Preparing for the 2022 Fantasy Baseball Draft: Pass marquee stars like Randy Arozarena for these valuable picks instead
Sometimes it’s worth paying for the brand premium. If I’m looking for a frosted pastry with a fruity filling, I always choose Pop-Tarts over the generic brand option; the same goes for when I crave Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The alternative is not an alternative at all.
When it comes to fantasy baseball, though, I’m happy to shop in the bargain aisle. Not all the time, mind you – I don’t pass up Fernando Tatis Jr. because you could see Javier Baez having a career year and being comparable. There are times when the second order is not enough; yes, Fernando Tatis is Pop-Tarts in this analogy.
But there are plenty of times when you’re gearing up for fantasy baseball drafts where you start to see that the brand tag isn’t worth paying for. After all, the name doesn’t really matter here, just the numbers you hope to get. Usually we are talking about players coming out of career years and forcing you to pay top dollar for that career year. But sometimes there are just other similar players who drop out of the board much later and are overlooked or ignored because of some sort of flaw, perceived or real.
The mark option is probably a safer bet in most of these cases, but you don’t win your fantasy league by making sure bets all the time. Added value must be found, and identifying a player capable of providing similar production at a much lower cost is a necessity. Even if the most expensive player is a better bet, that doesn’t mean he’s a better choice for your team.
Here’s Part 1 of my “Name Brands vs. Generics” series, featuring five players drafted in the top 60 in the NFBC Draft on average, along with their cheaper, off-brand alternatives. Hopefully these guys will be better than those weird generic Pop-Tarts.
Brand Name vs. Generic #1
Albies is still so young that you never want to rule out the idea of a player simply improving in the future. However, based on where his current skill set seems to lie, I think we’ve probably seen something like Albies’ best-case scenario in 2021. His 30 home runs were an increase of six from his career high. previous, and while that came on top of an increase in his fly ball rate, it may have also been luck. 19 of its 30 home runs were classified as “skeptical” according to StatCast data – meaning they wouldn’t have been home runs at at least 23 other parks. In 2019, it was just 10 out of 25 – an increase from 40% to 63%. That’s not terribly surprising for a player who ranks in the middle of the pack in most contact quality metrics.
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Albies is playing in a good roster, but it’s a roster that may not have Freddie Freeman — or Ronald Acuña — to start the season. Lindor’s roster may not be much worse than the Braves if that’s the case, and while he was much worse in 2021, that was mostly due to an unusual early-season slump – Lindor touched bottom on May 27 as he hit .178/.288/.261, but his 162-game pace from that point on was .258 with 107 points, 34 HR, 107 RBI and 12 SB.
That’s not far from what Albies did. Albies, 25, is on the right side of the aging curve while Lindor is 28, but their overall numbers from the past three seasons are remarkably similar. Betting on Lindor rebounding 30 picks later is not a bad idea.
Brand Name vs Generic #2
In the case of Albies, I think I’m a bit more pessimistic about him than the industry as a whole, but that’s not the case with Alvarez. I think he’s a star, and while I don’t think the injury issues are entirely behind him just because he got through 2021 without a problem, the fact that he was able to play in the outfield was a good sign. I think he’ll be a lifelong 35 homer, 100 RBI player who doesn’t hurt you on runs or average, and is a good pick at his price.
I just think Springer is better value. In fact, he just might be a better player — Springer has hit .278/.369/.570 the past three seasons with a 40-homer pace in each. Injuries are, of course, the issue here, but seeing as they’re also on Alvarez’s mind, I’m not sure this is a very compelling case against Springer.
But what really excites me about Springer is the formation of the Blue Jays. He started 56 games leading last season and had a 150-game pace of 105 RBI and 126 points, numbers similar to what we saw from Marcus Semien last season. This roster rotates so much and has so much firepower up top that Springer could be the overwhelming favorite to lead the league in points if he plays 150 games. He is one of the best values in the game right now.
