Fantasy: Don’t Fear Jose Altuve Late in First Round

I got caught up in an interesting Twitter debate Friday afternoon regarding Astros 2B Jose Altuve with FantasyAlarm.Com’s Ray Flowers that prompted a detailed response from Flowers about our Altuve dispute where he doubled down on his assertion that Altuve’s ADP of 10th overall is huge mistake.

The main crux of his argument is that Altuve is not an across-the-board contributor. He claims Altuve’s lack of power in this current environment makes him a terrible choice at the end of the 1st round.  In this article I’m going to demonstrate why this shouldn’t be a major concern for you.

Hitting Your Marks

In 5×5 rotisserie leagues, the goal is to construct a lineup that gives you a chance to accumulate as many points as possible in the various categories. In NFBC 15-team leagues, I’ve come up with these target numbers for each category.

HR R RBI SB AVG
250 930 930 150 0.270

Hitting each of these five offensive targets should put you in the Top 3 of each category, accumulating at least 65 of the maximum possible 75 points. There are 14 hitting positions to fill, so you are looking for these averages per active roster spot:

HR R RBI SB AVG
17.9 66.4 66.4 10.7 0.270

Value Is Value

The key to winning fantasy baseball leagues is to constantly find the best value in each of your picks no matter what round you are in. Getting power-happy in the early portion of the draft has been a trendy tactic over the past couple years as power has declined in baseball. Let’s look at a couple of the players Flowers suggested he’d rather pick over Jose Altuve in the 1st round and their Steamer projections:

Name PA HR R RBI SB AVG
Anthony Rendon 648 18 85 71 11 0.278
Adam Jones 653 27 79 92 7 0.274
Jose Altuve 668 8 84 62 35 0.300

NFBC has a player rating system that compares a player’s statistics to league average and creates a score to show what their true 5×5 Roto value is. Based on the above 2015 Steamer projections, here is where each of these players would have finished last season:

 Name HR R RBI SB AVG TOTAL
Anthony Rendon 1.47 1.99 1.54 0.86 0.38 6.24
Adam Jones 2.62 1.77 2.31 0.48 0.24 7.42
Jose Altuve 0.20 1.96 1.21 3.92 1.22 8.51

Altuve is the more valuable player based on 2015 Steamer projections (and most likely more valuable based on any credible projection system).

And now we get to Flowers’ main point. He says that “Power is harder to find than ever before.”  He is absolutely right but that does not mean there isn’t an island of misfit power bats available in the middle rounds. You should not be worried about missing out on power in the early rounds because THERE IS home run pop that you can add later in the draft.

In a recent NFBC draft of my own – where I took Altuve 12th overall – I had the powerful but flawed Chris Carter land right in my lap in the 10th round, 139th overall. Let’s look at his projection:

Name PA HR R RBI SB AVG
Chris Carter 592 31 73 82 4 0.222

Carter, a source of tremendous power, has been scaring the daylights out of fantasy owners for the past couple of years. Nobody wants to take on his treacherous batting average as it will surely drag their team average into oblivion. Well because we took the proper value in the first round (Altuve), we are now in a position where Chris Carter is worth significantly more to us than to the guy who took Anthony Rendon or Adam Jones. We get extra value from Carter because we can absorb his batting average better than they can!

Here is what our first round pick, combined with Carter would look like as a composite player. Remember, we need 18 HRs, 66 Runs, 66 RBIs, 11 SBs, and .270 Avg to crack the Top 3 of those categories.

Composite Player HR R RBI SB AVG
Rendon + Carter 24.5 79 76.5 7.5 0.251
Jones + Carter 29 76 87 5.5 0.249
Altuve + Carter 19.5 78.5 72 19.5 0.263

If we were to have chosen Rendon or Jones in the first round, Carter would be a terrible fit for us in the 10th round. We’d be in solid shape in three categories, but face crippling deficits in stolen bases and batting average. But because we chose Altuve (the most valuable of the 3 players), it allowed us to spend some of our excess batting average and stolen bases to acquire a middle-round power bat that nobody else wants to touch. With Altuve+Carter, we exceed our minimum requirements in FOUR categories and are not very far behind in a 5th.

A NFBC Draft Champions league that I won in 2013 stands out in my memory. The early rounds of the draft provided me a surplus of batting average and stolen bases, and I continued to take the best player available each round after that. The brutish Adam Dunn, who was coming off a terrible .159, 11 HR season, was getting drafted around 185th overall that year as people feared the damage his average would do. Because of the excess wealth I accumulated in other categories, Dunn was worth more to me than everybody else. I determined that if Dunn were to bounce back to the .220 range, I could absorb his average and bet that his home run power would return. After all, he did average 40 HRs a year for seven straight years prior to his 2012 abomination. I ended up being able to reach above his ADP and take him in the 11th round, 165th overall. He provided me with 41 HRs, 96 RBIs, and 87 runs in 2014 and was a key cog in winning the league.

Finding Speed

I suppose the counter argument to this approach would be, “Well we don’t need batting average lagging Chris Carter or Adam Dunn in the 10th round. Since we accumulated the extra power with Rendon or Jones, we can go after a speed merchant in these rounds. Perfectly reasonable case to state. You should be trying to balance your roster out. But does it work better than Altuve+Carter? Let’s look at the speedy Ben Revere, who went late in the 8th round of my draft, 118th overall. Under this scenario, since we took more power early, let’s grab this high average/stolen base machine from the Phillies and make up the ground we lost, right?

