NFBC ADP vs. Player Rater: Finding Overrated Pitchers
by Mac Squibb
March 26, 2019
For the last month, I’ve been talking about ESPN’s Player Rater, how it’s calculated, and why it’s a valuable tool for fantasy baseball. I’ve already covered undervalued hitters, overrated hitters, and undervalued pitchers and will be discussing overrated pitchers in this article.
In order to determine if a player is being overrated, I’ve compared their NFBC ADP after 2/1 with their Player Rater rank. A player will be considered overrated any time that their ADP is lower than their Player Rater rank as we will have to draft them earlier than what their projections dictate. I will be listing the players who have the largest gaps between ADP and rank within the top 50, 100, 250, and 400 overall players. The entire list of players will be available at the end of the article.
Noah Syndergaard | Player Rater Rank: 86 | NFBC ADP: 42.09 | Difference: -43.91
Noah Syndergaard is being drafted just five picks behind Carlos Carrasco who appeared on the list of undervalued pitchers. What separates the two is the number of innings that each is projected to pitch. Noah actually has a better projected ERA than Carrasco, but falls significantly short in strikeouts and wins due to the lack of volume. Syndergaard has reached 30 starts just once in his career which helps explain the systems projected innings total for him.
Walker Buehler | Player Rater Rank: 73 | NFBC ADP: 39.56 | Difference: -33.44
Walker Buehler falls into the same category as Noah Syndergaard. His projected ERA is again lower than his ADP neighbor Carlos Carrasco, but he is projected for far fewer innings pitched and thus less wins and strikeouts. Buehler is projected for approximately 165 innings this year which is just slightly higher than his career high of 153.1 innings set in 2018. It seems unlikely that the Dodgers would push Buehler much beyond that point considering their depth at starting pitcher and their track record of manipulating the IL.
Patrick Corbin | Player Rater Rank: 79 | NFBC ADP: 50.77 | Difference: -28.23
It appears that owners are drafting Corbin based on his 2018 numbers which were phenomenal. After all, he was one of just eight pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched and 200 strikeouts last season. The projection systems see him taking a large step backwards in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts which explains why he’s being overrated based on his projections.
Edwin Diaz | Player Rater Rank: 77 | NFBC ADP: 50.64 | Difference: -26.36
Aaron Nola | Player Rater Rank: 51 | NFBC ADP: 25.01 | Difference: -25.99
Madison Bumgarner | Player Rater Rank: 177 | NFBC ADP: 79.88 | Difference: -97.12
Once one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, Madison Bumgarner is a shadow of his old self following the shoulder injury in 2017. Over the last two seasons, Bumgarner has had his worst and 2nd worst strikeout rate, FIP, and xFIP since his rookie season. Owners appear to be taking a risk based on his upside, however, he’s done little since his injury, including spring training, to show that he could regain his old form.
Mike Clevinger | Player Rater Rank: 147 | NFBC ADP: 63.84 | Difference: -83.16
Mike Clevinger set career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts during 2018, which made him a member of the 200 innings and 200 strikeouts club. The big reason that Clevinger appears on this list is the drastic difference between his ERA the last two seasons and his projected ERA for 2019. Clevinger has posted an ERA of 3.11 and 3.02 the last two season, but is projected for no better than a 3.70 ERA. A large portion of this discrepancy can be explained by his home run allowed rate which the systems project to jump closer to league average in 2019.
Blake Treinen | Player Rater Rank: 136 | NFBC ADP: 62.17 | Difference: -73.83
Nearly every projected closer would be included in this article if I had room. The position in general is fickle and incredibly hard to predict. While Treinen is one of the truly elite closers, even his value is being dramatically inflated. Treinen might dominate a single category and be elite in a couple more, but his production in the four non-save categories are limited due to his innings total. Owners who are drafting relievers early are passing up on position players and starting pitchers that contribute more overall value than relievers.
Zack Wheeler | Player Rater Rank: 159 | NFBC ADP: 90.17 | Difference: -68.83
Felipe Vazquez | Player Rater Rank: 149 | NFBC ADP: 93.42 | Difference: -55.58
Forrest Whitley | Player Rater Rank: 590 | NFBC ADP: 246.75 | Difference: -343.25
Forrest Whitley is the first of a group of young pitchers that appear on this list. Whitley’s talent is undeniable and has vaulted him all the way to #7 on the prospect rankings at MLB.com. The reason that Whitley and the other young arms appear on this list is that they don’t have a guaranteed spot on their respective teams. Whitley could easily pitch over 100 innings for the Astros this year, but could just as easily remain in the minors for nearly the entire season. Owners are chasing his potential upside while passing up on players with a more secure role.
