Recency Bias in Early 2021 MLB Fantasy Drafts
As fantasy football season has come to an end, the redraft community turns it's focus to that of fantasy baseball. When Trader Andy (@amac22nj) and I brainstormed our "Stack Attack" brand in January 2020, we had intended it to be a baseball only podcast that we would record weekly all year round. Well, right out of the gate, we got smacked in the face by Covid-19. This set us back several weeks, as we had to change our focus from turning a 25 year hobby into an actualized dream to surviving, holding down our long time careers, and supporting our family. With the craziness and the delay of baseball season causing it to be swallowed up by big brother football, we decided to bring occasional podcast guest Nick Mimikos (@nmimi) on full time as our lead football analyst and jump into the huge pond of football analysis.
The football season was super successful for us, despite Covid-19 continuing to interfere with our ability to put out consistent content after the first few weeks. A few of the highlights were Nick's playoff birth in the Scott Fish Bowl, my 6th place finish in the Explosive Output Best Ball Challenge (144 analyst field), a first place finish in a 100 analyst "race to 500" league, and early development of our website Stackattackfantasy.com Most importantly, however, is the hundreds of connections and relationships built throughout the fantasy community this football season.
But while many of you are just turning the page to baseball, and many, many more aren't going to get here for a while , we've been here all along. Personally, I'm several drafts in already, including having completed a 30 team, 60 round dynasty draft and at the half way point of an analysts invitational best ball draft with the guys from Fantrax, led by Eric Cross and Chris Clegg. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best(or at least try)! Most of you won't be drafting your home leagues for several months, and that is the correct thing to do. You don't want to be drafting your "main" teams until free agency has come and gone, but the hardcore among us use January for best balls, dynasty start ups, mocks, and industry drafts.
The first thing that sticks out this early in draft season is that there is a severe overreaction to 2020. A 60 game season in most years we would call a "small sample size", but we're seeing 3rd round talent level players going in double digit rounds and vice versa.
I may die alone on Kris Bryant island. I recently got him at 129th overall in an expert draft. The former National League MVP is being drafted as the 11th 3B overall and in many cases has, or will gain, second position eligibility in the outfield. 2020 was a very disappointing sample for Bryant, with careerr lows in just about every predictive metric. His xWOBA and xSLUG were both nearly 100 points below any other season. Bryant, however, matched his career high in launch angle of 20.7% which we saw in 2016, the year he swatted 39 long balls, hit .292 and took home the MVP hardware. To me this speaks to a recognition for need for adjustment. Bryant only played in 34 games in 2020, mostly because of a cranky oblique, which is an injury which lingers and makes swinging a bat a very, very uncomfortable act. Bryant just turned 29 years old and is in his gree agent season. A trade does seem like a strong possiblility, and maybe that unknown is adding to the discount. At 129 you might be getting 80+ spots of return on investment, I'm banking on him as a top 50 player this year. I, personally, would (controversially) rather have him straight up over Rafael Devers, and he's going nearly 6 rounds later.
Say what you will about the Houston Astros and the garbage can scandal, but do you really think that over a ten year career and 5000 at bats that Jose Altuve benefited 100 points to his batting average? A career .311 hitter, Altuve disappointed with a mere .219 average behind a .230 xAVG in 2020, aided by a career worst 18.6% strikeout rate, which is still well below league average. Altuve is being drafted with an ADP of 100, while Brandon Lowe is going around 65th overall. To me this is a huge overraction to small sample size, recency bias, and the obvious Astros anger effect. I don't care that you wore a wire or banged on a can, I want stats to win my leagues and I'll take Altuve's consistent 500 AB floor and only glance at the 192 AB small sample .
A few other sliders I'm targeting during early draft season are Cristian Yelich(11), Cody Bellinger(15??), Eugenio Suarez(81), JD Martinez(85), Javy Baez(91), Mitch Hanniger(317), Patrick Corbin(114), and Sean Manaea(260).
On the flip side, there is even more recency bias in the early rounds with players being pushed up due to a small sample of success. Kyle Tucker has been on our radar for several years and is now being drafted in the THIRD ROUND of early 2021 drafts. He showed up last year, clubbing 9 HR and swiping 8 bases behind regular playing time. His minor league track record shows that this could project out to a a string of 25/25 type seasons while he still has his legs. I don't, however, see anything that tells me his average will ever approach .300. The .267 we saw in 2020 is basically in line with everything he's done as a professional, and let's face it, the swing is almost Hunter Pence ugly. I can't take him in round 3 and leave George Springer, Starling Marte, and Eloy Jimenez on the board, there is just too much projection in that for me.
There is no bigger Trevor Bauer fan in the industry than me. I'm overly invested in him and am a true apologist for both his performance and personality. I gave him out as my preseason pick for NL Cy Young last year on the Stack Attack Fantasy Podcast at heavy double digit odds and he did exactly what I expected. But just as I was correct in my projection of him last year and no one else had him nearly as high, there will be several pitchers this year that make the same jump, while others slide out of the SP1 tier, if even so slightly. At a price tag of the 1/2 turn, I'm going to sit out on Bauer this year and have a sip of some Proper Twelve when I watch him go to make me feel better. I just need a longer track record, and in this case certainty of what rotation and park he is in, to make a first round investment in a starting pitcher. For this same reason, I had zero redaft shares of Gerrit Cole last year.
Other players I'm watching go by this year in redrafts due to the recency bias price tag are Brandon Woodruff(42), Trent Grisham(63), DJ LeMahieu(36), and Teoscar Hernandez(73).
I will definitely go much, much deeper into ADP outliers over the rest of the offseason as I do my positional breakdowns and expand my draft portfolio. As always, if you have opinions about my takes or more players you would like to discuss as an over raction, you can rach me on Twitter @Jtrela20 For those who were loyal isteners to our podcast last year, we'll be back on the air later this month as I'm still building vocal stamina related to respiratory effects from Covid earlier this month. Stay healthy, safe, appreciate your loved ones, and wear a mask!