Name PA HR R RBI SB AVG
Ben Revere 622 3 64 42 37 0.285

And our new composite player:

Composite Player HR R RBI SB AVG
Rendon + Revere 10.5 74.5 56.5 24 0.282
Jones + Revere 15 71.5 67 22 0.280

Revere is a light hitting lead off man with virtually zero pop. You have now elevated your composite player into the upper echelon in stolen bases and batting average at the expense of HRs, runs, and RBIs. Despite Revere getting drafted a round or two earlier than Carter, the combinations with Rendon or Jones are worse in those three categories compared to Altuve+Carter.

There’s a myth going around that cheap steals are always available late in the draft. While it’s true you can occasionally hit the jackpot on a Dee Gordon from time to time, it is a very risky play to ignoring steals early in hopes of finding one of these guys late. These players are also dangerous to the health of your power categories as you can see from the Revere example. It just seems like an unnecessary strategic risk to plan on these guys delivering for you. Other owners plot this same strategy and often they reach above ADP to grab one of the speedsters you were also planning on supplementing your power with. Roster construction? Out the window.

Also, Chris Carter is not your only option to complement your team in these middle rounds. There are several very good targets to keep an eye for if you’re lucky enough for Altuve to land in your lap at the end of the 1st round. Lucas Duda (.234, 24 HR) and Marcell Ozuna (.255, 22 HR) were both available in the 9th round. I personally drafted Brandon Moss (.248, 28 HR) in the 12th round. Pedro Alvarez (.242, 26 HR), I got in the 14th round. Again, I could absorb these averages because I repeatedly took the best player available earlier in the draft, often players with overlooked batting averages. I constantly kept an eye on my roster construction to ensure I could absorb these lower batting averages and lack of stolen bases.

In 2014, there were 56 hitters drafted between selections 201-to-300. 16 of these hitters would hit at least 18 home runs. Meanwhile, 15 of the 56 managed 11 steals.

Back to my particular draft this year, after choosing Altuve 12th, I took Jacoby Ellsbury with my 2nd round pick, 19th overall. Between these two players, Steamer projects only 24 home runs between them. Even though I happened to not grab any huge raw power bats in the first two rounds, I still managed to construct a 14-man lineup that is projected to hit the magical 250 HR mark without falling behind in the other categories.

Altuve and .300

A repeated argument was also made that Jose Altuve “is not lock to hit .300 this year”. I believe this is a very pessimistic position to take and I haven’t heard a sensible reason for it. This is a player who hit .286 over his first 1300 PAs as a 22-23 year old youngster. Despite increasing his Swing% rate to over 50% last year, he made more contact than ever (4.4% SwStr) with an uptick of power on his way to a ridiculous .343 average.  This is an elite hit tool.

Not even the most bullish Altuve supporter would think he’s going to hit .343 again. That would be a very unfair expectation. However, not a single person who is bearish on Altuve has made a compelling argument why this 24-year-old can’t hit .300 again. Of course Altuve is “not a lock to hit .300”. By that argument there is no player who is a lock to hit any of their projections, including Mike Trout.

Yes, HR power has declined over the years. But so has batting average. Over the last six years the league average has fallen from .264 to .251. You are not going to find too many players past the 10th round who are going to give you 600+ PAs of near .300 average to complement your sluggers, and if they do hit those numbers they are tremendously weak in other categories.

To wrap this up, I’m telling you not to buy into the hysterics that there is no power available after the early rounds. Do not buy into the major regression talk. You should have no fear in drafting Jose Altuve with your first selection if he’s the best value on the board.

We hoped you liked reading Fantasy: Don’t Fear Jose Altuve Late in First Round by Josh Barnes!

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Josh Barnes is founder of Top500Prospects.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jb82mets and @top500prospects

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jimbxavier
Member
jimbxavier

The reason we don’t believe he can hit as well as he did last year is because he posted a .360 BABIP (as opposed to a .331 career). Now, interestingly, he had a career-high infield fly ball percentage, at 9.9%. His infield hit percentage of 10.7% was higher than his career 9.4%. Despite that weird quirk in his IFFB% spiking, it doesn’t seem like he’s going to maintain a .360 BABIP. Even his xBABIP predicts heavy regression, with a .321 mark. So it’s not as if something in his play last year caused him to post a number 30 points… Read more »

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

Here is why I am concerned: His xBABIP is .340 because of an extreme IFH%. I would normally think that this is somewhat sustainable, but I think eventually pitchers will try to exploit his new found reliance on making contract outside the zone. Altuve is a free swinger and if the contact rate falls, the SwgStk% and K% go up. But I’l agree he can hit around .300. He has begun to pull the ball a lot more, so I’ll be interested to see whether teams would be willing to shift on him. But I’m not buying the speed. Altuve… Read more »

dennisshumar
Member
dennisshumar

Great read! But I will not be anywhere close to drafting Altuve. His value is based off his ability to steal and his avg which will regress(should still steal close to 35 and hit 300). Ill gladly draft Howie Kendrick or Aybar in the late rounds and be ok with 20 less steals and 15 points in BA

Skin Blues
Member
Member
Skin Blues

His value in this article is already based on that regressed batting average and steals total. If anybody was expecting him to repeat 2014 he’d easily be the #1 pick. He was the #1 fantasy player last year by a landslide.

Gfuzz
Member
Gfuzz

Good article. As I think it through I can’t help but think that neither route — speed early, power early — is “correct” and that what one really needs to do is evaluate ADP’s before the draft to find the pressure points and tailor the strategy accordingly. I haven’t done it yet because it’s only January, but I will be curious to see whether your hypothesis is correct that there are attractive power bats middle to late, or perhaps I’ll see that it’s the opposite and I really like a bunch of speed late. Likewise for particular positions to target.… Read more »