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Hitter Busts at Every Position - Comparing ATC Projections vs. ADP for Fantasy Baseball

Andrew Vaughn - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Waiver Wire Pickups, Draft Sleepers

With the big football game officially behind us, the official "official" start of fantasy baseball season has nearly dawned. It's easy to start obsessing over finding this year's biggest hidden jewels, dreaming at night that your fantasy groundhog will see its shadow and bring you six more weeks of sleepers. But don't forget about their evil reverse doppelgängers, plotting to blow up your roster from the inside whilst you sleep(er).

Call them landmines, value sucks, or just plain busts - overspend on a bomb and the value of your precious late-draft treasures could quickly be erased. With that in mind, let's go mine-sweeping, using the award-winning ATC projections from our own Ariel Cohen as our dowsing rod. Since coming on the scene, the smart-aggregated ATC projections have been one of the highest-rated systems, year in and year out, making them the perfect tool to sniff out any active munitions that the crowd has left just laying around ADP.

That's where we'll start to find some hitters who will be busts in 2023, turning the ATC projections into values and comparing those to where players are going according to the current ADP. Looking for tripwires and stepping carefully. Does everyone have their blast shields? Excellent - breach in three.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Ground Rules

All values and ranks are created by turning the latest ATC projections into dollar values using an SGP (Standings Gain Points) valuation method in which all stats are translated to a number representing how many points they will typically gain you in the standings (4 HR = 1 point, etc) relative to the rest of the hitting (and pitching) pool, both by position and overall. All values are made without adjustments for positions and without catchers, whose value is calculated in a special, catcher-only pool.

ADP is from the latest batch of NFBC drafts (n=31). NFBC is great for draft data because of how much you can narrow it down by dates, as well as the type of league, but it does have some drawbacks for anyone who plays on other platforms. Namely, for our purposes today, is that they are two-catcher leagues and thus greatly inflate ADP ranges that would be downright silly for someone in a singe-catcher to draft them at. For them, we'll use ADP from Fantrax (but won't have minimums and maximums) and only judge them by how they rank at their position and not as an overall hitter.

Easy enough? Okay, no more rules - let's get to some ATC busts.

 

Catcher

We'll start with catcher, which is a funny position, according to ATC, projecting just a handful of big busts (and bargains) and none from the earlier sections of ADP. Comparing their ATC projected position ranks to Fantrax ADP, only five catchers have a deficiency greater than five but none are inside the top 300 of ADP. And of those five, three are Omar Narvaez (449 ADP), Ryan Jeffers (519 ADP), and Reese McGuire (606 ADP) - AKA not draftable in a vast majority of fantasy leagues. Not much to work with but let's quickly check in with the only legitimate bust targets.

Yasmani Grandal, CHW, C, 309 ADP

2023 ATC: 95 G - 372 PA - 13 HR - 38 R - 40 RBI - 1 SB - .223 AVG
Catcher Rank: #24 ATC vs #15 ADP

One of last year's biggest busts, ATC doesn't think much of anything has changed with Yasmani Grandal, even though the market is drafting him as a borderline starter in 12 and 15-team leagues. It's hard for me to disagree; Grandal should get a favorable boost from the new shifting rules but he's still a batting average sink, even in the best-case scenario and the big EV increases from 2021 have virtually evaporated, dropping from a 13.3% Brl% and an Air% average 97.2 mph to a 4.8% Brl% and 91.7 mph Air% EV. With catcher being so deep, it's hard to want to bother with a no-power/no-average profile with a bum knee.

Bo Naylor, CLE, C, 365 ADP

2023 ATC: 63 G - 220 PA - 7 HR - 24 R - 25 RBI - 3 SB - .227 AVG
Catcher Rank: #38 ATC vs #23 ADP

Our biggest ATC bust at the position goes to Bo Naylor but it's mostly a playing-time-centered one, as the raw projection is pretty good. If we instead assume a more full-time role and give Naylor 450 PA, he'd jump to being a big bargain, ranking as the #15 catcher. But he'd need 500 PA to project as the #12 catcher, IE draftable in 12-team leagues and that's probably a bridge too far as long as Mike Zunino is healthy.

