An in-depth look at players who may be under or overvalued in 2022 fantasy baseball drafts
Written by: Jake Floriolli
[Source: Joe Nicholson - USA TODAY Sports]
With fantasy baseball draft season approaching, now is as good a time as any to evaluate 2022 ADP. And what better way to do that than evaluating early draft data to determine who might be over or underrated? Finding value in your draft is the key to success, so without further ado, here is a look at who’s ADP is underrated, overrated, or justified.
1. Kyle Tucker (OF, HOU) NFBC ADP: 12th overall
One of the biggest breakouts last season was Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker. In 2021 Tucker finished with 30 home runs, 14 steals, 175 combined runs and RBI, and a slash line of .294/.359/.557. But how much of the production could be deemed as sustainable?
Looking at the numbers below, you can see that Tucker most notably improved against breaking balls. Tucker’s expected batting average against breaking balls went from .193 in 2020 to .284 in 2021. Additionally, Tucker vastly improved against breaking pitches in 2021 when looking at Statcast data for expected slugging percentage, expected wOBA, and whiff rate.
In addition to improving his skill set against breaking pitches, Tucker also simultaneously lowered his strikeout percentage and raised his walk rate in 2021. With the potential to hit over 30 home runs and steal close to 20 bases, Tucker’s ADP of 12th overall is justified as the underlying metrics demonstrate that he made sustainable changes to his skill set last season. You should feel confident drafting him late in the 1st round or early in the 2nd.
2. Randy Arozarena (OF, TB) NFBC ADP: 57th overall
Randy Arozarena made himself a household name in the 2020 playoffs for the Rays when he slashed .377/.442/.831 with ten homers, 19 runs, and 14 RBIs in 20 playoff games. Now obviously Arozarena did not maintain that production during the 2021 season but he still managed to provide 20 homers and 20 stolen bases with a slash line of .274/.356/.459.
Despite the above-average production last season, a deeper dive into the underlying metrics create cause for concern. In 2021, Arozarena seemed to be overmatched by the fastball at times as shown by a more than a .100 point drop in expected wOBA and a decline in average exit velocity against the pitch last season.
The breaking pitches were not much better for Arozarena as well last season with an increase in chase percentage for both breaking and offspeed pitches in 2021. Additionally, Arozarena saw a 2% increase in out-of-zone swing percentage and a more than 5% drop in hard-hit percentage last season.
With a career-high BABIP last season and Statcast expected stats such as a .220 xBA, xWOBA of .302, and xSLG of .366, it is clear that Arozarena is due for regression in 2022. His stolen base potential will maintain his value, but with an approximate slash line of .255/.340/.450 next season, pass on Arozarena for outfielders going later in drafts such as Byron Buxton, Ketel Marte, and Christian Yelich.
3. Jesse Winker (OF, CIN) NFBC ADP: 108th overall
Jumping into the underrated players we find Jesse Winker, outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds at 108th overall based on NFBC ADP. Winker was only able to play in 105 games last season but quietly finished the year with 24 homers, 148 combined runs and RBI, and a slash line of .305/.394/.556. Extrapolated to a full 162 game season, Winker was on pace for 35 home runs and 217 runs plus RBI.
In 2021 Winker cut his strikeout percentage by 10%, had a 4% drop in CSW% (called + swinging strike percentage), and had nearly an 8% increase in contact percentage. In other terms, Winker was striking out less and putting more balls in play.
A look at the Statcast data below supports his uptick in production last season as well. With above-average ranks in almost every underlying metric, it is easy to get excited about what Winker could provide in a full season.
However, there were a few causes for concern with Winker last season. Most notably his drop in exit velocity, wOBA, and line-drive percentage on breaking pitches last season. Winker also had a jump in his BABIP in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019.
Despite the decreased production against breaking pitches, Winker should finish as a top 20 outfielder next season if he can stay healthy. Expect 30 home runs, 200 combined runs and RBI, and a slash line of .285/.380/.520 next season. Draft Winker with confidence ahead of outfielders like Ryan Mountcastle, Bryan Reynolds, and Eloy Jimenez.
4. Logan Webb (SP, SF) NFBC ADP: 58th overall
Logan Webb came out of nowhere last season when posted a 3.03 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 158 strikeouts in 148.1 innings pitched in 2021. Looking at the stats, it appears that his performance was not luck-based either as his BABIP and LOB% were both within range of his career average.
Webb’s success in 2021 was due in large part to the effectiveness of his slider. Opponents managed just a .156/.197/.231 slash line and 22 wRC+ against the pitch last season. Not to mention Webb saw a dramatic spike in strikeout percentage and swing and miss percentage in 2021 compared to 2020.
Looking at Rob Friedman's tweet above, it is easy to see why the pitch was so unhittable. Per Statcast data, Webb’s slider moves 11 inches away from a right-handed batter and drops 42 inches. For comparison, league average horizontal movement is 6 inches with 36 inches of drop.
In addition to his improved slider, the underlying metrics support the breakout that we saw last season. Webb has earned his 2022 ADP of 58th overall and as long as he can maintain the effectiveness of his slider, his current ADP is certainly justified.
5. Brandon Belt (1B, SF) NFBC ADP: 234th overall
Last season Brandon Belt hit 29 home runs in only 97 games, a ridiculous 48 homer pace! Not to mention that in seven of his last ten seasons, Belt has posted an OBP of .355 or better. However, durability has prevented Belt from being a reliable fantasy contributor as he has only played in more than 140 games twice in his last seven seasons, excluding the shortened 2020 season.
So what caused Belt’s power outburst last season? First glance at the stats indicates that Belt seemingly sold out for power last season as he raised his fly ball percentage by nearly 8%, dropped his contact percentage, put up a career-high in barrel percentage, and almost career-high in launch angle.
All of the aforementioned changes clearly show a player that made a concerted effort to sacrifice contact for power. If Belt can stay healthy (and that is a big if), expect him to hit 30 homers with 160 combined runs and RBI and a slash line of .250/.350/.500. For context, Joey Votto, who is projected to finish with a similar stat line, is being drafted nearly 80 picks earlier.
6. Sean Manaea (SP, OAK) NFBC ADP: 151st overall
Our next overrated player going off the board a little later in drafts is Oakland Athletics pitcher Sean Manaea. In 2021 Manaea finished the season with a 3.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and more than one strikeout per inning.
However, Manaea had an inconsistent 2021 season where he posted a 3.19 first-half ERA followed by a 4.92 ERA in his last 75 innings pitched. And if you exclude the month of June where Manaea pitched well due to a .247 BABIP and 91.2% LOB%, his end of season ERA would have been 4.52.
Despite his inconsistency, Manaea’s expected statistics from Statcast do not necessarily ease the mind. As you can see below, Manaea ranked in the 47th percentile or worse in a plethora of different metrics.
Expect Manaea to put up an ERA of 3.95 with a WHIP of 1.19 next season to go along with averaging one strikeout per inning. At pick 151 overall, you will find higher upside pitchers worth taking over Manaea such as Michael Kopech, Luis Severino, and Eduardo Rodriguez.