2015 Fantasy Baseball: Sleepers and Busts From the Oddsmakers

With the 2015 MLB season fast approaching, many teams will be holding their fantasy draft in the upcoming week. Although football continues to rule the fantasy kingdom, a new wave of advanced statistics and system building has allowed baseball to compete as a close second.

Almost everywhere you look there are lists of potential sleepers and busts. Wave after wave of players to avoid and players to target can be difficult to sift through, and fantasy managers have to question which analysts they can trust. However, over the past few years we have been using player props from offshore sportsbooks to determine underrated and overrated fantasy football players.

By comparing a player’s average ESPN draft position with the player prop futures at Bovada, we have been able to determine the players who sportsbooks believe are primed for a breakthrough season. Conversely, we can establish which players are being overhyped.

In our series of fantasy football previews we suggested that managers steer clear of Chargers WR Keenan Allen, Rams RB Zac Stacy, Titans RB Bishop Sankey and Eagles QB Nick Foles — all of whom vastly underperformed during the past season. We also pointed out value on Dolphins WR Mike Wallace, Redskins RB Alfred Morris, Giants QB Eli Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady who all finished well ahead of their pre-draft position.

Admittedly we missed the boat by calling LeVeon Bell overvalued (the second year back tallied over 2,200 total yards and 11 touchdowns), but overall these oddsmakers predictions have been extremely accurate. So when Bovada posted an extensive list of MLB player props on Thursday (3/26) morning, we wanted to utilize the same strategy that has been so successful for fantasy football drafts.

Note: This edition of our fantasy analysis will focus solely on hitters and will compare projections from ESPN’s fantasy rankings with the 2015 player props from the popular Bovada sportsbook.


With help from our Bet Labs manager Travis Reed, we were able to compare ESPN projections with Bovada prop bets for four of the major offensive categories. Using this data we have highlighted a number of potential sleepers and busts for the upcoming MLB season.

Home Runs (HR)

