There will come a day when on-base percentage (OBP) is the standard offensive ratio used in rotisserie leagues. It’s the major ratio being used when managers decide where they want to place batters in the lineup. It’s a greater indicator of runs produced. With the power surge of 2016 comes the average (AVG) decline and many players are maintaining a constant OBP through it all.
I’m not here to debate whether or not OBP should overtake AVG as the norm. No, I just want to point out that draft strategies definitely should change if your in an OBP league. Sure, it’s as simple as adjusting your mind to think OBP rather than AVG. Easy does it, no need for complication!
However, that’s not as easy as it seems, as most articles and sites are geared towards AVG. You are reading about Rougned Odor being a value pick in the fifth round in AVG leagues, but then you look at his FanGraphs page and see his walk rate. Oh my, that’s not value!
And so you are here, looking for the players that gain the most value going from AVG to OBP leagues. What I did was created a player rater (for a guide to do that, click here) for both formats. Then, I subtracted the OBP ratings from the AVG ratings to see which players had the largest differential. Joey Votto was first, solidifying his case for a first round pick. The five most notable players are listed below.
2017 Fantasy Baseball OBP League Targets
Note: Numbers in parentheses are average draft positions (ADP) from NFBC.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (119)
Every conversation about players who gain value in OBP leagues should start with Joey Votto or Carlos Santana. I mean, the dude is so good at getting on base that his coach was forced to hit him leadoff despite his batter profile. Usually you like the speedy guys at the top of your lineup, but Santana’s ability to reach base is far more valuable than fulfilling a stereotype.
Just look how consistent these numbers are on a year-by-year basis! His OBP is incredibly stable while his power has taken on new heights. I trust this to continue and he is one of few players that Steamer projections actually predicts to improve his statistics from 2016 to 2017. That’s unheard of – usually Steamer is a very pessimistic projector.
There isn’t much more to say here, but I did want to provide context on why I included his O-Swing% in the table. O-Swing% basically describes how often a player swings at a ball outside the strike zone. He was second in the league last year only to Dexter Fowler, another benefactor of OBP leagues not listed here. League average is 30% and only getting worse. This is a great way to determine which players have plate discipline when picking OBP targets!
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (117)
So, Fowler and Santana were first and second in O-Swing%. Who was third? None other than Jose Bautista, who was able to re-sign with the Blue Jays this offseason. While in Toronto, Bautista has been an on-base machine despite a low-ish batting average.
I’m really not seeing any reason to worry too much about his down 2016 season. He was battling injuries and still put up okay numbers. Back in his comfort zone at Rogers Centre, I’m expecting a return to normality for Mr. Bats in 2017. It’s not like he lost his power with 22 HR in just 116 games. He’s got plenty of lineup protection around him and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to see him lead off a bit. Devon Travis hasn’t exactly proven to his team that he can hit leadoff or stay healthy.
With Bautista, you get an older player that other owners in your OBP leagues will be scared to draft because of how 2016 turned out. Don’t follow them on that path – create your own trail and enjoy Bautista’s 30+ HR without worrying about him hurting your ratio category.
Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers (144)
Fantasy owners are always looking for advantages when drafting catchers. It’s important to use OBP formats to your advantage as well by drafting Grandal.
Steamer projects Grandal to have the fourth highest OBP amongst catchers next season. You may have heard of two of the guys in front of him – Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy. The third guy, Francisco Cervelli, is a very nice later round target in OBP leagues. However, when you add in the power and run potential Grandal has versus Cervelli, there’s no argument to be made.
Grandal certainly is a No. 1 caliber catcher in all leagues. However, in OBP formats, the case can easily be made for him as a top 5 option at the position. Adjust his ranking accordingly!
Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers (200)
It must be a Dodger thing as Pederson should also receive more love in OBP formats. He may not be the most consistent guy out there, but the one thing he does consistently is get on base. His walk rate since getting called up in late 2014 has been hovering 15% over 1100 plate appearances. It’s no fluke for the 24 year old.
Speaking of his age, he’s still a very young player with parts of his game yet to be explored. We’ve seen the power come to fruition, but his potential doesn’t stop there. His average improved from 0.236 in the first half to 0.260 in the second half. He hasn’t started running yet despite averaging 30 SB in his four minor league seasons. I may be speculating too much, but the Dodgers could look to Pederson for leadoff at-bats should new signee Logan Forsythe fail to produce.
All this to say Pederson is still learning at the major league level and is already getting on-base at a 0.352 clip. As he progresses with every day playing time in centerfield, I expect Pederson to become a breakout player for OBP setups. He is taken as a fifth outfielder in normal leagues, but he should be bumped up to OF3 status in OBP formats.
Ryan Schimpf, San Diego Padres (342)
Schimpf was a prospect going nowhere in Toronto’s farm system. Now he’s a late round flier in fantasy drafts. A recurring theme when it comes to experts regarding Schimpf – only draft him if you have solid average around him.
Well, in OBP leagues, this concern is much less worrisome. He actually showed the ability to take bases on balls to counteract his horrific strikeout rate. The rest of the statistics are right where you want them to be for a power hitter. I was shocked to see how closely matched his numbers in 89 games were to a second baseman being selected in the first three rounds of every draft.
Now, obviously Brian Dozier has much more experience and has stolen base upside. But that’s why he is a top tier player at his position! We are talking about a last round dart throw with Schimpf. The power is obvious and his OBP isn’t far off from average considering how often he strikes out. Thing is, he wasn’t striking out that much in minor league ball the past two years. The possibility looms that he is more of a 20-25% strikeout guy rather than the 31% one we saw in half a season.
If he can maintain his walk rate and increase his batting average to 0.240 at least, you are cooking with gas here. As a late round add with multi-positional flexibility, Schimpf has plenty to offer in OBP leagues.
(Oh, and if you are really wondering if he can keep his home run pace up, go check out his launch angle on the Statcast leaderboard… It’s him at the top, fifty feet of crap, then the rest of the league!)
Be sure to check out our Rankings, Position Preview and much more in the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit.