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Chase Headley is one of the most undervalued players in the 2015 fantasy draft class

Chase Headley is going much, much later than 3B with similar projections.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Headley currently has an NFBC ADP of 224. In Yahoo leagues, it's even lower, at 238. Going by the ZiPS projection system, Headley is of the most undervalued players in the 2015 draft class. His projections are comparable to other 3B going in the top 100, and Headley can be drafted much later, allowing a fantasy owner to invest in other areas of the roster early in drafts to create a stronger overall team.

2014 overview

When a hitter changes something at the plate, his previous production becomes less valuable in trying to evaluate what to expect coming forward. Chase Headley changed something at the plate in the middle of 2014, and he saw a dramatic difference in results.

Chris Jenkins wrote,

Specifically, Headley has returned to his natural grip, which he admits is "unorthodox."

Headley was last using the crossover grip on a regular basis in the epic second-half he produced in 2012, the year he finished as the National League leader with 115 runs batted in and hit 31 homers. He broke a bone in his right hand in spring training of the following season, however, and that made his intertwined grip less workable.

"I struggled when I came back, so I went to a more conventional grip," he said. "I decided to try to stay with it. I gave it a fair number of at bats this year and didn’t feel like I was able to control the barrel like I have in the past.

"I’d take what I thought was a good swing, but then I’d get on top and it rolled over. I thought I was taking the right approach to the ball, so I thought it was time to make an adjustment. So far, so good."

"It lets me feel a little bit shorter to the ball, gives you a little more leverage," said Headley. "It’s not extremely common. Maybe only a few other guys who use it. It’s definitely unorthodox, but it’s something I’ve kinda done my whole life.

"I just trained my eyes to know where my barrel is the way that I swing. It’s hard to untrain. I think that’s a big part of what’s going on."

It isn't clear exactly what date Headley changed his grip, but it appears to be around July 1. Dividing Headley's season in half from those points, Headley's results were night and day. From the start of the season through June (first half), Headley hit .201/.289/.322 with an 81 wRC+. He was utterly useless as a fantasy option. Headley then took off, hitting .277/.360/.414 with a 121 wRC+ from July 1 through the end of the season (second half). The biggest difference in his production was a gigantic increase in BABIP between the halves. Headley's .243 first half BABIP rose over 100 points, to .348, along with a strong rise in line drive%, from 24% to 30%. Headley's career BABIP is .331, which is much more in line with his second half than his first.

It's possible the grip change allowed Headley to control the bat better and barrel up the ball more often, creating better trajectories. This, combined with the normalization of his extremely low first half BABIP, fueled his strong second half. If that is the case, it would mean that Headley is more of the second half hitter than the first half hitter, and his value for 2015 should be adjusted accordingly. It doesn't appear that Headley will ever return to his 2012 form, though, possibly because of back injuries.

Visuals

Headley mentioned above how he felt he was taking good swings yet getting on top of the ball. Here are two examples of Headley getting on top of the ball on pitches that are belt high:

May 16:

May 15, as a RHB:

Those are the type of pitches that should not be buried into the ground. Despite them both going through for hits, hitting the ball into the ground on those pitch locations isn't what you want.

Here's Headley launching a belt high pitch over the fence for a home run on Sept. 22, after the grip change:

Headley hitting a belt high pitch into the second deck at Yankee stadium on August 6:

Headley said he had better control of the bat, and it looked that way.

2015 projections

ZiPS projects a strong season for Headley: .253/.340/.427 with 20 HR, 73 RBI, 9 SB and 74 R. Compare Headley's projection to some other notable 3B:

Player

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

C. Headley

.253

.340

.427

20

73

74

9

E. Longoria

.255

.330

.441

23

80

76

3

Longoria's NFBC ADP is 57 and Yahoo ADP is 67.

Player

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

C. Headley

.253

.340

.427

20

73

74

9

D. Wright

.275

.346

.422

13

70

67

11

Wright's NFBC ADP is 102 and Yahoo ADP is 85.

Player

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

C. Headley

.253

.340

.427

20

73

74

9

K. Seager

.261

.327

.430

21

88

79

9

Seager's NFBC ADP is 61 and his Yahoo ADP is 69.

Headley's ADP is significantly lower than those three players, yet their projections are similar. Finding undervalued assets is a big key to winning fantasy leagues, and Headley is one of the most undervalued players currently by ADP. Go grab Headley to play 3B later on in your draft and invest elsewhere in the top 100.