Player Team ESPN Oddsmakers Difference
Prince Fielder TEX 21 27.5 6.5
Kendrys Morales KC 17 20.5 3.5
Yoenis Cespedes DET 23 25.5 2.5
Adrian Gonzalez LAD 22 24.5 2.5
Matt Kemp SD 21 23.5 2.5
Ryan Zimmerman WSH 20 22.5 2.5
David Wright NYM 16 18.5 2.5
Michael Morse MIA 15 17.5 2.5
Eric Hosmer KC 13 15.5 2.5
Miguel Cabrera DET 29 30.5 1.5
Troy Tulowitzki COL 27 28.5 1.5
Kris Bryant CHC 27 28.5 1.5
Todd Frazier CIN 24 25.5 1.5
Jay Bruce CIN 24 25.5 1.5
Justin Upton SD 23 24.5 1.5
Victor Martinez DET 21 22.5 1.5
Matt Holliday STL 21 22.5 1.5
Joey Votto CIN 19 20.5 1.5
Brandon Belt SF 19 20.5 1.5
Kennys Vargas MIN 19 20.5 1.5
Alex Gordon KC 18 19.5 1.5
Yasmany Tomas ARI 18 19.5 1.5
Chase Headley NYY 17 18.5 1.5
Jose Bautista TOR 34 34.5 0.5
Mike Trout LAA 32 32.5 0.5
Nelson Cruz SEA 27 27.5 0.5
Albert Pujols LAA 26 26.5 0.5
Adrian Beltre TEX 24 24.5 0.5
Khris Davis MIL 22 22.5 0.5
Freddie Freeman ATL 21 21.5 0.5
Kole Calhoun LAA 20 20.5 0.5
Matt Adams STL 19 19.5 0.5
Jason Heyward STL 17 17.5 0.5
J.J. Hardy BAL 16 16.5 0.5
Jacoby Ellsbury NYY 14 14.5 0.5
Billy Butler OAK 14 14.5 0.5
Torii Hunter MIN 14 14.5 0.5
Xander Bogaerts BOS 14 14.5 0.5
Jose Abreu CWS 34 33.5 -0.5
Bryce Harper WSH 26 25.5 -0.5
Evan Longoria TB 26 25.5 -0.5
Yasiel Puig LAD 23 22.5 -0.5
Jorge Soler CHC 23 22.5 -0.5
Marcell Ozuna MIA 21 20.5 -0.5
Brian Dozier MIN 21 20.5 -0.5
Hanley Ramirez BOS 20 19.5 -0.5
Steve Pearce BAL 20 19.5 -0.5
Carlos Beltran NYY 20 19.5 -0.5
Manny Machado BAL 18 17.5 -0.5
Michael Brantley CLE 16 15.5 -0.5
Jonathan Lucroy MIL 16 15.5 -0.5
Ian Kinsler DET 16 15.5 -0.5
Pablo Sandoval BOS 16 15.5 -0.5
Chase Utley PHI 14 13.5 -0.5
Paul Goldschmidt ARI 29 27.5 -1.5
Carlos Gonzalez COL 26 24.5 -1.5
Adam LaRoche CWS 25 23.5 -1.5
Brian McCann NYY 24 22.5 -1.5
Marlon Byrd CIN 22 20.5 -1.5
Anthony Rendon WSH 21 19.5 -1.5
Buster Posey SF 21 19.5 -1.5
Mike Napoli BOS 21 19.5 -1.5
Robinson Cano SEA 19 17.5 -1.5
Wil Myers SD 18 16.5 -1.5
Giancarlo Stanton MIA 40 37.5 -2.5
Andrew McCutchen PIT 27 24.5 -2.5
Ryan Braun MIL 27 24.5 -2.5
Lucas Duda NYM 27 24.5 -2.5
Kyle Seager SEA 25 22.5 -2.5
Devin Mesoraco CIN 25 22.5 -2.5
Curtis Granderson NYM 23 20.5 -2.5
Mark Teixeira NYY 22 19.5 -2.5
Neil Walker PIT 21 18.5 -2.5
Aramis Ramirez MIL 18 15.5 -2.5
Adam Lind MIL 18 15.5 -2.5
Russell Martin TOR 17 14.5 -2.5
Edwin Encarnacion TOR 36 32.5 -3.5
Anthony Rizzo CHC 34 30.5 -3.5
Josh Donaldson TOR 31 27.5 -3.5
George Springer HOU 31 27.5 -3.5
Mark Trumbo ARI 31 27.5 -3.5
David Ortiz BOS 30 26.5 -3.5
Carlos Gomez MIL 26 22.5 -3.5
Josh Reddick OAK 18 14.5 -3.5
Adam Jones BAL 32 27.5 -4.5
Pedro Alvarez PIT 29 24.5 -4.5
Ryan Howard PHI 23 18.5 -4.5
Chris Carter HOU 36 30.5 -5.5
Evan Gattis HOU 31 25.5 -5.5
Jedd Gyorko SD 23 16.5 -6.5

Home runs may technically be just another category, but it’s one of the few statistics that also helps other categories. Batters with high home run totals will typically record more RBI, Runs, Total Bases, etc…

Our research found that Prince Fielder’s power production was clearly being undervalued following last year’s season-ending injury. Although ESPN predicts just 21 home runs for the 30-year old lefty, Bovada set the total 6.5 home runs higher at 27.5. Fielder is currently ranked 59th overall by ESPN, but he should be ranked in the neighborhood of Angels 1B Albert Pujols (48th overall).

So who should you be avoiding? Padres 2B Jedd Gyorko is listed as the most overvalued, but his ranking of 204 makes that fact fairly insignificant in 10 or 12-team leagues. Two more relevant fantasy players would be the Astros tandem of Evan Gattis and Chris Carter.

ESPN projected 31 home runs for Gattis and 36 home runs for Carter while Bovada lists the over/under at 25.5 and 30.5 respectively. Considering that both of these players provide power at the expense of batting average, you can safely drop these two Astros sluggers in your rankings.

Sleepers: Prince Fielder, Kendrys Morales, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Michael Morse

Busts: Jedd Gyorko, Evan Gattis, Chris Carter, Ryan Howard, Pedro Alvarez, Adam Jones

Runs Batted In (RBI)

