This article is an analysis of the charts from this post: https://udownwithobp.com/2020-03-18-replacement-value-pt-1-position-scarcity-charts/. In that post, I explain the variations of ZAR (z-score above replacement).
The z-scores are based on ATC projections and the average draft position (ADP) is based on NFBC drafts.
From February into March, JT Realmuto has been drafted earlier and earlier, moving from the 60s all the way below 50. But there is a good reason for this when you consider replacement value. Only Cody Bellinger at 1B and the top 6 outfielders (including Bellinger again) have a larger ZAR than Realmuto’s 6.12. If you are in a league with more positions like CI, MI, and four OF spots (i.e., the ZAR18 and ZAR48 numbers), Realmuto still has the 16th highest ZAR of position players listed here. The fewer the positions in your league, the more valuable high-end catchers are.
Gary Sanchez (3.82) is a huge drop-off from Realmuto according to projections mostly due to a bad average and fewer steals. However, Sanchez’s ZAR among position players ranks 20th in leagues with one of each position and 45th in leagues with a CI, MI, and four OF spots. He is ranked 55th in average draft position (ADP) among the position players listed here, so either way, you are getting him at a value based on ZAR. Also, as described in my previous article (https://udownwithobp.com/2020-03-17-is-it-worth-it-to-take-an-early-catcher/), the disparity between Realmuto and Sanchez and the replacement value at the position make me far more likely to snag them at or around their ADP.
While Bellinger and Freddie Freeman are seemingly head and shoulders above the other 1B targets, there is a lot of parity at this position based on ATC projections. I am probably staying away from Pete Alonso at his current ADP. While I will not argue he could be the third best first baseman, the difference between him and a guy like Anthony Rizzo is not that great (3.89 to 3.44 z-scores, respectively), and Rizzo tends to be there 40 picks later. If you miss out on Rizzo, there are solid guys all the way down to around the 14th projected 1B, Yuli Gurriel (150.7 ADP).
It is very clear that second basemen are getting pushed up due to worries about scarcity at the position. One very clear representation of this is Max Muncy (1.32 z-score). He is eligible at first, second and third, and is getting drafted around 76 overall. Players with similar overall projections who get drafted much later include Carlos Santana (1.46 z-score; 148.8 ADP) at 1B, Gurriel (1.18 z-score; 150.7 ADP) at 1B and 3B, Jorge Polanco (1.35 z-score; 166.8 ADP) at SS, and Trey “Boom Boom” Mancini (1.47 z-score; 109.5 ADP) at 1B and OF.
2B is also the position with the least disparity from the projected best option to replacement value. Altuve’s ZAR12 is just 3.30. So in a way, the rush to overdraft 2B might not be worth it if there is not a huge difference between the elite and replacement value players.
There is really not much separating the top four third basemen (Nolan Arenado, Rafael Devers, Alex Bregman, and Jose Ramirez) from an overall z-score perspective. There is obviously a difference in where the stats come from; Ramirez is the only one who positively contributes to steals at this position until 12th-projected Yoan Moncada. Projected for 27 steals, Ramirez is WELL above average. And although Moncada used to steal 40 bags per year in the minors, his totals in his two full seasons in the majors have been 12 and 10, respectively.
After the top 4, Anthony Rendon is in his own tier followed by Manny Machado and Kris Bryant. Then there is a less than 1.0 z-score difference between Eugenio Suarez and Gurriel, and there are seven other players sandwiched between them.
Francisco Lindor had a typical season for him except for dropping to just 74 RBI. Lindor and Trevor Story are so similar in their yearly output except their runs and RBI are basically flip-flopped based on where they bat in the order. They both provide 30+ HR, 20+ stolen bases, and solid averages. Although Story has outperformed Lindor in average the last 2 years, ATC actually projects Lindor for a higher average. If I have the choice between Lindor or Story, I go with Story just based on the floor of playing in Coors Field and a more bullish outlook on his average than ATC.
I like drafting one of the top seven SS: Lindor, Alex Bregman, Story, Trea Turner, Javier Baez, Xander Bogaerts, and Fernando Tatis, Jr. Only Bregman and Bogaerts offer below average steals. Torres, who is the 8th ranked SS, will probably be your 2B if you draft him. Machado represents the last option before a tier cliff. If you are in a league with a MI, it will probably be filled by a SS, not a 2B. The 18th-projected SS, Elvis Andrus, has a positive z-score (0.13) whereas the 18th-ranked 2B, Ryan McMahon, has a -1.67 z-score.
And the madness needs to stop; Jonathan Villar should not be drafted 38th overall. He was the 5th overall shortstop last year due to 40 steals, but there is too much variance and he is not an elite player like the other guys being drafted this high. In fact, Villar’s z-score (0.72) is almost identical to Paul DeJong’s (0.67) and DeJong goes around pick 200. Of course, DeJong does not offer the steals, but you can be smart and find them elsewhere.
Since you have to start 3 to 5 outfielders, loading up on the elite guys is one way to build a successful roster. Considering how many start, the best outfielders have the largest ZARs. If you have 2 or 3 of the best options, it means other teams will be left starting inferior options in the outfield.
Just like every other position, outfielders who steal are getting pushed up. Whether you agree or not, ATC projects Luis Robert to be similar to Adam Eaton but they are drafted 130 picks apart (80 to 208.8). Obviously, there is significant upside to someone like Robert, but this is just one case worth pointing out. Oscar Mercado and Ramon Laureano are seemingly being overdrafted due to steals. In an upcoming article, I will examine stolen base options that are not being severely overdrafted.
- C: It makes sense to “reach” on Realmuto and Sanchez.
- 1B: I hear a lot of experts saying 1B is a shallow position but there are around 15 solid options.
- 2B: Almost all second basemen are getting overdrafted and Max Muncy is a good example of this. There might not be as big a difference from the top 2Bs to the replacement value ones, so you do not need to reach like a lot of people are doing.
- 3B: Third base has an obvious top 4 with not much to split them in terms of overall value. But Ramirez is the only elite 3B who offers above average steals. Moncada is in fact the only other 3B with above average steals. If you do not snag one of the top 7, there is parity at this position.
- SS: The top 7 SS are elite and offer you above average steals except for Bregman and Bogaerts. Fill your MI spot from SS not 2B.
OF: Loading up on elite options could leave other teams with inferior starters in outfield. A lot of outfielders like Robert, Mercado, and Laureano are seemingly being overdrafted due to their steals.