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The Wheelhouse: Finding Market Inefficiencies

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Director of Media for, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire's shows on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210).

Think about it. Why did you spend $30 on a dozen roses for Valentine's Day when you could have been much more adored by picking up the same roses on one of the other 364 days of the year (they're also cheaper then)? It's common sense, really. Think of a random day during the next six months and take 15 seconds right now to add “buy flowers” to your calendar. It's worth your time.

Anyway, I'm more interested in value. We get fixated on this idea that things have a certain price and it's just OK to pay it because everyone else willing to. Sounds like a great away to finish in the middle of the pack in your league again, doesn't it?

This week, I want to highlight players that are great ADP values based on the RotoWire projections. Using data from Mock Draft Central and some spreadsheet filtering, it should become very clear where you can get much more bang for your buck than the other owners in your league. I will continue to revisit these systematic flaws in the coming weeks, but here are a handful players and that have already caught my eye.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B, CHC (ADP – 103.4) Proj. .268, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 71 R, 0 SB

Hopefully, this is the last time I will write “third base is weak this season,” but I really doubt it. Ramirez was much better after the All-Star break last season, hitting .276 with 15 homers and 51 RBI in 62 games. On a 500 at-bat pace, we're talking 33 homers and 112 RBI. Ramirez only missed 500 at-bats by 35, and he went over that threshold every year between 2006-08. Throw in the fact that it's also a contract year, and suddenly visions of .290, 35 HR, 115 RBI and 80 R begin to appear. I think the average projection is a little bit too pessimistic for a guy who hit .303 from 2004-09, especially when you see that his contact rate was 84 percent after the All-Star break, matching his career average. Look for numbers comparable to Adrian Beltre, but Ramirez will be available as many as 50 picks later in your draft.

Stephen Drew, SS, ARI (ADP – 125.9) Proj. .286, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 80 R, 8 SB

Where is the guy who hit 21 homers in 2008? While the power output has been something of a disappointment over the last two seasons, few fantasy owners realize that Drew is one of the fastest players in the game. It's likely a byproduct of his moderate stolen-base totals, but you can't rack up 35 triples in three seasons without great speed. Considering the D-Backs' expected aggressive approach on the basepaths under manager Kirk Gibson, there's reason to believe that Drew will be off and running much more often on the basepaths. Even if the adjustment leads to 15-20 steals, that would be a career-high for the 28-year-old shortstop. Perhaps even more opportunities will be afforded to him if he settles into the leadoff role on a daily basis for the course of a full season.

Drew Stubbs, OF, CIN (ADP – 169.2) Proj. .271, 23 HR, 72 RBI, 100 R, 40 SB

He's the only player we've projected for 23 homers and 40 steals (you can drop that number to 30 and he's still riding solo) this season and while there may be some wiggle room for debate about the .271 average (67 percent contact rate), it's very difficult to deny the tools. For those buying into .270-plus, the silver lining is that Stubbs was above 73 percent at all of his minor league stops in 2008 and 2009, so growth potential is a possibility if he can make the necessary adjustments. Even with an average in the .250's, Stubbs would be a cheaper version of a Chris Young-type player (undervalued himself at 100.8), so there's significant profit opportunity here even if you're thinking our projection is too optimistic.

Gordon Beckham, 2B, CHW (ADP – 267.2) Proj. .273, 15 HR, 69 RBI, 73 R, 6 SB

Plenty of disappointed Beckham owners from last season seem to be passing on the opportunity to own the young second baseman again this time around. Maybe it's because I didn't invest in him a year ago, but I'm willing to look past the ugly .216/.277/.304 line before the All-Star break given a few factors. Beckham showed signs of turning things around after the break with a .310/.380/.497 line over 54 games before his season ended with a hand injury. During that second-half surge, Beckham's .187 ISO ranked 10th at his position – ahead of Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley and Brandon Phillips. Considering the home park and the quality of the hitters around him, Beckham should be primed for a big 2011 that more closely resembles those post-break numbers. Even 100 spots ahead of his current ADP, I would much rather own Beckham than Kelly Johnson (ADP 113.4) this season.

