Opinions, man. Everybody’s got ’em. The thing I find comforting about data-driven projections is that they they kinda don’t have an opinion of their own. I turn to them and they don’t have any human bias, just reasonable expectations. They won’t give me a rant about how a player burned them in a draft two years ago. They just spit unbiased truths.
Human bias, on the other hand, runs rampant on draft day. Drafters get those really warm feelings in their stomach about some unproven player who has never burned them so they take a big reach for him. Meanwhile, the data-driven projections remain steady and calm as they remind us of what reasonable expectations are for a player based on data. On draft day, I trust my gut sometimes but other times I just sit back and let the projections take the wheel. It begs the question about which player the projections love more than us measly humans in 2017 though. Who should we maybe be looking more seriously at than we all are right now? The answer, my friends, is in the projections.
I’m going to use my Special Blend projections here, which aggregate and weight a variety of projection sources individually for each stat, and compare them to the FantasyPros average ADP (average average draft position seems like a bit of a oxymoron but what can you do?). I’m putting those projections into a typical 5×5 roto league draft to see how they rank compared to that average ADP. Let’s let them face off and see where they disagree.
Let’s ignore the early round players too, shall we? I’m most interested in finding those players that are there when we’re left looking at the wasteland of a draft pool that lie before us after the studs are off the board. We want those diamonds in the proverbial rough!
Hitters That The Projections Like More Than Most Of Us
Kole Calhoun is a player that seems to end up on a lot of my teams this year and that’s likely due to the projections consistently showing him as more valuable than we give him credit for. I’ve often seen him fall far past this ADP even. He’s a very league-average hitter with a low ceiling but high floor. Not every player on your team has to be an All-Star and Calhoun is a nice option for leagues where you start more than 3 OF.
Randal Grichuk is a post-hype sleeper that burned a lot of people last year (me too). After a slow start in 2016 that included a demotion to the minors, he had a very nice second half of the season and finished with 30 HRs between AAA and the majors. Power isn’t easy to come by in the later rounds of a draft and that’s what Grichuk gives you.
I could write a book on Eric Thames because he’s just a projections darling this year and nobody seems to trust it. Steamer has him projected at 27 HR in 511 PA and ZiPS is right there with them. The geek side of me is just fascinated to see what happens. How much do those Korean stats matter? He was a beast over there but, well, he was once Eric Thames over here. With him being that bust in the past, it’s not a shock that his ADP is so low. That’s a gift for us though because he’s now such a low-risk high-reward player in drafts. Take the gamble, stash him on your bench then sit back and see what happens.
A couple of other potentially underrated power hitters are Marcus Semien and Tommy Joseph. The projections are telling us to take the ride yet they’re basically being close to undrafted in most drafts so it’s not costing you much. Semien could be a 20/10 hitter and Joseph has potential to hit 30 HRs. These are things that you typically don’t find on the scrapheap of your drafts.
Speaking of 20/10 seasons, Eugenio Suarez did that last year and the projections think he’ll do it again. His projection probably is the one that differs the most from his ADP here. He’s young, he’s got room to grow and he’s starting for a bad team where he should see plenty of playing time. It certainly is worth a gamble at his current asking price even if the public seems to disagree.
Pitchers That The Projections Like More Than Most Of Us
It’s encouraging to me when the projections match my own ideas about who might break out this year. I already had James Paxton, Aaron Nola, Matt Moore, Michael Pineda (begrudingly), Matt Shoemaker, Robbie Ray (with love), Jerad Eickhoff and Collin McHugh come up within my own calculations about potentially underrated pitchers. Seeing the unbiased projections agree with me is music to my ears.
Outside of that, Jameson Taillon is one that did not come up as a sleeper for me. I can see why the projections like him. He doesn’t have huge strikeout numbers but he’s a pro at limiting walks and certainly has room to grow as he made his debut last year after missing the previous two seasons altogether. If he stays healthy, he could be a big bargain.
I will note that Jeff Sarmadzija and Michael Pineda always seem to be guys that the projections like more than most. Despite everything, I think we know what we’re going to get from both at them at this point. There’s not a ton of intrigue there.
Tyler Skaggs is a very interesting name at the bottom of the list. He’s still mostly a prospect and generally the projections are bearish on young guys compared to the public but not this time. Here we are with Skaggs having a 331 ADP and 159 projection ranking. He seems to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and he’s slated to be ready to go at the start of the season. If he goes undrafted in your league then he’s a name to keep an eye on in his first couple starts. He still has the potential to be a 3.50 ERA and 9 K/9 pitcher this year.