FANTASY BASEBALL 2021: VALUES BY POSITION

What are the best values at each position? How do you actually use the price lists that I’m sure many of you already are aware of? I’m using Yahoo! prices and I focus on auctions, or as Yahoo! now calls them: “salary cap drafts”. That said, you can apply my rankings for drafts as well. I also recommend checking out Fangraphs projections. I personally prefer ATC, as they’re the most accurate ones, but you can’t really go wrong by comparing all of them. A note: in general, streaming hitters is very valuable as it limits your bad starts by utilizing hot streaks and matchups. It’s also important to target hitters who can help in all or most categories, especially if your league uses stolen bases, as you can’t stream those.

STARTING PITCHERS

Pitchers are more volatile than hitters as they get injured more often and typically have greater annual changes in performance. They also help you less than hitters in Rotisserie, as in a five category hitter is worth more than an ace. With that in mind…

Overpays

Gerrit Cole, Jacob DeGrom and Shane Bieber are all twice as expensive as starting pitchers who aren’t that much worse. Bieber isn‘t even on a team with a good offense which will affect his wins. Max Scherzer is 36 and coming off a 3.74 ERA (3.46 FIP), he’s not an ace anymore. Trevor Bauer is inconsistent and his last full season was nowhere close to an ace’s production. He might have a good season like in 2018, but the risk isn’t worth the price tag. The main thing to consider is that to win Rotisserie leagues, you want to shoot for an ERA in the 3.30 range, which is why paying premium for an ace is not really efficient. In Head to Head, you need quantity not quality to get as many good starts and therefore wins as possible. Walker Buehler had a 4.36 FIP and a 3.93 xFIP last season. He’s almost certainly better than that, but you still have to consider that he’s too inconsistent compared to his price tag.

Yu Darvish is in his mid-30’s and hasn’t had an ERA below 3.86 in at least 130 innings since 2013! He delivered a 3.41 ERA in 100.1 innings in 2016 and of course a 2.01 ERA in 76 innings in 2020, but the last time he pitched a significant amount of innings, he delivered a 3.98 ERA in 178.2 in 2019. I just feel that he might not be as good as his price tag. Zac Gallen has never pitched a full season and is on a bad team, he should cost half as much as he does. Jesus Luzardo, Framber Valdez, Sixto Sanchez, Lance McCullers Jr., Joe Musgrove are too unproven to cost as much as they do. They can break out, but there’s no need to take the risk, when there are cheaper options that can be potentially just as good if not better. Jack Flaherty is too inconsistent to cost as much as he does, it’s still not clear if he’s really an ace or if he’s just a #2-3 starter forced to be in an ace role. If you believe his projections, Lucas Giolito belongs here too.

Best Values

Blake Snell, Clayton Kershaw, Brandon Woodruff and Luis Castillo are very good values as each can be a Cy Young candidate in 2021 and Kershaw and Snell should get a good amount of wins. Aaron Nola is pushing it a bit but is worth the price based on his ability. Carlos Carrasco and Zack Greinke in his contract year are good values as well. Chris Sale, Noah Syndergaard and Luis Severino are great stashes due to their injuries, as if they’re anywhere close to how they normally pitch, they will be major mid-season difference makers that can put you over the top. Corey Kluber was a top 5 fantasy pitcher not that long ago, if he’s finally healthy then he might just have another big year in his contract year.

Sleepers

Zach Eflin upped his K/9 to 10.68 last season and had a 3.39 FIP and 3.23 xFIP. The projections don’t trust him to repeat this, but he’s so cheap that he’s worth a shot. German Marquez may be on a bad team, but he can still give you top of the rotation numbers and is a steal at his price. Nick Pivetta was a major breakout candidate just 2 years ago and pitched like an ace in a few starts for Boston at the end of the 2020 season. Domingo German has a high strikeout rate and will be pitching for a good team with the New York Yankees. Tanner Houck and Triston McKenzie had great starts to close out last season and could potentially continue that performance this season.

RELIEF PITCHERS

Did you know that over half of all teams change closers during the season? Did you notice how many supposedly elite closers suddenly fall apart? This section is simple: DO NOT pay for saves. Spend as little as possible in auctions and don’t take closers until the end in drafts.

CATCHERS

Remember how a home run by a catcher gives you more points than one by a hitter from another position? Wait they don’t?! So then why do you spend so much on players that would be on the waiver wire for any other position?! All of those extra dollars add up. This is a prime position to stream or to get a cheap player at. Isiah Kiner-Falefa is eligible despite being a SS, so is a sneaky way to get OK production, since catchers typically get less AB’s than other position players. Christian Vazquez and Gary Sanchez are bargains at their price tags. Vazquez can give you a .280 AVG, some rare stolen bases for a catcher and 20 HR’s. Sanchez was the second most expensive catcher in fantasy just a year ago and can still put up big power numbers.

