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Undervalued Mixed League Draft Targets in 2021

Finding undervalued players during drafts can make or break your fantasy season. One of the ways we look for undervalued players is to utilize RotoBaller’s Expected Draft Value research developed by my colleague Nick Mariano.  We attempt to identify players who are forecast to return value in 2021 which is greater than the expected value at their current draft position.

Expected Draft Value is the value you would historically expect, on average, from a given draft slot. Stating the obvious, a fantasy draft is all about maximizing the potential positive value from every pick made.

Below are five undervalued players that stand to return substantial value to managers in mixed leagues. Each player discussed should likely return a value greater than the value expected for a player taken at their current ADP in 2021.

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


Marcus Stroman, New York Mets

ADP: 220

Prior to the start of the 2020 season, New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman went down with a calf injury. Before returning from the injured list, he elected to opt-out due to concerns over COVID-19. As a result, Stroman last pitched in 2019 when he excelled over 32 starts between the Mets and Toronto Blue Jays. He posted 159 strikeouts in 184 1/3 innings pitched to go with a 3.22 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, 10 wins, and 3.9 WAR.

While it remains questionable as to how a full year off will impact his production in 2021, managers would be misguided by overlooking Stroman for this reason. There is no doubt that Stroman is extremely motivated to perform for the Mets in 2021. After accepting a qualifying offer from the Mets, he will be pitching on a one-year contract in 2021. He’s also looking to assert himself as a key component to a team ready to compete for the N.L. pennant.

Stroman is developing two new pitches, has been working out religiously in the off-season, and is excited to play with the newest members of the club including Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, James McCann, and former teammate Kevin Pillar (among others). Stroman’s motivation to succeed in 2021 is an x-factor that should make managers think twice about passing on him around pick 220.

When examining his 2019 numbers, we do see that his ground-ball rate declined due to a heavier reliance on his slider and cutter to generate increased strikeouts. Notwithstanding, his 53.9% ground-ball rate was still elite. He also allowed only a 4.1% barrel rate which was in the top-6% of MLB. While his 2019 3.99 xFIP could be cause for ERA regression concern, the Mets have made moves to bolster their defense which could offset such risk.

The Mets have shored up the middle with the additions of Lindor, McCann, and Pillar. This should aid Stroman who has a career 1.7-degree launch angle allowed and relies heavily on a sinker (e.g., thrown 36.3% of the time in 2019, and 43.1% of the time in 2018) to generate outs. Additionally, the impact of the Mets adding McCann who put up a 61.8% strike rate in the lower section of the strike zone (sixth in all of MLB in 2020) should further help Stroman's strikeout totals.

Based on Nick Mariano’s Expected Draft Values research, a starting pitcher being selected around pick 220, should return a value of 3.73 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, and 143 strikeouts in 148 IP. With a career WHIP of 1.29 and a career ERA of 3.76, and in light of his most recent 2019 campaign, Stroman should meet, if not beat, the Expected Draft Value ratios in 2021. If he remains healthy, he should also be able to outperform the IP and K expectations and post a solid win total on a contending Mets ball club. Stroman is an excellent undervalued player in mixed leagues at his current ADP heading into 2021.


Mark Canha, Oakland Athletics

ADP: 265

In 2020, Oakland A’s outfielder/designated hitter Mark Canha posted a .246/.387/.408 slash line to go with five home runs and a very impressive 33 RBI in 243 plate appearances. While his RBI total, fifteenth in all of MLB, and OBP were among the league’s best in 2020, his power output massively declined after 2019. In 2019, Canha blasted 26 HR in 410 at-bats. By comparison, if extrapolated over 500 at-bats, his 2020 campaign was equivalent to a forgettable 13 HR season.

Looking at his hitting metrics more closely, we notice that Canha’s power metrics and on-base skill set have, generally, gradually increased each season, including in 2020. In fact, other than a very slight decline in his overall hard-hit and barrel rate in 2020, Canha saw a 5.9% increase in his line drive rate. He also saw an increase in his overall launch angle (up to 89.7 degrees from 89.1 degrees in 2019), and a 7.2% decrease in his groundball rate when compared to 2019.

When we examine his exit velocity on FB/LD, we do notice that in 2020 it was 92.4 mph FB/LD, down from 94.3 mph in 2019. While this decrease could account for his 2020 decline in HR output, it should be noted that Canha still finished 91st among qualified batters in this category. Furthermore, this EV on FB/LD was equal to that of Anthony Rendon and only 0.01 mph slower than Nolan Arenado. As a result, nothing really suggests that his sharp 2020 HR decline should be a continued trend into 2021.

