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Thursday 19th Oct 2017

We hear the adage every year, ‘spring training stats are meaningless.’ Yet every year we see ADP impacted by preseason stats. Should ADP be affected?

This time of year it seems every time a potentially fantasy relevant player has a hot streak or goes yard twice there is a surge in his average draft position. Conversely, we see ADP slide when a hurler gets hit hard more than once. Is this justified?

Early on most pitchers are just getting their work in. On a given day one pitcher may just be focused on establishing his fastball command, throwing nothing but the heater. This is the functional equivalent of batting practice (professional hitters who can drive a fastball knowing a fastball is coming are a dime a dozen). Other pitchers might be working on their changeup, firing 10 to 15 big fat matzah balls down the heart of the plate at 83 mph in rapid succession. Unless you’re actually watching the games unfold to see the story behind the stats, a player’s line from an exhibition game is really more subject to noise which precludes us from deriving any truly useful fantasy knowledge.

Let’s look at some of 2010’s preseason sluggers and if they were able to carry their results into the regular season when the games count.

2011 Preseason 2011 Regular Season
Jake Fox 10 .297 .325 .797 1.122 2 .246 .313 .443 .756
Mike Morse 9 .364 .421 .818 1.239 36 .303 .360 .550 .910
Kila Ka'aihue 7 .397 .462 .845 1.306 2 .195 .295 .317 .612
Alex Gordon 6 .343 .459 .729 1.187 23 .303 .376 .502 .878
Aubrey Huff 6 .369 .391 .692 1.084 12 .246 .306 .370 .676
Luke Hughes 6 .246 .265 .569 .834 7 .223 .289 .338 .627
Alex Rodriguez 6 .388 .444 .898 1.342 16 .276 .362 .461 .823
Mark Trumbo 6 .297 .316 .662 .978 29 .254 .291 .477 .768
Russell Branyan 5 .429 .492 .768 1.260 4 .238 .330 .479 .809
Chris Davis 5 .362 .387 .741 1.128 3 .250 .296 .408 .704
Alcides Escobar 5 .364 .400 .636 1.036 4 .254 .290 .343 .633
Ben Francisco 5 .362 .439 .667 1.106 6 .244 .340 .364 .704

So what does this tell us? The answer is as a general rule you’re better off focusing on the regular season stats from the previous year and ignoring the raw stats from preseason games. In the spirit of Dennis Green, these players are who we thought they were. We didn’t need spring training games to tell us that Mike Morse could rake. We knew Morse was good from his performance during 98 games in 2010 (.289/36/15/41/0). We knew Kila Ka’aihue was a AAAA player who had a long swing that would get exposed, just as it had previously during cups of coffee in September. And yet we were fooled, at least collectively, as represented by Kila’s rising ADP as spring training progressed and NFBC draft day approached. Jake Fox was another who duped people in AL Only Leagues and as a late round pick in Mixed Leagues. Aubrey Huff and Alex Rodriguez also saw a slight bump in ADP last year as their bats sizzled in March.

At the same time, what happens in spring training is not meaningless. Ideally we need to contextualize the stats to make them more useful. Watch as many games as possible. If Aaron Hill hits two bombs (he didn’t), find out if they were both against a Dan Haren who was using his full arsenal of pitches, or if they were against an inexperienced rookie from A ball, who hung a 75 mph curve ball up in the zone, and JJ Putz, who is working on a cut fastball and thus may be throwing that pitch exclusively throughout certain stretches.

Of course it is impossible to watch all of the games. That’s why we here at Mastersball have Perry Van Hook scouting players daily in the Cactus League and Brian Walton giving you highlights from action down in the Grapefruit League (if you haven’t been reading the Cactus League Notes and the Grapefruit League Notes, you’ve been missing out on some great stuff).

If I can’t watch the games and I’m left with the raw compiled stats over all of the exhibition games, when it comes to veteran hitters that are raking, all that tells me is that they’ve probably got their timing of the fastball down and they are probably healthy. That’s good to know, but I’m not going to let that influence where I’m going to draft somebody unless it’s someone coming off of an injury.

Hanley Ramirez (.409/.519/.773) is healthy and driving the ball well. His shoulder is fine. Draft him with confidence. Hanley’s ADP was 17 in February but has recently moved up a couple of notches to 15.

ARod’s swing looks great as well (.292/.370/.625). His knee and shoulder issues don’t appear to be of any concern. Yet his ADP has barely moved from 58 a month ago up to 56. Owners are still understandably gun-shy about whether or not the 36-year-old vet can stay healthy over a 162 game season.

With Mike Napoli I need to see him in the lineup everyday. That hasn’t happened to this point. His ankle is still not 100% after having the entire off-season to heal. Napoli’s ADP is holding steady at 39 and indicates owners are being much too dismissive of the risk in drafting this catcher who has to stoop for hours and put pressure on his lower legs most every day. Oh, and he’s also battling a groin problem.

Justin Morneau’s struggles this spring (.107/.167./.107) would be of no concern if he were coming off a healthy season. It often takes 35-50 AB’s to get one’s timing down. Not to mention hitters may be experimenting with their swing, but for someone who hasn’t been an asset at the plate since June of 2010, I need to see more before I invest. Even though he may only cost you a 16th round pick, there’s little to warrant confidence at this point. If you do gamble with Morneau be sure you have a plan B. Consider handcuffing Chris Parmalee (SEP: .355/.443/.592). Obviously a small sample size, but he’s a cheap insurance policy which you can usually get in the 30th round (ADP 517) that might return something in the event that Justin is shut down.

Ike Davis has Valley Fever and ironically his ADP has risen to seven spots up to 148. Perhaps some drafters are confused. This isn’t a good kind of fever. Unlike ‘disco fever’ that had everyone excited during the 70’s, Valley Fever’s severity of symptoms can range anywhere from being similar to a cold virus that saps your energy for a month, or it can be worse than mononucleosis on steroids. Conor Jackson downplayed the virus when he contracted it in 2009. Every time he thought he was getting better the symptoms would resurface. He ended up playing only 30 games (.182/.264/.253) before being shut down for the season. His career has never really gotten back on track. I’d wait until I’d see Davis playing in back to back games and showing some strength at the plate before I’d consider Davis as a gamble at CI.

Andre Ethier looked strong at the plate when I saw him and in just 19 AB’s he has six doubles, a triple, and a home run. His ADP has fallen from 109 to 117, as drafters must be concerned that he missed time due to back stiffness. His power outage last year was due to a knee injury. He had surgery in the fall and his knee is healthy now. So the back malady is a new and unrelated issue. A fantasy drafter should never ignore back problems, but I’m not much concerned about this…yet.

Chase Utley on the other hand would have to do something amazing for him to be back on my radar. He hasn’t appeared in a game yet and there’s still no timetable on his return. Coming off of an injury-plagued season and with skills in decline at age 33, Utley’s ADP has fallen from 77 to 90. That’s not enough. He’s not even a consideration for me in the first 12 rounds.

Adam LaRoche has only 8 AB’s with a double and a single. With an ADP of 338, Adam has considerable upside, but expectations should be kept low until he shows the ability to drive the ball and the ability to make hard throws in the infield without aggravating his shoulder.

Adam Dunn had an emergency appendectomy early last season and I think it may have impacted his power outage more than most people realize. He has looked decent enough at the plate (.294/.478./.706) and might only cost you a 15th round pick (ADP 212). If you miss out on the top tier first basemen and can afford the hit on BA it might be worth rolling the dice here.

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