Yunel Escobar and the Value Gap

Title: Yunel Escobar and the Value Gap
Date: August 20, 2013
Original Source: Rotographs
Synopsis: This article looked at Yunel Escobar, who was having one heck of a month that somehow didn’t register for fantasy players at all.

Despite being first among all qualified shortstops in wRC+ over the past 30 days, you don’t see Yunel Escobar’s name pop up as a waiver wire recommendation very often.

After all, in that same time span, he’s just 18th among shortstops in fantasy value according to Baseball Monster. He’s just 15th overall for the season despite a wRC+ of 101, seventh among qualified shortstops.

He’s ninth in batting average and sixth in on base percentage but somehow worth owning in just 13 percent of Yahoo leagues and 10 percent of ESPN leagues.

And it speaks to the divide between real baseball value and fantasy baseball value, because Escobar does a lot of good things at the plate that just don’t help fantasy owners. In turn, Escobar doesn’t do much of what does help fantasy owners, since he doesn’t hit home runs, steal bases or rack up runs and RBI.

Comparing wRC+ to Baseball Monster’s fantasy value is a fun exercise (and, spoiler, one that I’m using as a major project at the moment) and can really show how those who view baseball primarily through a fantasy lens can wind up underappreciating some players.

The table below shows qualified 2013 shortstops and the gap between their wRC+ ranking and their fantasy “value” as defined by BM’s standardized scores.

Name Team wRC+ wRC+ Rank “Value” Value Rank wRC – Value
Brandon Crawford Giants 107 6 -0.69 14 -8
Jhonny Peralta Tigers 125 1 -0.09 8 -7
Jed Lowrie Athletics 112 4 -0.32 9 -5
Yunel Escobar Rays 101 7 -0.53 11 -4
Asdrubal Cabrera Indians 91 10 -0.64 13 -3
Jimmy Rollins Phillies 75 13 -0.8 16 -3
Starlin Castro Cubs 67 16 -0.92 18 -2
Adeiny Hechavarria Marlins 55 17 -1.39 19 -2
Erick Aybar Angels 94 9 -0.47 10 -1
Pete Kozma Cardinals 49 19 -1.44 20 -1
Ian Desmond Nationals 117 3 0.29 3 0
Andrelton Simmons Braves 79 12 -0.54 12 0
Zack Cozart Reds 68 15 -0.77 15 0
Jean Segura Brewers 120 2 0.86 1 1
Everth Cabrera Padres 112 5 0.09 4 1
J.J. Hardy Orioles 99 8 -0.06 7 1
Alcides Escobar Royals 54 18 -0.8 17 1
Alexei Ramirez White Sox 84 11 -0.01 6 5
Elvis Andrus Rangers 69 14 0.09 5 9
Troy Tulowitzki Rockies DNQ DNQ 0.34 2 DNQ

The final column simply shows the gap between a player’s fantasy rank and wRC+ rank (a quick shorthand for batting contribution). Perhaps batting runs plus base running runs would have been a fairer gauge (I wanted to leave fielding out since we’re discussing offense only here), and I’ll likely tackle it that way in the future.

For now, you can see that a guy like Elvis Andrus, who gets almost all of his fantasy value from stolen bases, is “overrated” in fantasy in so much as his fantasy value is far greater than his actual value at the dish.

Alternatively, Brandon Crawford has had a pretty decent year with the bat but has single digit homers and steals without much of a boost from runs and RBI. This isn’t really Crawford’s fault, as a lot of that is team-context dependent, but it once again illustrates that an unattractive fantasy asset is not necessarily a mediocre player.

Of course, Troy Tulowitzki might prove this point best for us – he ranks second in seasonal fantasy value at the position despite not even qualifying for the batting title because he’s Troy Tulowitzki. With the bar set very low at the position, two thirds of a Tulo trumps just about a full anybody.

As for Escobar, well, he’s undervalued as a batter, sure, but he’s only the most egregious case in the past 30 days. Escobar’s got a fine hit tool and is in the midst of his fourth three-win season, but he’s never going to be much of a fantasy asset without category juice.


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