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An OBP fantasy baseball league primer

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A list of players whose value drastically changes when OBP is counted instead of AVG.

Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

Many leagues are moving from traditional 5x5 category formats to include holds, replace wins with quality starts, or even replace batting average with on on-base percentage (OBP). Certain players get a boost, and some take a hit. You will hear some say that OBP leagues are much like points leagues. Not always true. Case in point, Joey Gallo. This is my list of players that have a much different value when OBP is counted instead of AVG.

The anointed elite

Juan Soto is a slam dunk 1st round pick in a 15-team OBP league. You heard me – a slam dunk. He eclipsed a .400 OBP and walked 16% of the time as a rookie. Across four levels, he had a .310 avg, 36 homers, 35 doubles, and an 18.8% K rate. If you think he can repeat that, he’s bordering on first round in a 5x5. OK, well maybe I’m hyperbolizing this, but here is a short list of players I would definitely draft ahead of Soto in an OBP league:

  • Trout
  • Betts
  • Jose Ramirez
  • J.D. Martinez
  • Yelich
  • Bregman
  • Acuna
  • Judge

I’m not saying he’s my eighth-ranked player but I believe he belongs within the following next tier. Did I say slam dunk? Perhaps not. But he is a fringe first rounder and that is a significant jump from a standard 5x5.

The elite with an elevated floor

OBP is less volatile than AVG. One of the main reasons is because the variance between OBP and AVG is not impacted by BABIP. High OBP players that are already elite also get a bump in value that may elevate their ADP by a few picks. The following players who are already elite or near elite get a boost relative to their peer group:

  • Jose Ramirez
  • JD Martinez
  • Christian Yelich
  • Alex Bregman
  • Aaron Judge
  • Paul Goldschmidt
  • Bryce Harper
  • Freddie Freeman

Sorry Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, there’s no room to move up.

Move on up a round

Anthony Rendon’s proven on base skills moves him up a round in these formats to a third-round pick. Likewise, Eugenio Suarez and Tommy Pham are fifth round picks in this format.

The OBP King

Joey Votto – He walks so frequently that his high batting average has around 80% of the impact of other high batting averages because he usually has about 100 less at-bats than players like Mookie Betts. Despite the risk of a repeat of his power numbers, his OBP has an elite floor which makes him, at a minimum, a Top 60 players in these formats.

The elder statesman at the corners (and corner outfield)

The following players have a proven track record of getting on base. You can bump them up a round or two:

  • Matt Carpenter
  • Andrew McCutchen
  • Miguel Cabrera

Bye-bye batting average risk

Certain players that have a reasonable chance to hit .250 or below this season earn a considerable bump in value because they transform into potential four-category contributors:

  • Rhys Hoskins
  • Max Muncy
  • Josh Donaldson
  • Michael Conforto
  • Aaron Hicks
  • Kyle Schwarber
  • Carlos Santana

Catching some extra value

As I’ve said before, when I draft a catcher I look for a player that will not crush my batting average. In a few cases, a below par average translates into a superior OBP. The following catchers become significantly more valuable in OBP leagues:

  • Yasmani Grandal
  • Francisco Cervelli
  • Danny Jansen (based on his minor league track record)

The saving grace

Joey Gallo is a killer in the batting average category. It’s a lock. He also will kill you with strikeouts in a points league. The OBP format is his saving grace. The OBP will not be elite because of his poor batting average, but it certainly puts a bandage on the wound.

The sleepers

Three players have the chance to become elite in OBP formats but are being drafted outside of the Top 100 or even 200 in some instances. The lack of assured at-bats (or plate appearances in this case) is what will make them value picks.

  • Brandon Nimmo
  • Jesse Winker
  • Jeff McNeil

The rookies

Two rookies stand out, based on their track record, to overachieve in OBP leagues:

  • Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
  • Peter Alonso

Note that certain players that have a high OBP also are high batting average players so they don’t necessarily gain a lot of value here. So if you were wondering where Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy, Buster Posey, Wilson Ramos, Michael Brantley, Andrew Benintendi, Nick Markakis or Jose Altuve were on this list, this is your explanation.

The fallout

OBP is not all upside. The following players, unfortunately, lose value in OBP leagues:

  • Francisco Lindor
  • Javier Baez
  • Adalberto Mondesi
  • Starling Marte
  • Ozzie Albies
  • Miguel Andujar
  • Harrison Bader
  • Randal Grichuk