The 2023 Playoff Tax

The six players who rose their ADP with hot Octobers.

The postseason is a special time. It allows stars to shine at their brightest and affords lesser-known players an opportunity to make a name for themselves. Postseason performance can positively and negatively alter the public perception of players that would otherwise be given short shrift following a mediocre or unforgettable regular season.

For players like Clayton Kershaw or Jose Altuve, their success, or lack thereof, on the game’s biggest stage doesn’t have an outsized impact on fantasy managers’ ranks heading into draft season. However, role players, mid-rotation starters, and unheralded relievers can boost their draft stock by making themselves known in October.

A heightened level of play during a period of baseball that is almost unfamiliar to the regular season creates what I call “The Playoff Tax”. Fantasy managers are forced to pay a “tax” when drafting players in the offseason following a notable postseason performance. In other words, if a player goes off in the playoffs, their ADP artificially rises despite the small sample size and alien environment.

In 2020, Randy Arozarena slugged his way onto the Rays playoff roster with a surge in September, recording a 177 wRC+ across 23 games. His historical playoff run that featured a postseason record 10 long balls led the Rays to an American League pennant and sent Arozarena soaring up draft boards. An ADP inside the top 60 was indicative of a young star on the rise but would have likely been outside of the top 100 had he disappointed in the postseason.

Similarly, Ian Anderson made just six starts during the regular season that year, pitching to a 1.95 ERA (32.1 IP) with a near 30% K%, and carried over his success into the postseason, starting four games while producing a sub-1.00 ERA. He went off the board as a top-30 starting pitcher but wrapped up 2021 with just 128.1 IP alongside an unspectacular 3.58 ERA and a 23.2% K%.

More recently Eddie Rosario came through clutch for Atlanta during the 2021 playoffs. Coming off a mediocre 100 wRC+ season with 14 homers and 11 steals, Rosario turned things up a notch on his way to NLCS MVP honors. He batted .383 with a 183 wRC+ resulting in fantasy managers drafting him inside the top 175 prior to 2022. He failed to live up to the hype, appearing in just 80 games while producing a -1.1 fWAR season with a 62 wRC+.

Jeremy Peña might be the clearest example of a player who charged a hefty Playoff Tax. His rookie season was nothing to scoff at. The 24-year-old shortstop mashed 22 dingers, swiped 11 bags, and produced 3.4 fWAR despite just a 102 wRC+. Batting in a dangerous Astros lineup, Peña was due to be drafted inside the top 200. Then the 2022 postseason happened.

Peña batted .345 and hit four home runs while winning both the ALCS MVP and World Series MVP awards. His unprecedented rookie postseason performance bumped him inside the top 115 picks, making him a player who had to contribute All-Star-level numbers to meet his preseason expectations. He floundered in 2023, hitting just 10 long balls to go with 13 steals and a sub-100 wRC+.

With the lessons learned through these precedents, we can look at the following six players in a different light. Their flashy finishes were integral to their respective team’s success in the postseason, but it shouldn’t affect their ADP as much as it inevitably will. These are the players that will be charging the 2023 Playoff Tax during 2024 fantasy drafts.

ADP data was taken from six NFBC Draft Champions drafts during the month of November.


Royce Lewis


Regular Season: .309/.372/.548, 36 R, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 6 SB, 155 wRC+

Postseason: .227/.346/.773, 6 R, 4 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, 194 wRC+

ADP: 42

The power surge Lewis experienced in the postseason wasn’t a foreign experience. The 2017 number-one overall pick was already a known commodity even before the grand slam barrage on which he went in the second half that returned him to fantasy relevance. His clutch antics in the postseason helped the Twins win their first playoff games in more than 20 years and now have him being recognized as a legitimate offensive force to be reckoned with.

While his Statcast metrics don’t blow you out of the water, I don’t doubt Lewis’ skills. What I do place into question is his ability to stay on the field. Lewis has endured countless dramatic injuries across the past few seasons that have held him back from claiming his rightful status as a star in MLB. Still just 25 years old entering the 2024 campaign, he has plenty of time to change his status as a talented, yet injury-plagued hitter. His bloated ADP leaves little room for error next year, and fantasy managers will be pointing to his performance in October as the deciding factor in paying his Playoff Tax.


Nick Castellanos


Regular Season: .272/.311/.476, 79 R, 29 HR, 106 RBI, 11 SB, 109 wRC+

Postseason: .213/.269/.574, 7 R, 5 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, 111 wRC+

ADP: 108

After a disappointing first season in Philadelphia, Castellanos bounced back in a big way in 2023. He then went on a historic home run binge during the NLCS, completely flipping his public perception in an orbit of the sun. Surprisingly, his ADP hasn’t shifted much from last year when he was drafted inside the top 115.