Alex Colome | Player Rater Rank: 426 | NFBC ADP: 236.36 | Difference: -189.64
Alex Colome is another example of a closer that is being overrated. Colome differs from Treinen in that he not only isn’t elite in WHIP and ERA, but also doesn’t have his closer position secured. The White Sox also have Nate Jones and Kelvin Herrera whom both have past experience closing.
Yusei Kikuchi | Player Rater Rank: 327 | NFBC ADP: 176.63 | Difference: -150.37
This offseason, the Mariners signed Japanese star pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. What fantasy owners failed to realize was that a creative pitching plan was one of the reasons that the Mariners were able to land him. This plan included using him as an opener every fifth start for at least the 2019 season to help him adjust to the five-man rotation. The fangraphs systems project an average of 147 innings pitched for Kikuchi in 2019, which is largely why he is considered overrated.
Pedro Strop | Player Rater Rank: 361 | NFBC ADP: 240.47 | Difference: -120.53
Jordan Hicks | Player Rater Rank: 340 | NFBC ADP: 221.09 | Difference: -118.91
Carlos Martinez | Player Rater Rank: 260 | NFBC ADP: 145.92 | Difference: -114.08
Michael Soroka | Player Rater Rank: 518 | NFBC ADP: 319.07 | Difference: -198.93
Mike Soroka is another example of a young pitcher without a secure role. It was recently announced that Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright will be filling the final spots in the Braves starting rotation to begin the season. Soroka has the talent to be a solid MLB pitcher, however, he should be used as an example of why it’s risky to draft players without a clear path to playing time.
Touki Toussaint | Player Rater Rank: 527 | NFBC ADP: 342.13 | Difference: -184.87
Touki Toussaint is in the exact same situation as Mike Soroka. The Braves have a deep system of talented starting pitchers and thus it will be hard to predict which ends up with the most innings in 2019. Toussaint and others like him are overrated due to their lack of playing time.
Corbin Burnes | Player Rater Rank: 469 | NFBC ADP: 312.83 | Difference: -156.17
Unlike Soroka and Toussaint, Corbin Burnes was able to secure a starting role in 2019. Burnes is exactly why owners are willing to pass up on guaranteed production from less talented players to chase the upside of those without a defined role. In all likelihood, Burnes will surpass his projected numbers now that he has a secured position. However, owners shouldn’t succumb to recency bias when drafting this class of players in the future. On this list alone, there are three young pitchers that missed out on an opening day rotation spot which lowered their value.
Julio Urias | Player Rater Rank: 453 | NFBC ADP: 297.86 | Difference: -155.14
Trevor Williams | Player Rater Rank: 445 | NFBC ADP: 304.85 | Difference: -140.15
The point of this article was not only to point out the specific players that are being overrated, but also the type of player. Recently at Fangraphs, Ariel Cohen wrote an article titled “The Case for an Ace” in which he breaks down which tier of pitcher is the best return for your investment. He discovered that for 2018, the worth returns were found in the middle rounds. This sentiment is mirrored in this article as a large portion of the players fall into that group.
The remaining players mostly fall into the category of young pitchers without a secured role or closers. Corbin Burnes is an example of why it’s sometimes worth it to gamble on a talented player without playing time. However, a success story like Burnes shouldn’t overshadow all of the players who missed out on a starting gig. Owners who are willing to draft players in this class are passing up on other more productive players which isn’t profitable in the long run.
In February, Alex Fast at Pitcher List wrote an article about closers and how the landscape of the position is changing. His conclusion was that we should wait on saves as they “are likely going to be in abundance more so than ever before”. The results of his analysis support the findings in this article which indicate that nearly every reliever is being overrated. Being aware of these trends can not only make you aware of your own biases but also help you exploit the biases of others.
The Player Rater rankings are calculated based on the projections provided by ATC, THE BAT, and Depth Charts. The rankings should by no means be the sole resource for determining a players value, but merely a tool to help illuminate some of our shortcomings and biases. It’s important to still do your own research and determine to what extent you believe the numbers that the projection systems produce. The systems will never be perfect and thus the projections alone shouldn’t be enough to deter or incentivize you to draft a certain player.
Google Doc with NFBC ADP vs. Player Rater rank comparisons.
NFBC ADP vs. Player Rater: 11 Undervalued Hitters
NFBC ADP vs. Player Rater: 12 Overrated Hitters
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