Ike Davis, 1B, NYM (ADP – 276.9) Proj. .272, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 81 R, 1 SB

As a 24-year-old rookie, Davis held his own last season in a Mets lineup that was often ravaged by injuries. That opened up an opportunity to collect all but eight of his 520 at-bats in the middle-third of the order. While Davis may never project to be a 30-plus homer threat, he's still a viable option at his position because of the RBI and runs scored potential. Further, he didn't show terrible lefty/righty splits in his rookie campaign (.805 v. LHP/.787 v. RHP) and was able to hit for power both in his pitcher-friendly home park and on the road (eight homers at Citi Field, 11 elsewhere). Looking at the first basemen being drafted outside of the top 60, there's little to differentiate Davis' projection from that of Aubrey Huff (ADP – 108.3) or even Paul Konerko (72.5).

Neil Walker, 2B, PIT (ADP – 422.0) Proj. .278, 16 HR, 83 RBI, 70 R, 7 SB

Walker outlook prior to 2010 was understandably bleak:

Walker's major league debut with the Pirates was downright putrid in 2009. The Pittsburgh native complained about being passed over by current general manager Neal Huntington's draft picks -- Walker was selected by former GM David Littlefield, but his .195/.275/.222 line failed to back up his words. The 24-year-old third baseman is at a crossroads in his career. Super prospect Pedro Alvarez will likely take over third base some time in 2010, leaving Walker looking for another path to the majors. At some point, the Pirates will likely attempt to trade the disappointing 2004 No. 1 draft choice.

When the Akinori Iwamura train derailed, Walker managed to get a chance to prove himself at the big league level and never looked back. The pedigree had always been there, but clearly the move to second base worked out better than anyone could have expected. Even if he fails to fully live up to the expectations of such a high draft pick, the position switch makes him a much more viable rotisserie option and his placement in the lineup should lead to plenty of RBI chances behind Andrew McCutchen and runs scored with the heart of the order behind him. Walker was remarkably consistent after his callup in May, posting an OPS of .783 or better in each of his four full months in Pittsburgh. The lefty-righty splits don't reveal anything that suggests platoon, and like Beckham, Walker showed good power after the All-Star break with a .176 ISO.

40-Steal Players

We've projected 10 players to steal 40 or more bags this season. Five are very similar in what they're going to give you across the five hitting categories, so let's throw out Carl Crawford, Jose Reyes, Jacoby Ellsbury, B.J. Upton and Drew Stubbs to highlight a very important disconnect between expected production and cost.

Chone Figgins is the only non-outfielder of the bunch, and he checks in with the highest ADP of the lot even after a very disappointing first season in Seattle. It's interesting to point out that Brett Gardner is projected for nearly identical numbers, except that he'll hit one more homer, drive in four more runs and steal three more bases while crossing the plate five more times. Still, there is well over a 100-pick gap between the two players' ADP.

First Last Team Pos ADP AB AVG HR SB RBI R
Chone Figgins SEA 2B 91.7 582 0.275 3 41 39 81
Michael Bourn HOU OF 114.9 547 0.269 3 53 36 84
Juan Pierre CHW OF 136.9 489 0.284 0 51 36 78
Brett Gardner NYY OF 208.3 436 0.275 4 44 43 86
Rajai Davis TOR OF 339.5 425 0.289 4 43 45 59

Playing time seems to be the only real driving force behind which players are valued ahead of the others in this group, as you'll notice that projected at-bats correlate directly with the ADP. Is Michael Bourn really that much safer than Gardner? Is getting this production from a second baseman really worth paying the premium? No.

Perhaps there is something in the underlying numbers that reveals an obvious reason to overpay?

First Last Team BB% CT% AVG
Chone Figgins SEA 11% 81% 0.277
Michael Bourn HOU 10% 80% 0.261
Juan Pierre CHW 6% 93% 0.286
Brett Gardner NYY 14% 79% 0.268
Rajai Davis TOR 5% 85% 0.282

The walk and contact rates above are from last season, the average is actually a three-year mark going back through 2008. Ideally, speedsters can do at least one of the two following things. Put the ball in a play consistently, or draw a significant number of free passes. Each player here has either a 10 percent walk rate or an 85% contact rate. There is still nothing here that suggests Figgins is clearly a better option than the alternatives.

So who here is actually undervalued? Everyone but Figgins? Just Davis? Maybe it's only Gardner because he's shown a superior ability to draw walks. Ultimately, you should consider both Gardner and Davis at their respective draft positions. Gardner plays in an excellent home park with a very good lineup around him and Davis just may get an opportunity to lead off for a team that wants to be more aggressive on the basepaths this season. As spring training gets underway, Davis appears to be the biggest winner in the fallout from the Vernon Wells trade since the Jays only have Corey Patterson as an outfielder capable of playing center field battling for a roster spot in camp.