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2021 All-Value Team: Pouncing on ADP Fallers

One of the most common ways to get ahead in fantasy baseball is to be on the right side of small sample-size overreactions. After the 2020 season that saw just 60 regular-season games for each team, there is sure to be a lot of this as we approach draft season for 2021. Most hitters will suffer through cold streaks during the course of a year. The highest plate appearance total of the last five years was Marcus Semien's 747 in 2019, but the average for players that appeared in more than 150 games is about 650. Compare that to 2020, when the league leader was Marcell Ozuna with 267.

Let's just imagine a hypothetical situation to understand how much more weight a small sample of at-bats had in 2020. This hypothetical batter hits .280 in both 2019 and 2020, doing so in 600 at-bats in 2019 and in 200 at-bats in 2020. We then add on a really bad week (three hits in 25 at-bats) to each season. In 2019, this slump costs the hitter just .006 batting average points, taking him from .280 to .274. In the short 2020 season, however, the slump costs him 0.018 points, taking him from a strong .280 to .262. That's a massive difference, especially for fantasy purposes.

While most fantasy analysts have been careful to not weigh 2019 too heavily, there are still some players that have seen their ADP drop substantially after having bad years in 2020. If you take these players at the discount and they prove to be more like their 2019 selves than what we saw from them in 2020, your team will be juiced. Of course, a bad 2020 season could be a result of actual losses in ability, but with such a wonky season and so few plate appearances, it's a good bet that more often than not the outlier performances will be more about randomness than skill. Here is a list of names that fit this bill, in order of their 2021 ADP.

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Christian Yelich (OF, MIL)

2020 ADP: 2
2021 ADP: 12
Difference: -10

After a couple of years posting video game numbers (.329/.429/.671, 44 homers and 30 steals in 2019), Yelich fell flat (to put it nicely) in 2020 with a .205/.356/.430 line. All of the underlying metrics got much worse as well (+10% in strikeout rate, +7.5% in ground-ball rate), so it's no slam dunk that he will bounce back to easily earning a first-round price tag. However, if you played fantasy baseball before 2020 you know the game-changing player Yelich can be, and if it turns out that 2020 was a 247 PA fluke, you could be grabbing the most valuable fantasy hitter in the second round.


Francisco Lindor (SS, NYM)

2020 ADP: 6
2021 ADP: 16
Difference: -10

It is possible the move to the Mets will bring his ADP back towards the top five, but right now Lindor is being had in the middle of the second round after his disappointing 2020 season where he hit just .258/.335/.415 with eight homers (a 22 homer pace) and six steals (a 16 steal pace). This after a 2019 season where he went .284/.335/.518 with 32 homers and 22 steals.

The good news for Lindor is that, unlike Yelich, the underlying metrics are not nearly as alarming. His strikeout and walk rates stayed right on the normal paces (15.4%, 9% respectively), and his ground-ball rate stayed low (38.5% which was actually lower than his previous two seasons). He did whiff more (9.3% swinging-strike rate, up from 7.7%) and hit the ball softer on average (83 mph average velocity compared to 91), but overall he is pretty easily forgiven of his poor 266 plate appearances last year.

Lindor is still decently likely to end up in the first round of your draft, but if he does end up falling to the second round you should not hesitate to scoop him up.


Alex Bregman (3B, HOU)

2020 ADP: 15
2021 ADP: 41
Difference: -26

Bregman went down with a lot of his teammates, as quite a few Astros hitters really took a step back in 2020. There is some extra concern about that given the cheating scandal that came out after the 2019 season, but Bregman's ADP has fallen so far that it's hard not to be really interested. He still posted a very strong K/BB ratio in 2020 with a 14.4% strikeout rate and a 13.3% walk rate, which were both worse than his previous numbers but still very strong. The contact rate stayed very high (86.5%), and his swinging-strike rate was still elite (4.9%).

The down year came from a lack of power production, as Bregman homered on average just once every 30 plate appearances, a pace of barely above 20 homers for a full season. His average exit velocity fell from 89 to 84, but his ground-ball rate stayed at a strong 33.6%. He has been notorious for starting slow as a power hitter (a .385 career slugging percentage in April against his career .494 mark), so there is at least some merit to the idea that maybe he just did not have enough time to get the power swing down. I don't think you have to buy into that to buy into Bregman as a 3rd or 4th round pick though, he seems like one of the best values on the board right now.


Anthony Rendon (3B, LAA)

2020 ADP: 22
2021 ADP: 42
Difference: -20

Rendon was a fantasy disappointment in his first year with the Angels, slashing a much weaker (by his standards) .286/.418/.497 in 232 plate appearances in 2020. That has sent him down towards the fourth round in drafts while he had previously been a late second-round guy. Rendon walked a ton more last year (a ridiculous 16.4%), so while that is good for on-base percentage leagues it did give him fewer opportunities to hit homers. His home run rate did get worse (from 19 PA/HR to 26), but his fly-ball rate, swinging-strike rate, and contact rate stayed basically the same. I don't see much reason to worry about Rendon and he makes for an awesome fourth-round pick.


