Points League Outfielders: Overvalued and Undervalued

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As we’ve discussed, points leagues are a bit of a different animal from the more popular head-to-head and rotisserie formats. One of the easiest and best ways to ensure that you’re making a smooth transition between these disparate styles is to identify players whose values change most.

Today we're looking at some potential outfield sleepers and busts, or draft targets and avoids in points leagues.

Let's get to it.

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Overvalued for Points Leagues

Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles

Trumbo launched a league-leading 47 home runs in 2016. That’s more than he’d hit in the previous two seasons combined. His prior career best was 34; by the All-Star break, he had 28. You get the idea. Setting aside the likely regression in power, though, there are still reasons to avoid Trumbo in points leagues. The veteran strikes out a lot and has never been a great on-base guy, with a high water mark of .317 back in 2012. That was the same year he hit .268, also a career high. Trumbo’s production also cratered in the second half last season. He kept hitting homers, but everything else dried up, as he managed a middling .214/.284/.470 line.

 

Matt Kemp, Atlanta Braves

Kemp has been a reliable producer over the last three seasons, averaging a .273-82-28-99-7 line. He’s entering his age-33 season, however, and there are some troubling trends in his batted ball data. His BABIP has declined every season since his monster 2011 campaign, and both his walk rate and contact quality have been moving in the wrong direction for a couple of years now. Kemp has posted OBPs of .312 and .304 the last two seasons, taking a chunk out of his value. He’ll lose more still if he suffers any pullback on the power he flashed last season – it was just the second time in his career that he surpassed 30 homers.

 

Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers

Upton’s first season in the Motor City, and the American League, got off to a rocky start. Through August 20, he was hitting a putrid .228/.283/.374 with 13 home runs and a 30% strikeout rate. Naturally, from then on he slashed .309/.397/.765 with 18 homers, trimming the whiffs and nearly doubling his walk rate. In the process, he probably won a lot of leagues for owners who either bought low or exercised inhuman patience. Ultimately, his end of season numbers wound up about where they usually do, but he was even streakier than usual in getting there.

Upton is a quality outfielder but a frustrating and high-maintenance asset. That’s without acknowledging that he just posted the worst plate discipline metrics of his career, set a career high in infield fly rate, and has now seen his OBP decline every season since 2011.

 

Undervalued for Points Leagues

Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

Fantasy owners’ reluctance to rely on a 36 year old coming off his third injury-plagued season in the last five years is understandable. This is, however, Joey Bats we’re talking about. Even a down year for him is better than most. Despite dealing with turf toe and knee problems, Bautista still hit 22 homers and totaled 137 R+RBI in 112 games. While it was his worst season since his 2010 breakout, he remained a well above average hitter. His plate discipline was typically excellent, and his batted ball data doesn’t portend doom as he remained among the league leaders in exit velocity and Hard%. Time will eventually catch up to Bautista, but he should still be plenty valuable in 2017.

 

Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox

Eaton’s last two seasons have been virtually identical by most measures. That level of consistency has value. Still just 28, the veteran’s plate discipline and contact data hint at a bit more upside. While his new home park is tougher on lefties than Chicago’s, he’s moving to a much better lineup. With some combination of Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon around him, Eaton could easily top 100 runs for the first time in his career and get a boost to his RBI total as well. He’s posted identical .362 OBPs in each of the last three years, and hit .290 over that span.

 

Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels

Calhoun seems pretty under-appreciated for a guy who ranks 16th among outfielders in FanGraphs WAR over the last three years. He has averaged 20 homers and just under 90 runs scored over that span to go along with a passable average. Last season, Calhoun managed to chop over six points off his K% while also posting a career best walk rate of 10 percent. In an Angels lineup that should outperform most peoples’ expectations, a .270-90-20-80-5 season seems attainable. Sexy? No. But Calhoun is a classic glue guy– owners who retain his services aren’t likely to regret it.

 

 

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