2012 fantasy baseball spring preview: VORP
Baseball season is fast approaching. We have roughly a month to absorb what happened last season, what players are on which teams and what we should take out of spring training. For now, let’s focus on last season sabermetric style.
Wikipedia defines value over replacement player (or VORP) as a statistic that demonstrates how much a hitter contributes offensively to his team in comparison to a fictitious “replacement player,” who is an average fielder at his position and a below-average hitter. A replacement player performs at “replacement level,” which is the level of performance an average team can expect when trying to replace a player at minimal cost, also known as “freely available talent.”
Now, in pure baseball terms, this stat sucks in my opinion because defensive stats are ignored completely, but in fantasy terms, this is great because it gives us a complied number to rate our fantasy players. Now, is it the end all stat? No, there is not any stat or data that can predict injuries or the Jeremy Lin’s of the world. But stats like this help us have the advantage over our league mates to bring about the ultimate goal of a championship. I am going to give you the top 13 or so VORP players from each position from last season, as well as their ESPN rank this season (Note: a * by an ESPN rank means that is what a player would be ranked if ESPN ranked him at that position).
Since offensive catchers are few and far between, most catchers have a very high VORP. Now, if I am looking at this and drafting a catcher, I am going to go after Joe Mauer. He is eighth on the ESPN list but has the highest VORP. So I am going to get good value at where I am going to have to draft him. Another name that pops up here is Derek Norris. He saw a little action last year with the Nationals and was traded in the offseason to the A’s. If he comes up from the minors, he could be a really good waiver-wire claim.
This is probably one of the hardest positions to analyze when using VORP. If you are a first baseman and you are not killing it, then you are going to have a terrible VORP. I have also left off players like Cabrera from the first base list because he is playing third base this season. Looking at this list, it’s very easy to see that in order to get good value for your team, you want to get one of the top-tier first basemen. If not, you will be hurting at this position. If you are playing in an NL-only league, your mission in life is to get Joey Votto, because it gets ugly quick at first base.
Second base is a little more cut and dry when comparing ESPN rank with VORP rank. You can see the value pick here is Chase Utley. This is a guy who can give you first- or second-round production and has done so in the past.
Miguel Cabrera is far and away the best VORP guy at this position (or any position for that matter). If I am in a 12-team snake draft and end up with the number one overall pick, a good move would be to take Cabrera, and in the second round, grab either Teixeira or Wright, depending on who falls to you. While third base may be deep, I would still like to end up with two really high VORP guys manning my corner infield slots.
Now, you could look at this one of two ways. First off, Troy Tulowitzki is far and away the best shortstop on this list, and if I cannot get Cabrera, I may want to take Tulo here. The other way is to pass on shortstop almost altogether and load up in other positions, then grab Yunel Escobar later in the draft which still gives me good value at the position. I would lean towards the latter to address other needs.
Now, you can see that I only put 25 outfielders on here, but compared to other positions, it gets ugly quick. This is a position I plan on addressing early and often. Chances are I am not going to get the first pick in the draft, so my strategy would be to go outfield in the first round (Kemp or Braun), first base in the second round (Teixeira at worst) and in the third round grab Matt Holliday. For where you are drafting him, you can get excellent value. In the first three rounds I have nearly filled the two weakest batting positions (first base and outfield).