In terms of on-base skills, Canha’s .393 on-base percentage since the start of 2019 is the eighth highest in MLB (min. 400 plate appearances). In 2020, his on-base skills included an elite 15.2% walk rate, an overall 19.3% chase rate (well below MLB average), and a .346 xwOBA. This makes Canha likely to remain in the A’s lineup on a daily basis, particularly with Khris Davis being traded to the Rangers. Canha can slot into the DH role if and when he is not playing in the outfield.

According to Nick Mariano’s Expected Draft Values research, a hitter being taken around pick 265 should produce a .229 average, 28 HR, 62 runs, and 69 RBI. With playing time concerns mitigated, Canha should be able to meet the expected 28 HR total and surpass the other expected statistics particularly if his power positively regresses in line with his underlying metrics and 2019 campaign. Canha should provide managers with great value for a player currently being selected after round 20 in mixed-league formats, especially in OBP leagues.


Byron Buxton,  Minnesotta Twins

ADP: 115

In 2020, Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was on the verge of a breakout before injuries (shoulder, concussion) limited his playing time and, therefore, his overall production. In only 135 plate appearances in 2020, Buxton posted a .254/.267/.577 slash line to go with 13 home runs and 27 RBI. Extrapolated over a conservative 500 at-bats, this production equated to a 48 HR, 100 RBI performance. Obviously, to expect Buxton to have stayed on pace for such production would be lunacy. Nevertheless, it does show how amazing his limited 2020 season was.

Buxton’s 2020 performance was supported by an elite overall barrel rate (13.5%) in the top-12% of the MLB, and an overall hard-hit rate of 47.9% which was in the top-11% of MLB. Additionally, Buxton’s exit velocity of 96.8 on FB/LD was 53rd among all MLB batters (not just qualified batters) and almost two mph better than the 94.9 mph figure he posted in 2019. Additionally, although he only stole two bases in 2020, his sprint speed of 30.0 ft/sec remained in the top 1% in all of baseball.

As we head into 2021, we know Buxton has legitimate five-category potential. Further, his September, in which he posted a .290/.313/.710 slash line with eight HR and 15 RBI, suggests that the best is yet to come.

Anyone playing fantasy baseball is well aware that the big issue with Buxton, who has played fewer than 92 games in all but one of his MLB seasons, is his lack of durability. Assuming Buxton can reach 531 AB, Steamer projects him to put up a somewhat conservative .261/.314/.486 slash line with 25 HR, 77 RBI, and 18 stolen bases. These numbers equate to a batter being taken around pick 89 according to Nick Mariano’s Expected Draft Values research. Accordingly, these conservative projections already suggest that Buxton will outperform his current ADP by almost 25 picks.

If Buxton can build on his September production and the Twins let him run more, who knows how far his counting stats can possibly eclipse the Steamer projections. This could provide managers with incredible top-50 value in the middle rounds….if he remains healthy. At pick 115, given the tremendous upside, managers should set aside injury risk fears and not hesitate to roster the 27-year old Buxton. If he should miss significant playing time, the cost is a middle-round pick. But, if he remains on the field, you could be rostering a league winner in the middle rounds.


Michael Lorenzen, Cincinnati Reds

ADP: 415

With a current ADP of 415, it is safe to say that Cincinnati Reds right-handed pitcher Michael Lorenzen is going undrafted in all but the deepest of mixed league formats. With Trevor Bauer leaving Cincinnati for the Dodgers, and Anthony DeSclafani headed to San Francisco, the Reds have the need for starting pitching.

Off-season reports have indicated that Lorenzen will be entering 2021 as a rotation candidate. Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims will likely be competing for the closer role. As a result, if  Lorenzen remains in the bullpen, his fantasy value will be limited to those leagues that reward holds. If, however, Lorenzen breaks camp as a member of the Reds’ rotation, his fantasy value will be greatly enhanced.

