MASTER NOTES: 2019 Master Notes All-Value Team

Sometime in the middle of last week, some guy on Twitter posted that the 2019 baseball season had reached exactly the halfway point. He had painstakingly calculated when the season’s 2,430th game had reached the fifth inning and thereby become official.

The season being roughly halfway done affords an opportunity to look at which players have been the most valuable. And by “most valuable,” I mean “provided the most value,” as opposed to the BBWAA definition of “was the player with the most RBI on a team that won a lot of games.”

I took all the players whom BaseballHQ.com had projected in its last projections file before the season got rolling, and compared their projected value to their actual YTD value to get a YTD profit (or loss). Then—and this is the critical difference that makes the Master Notes definition worth every penny you pay for it—I added the profit back onto the YTD value. So a player projected for $8 who has earned $19 YTD has a Master Notes Value (MNV) of $30: his $19 YTD production plus his $11 profit. Without the add-back, a player with $7 YTD on a $2 projection would be the same “value” as a player with $42 production on a $37 projection. And that’s just silly.

One other note: Any player who was projected below $1 was automatically given a pre-season value of $1, since we’re not allowed to bid negative values at auction. (Although that would sure be interesting if we could.)

The players are ranked by position, one at each infield slot plus three OFs. No DH/UT, which should not be interpreted as any sort of political statement about the DH). Five SPs, no relievers. Multi-eligible players are slotted where they created the most value relative to the next available player at either position. On the list below, the players in boldface are discussed under the table. I feel comfortable leading this discussion because I've been under a few tables myself.

Ready? Let’s go!

Pos  Player             Pre   YTD   Diff   MNV
==============================================
 C   Grandal,Yasmani    $ 5   $15   +$10   $25
1B   Alonso,Peter       $ 1   $26   +$25   $51
2B   LeMahieu,DJ        $ 8   $31   +$23   $54
3B   Devers,Rafael      $ 8   $29   +$21   $50
SS   Marte,Ketel        $11   $27   +$16   $43
OF1  Bellinger,Cody     $21   $43   +$22   $65
OF2  Yelich,Christian   $36   $47   +$11   $58
OF3  Santana,Domingo    $ 1   $23   +$22   $45
SP1  Giolito,Lucas      $ 1   $27   +$26   $53
SP2  Verlander,Justin   $29   $39   +$10   $49
SP3  Minor,Mike         $ 3   $24   +$21   $45
SP4  Odorizzi,Jake      $ 1   $21   +$20   $41
SP5  Morton,Charlie     $12   $26   +$14   $40

Catcher: Yasmani Grandal, MIL ($25 MNV). Grandal had a pretty lofty (no play on words intended) HR projection of 25 swats, but he’s already at 18 in the cozy confines of Miller Park, so looks well on track to soar past 30. He’s also logged 3 SB for the half-season, and his .265 BA is 19 points ahead of projected.

3B: Rafael Devers, BOS ($50) was projected to have 68 RBI and 64 Runs for the season, but as of June 30, he had already logged 54 RBI and 62 Runs. As well, his YTD .322 BA is 70 points higher than his projected .252. When I asked Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs/RotoGraphs about why we didn’t see Devers’ astonishing performance this year coming, he said that it was all but impossible to predict Devers’ very sudden eight-percentage-point decline in strikeout rate. All the more remarkable, and perhaps concerning, is that Devers’ huge increase in contact has come even though he is actually chasing more pitches outside the strike zone; he’s not paying a price because he’s making contact on more of them as well. Put the ball into play, it seems, and good things can happen. But keep putting it in play off out-of-zone contact, and bad things could start happening, too.

OF1: Cody Bellinger, LA ($65). Bellinger is the early front-runner for MVP, both fantasy and real, having already eclipsed his full-season HR projection of 26, and reached 80% of the way to his projected RBI and Runs. Perhaps most remarkably, he was 79 points ahead of his .267 pBA, and 94 points (!) ahead of his .346 pOBP. The only area where he’s not scorching his projection is SBs, where he’s right on pace for his projected 16. Bellinger, like Devers, has built his newfound production on the foundation of much higher contact, and much higher hard contact—155 HctX this season versus 108 in 2018.

OF3: Domingo Santana, SEA ($45). Santana had a $25 season in 2017, posting a 30-85-15-88-.278. He’s well ahead of that pace in RBI (124 YTD+Proj) and Runs  (96), and on pace with a .278 BA. At the same time, his underlying skills are likewise the same: ct% is up three points and walk rate is ahead by one, his xBA is down a few points and his HR/f is down as well. One item does jump out: Santana’s LD rate has jumped by six percentage points and his FB% by five, pushing his GB rate down by 11 points.

SP1 Lucas Giolito, CHW ($53). Giolito was likely undrafted in many or even most 15-team mixed leagues, after a pre-2019 career that was at best undistinguished, and at worst catastrophic: a 5.48 combined ERA, 1.40 WHIP (including a league-worst 1.48 in 2018), Dominance Rate of 6.4 K/9, walk rate of 4.3 bb/9. His projection was pretty much more of the same: 9 wins, 4.72/1.46, 127 Ks at around 7 K/9, and -$10. And frankly, that 9-win projection looks a little loopy in hindsight for a bad pitcher on a weak team.

Instead, Giolito already has 11 wins, 2.72/1.02 decimals, and 115 Ks, a Dom near 11 K/9.

I wouldn’t know what to make of Giolito’s resurgence, or its sustainability, but I happened to be watching a CHW telecast recently where the announcers were talking about how Giolito had been taking active steps to deal with pre-game and in-game anxiety. A little (as possible) research revealed that he was using a practice called “neurofeedback,” which he been turned onto by a high-school teammate—Max Fried, now of ATL (STL starter Jack Flaherty was also in that high-school rotation). You can get more details about the process by searching "Giolito" and "neurofeedback," but the object lesson here is that it’s not always a purely physical problem that gets in the way of player success.

* * *

I also took a moment to look up the top-10 teams in the overall competition in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational at the halfway point, to see which players were most common across their rosters. I assumed I’d see a lot of guys from the Master Notes Value list.

In fact, however, there were just a few. The two players most heavily represented were two non-MNVers, PIT 1B Josh Bell and TEX OF Nomar Mazara, both of whom were on five of the 10 leaders. Bellinger was on four top teams, Yelich on a couple. No top-MNV starting pitcher was on more than one. The top SPs were Gerrit Cole, Yonny Chirinos, and Zach Eflin, each on four teams, and David Price, on three.

Here are all the players on three or more top-10 TGFBI overall teams:

Hitter                  Pitcher
==========================================
Josh Bell        5      Gerrit Cole      4
Nomar Mazara     5      Yonny Chirinos   4
Cody Bellinger   4      Zach Eflin       4
Eric Hosmer      4      David Price      3
Nick Senzel      4     
Chr.Vazquez      3     
Matt Carpenter   3     
Mike Moustakas   3     
Trevor Story     3     
Wllsn Contreras  3     

 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.