 

First Base

Andrew Vaughn, CHW, 1B/OF, 138 ADP (min: 100, max: 174)

2023 ATC: 142 G - 586 PA - 20 HR - 67 R - 72 RBI - 1 SB - .263 AVG
Hitter Rank: #108 ATC vs #85 ADP
1B Rank: #20 ATC vs #12 ADP

With a top 150 ADP, the Andrew Vaughn Circle of Hope seems to still be firmly linked up, as he's currently being drafted as a top 75 hitter after finishing as the #26 1B last season, settling in right behind Seth Brown, Yandy Diaz, and Josh Naylor. Vaughn's profile is fine but unless he unlocks more power, it's far too ordinary to be drafted as a top 75 hitter. And you can consider me bearish on those prospects.

Vaughn ran a .032 HR per PA in 2021 and a .031 HR per PA in 2022, dropping from .033 HR/PA to .028 HR/PA. I point that out not to claim he's in further decline but just as the surface proof that his power rates have been steadily mediocre. And ones that are backed by exit velocities and fly ball rates that are just as mid, if not worse. His Barrel% dropped from the 72nd percentile to the 50th, and his Air% EV average fell 11 points to the 62nd percentile. A 29% FB% (calculated without IFFB) in 2021 also dropped to 22% and stayed steady from half to half.

For context, the high-20s are where the likes of Nolan Arenado and Dansby Swanson hang out, while the low-20s are populated by Leody Taveras and Myles Straw types.

His home park is obviously a boon and the lineup should be good (if healthy) but Vaughn will need to show some power steps in the right direction before he fully takes advantage of either. Until then, I'll concur with ATC and remain way out on him.

 

Second Base

Brandon Drury, LAA, 1B/2B/3B, 189 ADP (min: 116, max: 237)

2023 ATC: 122 G - 488 PA - 19 HR - 60 R - 63 RBI - 2 SB - .248AVG
Hitter Rank: #150 ATC vs #118 ADP
1B Rank: #25 ATC vs #20 ADP
2B Rank: #27 ATC vs #17 ADP
3B Rank: #22 ATC vs #15 ADP

Brandon Drury isn't projected to shine as he did in the first half of 2022 but ATC still calls for a solid season, by rates, at least. If we instead give him the 568 PA he had in 2022 (which included being traded to a team where he wasn't a full-time starter), ATC would project him for:

568 PA - 22 HR - 70 R - 73 RBI - 2 SB - .248 AVG

The above line would shift Drury from a big bust to a mild bargain, coming in as the 109th hitter compared to the 118th hitter drafted. But call me even more bullish than that on playing time, as I think Drury might even push 600 PA.

He can play multiple positions, doesn't have big splits issues like many of his new teammates, and will be hitting behind one of the better top halves of a lineup that you could find. The Angels may not have signed him to be an every-single-game type of starter but it also wasn't to be a straight utility guy. At only 550 PA, Drury will be worth his cost but anything near 600 PA will make him one of the better bargains, especially at third base.

 

Third Base

Jordan Walker, STL, OF, 216 ADP (min: 157, max: 289)

2023 ATC: 82 G - 345 PA - 10 HR - 39 R - 37 RBI - 7 SB - .252AVG
Hitter Rank: #242 ATC vs #131 ADP
OF Rank: #40 ATC vs #18 ADP

Jordan Walker is a classic case of the projections believing in the player but not the playing time, with 82 games representing an early summer call-up rather than a job out of spring training. If we instead assume the latter and give him 575 PA, ATC would project:

575 PA - 17 HR - 65 R - 62 RBI - 12 SB - .252 AVG (#10 3B)

And keep in mind that ATC is already a conservative projection system and one that is based on other projection systems that tend to be very conservative on prospects. In other words, Walker's projection is bound to be extra, extra conservative, which makes it all the more impressive that ATC sees the full-time version of him as top 10 by position and as the 131st hitter overall.

Given what he's done already in the minors, and how he's viewed by the prospect community overall, it's easy to dream higher than the floor that ATC would project him for if he were a starter. In terms of fantasy expectations, Walker isn't quite at the level of Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt Jr. but he also isn't that far behind.

In 536 PA at Double-A in 2022, Walker slashed .306/.388/.510, with 19 HR, 100 R, 68 RBI, and 22 SB. And he didn't slow down at the Arizona Fall League, hitting five home runs and stealing three bases in 90 PA, slashing .286/.367/.558. There are currently few questions about the skill, making it likely he'll rocket up ADP if a job looks to be his, much as it did for Rodriguez and Witt Jr.

But will he? For their part, the Cardinals are saying Walker has a legitimate job of winning a starting spot, ostensibly in right field. However, given current right-fielder Lars Nootbaar (who St. Louis really likes) is an above-average fielder and Walker is a converted third baseman, I expect his time will also be split at DH.