George Springer (OF, TOR)

2020 ADP: 32
2021 ADP: 55
Difference: -23

I'm not even sure where this one is coming from, it may be because a lot of drafts happened while he was still a free agent, but Springer's 2020 season really doesn't show us any reason to downgrade him. His batting average did fall from .292 to .265, but he continued to mash homers at a really high rate (16 PA/HR). Now he moves to another hitter-friendly ballpark with lots of great hitters behind him; I think Springer's ADP should be at least as high as last year if not higher, and that's not the case right now. Again, this may have already started to correct itself, but keep an eye on him when your draft gets rolling.


Eugenio Suarez (3B, CIN)

2020 ADP: 54
2021 ADP: 83
Difference: -29

Nobody has ever expected a positive batting average from Suarez, but he really did tank you in that category if you had him last year with his .202 batting average in 231 plate appearances. However, his home rate stayed right on par with his recent career with a 15.4 PA/HR, which equates to a 40+ homer season over a full sample. His .214 BABIP didn't help things, and he actually walked a little more (+3%) while striking out at the same high rate (29%). This is all to say that Suarez is still an elite source of power and will almost surely do better than a .202 batting average in 2021, making him quite a value after pick 80.


Matt Olson (1B, OAK)

2020 ADP: 62
2021 ADP: 89
Difference: -27

The same story with Suarez here, as Olson still homered at a high rate (17.5 PA/HR compared to 15.2 the year prior). The thing tanking his value was the .195 batting average and .310 on-base percentage. He did strikeout substantially more in 2020 (31.4% up from 25.2%), which is a bit of an issue, but I think you can stomach that for the near three-round discount. If you are a notch behind in homers and need a first baseman, Olson is a great way to look around pick 90.


J.D. Martinez (OF, BOS)

2020 ADP: 16
2021 ADP: 96
Difference: -80

Everything was bad for Martinez in 2020 with significant declines in batting average (.213), walk rate (9.3%), strikeout rate (24.9%), and most importantly home runs (34 PA/HR). So yeah, Martinez probably isn't a top 20 player anymore, but should he really be going outside of the top 90? Probably not. He's not young, but he's also not a Nelson Cruz type guy at age 33. It's perfectly within the range of outcomes for him to return to a 35 homer, .280 batting average type guy and that would be a super-steal if he goes anywhere near this ADP in your draft.


Paul Goldschmidt (1B, STL)

2020 ADP: 53
2021 ADP: 101
Difference: -48

It's been a downhill fall for Goldy since leaving Arizona, but this is a huge drop. The Cardinals had one of the weirdest 2020 seasons of any team, immediately missing almost two weeks of games after a COVID breakout and then having to play all 60 of their games in hyper speed. Goldy finished with a really strong .304 batting average and a .417 on-base percentage, but never found the power swing with just six homers (38.5 PA/HR). The steals are also completely gone (just 11 in the last 377 games). But now at the age of just 33 with Nolan Arenado entering the lineup, this price tag feels way, way too cheap.


Jonathan Villar (2B/SS/OF, NYM)

2020 ADP: 71
2021 ADP: 141
Difference: 70

This also may have a lot to do with the fact that he was still a free agent as of February 8 until signing with the Mets. He doesn't appear to have a path to play every day, unfortunately, but if he does find his way to consistent at-bats, he will continue to run wild on the base paths. His ADP may not climb much even after signing a contract, but it would have to come up a ton before I'm not really interested in him after starting at 141. Even as a utility player, he's still a great value at shortstop if you find yourself in need of some stolen bases.


Joey Gallo (OF, TEX)

2020 ADP: 85
2021 ADP: 165
Difference: -80

After hitting a homer every 13 plate appearances on average in 2018 and 2019, that number fell to 23 for Gallo in 2020. None of those lost home runs turned into other forms of hits either, as his batting average ended up at an egregious .181. Given Gallo's makeup, he needs to be near the league leaders in homers and RBI in order to be a useful fantasy player given how big of a crater he is in batting average. There are the question marks about the Rangers' new ballpark, and Gallo himself had placed some blame on the new stadium for his lack of production. All of this makes him a super risky buy for 2021, but the ADP of 165 eases the pain substantially. You can now get a guy that can lead the league in long balls with your 15th pick - and that makes the proposition pretty interesting.


Mock Draft

I took this list into a mock draft to see what I could come up with. I put myself in a 12-team standard head-to-head categories league and gave myself the 12th pick. Here's how the first 15 picks went.

1.12 Christian Yelich (MIL - OF)
2.1 Trevor Bauer (LAD - SP)
3.12 Alex Bregman (HOU - 3B)
4.1 Brandon Woodruff (MIL - SP)
5.12 Ketel Marte (ARI - 2B)
6.1 Lance Lynn (CHW - SP)
7.12 Matt Olson (OAK - 1B)
8.1 Eugenio Suarez (CIN - 3B)
9.12 Edwin Diaz (NYM - RP)
10.1 Jesus Luzardo (OAK - SP)
11.12 Jonathan Villar (FA - SS)
12.1 Josh Donaldson (MIN - 3B)
13.12 Pablo Lopez (MIA - SP)
14.1 Nick Anderson (TB - RP)
15.12 Corey Kluber (NYY - SP)

This team graded out very well. I was able to split my first six picks between hitters and starting pitchers knowing that I could catch up in some power numbers with the Olson/Suarez combination and grab some cheap steals with Villar way back in the 11th round.

I hope this post helps you find great values on draft day. Thanks for reading!

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