Undervalued Draft Targets: Batting Average
Fantasy baseball is a beautiful game. There are so many ways to build a competitive roster given all the different ways a player can contribute.
There are different ways players can contribute to your fantasy season in category leagues. This series of articles will walk you through each of the five standard categories (runs, home runs, slap runs, stolen bases and batting average) and highlight some of the names you can get late in the draft that will help you in each category. .
The idea here is to find out which names can catch you in a category where you are behind at the start of the draft. It is important to compete at all levels, punting categories are never a good idea. We start with the batting average, we’ll find you some cheap names to bring up your team’s projected batting average.
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#1 Not all batting averages are created equal
A batter who hits .280 on 500 ab will help your team’s batting average a lot more than someone who hits .280 on 400 abs. It is a simple fact of division. For example, right now, Nick Madrigal should hit 0.295, but his AB projection is below 500 AB. Bryan Reynolds is expected to hit a lower .282 but expected for 552 AB.
Imagine a fantastic season where your team racks up 6,000 ABs and hits .260 (1,560 shots). Adding Nick Madrigal’s 132 hits in 449 AB, that brings your team’s batting average to .2622. Adding in Bryan Reynolds’ 157 hits in 552 AB does pretty much the same thing, bringing your team average to .2621. Reynolds would represent a higher percentage of your team’s total AB, so the hits he adds to your teams affect your overall batting average more.
This is also true in reverse, take Yasmani Grandal for example. The guy is predicted to only hit .236, but his AB projection is weak at 412. That’s because of the rest days he gets as a receiver, but also because of how often he walks. He’ll go 0/2 with two walks more often than a 0/4, so while both of those batting averages are 0.000 for the day, it hurts less. Keep an eye out for AB projections.
#2 Batting average is often a compromise
The way to hit for a high batting average is to put a ton of balls in play. The way to put a ton of balls in play is often to swing the bat slower. A slower swing does two things:
- Gives the batter more control over the bat
- Keeps the bat in the strike zone longer
Because of this, what we often see are the highest batting average throws accompanied by very low home run throws. Elite guys can do both at the same time, but the further down the draft board you go, the more home runs and RBIs you have to give up to get the batting average.
Visualization of AVG versus ADP
Here’s a scatter plot with every batter in the top 450 by ADP. It plots their projected batting average against their ADP. The dots at the top of the plot are the highest batting average projections, and the names to the right of the plot have progressively lower ADPs. We will choose a few names from this parcel.
End of round objectives
Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins (ADP 320)
The Twins’ utility man has the fourth-highest batting average projection in the league. Since making his MLB debut in 2019, he has one of the best contact rates in the game at 91.7%. That leads to an elite strikeout rate of just 9.1% and a career batting average of .313.
The bad news is that he’s the classic example of that trade-off between batting average and power. He’s only hit six home runs in 966 career plate appearances, that’s a big problem for your team’s energy production, taking anything less than five in home runs hurts you a bit.
If you’re interested in Spring Training stories, Arraez says he focused on strength in the offseason and worked with Nelson Cruz:
Take it as you want, personally I wouldn’t stock it at all, but who knows! Arraez is better aligned in the deep leagues where each player’s home run has less effect on the total, starting Arraez every day because one of your 10 or so batters is going to hurt in all but batting average – so be careful there.
Alex Verdugo, Boston Red Sox (ADP 160)
Still not much power here, but we’re getting closer. Verdugo hit 13 homers in a full season last year and also added six interceptions. It’s still a blow to your team’s power numbers, but it’s a hit you can make up for. ADP is also very different here, but Verdugo is worth it if you start your team without much batting average.
His career strikeout rate of 15.8% gives him a great average floor at bat, and he might even be able to hit 15+ home runs if he’s lucky with balls hit on the line at Fenway where the circuits are easy to find. He’s also a potential run-scoring stallion if he hits near the top of the Sox’s roster throughout the year; there are plenty of reasons to want Verdugo on your fantasy team.
Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies (ADP 160)
Coors Field is always a good place to go for batting average. The former top prospect infielder improved his strikeout rate significantly last year in 415 AP, posting a very nice 20.2% K% after being above 30% in his two first short stints with the Rockies in 2019 and 2020. This resulted in a .284 batting average on which I think there is still room for improvement.
Another cool thing about Rodgers is that he’s hitting pretty well on the road so far, beating .261 away from Coors in his short career. A .260 rating is league average at this point, so even in games away from Coors, he doesn’t hurt you. I think he could hit around .320 at home if things go well, and there’s also power potential with him (a not-awful 6.2% barrel rate last year).
Nick Madrigal, Chicago Cubs (ADP 300)
That pick depends on how it looks like the Cubs will use him. Madrigal was traded to the Cubs last year when he was injured and didn’t play a game for them. The Cubs’ roster is pretty lackluster this year, which could give Madrigal a chance to take the lead. If he leads all year, he’ll probably lead the league in hits. This guy almost never swings and misses shots in the strike zone (97.6% Z-Contact% career), and overall he makes contact on 92% of his swings. He almost never hits (7.4%) or walks (4.6% BB%), so he puts a ball in play in nearly 90% of his plate appearances.
If he hits near the bottom of the order, he’s not someone you want to start because his batting average will be completely empty. However, if he starts, he could score enough runs and steal enough bases to make up for the lack of power (two homers in his 324 career AP), making him a pretty interesting guy to make a speculative addition.
Others: Amed Rosario, Michael Brantley, Jean Segura, Gio Urshela
Objectives of the previous cycle
My overall strategy is to prioritize batting average early on so I don’t put myself in the position of feeling pressure to add any of the names we mentioned above. Here are the best top 100 targets to set you up for batting average success.
Corey Seager, Texas Rangers (ADP 80)
Seager has shown an elite strikeout rate over his career (18.5%), and it hasn’t compromised on power output. He bombed 104 home runs in 2,710 career PA, good for an above-average 26 PA/HR. This power generation has also seen a steep upswing as it posted an elite barrel rate of 15.8% in 2020 and then another high of 12.4% in 2021. Texas is not no longer batting heaven he was, but Seager’s batting average. will be maintained and it might also hit you 30 bombs.
Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks (ADP 80)
It has been an interesting time for Marte. He broke out in 2019 with 32 homers and a .329 batting average, proving to be one of the most valuable fantasy hitters in the game. He had a blackout in the short 2020 season, hitting just two homers. in 195 home plate appearances. Then he missed big time in 2021 but still hit .318 in 374 plate appearances, with good home run pace (14).
What we know for sure about Marte is that he doesn’t hit much (14.9% career) and has outrageous batting speed (max speed of 116 last year, and he has cleared 115 in each of the last four seasons). It also posted an above-average barrel rate of 8.9% last year. There’s some serious 30-homer potential here, and he’s a guy with a .275 batting average. He’s way too cheap right now, and you should target him in your drafts.
Others: Bryan Reynolds, Wander Franco, Nick Castellanos, Justin Turner, DJ LeMahieu
Thanks for viewing the post, check back soon for more end-of-round category goals!
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