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Digging Deep Series: Players to draft for On-Base Percentage Leagues

Digging DeepAverage Draft Position or ADP is commonly used to assist fantasy players in determining where to select batters and pitchers as they go through their draft. However, most ADP’s are derived from standard 5×5 categories and that presents challenges when leagues use another category such as OBP instead of batting average.  To assist those fantasy owners, we have analyzed the hitters who get the biggest boost in their value in OBP league.  Conversely, we have also listed the players who take the biggest hit.

Instead of picking a specific projection system, we took 2018 actual stats for hitters (batters > 140 Plate Appearances (PAs)) and calculated their z-scores for BA and z-scores for OBP, weighted for the number of plate appearances. We believe weighting for PAs is a more accurate reflection of how much the hitter would affect your team.  In essence, if you have a player who bats .200 with 600 PAs, he will pull down your team’s batting average much more than if only has 200 PAs.

After calculating the weighted z-scores for BA and OBP for the 405 qualified hitters, here are some of the hitters who had the biggest increase in z-score when going from BA to OBP.

Hitters with the biggest improvement in z-score when going from BA to OBP:

Looking at the names above, there are no real surprises. Everyone is already picking Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, and (hopefully) Bryce Harper in the 1st round regardless of what type of league they’re in – and we already know that Brandon Nimmo and Joey Votto are OBP machines. (But did you know that Andrew McCutchen, even at the ripe old age of 31, still has an OBP tool which would be given a 70 grade?)

The value of these lists is highest when players emerge who were unexpected. Instead of merely subtracting the raw z-scores, I decided to compare the change in rankings – which is after all that ADP is. If we compare the z-score ranking of a hitter in terms of Batting Average with the z-score ranking of the hitter’s OBP, perhaps more interesting names emerge:

Hitters with biggest RANK improvement when going from BA to OBP:

We all know that Carlos Santana is much better in OBP leagues than in BA leagues but did you know that he had the 53rd best OBP in the league among hitters with > 140 PA’s last year? Those who are being swayed by his 199 ADP should realize that he is probably being drafted that late because of his poor Batting Average. In fact, in the Roto-Regs (OBP) league that I’m in with Rich, I had Santana ranked in the top 100 (as the 8th best 1B).

Interestingly, there are a couple catchers on this list: Robinson Chirinos and Chris Iannetta. As we have already made clear in our rankings, the Catcher position is challenging. However, there might be some sunlight peeking through the clouds in OBP leagues where taking Iannetta or Chirinos can give some sneaky value.

A couple of Cubs make it on this list as well: Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber. Although Joe Maddon likes to play match-ups and platoons all season, even with their reduced playing time (compared to full-time regulars), these two Cubs still make it into the top ten for largest improvement in OBP compared to BA. Unsurprisingly, Rich has Happ (and I have Schwarber) in the Roto-Regs league.

The two (2) other names on the list are known for having significant platoon splits Justin Bour, with a career 77 wRC+ against LHPs (129 wRC+ against RHPs) and Michael Conforto, with a 90 wRC+ against LHPs (134 wRC+ against RHPs). Luckily, both are on the strong side of the platoon and also, despite being platooned – or perhaps because of the platooning – their OBP still ends up being in the top 100 in the league.

The “avoid” list.

In drafts, fantasy players are always looking for the sleepers.  We have provided several of those for your consideration above.  However, the opposite is also true.  You want to avoid those players who put up poor on-base percentage but are listed by the draft software much higher than they should be.

Below are the hitters we are suggesting you give a second thought to drafting if your league has OBP as a category. They have reasonably high ADPs – but keep in mind this is most likely influenced by the fact that the ADP is being driven by leagues still using Batting Average as a category.

Hitters who have the biggest drop in Z-score when going from BA to OBP:

Wow, there are some top 100 ADP names on this list: Javier Baez (17th), Jean Segura (60th), Eddie Rosario (77th), Miguel Andujar (79th), Jose Peraza (83rd), and Dee Gordon (97th). Although they do offer value in other categories, be aware of how much worse they are in OBP leagues.

You’ve heard it before…but, draft accordingly.

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