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Finding Over/Undervalued Third Basemen Using Expected Draft Values

Rafael Devers - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB DFS Picks, Betting Picks

We push on with our Expected Draft Values series, which utilizes historical data and projections to help us identify both over and undervalued players of all types. Power, speed, power+speed, batting average+power, and so on, with pitchers as well.

Today, we'll look at a trio of third basemen and compare their projected statline via my Cutter Projections against their ADP's expected return. 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 positive or negative value, based on their NFBC ADP in Draft Champions Contests spanning February into March (94 drafts), their Expected Draft Value (i.e. the average stat line typically produced at that ADP), and the player's projection.

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

 

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 four players at the hot corner that are either over or undervalued based on their recent NFBC Online ADP, our RotoBaller projections, and Expected Draft Values.

Without further ado, here are some players that stand out at their current cost in 2022 drafts.

 

Rafael Devers - 3B, BOS

NFBC DC ADP: 18
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 18th: .273-41-98-109-4
2022 RotoBaller Projection: .280-40-100-109-6

Analysis: Now 25 years old, Devers is hitting his stride after a beautiful 2021 that saw him blast 38 home runs next to 214 R+RBI and a .279 average. While he’s still improving on the basepaths (5-of-10 in ‘21), at least he got the green light again after zero steal attempts in the shortened 2020 season. He’s also built up a durable body of work, playing in 156 games in both 2019 and ‘21 alongside 57 of the 60 contests in ‘20.

Mind you, it is difficult for a projection to beat the expectation at all this high up in drafts. Top-end results routinely exceed the higher end of projections because what you see from the algorithms rarely cover outcomes from the 90th percentiles. So for our projection to have 46 HR+SB to the expected 45, 209 R+RBI to 207, and seven points of batting average on top is meaningful. Especially at the hot corner, where elite talent quickly gives way to a minefield.

It’s easy to forget Devers is only 25 as he enters his sixth MLB campaign, but consider his exit velocity, barrel, and HR/FB rates have climbed throughout his career. After an average launch angle between 10.5-11.2 degrees in 2018-20, that rose to 13.1 degrees in ‘21 as his barrel rate climbed from 12.1% to 15%. This isn't to say there is an automatic growth pattern to lean on, but there's no reason to believe we've seen Devers' peak either. Even if he doesn't climb much higher, you're still coming out slightly ahead per projections against EDV. That's a great foundation to lay in the early rounds at a position that turns bleak rather quickly.

I'll leave you with this fun tweet from Mike Kurland that highlights Devers' strong coverage of the zone with excellent slugging against the shadow zone (the zone's edge on both sides):

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

 

Kris Bryant - 3B/OF, COL**

NFBC DC ADP: 63 -- I used a recent, post-Rockies slice of ADP. And his Main Event ADP from this past weekend was 59th.
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 63rd: .260-34-81-94-3
2022 RotoBaller Projection: .279-29-90-83-7

Analysis: Bryant was a 30-year-old free agent who rebounded with a .265 average and a .835 OPS in 586 PAs for the Cubs and Giants in 2021, thwacking 25 home runs with 10 steals. He hadn’t hit double-digit swipes since his rookie season in 2015, so we loved to see that. The Giants loved running him as he went a perfect 6-for-6 in just 51 games, but spacious San Fran also saw Bryant hit just seven HRs with a .788 OPS.

I'd originally written this before he signed with the Rockies, so his projections have gone up. Have they outpaced the price tag boost as well? Earlier, he was being overvalued around pick 100 given his median projections. And now, he's roughly at breakeven thanks in large part to his batting average jumping thanks to Coors. It helps mitigate needing 34 HRs out of this power slot, but perhaps COL allows him to run more as SF did. We also can't automatically assume he handles the Coors hangover well. This is increased volatility to his profile.

Unfortunately, the higher draft slot means his checkered medical record and playing in under 150 games the past four seasons (including just 34 of 60 in 2020) weighs more heavily. Bryant played through a wrist injury that wound up being an impact fracture in 2020. We saw his 2019 ruined by a knee injury where he got caught on a turf mat during batting practice. Bryant’s 2018 was going well until he jammed his left shoulder on a headfirst slide in mid-May. He’s not injury-prone but a long list of injuries will hinder progress.

The good news is 2021 left him largely unscathed outside of some hamstring woes, and his 10.3% barrel rate was his best mark since 2016. Bryant is still a guy whose fly-ball rate steadies around 30% (per Savant) and it seems people are attached to his name rather than the performance of late.

Verdict: Pass, Bryant is slightly overvalued at his current draft slot

 

Eugenio Suarez - 3B, SEA

NFBC DC ADP: 205
Expected Return for a Power Hitter Drafted 205th: .248-29-69-73-2
2022 RotoBaller Projection: .229-31-80-88-1

Analysis: This writer had high hopes for Suárez after a short 2020 that was ostensibly ruined by shoulder surgery had driven down his ADP. The slugger had offseason shoulder surgery in January 2020 and still gave us a .268 ISO and 15 home runs in 57 games, but a .202 average and .214 BABIP killed many dreams. He’d never posted a BABIP below .304 before that, so we expected some positive regression here.

That wouldn’t happen, as 2021 yielded a slump-infested .198 average with a lowly .224 BABIP. He still cracked 31 home runs, but is he basically Adam Dunn now? Well, hold on now. Just as the book closed on 2021, we saw a glimmer of hope. Suárez began September with a pinch-hit double to kick off a 27-for-73 (.370) end to the season with 16 extra-base hits (eight doubles, eight HRs).

A hot end to someone with his track record is enough for me to buy in. It was enough for Seattle to buy in as well, even if it feels more like a salary buyout. It’s worth noting that 2021 saw his first-pitch swing rate climb to a career-high 33.1%, a likely sign of pressing through the prolonged slump. I’d also wager playing horrid defense at shortstop didn’t help him focus on plate adjustments. Manager David Bell gave both Joey Votto and Suárez mini-benchings when they needed a reset and we saw Votto respond well, but maybe Suárez needed more time.  Votto is not the norm!

I understand the cases for both optimism and pessimism for a 30-year-old slugger coming off of two harsh seasons who is leaving GABP. You'll need to calculate whether you can absorb the likely hit to batting average as a tradeoff for late R+RBI opportunities that come with his sort of power. Several spring training lineups with regulars have seen him bat fifth, which I will happily take. And if he needs some DH time to breathe then that should be an option. Please, no more shortstop shenanigans.

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



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