Carlos Lee is a Fantasy Horse

One of the most undervalued fantasy players year-in and year-out is Carlos Lee. Last year, Lee was on pace for one of his best seasons ever before a finger injury ended his season in early August. At the time, Lee was in the midst of a prolonged hot streak. In his final 243 plate appearances of the year, he had a .366/.432/.648 line with 16 HR and 54 RBIs in 216 at-bats.

On first glance, it looks like Lee has declined two straight years, with falling numbers in HR, R and SB. Because of this, the Marcel and Oliver projections are not kind to Lee. Fantasy players perhaps have similar notions, as Lee has an ADP of 27 according to the latest information from Mock Draft Central. That makes him the ninth-rated outfielder.

Earlier, I extolled the virtues of Mark Teixeira and noted how he had averaged a .298-35-120-100 fantasy line over the past four years. Well, Lee has a .294-32-112-85 line in that same time frame but also has averaged 12 SB per year. If Teixeira is properly valued at 13, does it not seem a little low for Lee to be at 27?

Throughout his career, Lee has been very durable. Last year’s finger injury was a freak accident and reports have him representing Panama in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Lee has seen no drop off in his hitting skills. He still does a good job with his plate discipline and his batted ball profile with a 21.2 percent line drive rate and a 43.6 percent fly ball rate last year stacks up nicely with his career numbers. Any fantasy player who gets Lee in the third round this year should be extremely happy.

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9 Responses to “Carlos Lee is a Fantasy Horse”

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  1. Clayton says:

    Outfield is deeper than first base, so that explains in part why Teixeira is going a whole 14 spots ahead of Lee. He will likely better Lee in HR, R, RBI, and possibly average, differences I’m sure will be of more impact than Lee’s advantage in steals. Sure, he averaged 12 for his career but only stole 4 last year. Teixeira managed to steal 2. Holy cow!

    Who cares what Lee did over his last 216 ABs last year? I can find a 216 AB sample from any player that looks ridiculously gaudy. That information is irrelevant. Hey, did you know that Lastings Milledge hit .318 with 7 HR and 11 SB in his last 198 ABs last year? Too bad the season ended, because Milledge probably would’ve hit .318 with 21 HR and 33 SB in 600 AB if the season had started in August instead of April. I think people are undervaluing Lastings Milledge since a 20/30 player with a .300+ average should be going in the second round, at least!

    Among the players going ahead of Lee, especially those in the outfield, who do you propose he be drafted ahead of?

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  2. Brian Joura says:

    Hi Clayton – I am really glad that you are reading and leaving comments. I just wish you could learn to disagree without being so disagreeable.

    I am not convinced that OF is deeper than 1B, especially in leagues that require 5 OF starters.

    If Lee and Tex each have a similar number of ABs, I think it’s a toss-up who has better fantasy numbers except for SB, which I think Lee will win.

    Lee is a notorious slow starter. And unlike your Milledge example, he should have had more ABs in 2008 except for the freak injury. I think his strong end to 2008 is relevant because it shows that he was producing just as well (if not better) as he always had and that minus the injury he would have had great numbers and people would be drafting him higher.

    FWIW I do believe Milledge is being undervalued, although not to the degree that your snark implied.

    To answer your question, I would take Lee over Upton and Holliday in the OF, all of the pitchers and probably Morneau, too.

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  3. Clayton says:

    Leagues that require 5 OF starters likely require a CI and UT player. That means OF is going to run 60-65 players deep while 1B/3B is going to run 36-40 players deep. With 3B being especially shallow and, I believe, the majority of top 1B/3B eligible players being used at 3B, I’d prefer to rely on a couple players from the bottom end of the OF pool than the 1B/3B pool. There’s quite a few high-upside outfielders available in that range who are capable of preforming well above their projections. With the guys at 1B/3B, not so much.

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    • Brian Joura says:

      I was not clear in my original response to you.

      Since each team has three starting OF and only 1 starting 1B, obviously OF is a deeper position. What I should have said that in regards to the elite players at the respective positions, I don’t think Teixeira should receive any kind of “position scarcity” type bonus over Lee. Perhaps that is what owners are doing, but if so, I believe it to be a mistake.

      Sorry for the confusion – I’ll try to do better next time.

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  4. Bodhizefa says:

    With a fairly conservative projection for both, they’re both of equal value in either a mixed 12-teamer or 15-teamer. Lee would actually be worth a buck or two more in an NL league due to an inferior player pool, though.

    Great write-up on one of the more underrated players in fantasy baseball at this point (in my opinion).

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    • Brian Joura says:

      My colleague Mike Podhorzer over at has projections that build in position scarcity into the forecasts. He has Carlos Lee at #12 and Mark Teixeira at #14.

      Now, this is just one forecast and I know that everyone can point to 50 other forecasts that have Tex ahead. I concede the point, so please do not do that. All I’m saying is that one very intelligent person who builds position scarcity into his forecasts has Lee ahead.

      Besides, my original point was not that Lee deserved to be ahead of Tex but rather I believed the difference between them should not be as large as the ADPs would have you believe.

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      • Bodhizefa says:

        I’m not going to give away any values or anything, but Mastersball (Todd Zola and Gary Jennison — two of my favorite and most consistent fantasy writers) has the two of them valued as even in Mixed leagues while Carlos Lee has a slightly higher value in Only leagues. It’s not just Podhorzer that sees it your way, and in fact, Lee is better than Teix in some regards. They’re certainly close enough to where they shouldn’t have more than a pick or two between them in ADP at this point.

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  5. Jim says:

    I agree that Lee is underrated. I also agree that Lastings Milledge is underrated going into next season.

    But Clayton: Brian’s argument didn’t hinge on the gaudy stats put up in Lee’s hot streak, it hinged on his consistent numbers over the past few seasons. Constant production, not numbers that were disproportionate to the rest of a season or career.

    As to the question of who to draft Lee ahead of, I see 6 people ahead of Lee on Yahoo’s ADP rankings who I would absolutely take Lee ahead of:

    Manny Ramirez
    Brandon Phillips
    Dustin Pedroia
    CC Sabathia
    Carlos Quentin
    Johan Santana

    I could go into depth as to why, but I won’t bother unless you strongly disagree. I agree with you that I would rather take an infielder that early, but there is no excuse in my mind for taking any of those players before Lee. The rest of the players between him and Teix are either better outfielders or are good enough to have the shallower positions excuse.

    One other thing I notice is that Jimmie Rollins is going after Mark Tex. There’s no way I would go for Tex when Rollins is still on the board. That’s one example where the position argument is really meaningful.

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  6. Jim says:

    I should say “especially meaningful” just to clarify. Not saying it’s not meaningful when discussing OF vs. 1B.

    I actually agree with you that OF is deeper than 1B. Like you say, there are plenty of sleeper OF’s who are capable of putting up respectable stats, but once you get past the first 8 first basemen or so, and first 4 or 5 3rd basemen, there is a giant dropoff.

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