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ADP Analysis: Underrated Hitters

Every Friday during the pre-season I will be analyzing ADP-related issues using the most recent information courtesy of Mock Draft Central and other sources. This week we are looking at hitters that are underrated in relation to their ADPs (unless stated otherwise, all stat references are for the 2011 season):

  • Catchers: Matt Wieters (ADP 98.90; 6th C), Salvador Perez (ADP 236.01; 17th C) and Devin Mesoraco (ADP 242.05; 24th C) - Wieters is a nice post-hype sleeper.  His home runs jumped from 11 in 502 plate-appearances in 2010 to 22 in 551 PAs in 2011. His HR/FB jumped from 8% in 2010 to 13.6% in 2011, and his ISO also jumped from .128 in 2010 to .188 in 2011. Wieters is a player developing and entering his prime. Ron Shandler writes in his 2012 Baseball Forecaster that the switch-hitter has 30-homer upside. Wieters also has AVG upside, as his BABIP was just .276 last season after being .356 in 385 PAs in 2009 and .287 in 2010.  Look to Wieters' 2011 second half xBA of .285 as the potential upside. Wieters also projects to hit 5th in Baltimore's lineup. ...  Perez is a nice C2 target as he projects to hit seventh in a big-upside lineup in Kansas City, and should see a substantial amount of the catcher at-bats without a viable backup. His .331 average in 2011 is not sustainable, as he had a .362 BABIP, but he hit in the .280-.290 range in the minors with good counting stats (2011 - 9 HRs and 43 RBIs in 309 Double-A PAs; 2010 - 7 HRs and 53 RBIs in 396 PAs in high class A). ... Mesoraco hits in a great home ballpark and has the most upside of any C2 relative to his ADP. If he gets the Dusty Baker treatment and sits the bench, he can easily be dropped since he's a late pick, or he can be streamed as your C3 to maximize at-bats from your catcher position.
  • First Basemen: Adam Lind (ADP 151.70; 14th 1B) and Gaby Sanchez (ADP 198.37; 17th 1B) - Lind is projected to hit cleanup -- behind walk machine Jose Bautista -- and plays in the hitter-friendly AL East.  His BABIP dropped to .265 in 2011, which resulted in an average of just .251.  However, his first-half xBA of .312 in 2011 and .311 xBA/.305 AVG in 2009 shows his AVG ceiling. Consistent power throughout his career -- and a bump from his 17% HR/FB in 2011 to the 20% he had in 2009 -- may bring stats close to his 2009 season (35 HRs/114 RBIs). The 22% HR/FB in first half of 2011 shows this is possible. I like Lind more than the three first basemen being drafted immediately before him: Paul Goldschmidt at ADP 147.60; Ryan Howard at ADP 145.73; and Mark Trumbo at ADP 142.61. ... Sanchez will be hitting in an improved Miami lineup with the addition of Jose Reyes, likely rebound of Hanley Ramirez, and further development of Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison. Sanchez's line drive rate (16.7% in 2009, 17.1% in 2010 and 20% in 2011) and BB/K ratio (.56% in 2010, .76% in 2011) have continued to improve, which shows his development as a hitter. This may be the year he avoids the second-half fade. First base is not deep this year, and after Mike Morse is taken in the range of the 5th-7th rounds, I like targeting Lind or Sanchez relative to their ADPs.
  • Second Basemen: Aaron Hill (232.96 ADP; 17th 2B) - Hill projects to hit second in the Arizona lineup, in front of stud Justin Upton, and should have a good chance to repeat the 103 runs he scored in 2009.  He also has massive upside, as evidenced by his 2009 (36 HRs/108 RBIs) and 2010 (26 HRs) seasons. In 2011, he also added a speed element, with 21 swipes after his previous career high had been six in 2009. If he can put it all together and avoid nagging leg injuries, he will easily outproduce his draft position. Hill is a strong middle-infield target after you fill your second-base slot, since shortstop is not as deep this year as 2B.
  • Shortstops: Alexei Ramirez (167.37 ADP; 13th SS) - Ramirez projects to hit second, so he should have good run opportunities, and with his health and consistenty over the course of his career, he has a chance to blow past his career high of 83 runs in 2010. The right-handed hitter has a good power/speed combo that should put him in the teens in both homers and steals. He may be a boring pick for those who do not want to reach for a shortstop, but helps win championships. I prefer targeting Ramirez as an underrated SS compared to the two shortstops off the board immediately after: Emilio Bonifacio (172.25 ADP; 14th SS) has playing-time concerns and no power, and Jhonny Peralta (175.79 ADP; 15th SS) has no speed and a lower batting average floor (.245 xBA in 2009, .260 xBA in 2010 and .262 xBA in 2011).   
  • Third Basemen: In an incredibly weak year for third basemen, I like targeting Evan Longoria (ADP 11.49) in the middle of the first round or Kevin Youkilis (ADP 84.66, 9th 3B) later on.  Longoria's unlucky .239 BABIP kept his average down, but his .286 xBA showed what his average should have been. His development as a hitter was demonstrated by his BB/K average spiking from .58% in 2010 to .86% in 2011. Also, his HR/FB returned to 18% after dropping to 11% in 2010. His upside is stated in Shandler's Forecaster as 40 HR/.290 AVG.  Given the position scarcity of 3B this season, Longoria is underrated at ADP 11.49. ... After Youkilis on the third-base depth chart, there is a huge dropoff, so don't let him slip past you in the draft. Youkilis' BABIP dipped to its lowest level since 2004 at .296, and his AVG tanked due to hitting only .234 versus right-handed pitchers. Since he has never had a problem with righties before despite a negative pattern emerging (.318 in 2008, .304 in 2009, .275 in 2010), let's hope it was a one-year blip. Also, a return to health should yield one more season approaching 2008 and 2009 levels despite Youkilis likely being on the downside of his career at age 33.
  • Outfielders: Jason Heyward (ADP 107.03, 31st OF), Bryce Harper (ADP 210.33, 55th OF) and Alex Rios (ADP 221.02, 60th OF). Heyward's BABIP was .260 in 2011, which resulted in a .227 average. But, his .251 xBA showed he's not a .220s hitter (in 2010, his xBA was .278 and his BA was .277). Also, he has dropped 20 pounds and was doing hitting drills at Turner Field in January 2012. I'll take the chance his eye returns that yielded 51 walks to 51 strikeouts in 422 PAs in the minors in 2009, and he can reverse the drop in line drive rate from 18% in 2010 at age 20 to 13% in 2011 at age 21. ... Harper is the classic high-upside fifth outfielder, both since his value will skyrocket if he makes the team out of Spring Training, and because if that happens -- like Yu Darvish discussed here -- you can take advantage of the owner in your league that makes trades based on name recognition over stats by selling very high early in the season. ... Rios' alternating years of good and bad seasons says this should be a good one. He is being drafted so low (Eric Thames and Nyjer Morgan are the OFs directly above him in ADP rank) that he is worth the chance to see if he can reverse a .237 BABIP (2009 was the only other year in his career his BABIP was below .300) and provide upside HR/SB numbers as your fifth or sixth outfielder. Remember: he had 21 HRs, 88 RBIs, 34 SBs and a .284 AVG as recently as 2010.

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