And therein lies the rub; whether it's Nootbaar or Walker at DH, Walker making the team would leave both the left-handed Nolan Gorman and right-handed Juan Yepez out in the cold, as these perfect platoon partners (two bad gloves who are only good against opposite-handed pitchers) are currently penciled in at DH.

Putting on my Cardinals homer hat for a second, I do believe St. Louis when they say they want Walker to make the team and would make it a slight favorite. The biggest impediment (barring Walker having a disastrous spring) is if Yepez and Gorman both come out blazing in Spring Training because then St. Louis might see it as wasting a perfectly good platoon Voltron, where either player by themselves has big deficiencies, but when combined, make for a very strong player. If that happens, and Walker is anything but supremely excellent, there would be a good case to make him wait.

Even with that risk, I'm all over Walker at his current ADP, as it's not so costly as to carry a ton of downside if he is sent back to the minors for two months. Best-case, it starts becoming apparent that Walker will make the team and you get to sit back on your found treasure while everyone scrambles to pump up his ADP. Worst case, you have to stash a star on your bench until late spring/early summer, and considering the upside (and cost), that's a roster spot I'm willing to eat for a bit.

 

Shortstop

Jorge Mateo, BAL, SS, 246 ADP (min: 173, max: 326)

2023 ATC: 96 G - 358 PA - 8 HR - 41 R- 33 RBI - 20 SB - .227AVG
Hitter Rank: #193 ATC vs #157 ADP
Position Rank: #30 ATC vs #25 ADP

The fantasy shortcomings of Jorge Mateo are clear; he has barely any power, doesn't hit for average, whiffs a ton, and rarely gets on base. Not great. But baby, does he burn, finishing with 35 SB in 533 PA and as the #58 hitter overall, even with just 13 HR and a .221 AVG.

But ATC doesn't think he's a full-timer anymore and after the signing of Adam Frazier, it's hard not to assume Mateo (and his aforementioned issue with getting on base/making contact) is now on the short side of a platoon. But don't underestimate how much Baltimore values his (should've been) gold glove. It kept him in the lineup last season, even with his offensive shortcomings, and I wouldn't be surprised if it does so more than expected again this year.

If Mateo does end up in something more than a bench role, his speed makes it so he doesn't have to actually play full-time to be valuable in fantasy. Give him the 533 PA that he had in 2022, and ATC would project Mateo as the #85 hitter, but even at 450 PA (and 25 SB), he'd still be a value, ranked as the 129th hitter (compared to being drafted as the 157th).

Mateo's draft price makes it easy to take a late swing to put category-shifting speed on your bench. And if he's indeed just a utility player that only plays 2-3 times a week, it's even easier to cut bait.

 

Outfielder

Cody Bellinger, CHC, 184 ADP (min: 149, max: 226)

2023 ATC: 125 G - 506 PA - 18 HR - 59 R - 59 RBI - 11 SB - .222 AVG
Hitter Rank: #149 ATC vs #114 ADP
OF Rank: #64 ATC vs #44 ADP

Do you believe in a return to the MVP glory days of Cody Bellinger? If so, his 184 ADP will be the steal of the year. But you know who doesn't believe? You guessed it; ATC, who is projecting Bellinger to be even slightly worse than last year, though with a higher batting average, but getting a big knock in his R+RBI per-PA rates after going from the Dodgers to the Cubs.

However, the batting average might be even higher, as he looks to be the type of hitter set to get a big bump from the new shift rules. Bellinger faced a full shift 88% of the time in 2021 and 91% in 2022, posting a .165 AVG (.197 BABIP) in the former, and a .206 AVG (.245 BABIP) in the latter. I'm not saying we'll see a return to his .300 days but hopefully, he's seen the last of the Mendoza Zone now that infielder alignments will be going back in time a bit.

I get the lotto ticket upside but that ADP is too rich for me, even if I don't think he'll continue being a batting-average anchor. Now, closer to around his max, you can count on me being more interested but he's still pretty risky considering how dicy outfielders start getting post-150 ADP, due to the increasing volatility of assumed full-time roles.

In leagues with (three) OF, the appeal would be higher, as the wire will still be plenty deep with full-timers if Bellinger busts out, making it worth taking the risk for superstar production upside. But be careful in leagues with (five) OF, as you might find the wire fairly bare of talent if he's still the same old pumpkin in Chicago as he's been in Los Angeles for the past few years.



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