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Overrated, Underrated: Week Two

Prior to the season's commencement, I offered up a pair of players who could have been selected later in drafts as cheaper, yet comparable, alternatives to more highly-touted players. To continue the same train of thought, I will provide, on a weekly basis, underrated alternatives to overrated players.

Aside from the first week of baseball providing us historic performances in the most unexpected packages -- not to mention a slew of season-jeopardizing injuries -- it also offered some insight to how certain players might be deployed, specifically in part-time or platoon duty. However, some players just plain suck or don't have the upside to warrant high ownership rates.

Enjoy a little bit of both. FYI: all ownership numbers are current as of April 10.


In the Outfield

OVERVALUED: Randal Grichuk, STL OF
62% owned, per Fleaflicker

UNDERVALUED: Domingo Santana, MIL OF
15% owned, per Fleaflicker

Grichuk has already ceded three of six possible starts to Jeremy Hazelbaker, so his value can't be considered anything but tenuous at this point. But this goes beyond playing time issues. The small-sample-size microscope has put Grichuk's dubious contact skills on blast. His 30-home run pace last year obscured the flimsiness of his horrific 31.4% strikeout rate (K%) and meager 6.3% walk rate (BB%). A lone single and eight strikeouts through 18 plate appearances, however, tends to change things.

Again, we're talking small samples here, but they seem particularly telling here. Pitchers fool Grichuk, seducing swings and misses on pitches outside the zone at a rate that almost paces the entire league. The most critical point: this isn't different from last year. Grichuk is still Grichuk, but when the power isn't there, he's borderline unusuable.

Enter Santana. He actually profiles quite similarly to Grichuk: power, speed, serious contact issues. In fact, Santana's contact issues might be worse than Grichuk's. What Santana has going for him, however, is the propensity to take a walk every now and then.

In fact, Santana and Grichuk could not be trending farther away from each other. Whereas Grichuk's 37.0% chase rate (as of April 10, per PITCHf/x) actively ranks among the worst in Major League Baseball, Santana's leads the pack at a minuscule 5.7%. Yes, yes, it's a small sample size, but Santana's eye precedes those of Christian Yelich and Martin Prado, whose respective plate disciplines are the stuff of legends.

Perhaps the learning curve won't be so kind on Santana once pitchers read the book on him. That number could skyrocket any day now. But, for now, Santana seems to know his way around the strike zone, and that makes him a much more capable threat to make good on his otherwise low draft price than Grichuk on his much higher price.

Grichuk will run enough to make himself at least marginally valuable when the power vanishes for extended durations. And, when the power does emerge, he becomes a dream to own. But the contact issues, until they are rectified, will put a firm cailing on Grichuk's upside. Meanwhile, Santana is Grichuk, so to speak, but with better plate discipline. Until further notice, that elevates both his floor and ceiling quite a bit.


On the Mound

73% owned, per Fleaflicker

40% owned, per Fleaflicker

Can I be frank with you? This is weird. Honestly, I don't understand why Leake is owned in so many leagues. By ownership rates, he's essentially a top-50 starter. Only once in the last four years has Leake finished inside the top 200 players overall -- which, in 2016, is about where the 55th starter was drafted on average.

Anyway, Leake is overvalued. I won't say much more about that. His upside is intolerably low, no matter how pretty his walk and ground ball rates are. Most of you will have likely have jumped ship after his monstrosity of a season debut anyway.

Maeda is being treated like a top-60 option -- although, like Leake, I'm sure that will change following Maeda's stateside debut. Maeda is an unknown quality, relative to not only Mike Leake but also literally anyone else pitching in the league. He has no minor-league tMarack record -- only his reputation as an elite strike-thrower in the Korean Baseball Organization.

That might be enough, though. His pinpoint command could make him a FIP golden child because of excellent walk and ground ball rates despite what could ultimately be a pedestrian K-rate. His ceiling could look like countryman Hisashi Iwakuma, a similarly excellent control artist who twice ranked among the top 75 players overall prior to his injury-shortened 2015 season. (And, even in the aforementioned injury-shortened season, Iwakuma finished 189th -- better than any of Leake's single-season finishes dating back to 2012.)

Maeda's ceiling is decidedly higher than Leake's, with the distinct possibility that all of Maeda's important metrics -- strikeouts, walks, ground balls -- trump Leake's in a full season, making him a simply better and more effective pitcher. That Maeda starts every five days for the contending Dodgers should only be more of a boon to his value. A bearish assessment could peg Maeda for a top-50 starter, but that would already exceed anything one could reasonably expect from Leake.


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