Brand Name vs. Generic #3
There’s a ton to love about Franco, who entered a major league squad at the age of 20 and was 27% better than the average hitter in wRC+. Franco’s approach to plate is incredibly good for a player with his level of experience, and he’s displayed above-average contact quality despite a lot of physical development to come. His .810 OPS is the 13th best by a player 20 or younger in the past 30 seasons, with a minimum of 300 plate appearances. He will soon be one of the best hitters in baseball.
But he has some work to do to get there, and it’s fair to wonder what his edge is in a 5×5 Roto league until he becomes more of a power hitter. Plate discipline gives him a high floor – and makes him a great option in the OBP and run leagues – but I think the most realistic expectation for 2022 is probably 20 homers with a good average at stick and good counting stats. And, while he’s not much more than a single-digit thief, he’s a good player, but not yet a superstar.
Marte, well he’s already here. Even if you include a pretty mediocre shortened 2020, he’s hit .318/.374/.543 over the past three seasons. He is one of the best bets for batting average in the game and has a 162-game, 28-home run pace since 2019. And he has the ball-batt metrics to back it up, ranking in the 82nd percentile or better in average outbound speed, maximum outbound speed and hard-hit rate. Franco may be a better bet for interceptions – however, given his 56% success rate in the minors, maybe not – but Marte has already made the jump as a hitter, we hope Franco will. will do.
Brand Name vs. Generic #4
Arozarena is one of those players who doesn’t benefit from a deeper dive into his numbers. Its surface numbers – .274/.356/.459, 20 HR, 20 SB – look pretty good, but the underlying data is… frankly, pretty terrifying if you’re inclined to buy it. His expected batting average was just .222, while his expected sniping percentage was just .147, both of which were obviously well below average. His plate discipline is a mess, and while he hits the ball hard enough, he doesn’t hit it consistently enough to expect big power numbers.
Which is to say, Arozarena remains a fairly raw and equipped player. There’s potential here in a very Fantasy-friendly package, but it feels like a high-variance profile, and he was probably lucky enough to have been as good as he was last season. It’s not that hard to see a scenario where things don’t go so well for Arozarena and he’s a part-time player. The fact that he plays for the Rays only increases the potential for that.
You can say a lot of the same things about Baddoo’s rookie season. The tools are there – 82nd percentile in max exit speed, 91st percentile in sprint speed – and that makes him a very intriguing fantasy prospect. Of course, he didn’t have Arozarena’s tally stats, largely because he didn’t play every day due to his struggles against southpaws. This could ultimately prevent Baddoo from living up to its potential; it’s the biggest red flag on his profile. But it’s also worth noting that he’s three and a half years younger than Arozarena and has more than defended himself at major league level, despite never playing higher than A-ball. among minors. If you’re going to bet on a more capable outfielder for your power-speed combination with a basement, why not bet on the younger one that costs a lot less?
Brand Name vs. Generic #5
Realmuto has been at the top of the receiver ranks for the better part of a decade, and his ability to provide rare steals from the receiver position is a big part of that. That’s not to underestimate his overall production – he had an OPS of 0.820 or better from 2018-2020 and hasn’t been below 0.771 since 2015 – but a receiver’s 13 steal potential is a big problem. Outside of the half dozen top bats, most catchers are going to give you below average production compared to every other roster spot you have in each category plus a flying zero , especially since so few of them play nearly every day; Realmuto has held on in the top five almost every season.
But Varsho may be able to do even better. He thinks he’s among the leaders in playing time since he’ll be playing in the outfield regularly, and he could be a better source of power and speed than Realmuto – he’s hit 11 home runs and stolen six bases in 95 games last year. last season. , and was 20-8 if you include 18 Triple-A games. The underlying numbers also largely supported what he did. Realmuto should have Varsho beat in batting average, but runs and RBI could be pretty close, and Varsho could be the new name surveying the position in interceptions. 15 is not out of the question.