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Breaking from Consensus: Where ottoneu Rankings Differ

Over the last few days, my compatriots four of my compatriots have begun presenting you with an extremely valuable draft tool: consensus positional rankings. But for those of you who play ottoneu, things differ a bit, especially if you are in a 4×4 or Points League.

Starting today, I am going to take a look at those rankings and let you know where ottoneu players should take a different stance.

Eno, Zach, Jeff, and Mike have provided three sets of rankings so far – C, 1B , 2B, and SS – and today we’ll look at all three through the lens of ottoneu. For those in 5×5 ottoneu leagues, the rankings as they exist will serve you quite well. But for the rest of you, let’s start behind the plate.

Injury concerns seem to have an impact with a couple of the catchers who rank better in ottoneu, and the ranking difference may have more to do with expectations on playing time/ability to bounce back than on any inherent differences in the leagues. Mike Napoli and Brian McCann rank 11th and 15th in the consensus rankings, but come out 4th and 9th in the projected points above replacement (PAR) in ottoneu points leagues. The systems I used to project (Steamer, ZiPS and PECOTA) don’t seem overly concerned, amongst them, about the ability of these two to stay on the field, although clearly ranking 9th is still some pretty serious regression for the once-top-tier-to-himself McCann.

Two other catchers – Alex Avila and J.P. Arencibia, benefit more from format. JPA is extremely weak in AVG and offers no speed, but his power carries with it huge scoring potential in points leagues. Avila is better at getting on base than he is at putting up a high average, and so ottoneu favors him. As a result, these two climb from well outside the starting tier (23rd for JPA, 17th for Avila) in the consensus rankings to potential starters – 16th for Arencibia, 12th for Avila – in ottoneu points leagues.

As for players who take a step back, the most obvious is Victor Martinez, who doesn’t qualify at C in ottoneu leagues. Some will argue that he should, based on having played the position when last healthy, but being 18 months removed from squatting behind the plate when games start does not suggest that Vic deserves the eligibility. Maybe he’ll earn it back, but in the meantime, he falls off the list completely.

First Base
Paul Goldschmidt is an interesting case because, while he does not fall far (5th to 9th) when you transition to ottoneu, the difference in terms of your willingness to acquire him is pretty high. Due to the added threat of stolen bases, Goldy is not far from being an elite fantasy option. But when you discount those stolen bases, he becomes more of a second or third tier starter (depending on the size of your tiers) ranking 9th rather than 5th. Stoeln bases are not an issue that pops up a lot at 1B, but they certainly matter here.

At the other end of the spectrum, David Ortiz falls quite a bit higher (6th, rather than 12th) in my rankings, ahead of players like Anthony Rizzo, Edwin Encarnacion, and others. Part of this is my approach to ranking (heavy on use of projections, light on imparting my own opinions), but part is also Ortiz being well tailored to the ottoneu format – good numbers of extra base hits, lots of walks, not much reliance on speed.

Second Base
By far the biggest difference here is a question of whether Chris Nelson is a wasted roster spot (37th in the consensus) or a solid MI option (16th in ottoneu PAR). The answer probably lies somewhere in between, but the reality is that Nelson’s value is much higher in ottoneu in part because he can provide more utility in a part-time role in that format. With a 40 man roster, you can platoon him (or replace him when he loses 3B to Nolan Arenado) without giving up much in terms of roster flexibility. You need to handcuff the guy, as he could end up benched at any moment, but he’ll provide solid 2B value when he plays and that can be useful.

Chase Utley likely suffers from a similar issue, as my pure projection-based rankings have him 6th rather than the consensus 18th. The chances are Utley won’t get 600+ PA, but if he can manage 300 or 400 and you can pair that with a solid backup, you will likely get great fantasy production. The problem is you can’t do that when you only have 4-5 bench spots – ottoneu allows you that flexibility.

As for guys to avoid, I was surprised to see two person favorites taking double-digit falls: Jason Kipnis falls from 4th to 14th while Kyle Seager drops from 10th to 21st. Kipnis derived much of his value last year from speed, and his floor is significantly higher in 5×5 where his stolen base totals will play even if the power doesn’t come around. Seager is a line drive machine, but his game – decent average, decent speed, decent power – is a better all-around play in 5×5 than in points leagues, where the speed ceases to matter and he doesn’t walk quite enough to translate a solid hit tool into a solid on-base tool.

This is the first position where speed really makes a huge difference. Ask any 4×4 or points league owner and Troy Tulowitzki is the clear #1 SS, as long as he is healthy. Starlin Castro, #1 in the consensus rankings, is a moderate starter (6th) in ottoneu. Tulo sits 3rd in the consensus rankings, behind Castro and Jose Reyes, and the reason – other than some injury concerns – is because the most valuable skills Castro and Reyes bring (average and speed) don’t carry much weight in points leagues, meaning that even a somewhat risky Tulo is a far more intriguing buy than either of them.

Along the same lines, Everth Cabrera, a potential MI play for speed-hungry teams, ranks 20th in the consensus rankings, but is almost completely useless in ottoneu, where 30 steals and 3 HR (his Steamer projections) is worth about the same as 7 HR and 0 steals. A pure speed player like Cabrera just doesn’t warrant consideration in points or 4×4 leagues.

The big risers are again guys who have far more value when you can platoon them. Jurickson Profar is 33rd in the consensus rankings but 13th in mine. That is probably a bit high as it assumes 431 PA, but if you can get even half a season out of him and pair him with a decent backup, he’ll provide more than 33rd best value. Similarly, Jed Lowrie will have to fight for playing time, which severely limits his value if you can’t handcuff him. But in ottoneu you can, so instead of sitting outside the top 20 (25th, to be precise) he falls 14th – just behind Profar, and well worth rostering.