2016 Fantasy Baseball: Sleepers and Busts From the Oddsmakers

With the 2016 MLB season fast approaching, many owners 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 consensus ESPN ranking with player prop futures at 5Dimes, 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.

At the time of publication, 5Dimes was only offering over/under props for three categories: home runs, hits and wins. These three stats offer limited insight, but it’s very valuable to see how oddsmakers expectations compare with projections from the fantasy experts. For more information, bettors can view the latest MVP odds, Cy Young odds, and Home Run Leader odds.

Home Runs (HR)

PLAYER TEAM 5DIMES ESPN DIFFERENCE
Chris Davis BAL 36.5 43 -6.5
Giancarlo Stanton MIA 36.5 42 -5.5
Mike Trout LAA 35.5 38 -2.5
Nelson Cruz SEA 34.5 38 -3.5
Bryce Harper WAS 34.5 36 -1.5
Edwin Encarnacion TOR 33.5 38 -4.5
Josh Donaldson TOR 32.5 37 -4.5
Jose Bautista TOR 32.5 37 -4.5
Jose Abreu CWS 31.5 32 -0.5
Kris Bryant CHC 31.5 32 -0.5
Anthony Rizzo CHC 31.5 29 2.5
Paul Goldschmidt ARI 30.5 34 -3.5
Nolan Arenado COL 30.5 35 -4.5
Miguel Sano MIN 29.5 38 -8.5
Kyle Schwarber CHC 27.5 25 2.5
Miguel Cabrera DET 27.5 27 0.5
Carlos Correa HOU 27.5 23 4.5
Adam Jones BAL 27.5 27 0.5
JD Martinez DET 27.5 34 -6.5
Todd Frazier CWS 26.5 31 -4.5
Yoenis Cespedes NYM 26.5 29 -2.5
Carlos Gonzalez COL 26.5 32 -5.5
Justin Upton DET 26.5 26 0.5
David Ortiz BOS 26.5 36 -9.5
George Springer HOU 24.5 27 -2.5
Lucas Duda NYM 24.5 30 -5.5
Mark Teixeira NYY 24.5 30 -5.5
Andrew McCutchen PIT 23.5 25 -1.5
Prince Fielder TEX 23.5 23 0.5

According to this analysis, ESPN is overly optimistic about almost every player. This is largely due to the assumption that every player will remain healthy all season, while oddsmakers are typically better about accounting for risk.

It’s interesting to see that the ESPN fantasy gurus are vastly overrating David Ortiz (ranked 46) and Miguel Sano (ranked 33) — both of whom are only eligible as a utility player and therefore have limited upside. These two sluggers are being overdrafted in standard leagues, but there are three young sluggers offering value according to oddsmakers.

Even though Carlos Correa is the 11th ranked player according to ESPN experts, the second-year player may still be undervalued. The shortstop position is fairly thin, and oddsmakers are anticipating that Correa will finish the season with 27.5 home runs. That figure is 4.5 home runs higher than the ESPN projections.

We should also point out that there’s a significant difference on the power projections for two Cubs sluggers: Anthony Rizzo (ranked 19) and Kyle Schwarber (ranked 67). In an earlier post I mentioned Rizzo as an MVP sleeper, and believe that he’s a better value than higher-ranked players like Miguel Cabrera. Schwarber is another sneaky value since there is very little depth at catcher.

Hits

Player Team 5Dimes ESPN Difference
Jose Altuve HOU 187.5 197 -9.5
Mookie Betts BOS 175.5 178 -2.5
Robinson Cano SEA 175.5 183 -7.5
Dee Gordon MIA 174.5 185 -10.5
Mike Trout LAA 172.5 175 -2.5
AJ Pollock ARI 169.5 178 -8.5
Paul Goldschmidt ARI 169.5 178 -8.5
Adam Jones BAL 169.5 176 -6.5
Josh Donaldson TOR 169.5 172 -2.5
Manny Machado BAL 167.5 183 -15.5
Charlie Blackmon COL 166.5 177 -10.5
Ian Kinsler DET 161.5 179 -17.5
Anthony Rizzo CHC 159.5 162 -2.5
Lorenzo Cain KC 156.5 161 -4.5

Although hits aren’t a category for ESPN standard scoring, many leagues will utilize additional stats. It’s also interesting to see that ESPN projections are higher than the over/under for all fourteen players listed.

The one thing that we can extrapolate is that Ian Kinsler (ranked 68) and Manny Machado (ranked 10) are the most overvalued of the bunch while Anthony Rizzo (ranked 19), Mike Trout (ranked 1), Josh Donaldson (ranked 5) and Mookie Betts (ranked 23) have the smallest disparities.

Wins

Player Team 5Dimes ESPN Difference
Clayton Kershaw LAD 17.5 20 -2.5
Jake Arrieta CHC 15.5 17 -1.5
David Price BOS 15.5 17 -1.5
Madison Bumgarner SF 15.5 17 -1.5
Dallas Kuechel HOU 14.5 16 -1.5
Chris Sale CWS 14.5 15 -0.5
Max Scherzer WAS 14.5 17 -2.5
Felix Hernandez SEA 14.5 15 -0.5
Gerrit Cole PIT 14.5 16 -1.5
Zack Greinke ARI 14.5 17 -2.5
Matt Harvey NYM 13.5 16 -2.5
Stephen Strasburg WAS 13.5 14 -0.5
Cole Hamels TEX 13.5 14 -0.5
Jon Lester CHC 13.5 15 -1.5
Jacob deGrom NYM 13.5 17 -3.5
Corey Kluber CLE 13.5 15 -1.5
Sonny Gray OAK 12.5 16 -3.5
Chris Archer TB 12.5 16 -3.5
Yordano Ventura KC 12.5 12 0.5
Colin McHugh HOU 12.5 12 0.5
Noah Syndergaard NYM 12.5 14 -1.5
Johnny Cueto SF 12.5 16 -3.5
Garrett Richards LAA 12.5 15 -2.5
Marcus Stroman TOR 12.5 15 -2.5
Jordan Zimmerman WAS 12.5 15 -2.5
Shelby Miller ARI 11.5 13 -1.5
Jose Fernandez MIA 11.5 13 -1.5
Tyson Ross SD 11.5 12 -0.5
Lance McCullers HOU 11.5 10 1.5
Edinson Volquez KC 10.5 11 -0.5

Based on these comparisons, oddsmakers believe that Johnny Cueto (ranked 81), Jacob deGrom (ranked 42), Sonny Gray (ranked 73) and Chris Archer (ranked 57) are being overvalued. Although ERA and strikeouts are probably the most important categories for pitchers, these types of variances are significant.

On the other hand, there are three deep sleepers of whom managers should be aware: Lance McCullers (ranked 214), Yordano Ventura (ranked 180) and Collin McHugh (ranked 226). In general I think it’s preferable to spend early picks on hitting, so these are three interesting targets for later in the draft.

Do you agree with our selections? Which players do you think are being undervalued? Please leave your thoughts in the section below.

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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