Hyun-Jin Ryu experienced a career season in 2019 and not because of his production (2.32 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 8.0 K/9). He was better in 2018 (1.97 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.7 K/9). The 182 IP was his highest total since he threw 192 in 2013. He entered the offseason as one of the top free agents and eventually signed with the Blue Jays. While his fantasy value should have taken a decent-sized hit, the drop took months. The same scenario is playing out with all the NL pitchers while incorporating the same DH penalty. Fantasy owners should be able to take advantage of the slow-moving crowd who have anchored their old evaluations.
Before going any further, I’m going to save some people some time. If a person doesn’t believe in the quality of Masterball and Steamer projections, they need to stop reading and go on with their day. No evidence (i.e. math) is going to convince them otherwise. For the rest, continue on.
While Ryu is a sample of just one, changes in his NFBC ADP (average draft position) show his perceived value slowly changed over the course of the offseason. To illustrate this change, I will use the NFBC’s draft champions information because it was available before Ryu signed with the Blue Jays on December 27th. Before the trade, Steamer projected Ryu for a (3.74 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9). After the trade, the projection worsened (4.27 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 8.0 K/9). Part of the adjustment can be attributed to changing parks, but most of it was from the addition of the DH.
Time Frame: NFBC ADP
Before signing: 107
Dec (after signing) and Jan: 130
While some January leagues may have drafted Ryu before the signing, the news should have sunk in by the February drafts. While there was some initial change, the gap continued to widen into April. In all, he dropped 44 spots or about three to four rounds depending on the league size.
Moving onto the current projections and draft valuations, AL and NL pitchers should be on the move compared to each other. To see if an adjustment is occurring, I collected the overall ADP from March and compared it to the ADP since June 1st. I took five presumed healthy starters, then and now, from each league who were being drafted closest to pick 107 in the earlier drafts and compared them to their current ADP (ignored Shohei Ohtani, James Paxton, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jesus Luzardo, and Zack Wheeler).
Note: In the latest drafts, closers are getting pushed up for a couple of reasons. First, fantasy owners know that they won’t be able to grind out Saves during the season so they are prioritizing them now. Second, closers are likely to accumulate a higher percentage of the innings making them more valuable. The move up by closers means that the average starter ADP should be heading down.
The new valuations are beginning to barely creep in. Ryu immediately dropped 23 spots and eventually 44 spots while the NL pitchers have only dropped four so far. It took a while for the market to find Ryu’s price and the current correct seems to be even slower at making the adjustment.
Here is another way to look at the same dataset. The pitcher’s rank (i.e. order being drafted) is compared to my projected based pitcher rankings. While I know more goes into the public valuation (ADP) than just the projected stats, a pitcher’s final contribution comes from the stats they produce. A projection has to be a valuation starting point.
All starters are seeing their value drop, especially in this range where closers are being drafted. The AL starters have about 3 more spots to drop to groove in with their projected values. It’s about another 31 spots for NL pitchers.
For the three people still reading, what does that mean? Draft all the AL pitchers you can. Sit down with the updated projections and find some matched pitching pairs and draft all AL pitchers at a discount before the market corrects itself, if it even can in a couple of weeks.
Here are a couple of examples of how waiting on starting pitching can pay off by matching up a couple of starters.
Assuming a 12-team league, a fantasy player can have Walker Buehler in the 2nd round and Clayton Kershaw in the 4th. Or a player can wait and draft Charlie Morton in the 5th and Zack Greinke in the 6th for the same projected production. Owners will start catching onto this market inefficiency but if the slow crawl in Ryu’s ADP is any indication, it’s a huge advantage to exploit. For those fantasy managers who somewhat believe in projections, the price mismatch is a sizable edge. Many owners are going to be anchored to the rankings they read or heard about for months. And …