Let's clear up one thing right away: When I say Rotisserie leagues, I'm referring to traditional 5x5 categories scoring. When I say Head-to-Head leagues, I'm referring to Fantasy Football-style points scoring. The latter descriptions are more precise, but the former are better for branding. And we're all nothing without branding.
Still, it's important to acknowledge that if you play in a Head-to-Head league that uses traditional 5x5 categories scoring -- a format that's more popular with other providers like Yahoo -- the Rotisserie standouts are the ones most suited for your format. The Head-to-Head standouts are for leagues that assign point values to every statistical contribution, as in this manner:
|Head-to-Head point values|
|For hitters|| ||For pitchers|| |
Hit by pitch
| || |
So having cleared that up, you can probably surmise the goal of this column from its headline. Below are the players, grouped by position, who see the biggest change in value depending on whether it's a Head-to-Head (points) or Rotisserie (categories) league.
This position doesn't see much differentiation between the two formats since it consists mostly of slow-footed types who might put it over the fence every now and again. One possible exception is Daulton Varsho, who's one of several players competing for an opening in the Diamondbacks outfield -- yes, outfield. His future is likely out there, given how well he runs (he swiped 21 bags in 108 games in his last minor-league season), but since he retains catcher eligibility for now, he offers a rare opportunity for some speed (to go along with a pretty good bat) at the position. And since Rotisserie leagues are typically two-catcher leagues, he'll be worth stashing even if he doesn't claim a job right away.
J.T. Realmuto and Yadier Molina move up in Head-to-Head mostly because of the volume they provide. They're rare examples of catchers who start virtually every day, giving them more opportunities to accumulate points in ways that might not show up in traditional 5x5 scoring. Molina, now 38, did see his stranglehold on the Cardinals job loosen just a little last year, but just by avoiding strikeouts, he climbs the ranks in Head-to-Head. It's sort of the opposite for Jorge Alfaro, whose power contributions are greater but whose complete lack of plate discipline holds him back.
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It's big plate discipline vs. big power here, which isn't to say the Rotisserie standouts don't walk at all. It's just that their strikeouts, particularly in the case of Miguel Sano, subtract from much of what they do right in Head-to-Head. Carlos Santana has long been the epitome of a Head-to-Head points standout, delivering a near-1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate year after year. He's not much for batting average, which is what pushes him down in Roto, but apart from 2020, there hasn't been a single year in which he was less than top-12 first baseman in Head-to-Head.
Anthony Rzzo's power has been in decline in recent years, but because his plate discipline numbers are nearly on the level of Santana's, it hasn't weighed him down as much in Head-to-Head. Hoskins is kind of a more extreme version of Santana. He offers more power upside and more batting average downside, but if you want a sense of how much an elite walk rate can bolster a player's Head-to-Head value, note that Hoskins' 3.70 points per game were fifth-most at the position last year, behind only Freddie Freeman, Jose Abreu, Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu.
Finally, we see the impact of stolen bases. Their scarcity -- or more precisely, the limited number of players who contribute to the category -- gives stolen bases outsized importance in Rotisserie leagues, so it's no surprise that all four of the Rotisserie standouts here specialize in them. Jon Berti and Jonathan Villar aren't even promised regular roles, but they still matter in Rotisserie play just because of their contributions to that one category.
Dylan Moore, it's worth noting, was actually the second-best second baseman in Head-to-Head points per game last year (because stolen bases are worth something in that format as well), but while Head-to-Head participants can approach an out-of-nowhere, small-sample breakthrough like his with due skepticism, Rotisserie players' desperation for steals leaves them with no choice but to draft him and cross their fingers.
On the Head-to-Head side, it's the usual plate discipline differentiation for Max Muncy, whose big power and plus on-base skills aren't fully appreciated in Rotisserie. David Fletcher contributes little in the way of home runs or stolen bases but is one of the best at putting the bat on the ball, which is worth something in and of itself in the points format. Cesar Hernandez doesn't excel at any one thing but is a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-his-parts guy who usually sneaks into the top 12 at his position in leagues that use points scoring.
Alex Bregman was the highest-scoring hitter -- not just third baseman, but hitter -- in Head-to-Head points leagues in 2019, and Anthony Rendon was the third-highest. But because neither is a real factor in stolen bases, we're seeing them slide sometimes all the way to the fourth round in Rotisserie drafts this year. Kris Bryant is kind of a lesser version of that, at least when he's right, contributing good on-base skills and good power but little else. Kyle Seager put himself in that same category last year, his improved strikeout rate making him the fourth highest-scoring third baseman in Head-to-Head leagues, but players who don't impact the batting average or stolen base category just don't spark much interest in Rotisserie leagues.
Enter Yoan Moncada and Tommy Edman, who are expected to factor in those categories and then some. Moncada hit a convincing .315 in 2019 while swatting a career-high 25 homers and adding double-digit steals, and many think the 25-year-old's best is yet to come. Likewise, Edman's 2019 offers a better glimpse into his potential (he hit .304 with 15 steals in 92 games), and he's projected to bat leadoff for the Cardinals this year. Neither is much for walking, though.
If Carlos Santana is the quintessential Head-to-Head player, then Adalberto Mondesi is the same for Rotisserie. His plate discipline is putrid, but he's far and away the best base-stealer in the game today, more than doubling up all but one other player in the category last year. It makes him invaluable in one format but replaceable in the other. There are plate discipline issues for Javier Baez as well, but he projects to be a net benefit in batting average and stolen bases, and Willi Castro is on a lower rung of that same ladder. Andres Gimenez is purely a steals play.
The Head-to-Head standouts mostly stand out for their lack of strikeouts, with Didi Gregorius being a prime example. Striking out just 11.8 percent of the time last year, he was the eighth-best shortstop in H2H points per game, ranking ahead of Francisco Lindor and, naturally, Mondesi. It wasn't unlike the seasons that he put together for the Yankees from 2016 through 2018, prior to Tommy John surgery. Xander Bogaerts, meanwhile, tends to slip in the early rounds of Rotisserie drafts because he's not a reliable base-stealer, but he is a reliable hitter and a more disciplined one than most.
Michael Conforto NYM RF
Mike Yastrzemski SF RF
Michael Brantley HOU DH
Max Kepler MIN RF
Mark Canha OAK DH
Brandon Nimmo NYM CF
Luis Robert CHW CF
Starling Marte MIA CF
Teoscar Hernandez TOR RF
Joey Gallo TEX RF
Byron Buxton MIN CF
Victor Robles WAS CF
Raimel Tapia COL LF
By now, you get how this goes, right? The H2H standouts here, as at most other positions, either walk a lot or strike out a little -- sometimes both. Take the case of Mike Yastrzemski, whose 3.55 Head-to-Head points per game last year were dead in line with George Springer's, and yet he's going almost 70 picks after Springer in Rotisserie. Aaron Hicks is another noteworthy example. He gets some attention in Rotisserie, too, since he's not a zero for steals, but it's his Carlos Santana-like strikeout-to-walk ratio that sets him apart in H2H. When last healthy in 2018, his 3.29 points per game were about what Kyle Tucker delivered last year.
Luis Robert and Starling Marte are of course quality players, but it's their base-stealing prowess that moves them up draft boards in Rotisserie. Gotta get those steals while you can, right? Granted, Robert has serious upside, but his strikeouts are such a hindrance to his point production that he was worse than Adam Duvall in points per game a year ago.
Plate discipline is also what holds Teoscar Hernandez back in Head-to-Head while Byron Buxton, Victor Robles and Raimel Tapia are mostly steals plays. Joey Gallo is a new one because while he's of no use in batting average or stolen bases, he projects for such a big home run total that he's handy for playing catch-up in that plentiful category. But of course, the strikeouts are an issue for him in points leagues.
Lance Lynn CHW SP
Zack Greinke HOU SP
Sandy Alcantara MIA SP
German Marquez COL SP
Dallas Keuchel CHW SP
Marcus Stroman TOR SP
Zach Davies CHC SP
Corbin Burnes MIL SP
Triston McKenzie CLE SP
Julio Urias LAD SP
Tony Gonsolin LAD SP
Drew Smyly ATL SP
Elieser Hernandez MIA SP
Oh cool, we can talk about pitcher stats now. Stolen bases aren't the determinant here, naturally, but strikeouts still are. It comes down to one format, Head-to-Head, rewarding volume and the other, Rotisserie, rewarding efficiency. The bottom row is comprised of pitchers who may struggle to go the six innings required for a quality start (potentially costing them wins as well) but should be impactful with the innings they get, delivering a low ERA, low WHIP and high enough strikeout rate to make up for their lack of innings. Of course, the odds of Tyler Glasnow doing something like that are much higher than Drew Smyly, but it's a comparable profile at a different stage of the draft.
Ratio stats like ERA and WHIP have no direct value in Head-to-Head points leagues. It's the counting stats that contribute to them -- like earned runs, walks, hits and especially innings -- that do. Enough innings, seeing as they're worth three points apiece, can make up for so-so ratios and can certainly make up for a so-so strikeout rate, with strikeouts being worth only half a point each. The pitchers who contribute both big innings and big strikeouts are still of course the most valuable in Head-to-Head, and it shouldn't go without saying effective pitching often leads to more innings. But the proven innings hogs who do it with less-than-pristine ratios get a bump in the format.
SPARPs (starting pitchers as relief pitchers) are only a thing in Head-to-Head points leagues, where there accumulation of innings can often rank them alongside, if not ahead of, top closers, and Jose Quintana is the representative pick in what's a weak year for them. Apart from such eligibility tricks, saves are the only stat a reliever contributes that's of any real point value, and so underwhelming but unchallenged closers like Rafael Montero and Greg Holland aren't that much worse than the stud save sources. Less job security, perhaps, but whatever. Turnover is to be expected at the position.
Meanwhile, a dominant reliever doesn't necessarily need to get saves to be of some value in Rotisserie, where his sparkling ERA and WHIP can help move you ahead in those two categories. In this case of these three relievers -- James Karinchak, Devin Williams and Nick Anderson -- the strikeout rate is also so high that it might yield a total on par with some low-end starting pitchers. Of course, saves are still the most valuable stat a reliever can contribute (and Karinchak and Anderson appear to be in line for at least some), but it's not the full extent of a relief pitcher's value, like in Head-to-Head points leagues.
So which Fantasy baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Will Smith's huge breakout last season, and find out.