FIRST BASEMEN

This is one of the best positions to stream as most first basemen aren’t five category contributors. Freddie Freeman is the best option but really isn’t worth his price due to his power being questionable without a juiced ball. Cody Bellinger is the best value and reminds me of Paul Goldschmidt back when he was a top 5 fantasy player. Almost all expensive first basemen such as Luke Voit, Pete Alonso and Jose Abreu and cheaper options such as Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Olson and Anthony Rizzo are just not really worth it, when you can just stream similar production. You can get potential bargains in Rhys Hoskins, Bobby Dalbec, Trey Makcini and Jesus Aguilar.

SECOND BASEMEN

This position is a dead zone this year. There are no elite players available.

Overpays

Ozzie Albies has contact issues and never came close to stealing 20 bases in a season. He also might not be a 20 home run hitter without a juiced ball. Whit Merrifield only helps in stolen bases, average and runs and is going deeper into his 30’s and has declining speed. DJ LeMahieu is a decline risk who really only excels in average and runs and who knows if he’ll keep up that contact. Keston Hiura is the new Rougned Odor, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is batting too low in Toronto’s batting order and is too unproven to warrant his price tag. Cavan Biggio will be batting too low too and can’t hit for average. Ketel Marte is coming off a down year and likely overachieved in 2019. Jose Altuve is in decline and doesn’t even really steal bases anymore.

Best Values

The best value is Marcus Semien. He’s not yet eligible for the position, but will be early in the season. He’s in his contract year and was on a tear to close out last season. .256 24 HR 74 RBI 90 R 10 SB is his ATC projection, but don’t be surprised if his average is higher and I expect him to have more RBI, due to him batting st the top of Toronto’s batting order. Tommy Edman and David Fletcher are sneakily good options that you can get for cheap. Both could have a high number of runs with a good average and in Edman‘s case a good amount of stolen bases. If you’re looking for stolen bases Yelp then Jon Berti is available. You can also roll the dice on Andres Giménez or Jean Segura.

SHORTSTOPS

You must get an elite SS this season. Trea Turner, Trevor Story, Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Libdor and even the slightly overpriced due to lack of playing a full season Bo Bichette. Fernando Tatis Jr., is too expensive compared to the others and Carlos Correa is an injury risk. Another overpay is Adalberto Mondesi, who can’t stay health or do anything besides stealing bases. He’s not almost $15 better than Story. He also has contact issues. If you can’t get one of the best options, then go after Tim Anderson or Javier Baez. Even Gleyber Torres is a good option if you couldn’t get an elite option.

THIRD BASEMEN

Jose Ramirez is clearly the elite option here. He has been a bit inconsistent, but he’s still too good not to go after. The best value is Rafael Devers, who is undervalued after a fluke 2020. The 2019 version that was a top 5 3B is more reflective of the player that he is. Manny Machado is another good option. Alec Bohm and Yoan Moncada are worth their prices too. Bohm in particular is likely to be better than his projections. Alex Bregman and Anthony Rendon are clear overpays however. Neither is going to hit 30 home runs or steal more than a couple bases.

OUTFIELDERS

This is where there are a lot of options and a lot of values and overpays to be found.

Overpays

Juan Soto isn’t $15 better than Bryce Harper, when the only area that he’s better at is average. Mookie Betts is too inconsistent and won’t be hitting 30 home runs in a pitcher’s park with a deadened ball. He might not even steal 20 bases. Mike Trout doesn’t steal anymore and has been quietly missing some time with injuries in recent seasons. Kyle Tucker and Luis Robert are ridiculously overpriced when they’re batting low in the batting order and never played a full season in the Majors. Tucker isn’t even that fast and Robert has serious contact issues. Trent Grisham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are nowhere near proven or good enough. Grisham’s contact issues could lead to major issues and a potential drop in the batting order. Aaron Judge and Byron Buxton can’t stay healthy. J.D. Martinez is in decline and George Springer without cheating and a juiced ball are other overpays. I alresdy talked about Whit Merrifield. Yordan Alvarez just had double knee surgery and clearly overachieved with a juiced ball in 2019.

Best Values

I already mentioned Cody Bellinger. Bryce Harper is another great option. He’s quietly shed his injury-prone label, playing 159 games in 2018, 157 in 2019 and 58 (in a 60 game season) in 2020. He’s a legit 5 category contributor, who can improve his average, as his xBA was .307 and he has hit .300+ before. Starling Marte in his contract year is a good option. Austin Meadows can be a bargain and Randy Arozarena may just be worth the price tag. If you can stomach the average, Joey Gallo is a solid option. Ramon Laureano and to a lesser extent Victor Robles are great at their price tags. If they improve in the contact department, their value will rise significantly and they’ll cost at least as much as Trent Grisham. The best part is even now they’re as good as him.

Sleepers

Dylan Carlson and Jarred Kelenic are potential 5 tool players. Carlson actually was on a test to close out the 2020 season. Clint Frazier may end up batting higher with all the injuries that the New York Yankees have and has potential.

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