Player Team ESPN Oddsmakers Difference
David Wright NYM 63 79.5 16.5
Troy Tulowitzki COL 75 89.5 14.5
Kendrys Morales KC 61 74.5 13.5
Brandon Belt SF 60 72.5 12.5
Matt Kemp SD 75 85.5 10.5
Joey Votto CIN 59 69.5 10.5
Bryce Harper WSH 71 80.5 9.5
Kris Bryant CHC 71 79.5 8.5
Kennys Vargas MIN 71 79.5 8.5
Jason Heyward STL 61 69.5 8.5
Alex Rios KC 61 69.5 8.5
Carlos Beltran NYY 61 69.5 8.5
Albert Pujols LAA 93 100.5 7.5
Jose Bautista TOR 94 100.5 6.5
Adrian Beltre TEX 79 85.5 6.5
Andrew McCutchen PIT 84 89.5 5.5
Jacoby Ellsbury NYY 60 65.5 5.5
Mike Trout LAA 97 101.5 4.5
Lucas Duda NYM 76 80.5 4.5
Prince Fielder TEX 87 90.5 3.5
Carlos Gonzalez COL 77 80.5 3.5
Matt Adams STL 69 72.5 3.5
Eric Hosmer KC 67 70.5 3.5
Justin Upton SD 87 89.5 2.5
Anthony Rendon WSH 77 79.5 2.5
Miguel Cabrera DET 109 110.5 1.5
Josh Donaldson TOR 94 95.5 1.5
Evan Longoria TB 88 89.5 1.5
Matt Holliday STL 84 85.5 1.5
Michael Brantley CLE 83 84.5 1.5
Brian Dozier MIN 69 70.5 1.5
Ryan Braun MIL 90 90.5 0.5
Anthony Rizzo CHC 89 89.5 0.5
Buster Posey SF 85 85.5 0.5
Giancarlo Stanton MIA 106 105.5 -0.5
Robinson Cano SEA 90 89.5 -0.5
Jay Bruce CIN 83 82.5 -0.5
Adrian Gonzalez LAD 102 100.5 -1.5
Ian Kinsler DET 77 75.5 -1.5
Edwin Encarnacion TOR 102 99.5 -2.5
David Ortiz BOS 92 89.5 -2.5
Nelson Cruz SEA 87 84.5 -2.5
Aramis Ramirez MIL 73 70.5 -2.5
Evan Gattis HOU 84 80.5 -3.5
Ryan Zimmerman WSH 83 79.5 -3.5
Brian McCann NYY 79 75.5 -3.5
Russell Martin TOR 64 60.5 -3.5
Jose Abreu CWS 100 95.5 -4.5
Chris Carter HOU 90 85.5 -4.5
Kyle Seager SEA 84 79.5 -4.5
Salvador Perez KC 75 70.5 -4.5
Freddie Freeman ATL 90 84.5 -5.5
Ian Desmond WSH 86 80.5 -5.5
Billy Butler OAK 76 70.5 -5.5
Paul Goldschmidt ARI 101 94.5 -6.5
Marcell Ozuna MIA 86 79.5 -6.5
Jorge Soler CHC 77 70.5 -6.5
Adam Jones BAL 93 85.5 -7.5
George Springer HOU 89 80.5 -8.5
Wil Myers SD 75 65.5 -9.5
Yasiel Puig LAD 91 80.5 -10.5
Yoenis Cespedes DET 97 85.5 -11.5
Jedd Gyorko SD 77 65.5 -11.5
Kole Calhoun LAA 72 60.5 -11.5
Ryan Howard PHI 89 75.5 -13.5

According to our analysis David Wright is the most undervalued player in this category. In the latest ESPN rankings update, the former All-Star third baseman is ranked just 124th overall. This is largely based on the assumption that Wright will only drive in 63 runs, however, Bovada’s projections are significantly higher at 79.5. Oddsmakers effectively believe that Wright will be comparable to Nolan Arenado despite the fact that the Rockies third baseman is ranked 50 spots higher.

The most overrated player in this category is clearly Phillies 1B Ryan “Untradeable Contract” Howard. Although Philadelphia is in the midst of a rebuild, the veteran slugger remains entrenched in the lineup. If Philly ever fully embraces the rebuild, Howard and his low average could be replaced by top prospect Maikel Franco.

Howard is still viewed as a source of cheap power, but oddsmakers have set the over/under for the 35-year old lefty at only 75.5 RBI — far less than the 89 RBI which ESPN’s fantasy pundits are predicting.

