced well in spring training, leading to him being penciled in as the Dodgers starting LF and 3rd in the lineup. Kemp only had 467 PA and was essentially a $0 player, but looking deeper into his xStats suggests he was still very productive -- his per 600 PA stats were .291/.333/.500 xTriple Slash, 27 xHR, 60 runs, and 82 RBI. You don't expect him to steal anymore, but if he's getting the PA, you do expect him to produce better runs and RBI numbers. With triple slash upside still clear there, and not terribly old at 33, you can squint and still see Kemp being a productive player. And yet, I can't get it out of my head that it was seemingly a joke and purely financially-driven acquisition the Dodgers made by acquiring him. Are they just showcasing him for a future trade? Also, the Dodgers are flush with viable options across the diamond -- between Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, Trayce Thompson, Kike Hernandez Alex Verdugo, among others -- enough to reduce his counting stat upside. Additionally, YMMV but I play in local SoCal leagues and you typically have to pay an Angels or Dodgers "tax" for the local players, driving their cost up.

Verdict: Worth a $1-3 bid or early reserve pick -- I like Kemp more than Hanley but less than CarGo.

Todd Frazier, 3B, NYM
ADP: 2017: 77 | 2018: 256 (Diff: -179) | Proj Batting Slot: 4
2018 Values: ADP Implied: $1 | Projection: $2 ($1-5)
Historical Values: 2015: $24 | 2016: $21 | 2017: $1

Frazier appears to have gotten a tad unlucky last year, rather than a skills drop off -- he actually registered a career-high 14.4% walk rate en route to a career-high .344 OBP. 

Aaron Sauceda Web Developer

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