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Finding Over/Undervalued Shortstops Using Expected Draft Values

Welcome to the FSWA-nominated Expected Draft Values series, where we look at historical data to identify both overvalued and undervalued players of all types. Whether you're targeting power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, we've got you covered. We'll start at first base and make our way around the diamond to begin the 2021 exercise.

Today, we'll look at three shortstops and compare their projected statline via my Cutter Projections against their ADP's expected return. Due to a variety of factors such as name recognition, your fantasy platform's default rank in the draft room, or social media buzz, ADPs can be swayed to poorly reflect the stats you're drafting. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as we bring you a deeper look at undervalued and overvalued players from each position using Expected Draft Values.

Generally, what we'll do in this series is identify players who will return a positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Draft Champions Contests spanning February into March, their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection.

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How Expected Draft Values Help You Win Your League

It may be clear by this point already, but if you know the expected break-even stat-line of every draft slot, you can identify which of your draft picks are projected to return positive or negative value. Below, we look at three shortstops that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Draft Champions ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2021 drafts.

 

Trevor Story (SS, COL)

NFBC DC ADP: 12
Expected Return for a Power+Average Hitter Drafted 12th: .300 BA, 33 HR, 105 runs, 89 RBI, 22 SB
2021 RotoBaller Projection: .286-37-102-90-30

Analysis: Yes, I’m aware Nolan Arenado was traded and that Colorado’s run production will surely suffer. As long as Story is allowed to bat and can reach first in order to steal second then the value is here. Some may still view Story as a strikeout-happy hitter with some volatility, but he’s hit between .289 and .294 in three straight seasons and has posted BABIPs within a 30-point range of each other across his five-year career thus far. The +11 between HR/SB above is incredible at such a high ADP, which helps meet the BA gap. And would you look at how the projection lines up with his last 162 games?

He’d mashed at least 35 home runs in 2018 and 2019, and when 2020’s career-low 13.4% HR/FB rate resulted in just 11 longballs across 59 games then he simply turned up his other incredible asset -- his wheels! Now 28 years old, Story’s sprint speed won’t be climbing but he just led the National League with 15 bags last year. They know winning goes through Trev, whether that's his power or his moving 90 feet up with a steal.

If I wanted to be an "Arbitrary Stat Guy" then I'd ask you, "Which players have at least 35 homers and 35 steals between 2019 and 2020?" And you, being the all-knowing baseball savant that you are, would reply, "Ronald Acuña Jr. and Trevor Story!" But I would never be that guy. Nope.

The only negative to his game was a meager 28 RBI, but those aren’t as sticky and we’re targeting power, speed, and average. He stands as one of the better values in the late stages of most first rounds for this reason. Pairing him with a strong second-round pitcher gives you a steady foundation in nearly all standard categories and allows you maximum flexibility moving forward. You can shy away if you’re afraid of a midseason trade to a poor hitting park, but I’ll be catching this slightly-falling knife all day.

Verdict: Target, Story is undervalued at his current draft slot

 

Francisco Lindor (SS, NYM)

NFBC DC ADP: 16
Expected Return for a Power+Speed Hitter Drafted 16th:.300-31-105-88-21
2021 RotoBaller Projection: .275-29-102-87-19

Analysis: Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Lindor’s projection has him falling short in every single 5x5 category against EDV. It’s not a ton but these margins add up, especially in your early picks. Do note that I artificially elevated his projected batting average to .280 so that we had a projection that met his draft cost. You can see on the EDV sheet how the Power+Speed cohort starts at 39.

Without getting into the weeds, that typically means you should think twice about taking a player who fits that mold. If those players have returned a value of roughly 40th overall at the peak of HR+SB without qualifying for the BA+HR+SB cohort, then that's a solid ceiling expectation for the group. This isn't ironclad and outliers exist, but you're stretching it already.

Anywho, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the counting stats but his not delivering a batting average north of .285 since 2016 can't be glossed over. And taking that swing from lefty-friendly Progressive Field over to Citi Field is simply not what you want. EVAnalytics houses park factors fueled by Derek Carty's THE BAT calculations, giving us a quick snapshot into Progressive Field's hitter advantage and Citi Field's disadvantage:

Simply put, that's a lot of red to overcome. I don't believe you're getting a plus average here, which puts a strain on his power stroke and the legs to return value. It's not impossible, but it's a yellow-light situation at best.

You’ll happily take the strong hitters around him, but leading off with the pitcher ahead of him (for now) does limit RBI opportunities. Perhaps we see another 2018 season where he scores 129 runs and everyone’s thrilled, but drafting for ceiling is a dangerous strategy. It’s exciting to see Lindor get a chance to explode in the New York spotlight but don’t trip over yourself to draft him.

Verdict: Pass, Lindor is overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Dansby Swanson (SS, ATL)

NFBC DC ADP: 101
Expected Return for a Power+Speed Hitter Drafted 101st: .255-25-77-78-16
2021 RotoBaller Projection: .266-26-93-79-12

Analysis: Swanson remains an oft-overlooked late bloomer thanks to such a top-heavy shortstop class. We're not crowning him as a Tier One or Two kind of guy, but he's capable of delivering power, speed, and counting stats alongside an average that won't burn. The 27-year-old hasn't had a full season to "wow" us thanks to a handful of injuries and coming up very quickly back in 2016.

He hit .302 through 145 PAs as a 22-year-old rookie, but the next two seasons saw him post averages of .232 and .238 as he found his big-league stroke after just 127 minor-league games prior to his debut. We saw him grow into his frame and pop 14 homers with 10 steals in '18 and further encouraged us with 17 HR/10 SB in '19, but a heel injury tanked the second half of his campaign.

Last year saw him play all 60 games, popping 10 homers with five swipes and a .274/.345/.464 slash line. He enjoyed batting first or second in 33 of those games and will likely slide back in 2021 with Ozzie Albies healthy, but Atlanta should be an offensive juggernaut (even with no DH). When healthy, Swanson has proven himself in two straight years (hard-hit rates above 40% per Baseball Savant in each of those) so enjoy the slight post-hype discount.

Verdict: Target, Swanson is undervalued at his current draft slot

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