In 2020, despite solid underlying metrics, Lorenzen had a shaky campaign in which he posted a 4.28 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 35:17 K:BB in 33 2/3 innings pitched out of the Reds bullpen. The final, somewhat mediocre numbers could be attributed to a very poor start to the season in which he posted a 16.88 ERA, a 1.88 WHIP, and allowed three home runs in July over 2 2/3 innings. Looking at his final underlying metrics, Lorenzen posted career highs in overall hard-hit rate allowed (26.6%) which was in the top-4% of MLB, and overall exit velocity allowed of 84.4 mph (top-3% of MLB).

Lorenzen also posted elite whiff and fastball spin rates. His ground-ball rate increased almost five percent when compared to 2019 (and his line drive rate decreased by almost the same amount). In addition, Lorenzen’s 23.8% K%, which was slightly better than the league average, was in line with his 2019 K% (24.8%) when he posted a 2.92 ERA and 1.15 WHIP to go with 85 strikeouts over 83 1/3 IP.

On the downside, Lorenzen’s notorious walk rate jumped all the way to 11.6% in 2020 from 8.2% in 2019. In addition, his cutter was virtually ineffective where hitters batted .467 against it (compared to .250 in 2019) despite his low overall allowed EV. As a result, Lorenzen moved away from his cutter in 2020, throwing it only 17.6% of the time in 2020, compared to over 25% of the time in 2019. If we remove his July numbers, Lorenzen’s final 2020 ERA is 3.19 and his WHIP is 1.35. While these ratios are not on par with his 2019 numbers, it still reflects how poor his start to the 2020 campaign was and how effective he was after that slow start.

If Lorenzen breaks camp in the Reds rotation, there is significant fantasy value for managers willing to spend a very late draft pick on him based on his very solid 2020 metrics and conclusion to his 2020 campaign. Though he won’t single-handedly win you a league, he should provide managers with valuable innings, solid ratios, and roughly a strikeout per inning. While his walk rate needs improvement, even slight positive regression to his unimpressive career average of 9.6% could generate a WHIP under 1.40, as it did in 2018.

If he can also get more production out of his cutter, as he did in 2019, Lorenzen could prove to be an effective starting pitcher on a Reds team that would likely keep him in the rotation all season. Lorenzen could potentially provide managers with SP3/4 upside in exchange for a late, throw-away pick. With an ADP of 415, there is virtually no risk for managers to roster this potential SP prize.


Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 235

Similar to Michael Lorenzen, though he won’t win managers leagues in 2021, Kansas City Royals corner infielder Hunter Dozier should certainly outperform his current ADP of 235. For this reason, managers should target Dozier in the late rounds of mixed-league drafts.

Based on Nick Mariano’s Expected Draft Values research, a hitter being selected around pick 235 should return a .237 batting average, 28 home runs, and 71 RBI production to managers. In 2019, Dozier posted numbers far better than this. He put up a .279/.348/.522 slash line to go with 26 HR and 84 RBI over 586 plate appearances. This would equate to a hitter being selected almost 100 picks sooner around pick 140, according to the same draft values research. This makes Dozier greatly undervalued, provided we chalk up Dozier’s disappointing 2020 to his positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

In 2020, Dozier slugged just .392 in 2020 (compared to .522 in 2019) and his overall hard-hit rate dropped to 30.9% (bottom-14% of MLB) after posting 42.9% and 40.2% overall hard-hit rates in 2019 and 2018, respectively. 2020 also saw a huge decline in Dozier’s groundball and fly ball rates. His overall exit velocity also fell almost five mph. To make matters worse, Dozier posted a career-worst barrel rate of 8.2%. In fact, with the exception of his strikeout rate and walk rate (which actually jumped up over 5% in 2020), the majority of his hitting metrics took a major step backward.

Before 2020, the Royals’ 2013 first-round draft pick’s power metrics were consistently trending in the right direction. As a result, it is not unreasonable to assume that COVID-19 was the power-sapping culprit. Specifically, after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Dozier was placed on the injured list to start the season and he was limited to just 44 games and 158 at-bats.

Given the upward trends he was seeing prior to 2020, and his first-round pedigree, it is not unreasonable to expect some bounce-back in the power department in 2021. Add in his multi-position eligibility at first base, third base, and the outfield, as well as his 2020 28 ft/sec sprint speed (top 23% of MLB), you have a multi-position, power/speed player who may contribute a few steals on a steal-happy Royals team.

Even assuming Dozier doesn’t entirely replicate his 2019 average, HR, and RBI totals, he should still outperform his current ADP. This makes Dozier a great low-risk, high reward option in the late rounds of mixed-league drafts.

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