Sleepers: David Wright, Troy Tulowitzki, Kendrys Morales, Brandon Belt, Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant

Busts: Ryan Howard, Kole Calhoun, Jedd Gyorko, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Wil Myers, George Springer

Stolen Bases (SB)

Player Team ESPN Oddsmakers Difference
Mike Trout LAA 20 25.5 5.5
Elvis Andrus TEX 32 32.5 0.5
Alcides Escobar KC 29 29.5 0.5
Gregory Polanco PIT 25 25.5 0.5
Jose Reyes TOR 30 29.5 -0.5
Jimmy Rollins LAD 25 24.5 -0.5
Andrew McCutchen PIT 21 20.5 -0.5
Desmond Jennings TB 21 20.5 -0.5
Dee Gordon MIA 52 50.5 -1.5
Lorenzo Cain KC 27 25.5 -1.5
Alex Rios KC 24 22.5 -1.5
Danny Santana MIN 22 20.5 -1.5
Billy Hamilton CIN 62 59.5 -2.5
Kolten Wong STL 28 25.5 -2.5
Ian Desmond WSH 23 20.5 -2.5
Austin Jackson SEA 22 19.5 -2.5
Ben Revere PHI 44 40.5 -3.5
Jacoby Ellsbury NYY 43 39.5 -3.5
Coco Crisp OAK 23 19.5 -3.5
Jose Altuve HOU 46 40.5 -5.5
Starling Marte PIT 36 29.5 -6.5
Carlos Gomez MIL 40 32.5 -7.5
Leonys Martin TEX 37 28.5 -8.5

There is only one player offering any legitimate upside in stolen bases; some little-known player named Mike Trout. The unquestioned number one overall pick in any draft, oddsmakers are predicting 25.5 steals for the reigning MVP while ESPN analysts are projecting just 20. This falls in line with rumors that Trout plans to be more active on the base paths this season.

Calling Mike Trout a sleeper is kind of like calling Lindsey Lohan elegant, dignified and old-fashioned. Unless it’s the punch line to a joke, you’ll never hear those words uttered by anybody. But if there aren’t any true stolen base sleepers, who could fantasy managers be avoiding? We found four prominent names:

  1. Rangers OF Leonys Martin | 28.5 vs. 37
  2. Brewers OF Carlos Gomez | 40 vs. 32.5
  3. Pirates OF Starling Marte | 36 vs. 29.5
  4. Astros 2B Jose Altuve | 46 vs. 40.5

Despite playing 155 games last season and 147 games the year before, Martin has never reached the 37 steal mark which makes ESPN’s projection particularly perplexing. Jose Altuve stole 56 bases last season which makes his prediction more feasible; however, he accomplished the feat while batting .341. With his average expected to regress, it seems unlikely that the diminutive second baseman will be able to replicate his stolen base total from a season ago.

Sleepers: Mike Trout, Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar, Gregory Polanco

Runs

Player Team ESPN Oddsmakers Difference
Miguel Cabrera DET 94 100.5 6.5
Matt Carpenter STL 94 100.5 6.5
Giancarlo Stanton MIA 92 95.5 3.5
Mike Trout LAA 113 115.5 2.5
Yasiel Puig LAD 93 95.5 2.5
Ian Kinsler DET 94 95.5 1.5
Anthony Rendon WSH 99 99.5 0.5
Jacoby Ellsbury NYY 90 89.5 -0.5
Nick Markakis ATL 80 75.5 -4.5
Andrew McCutchen PIT 96 90.5 -5.5

Although there are only ten players with over/under projections for runs scored, there are a few prominent players who appear on this list. Our most underrated players for this category are Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera and Cardinals 3B Matt Carpenter.

Despite winning two of the past three MVP awards, concerns about a right ankle injury have caused ESPN’s analysts to drop Miggy to #11 on their player rankings. This seems like a massive overreaction, and oddsmakers seem to concur that Cabrera is still worthy of a top-5 pick.

For overrated players, our attention is immediately turned to Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen. The 28-year old is the consensus #2 overall player but ESPN is overvaluing his runs scored by 5.5. This isn’t a large discrepancy, but when you also consider that his home run total is being overvalued by 2.5, it raises questions whether the former MVP is even worthy of the second overall pick.

McCutchen’s value seems to be based in the fact that he won’t hurt you in a single category, but personally I’d prefer Cabrera, Goldschmidt and potentially Stanton. The Pirates superstar may have a very high floor, but his ceiling isn’t as high as those other options.

Sleepers: Miguel Cabrera, Matt Carpenter, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout

Busts: Andrew McCutchen, Nick Markakis, Jacoby Ellsbury

We’ll return next week with our pitching preview, but make sure to bookmark our free MLB odds page for the latest lines, betting trends, lineups and injury updates.

David Solar is the Content Manager and can be reached via email at David@sportsinsights.com.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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