Numbers Can Deceive
When is a first round performer not a first round selection in a draft? Ray explains in this instructive piece.
The 2015 Fantasy Alarm Draft Guide, a few weeks from dropping, will have some unflattering things to say about Jose Altuve. I'm not predicting abject failure for Altuve, merely pointing out that it strains credulity to the breaking point if you believe he's hitting anywhere near .341 again or stealing 56 bases. Saying that on Twitter (@BaseballGuys) created a thunderstorm as folks came rushing to the little man's defense (and I'm not a "Height Supremacist" as I was called... though I did find that funny). The article in the Draft Guide will explain why I think regression is coming, so that's not why I'm writing this piece. I wanted to address the larger point.
@jb82mets on Twitter quickly leapt to the defense of Altuve, and unlike many others who say 'because I think so,' he had data to support his claims (which as you know I appreciate). A few of his statements follow.
Altuve: .300, five homers, 40 steals is about $34 AL Only Auction value. There aren't 12 guys worth more than that.
Elvis Andrus hit .271, 4 HR, 42 SB in 2013. Rated 26th best 5x5'er.
I'm not going to dispute those statements directly. I'm going to look at the situation differently.
Let's assume Player A, let's call him Franklin, hits. .300 with five homers, 50 RBIs, 85 runs and 45 steals. Is that player a top-25 fantasy performer? In 2014 he would have been, yes. So why would I not take Franklin in rounds one or two of a draft? After all, his "production" warrants that. Here's why.
In today's game there is no power. In 2014 there were only seven men who hit 35 homers and just 11 who hit 30. In 2004 there were nine men who hit 40 homers, 20 who hit 35 homers and 37 who hit 30 (including Jose Valentin by the way).
In 2014 there were 12 men who knocked in 100 runs. In 2004 there were 33 men who knocked in 100 runs.
Power is harder to find than ever before. I know that middle infielders aren't power hitters, but even in that context Altuve is a poor play. He hit seven homers which is barely average for the position, and his RBI total of 59 is low. You can obviously argue that the average/speed combo makes up for that loss, and as I noted above the fact is that his fantasy "value" last season did peg him as a first round performer. But, for me, that misses the point.
I long argued that Michael Bourn was wildly underrated in the fantasy game. A very similar performer to Altuve - all average, speed and runs - he was routinely "underdrafted" because he wasn't sexy and didn't have pop. So why am I turning against Altuve here? I could draft Bourn in the 5-7th round each year back in the day. This year Altuve is gonna be taken in the first couple of rounds. That's too risky for guys who aren't across the board contributors.
Why would I take a player in Altuve, who might be elite in two categories, solid in another (runs) and deficient in two others when I could take a player that is strong in four or five categories? ADP numbers from the NFBC last week showed that Altuve was going off the board with the #10 overall selection. Players taken after him include the following who I would personally draft earlier without hesitation: Anthony Rendon, Adam Jones, Michael Brantley, Ian Desmond, Jacoby Ellsbury (a similar but better player), Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez etc. Why take those guys over Altuve? They are more well rounded players. I'm not getting into a debate about who is the "better" player here, I'm simply stating that those are better all-around players. You can't doubt that. All the men listed are at least 15/15 type of guys (potentially better) who could hit triple digits in RBIs and push that figure in runs scored with a full season of health. Altuve-like players - Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton etc. - simply can't.
I'm all about the sneaky play, adding that guy people undervalue. Altuve isn't that guy - his cost is simply too high. Beyond that, folks are rostering a foundational player on their fantasy squad that is severely limited in a couple of categories. That's just not worth it at the start of a draft. Build your team with all-around talent early, guys that contribute across the board, as your foundation. You can worry about category wonders later in the draft.