There’s reason to be skeptical of his regular season performance, regardless of how hard he hit the ball in October. The three notable negative changes to his approach that I outlined in my article (incorrectly) identifying Castellanos as a bust for 2023 were declining plate discipline metrics, increased ground ball rates, and a lack of pulled balls in play. Castellanos fixed the latter by pulling the ball more than ever and rediscovering his barrel (+3.7% barrel rate). Meanwhile, his plate discipline got even worse and the ground balls remained. There’s still reason to doubt Castellanos’ resurgence, but his successful playoff run has fantasy managers turning a blind eye.


Ketel Marte


Regular Season: .276/.358/.485, 94 R, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 8 SB, 127 wRC+

Postseason: .329/.380/.534, 6 R, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB, 146 wRC+

ADP: 120

While Marte had his best season since his 2019 breakout, it paled in comparison to his record-breaking run to the World Series during which he set the record for the longest hitting streak in playoff history and earned NLCS MVP honors. The streak made headlines on a daily basis and brought his bat to the forefront of the public consciousness and the Arizona lineup.

Now, he’s being drafted inside the top 125 a season after being drafted outside of the top 165. How different was his regular season from the likes of Teoscar Hernández (.258 AVG, 26 HR, 7 SB, 165 ADP), Brandon Nimmo (.274, 24, 3, 198), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.261, 24, 5, 248), or Justin Turner (.276, 23, 4, 254)? Those players have outside factors contributing to their reduced ADP, but to repeat his success, Marte will need to display health and consistency in 2024, both of which evaded him from 2020-22.


Evan Carter


Regular Season: .306/.413/.645, 15 R, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 3 SB, 180 wRC+

Postseason: .300/.417/.500, 9 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB, 155 wRC+

ADP: 132

Upon being drafted in the second round in 2020, there were already analysts doubting Carter’s viability as a big leaguer. He proved them wrong by swatting 11 big flies and swiping 26 bags while producing a 136 wRC+ in his first full season at High-A as a 19-year-old and then doubled down with a 12-homer, 22-steal, 133 wRC+ performance at Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2023. He made a surprise late-season appearance and earned his way onto the Rangers’ playoff roster with a monster September.

That performance may have been written off as a small sample, especially considering his struggles with the punchout (32% K%). However, he proved he could handle the best teams in baseball by showing exceptional discipline and contact ability during the Rangers’ run to a World Series title. In turn, his ADP has been pumped up inside the top 135 alongside the likes of proven veterans such as Cedric Mullins and Dansby Swanson. Fantasy drafters are chasing an immense ceiling but may be disappointed when the league inevitably makes its initial adjustment to Carter. If you were hoping for a steal late in drafts…good luck. Nobody’s sleeping on Carter after his postseason coming-out party.


Nathan Eovaldi


Regular Season: 144 IP, 12 W, 3.63 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 22.9% K%

Postseason: 36.2 IP, 5 W, 2.95 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 26.8% K%

ADP: 198

Eovaldi has a history of turning things up a notch when the lights are the brightest. His performance in the 2018 postseason won’t be forgotten by Red Sox fans, and Rangers fans won’t soon forget all he did for them on their way to their first World Series trophy in 2023. However, it seems as though fantasy managers have forgotten about Eovaldi’s fall from grace in the second half and his history of injuries.

After pitching to a 2.69 ERA (123.2 IP) in the first half, Eovaldi succumbed to the IL and didn’t return until September when he struggled mightily to a 9.30 ERA (20.1 IP) to close out the season. He lost a mile per hour off his fastball during that time and failed to control the strike zone, but turned things around just in time to save face for the playoffs, and in turn, draft season. Eovaldi has surpassed 155 innings just twice in his 13-year career and will be entering his age-34 campaign. His Playoff Tax isn’t exorbitant, but it’s certainly not discounting the uneasiness that should accompany his late-season drop-off.


José Leclerc


Regular Season: 57 IP, 4 SV, 2.68 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 28.8% K%

Postseason: 13.2 IP, 4 SV, 3.29 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 25.5% K%

ADP: 201

I wouldn’t blame you if Leclerc wasn’t in consideration for your fantasy roster all year. He played third fiddle to Will Smith and Aroldis Chapman until September when they both fell apart, making him the last reliable option to close out games for the Rangers. Manager Bruce Bochy then trusted him more than any other reliever on the team in the postseason, sending him to the mound to close out the majority of their October victories.

His usage in the postseason has made him the top option for saves heading into 2024. That’s despite a 4.72 xFIP during the regular season and a full tick lost off his fastball velocity. Fantasy managers are opting to draft him over Alex Lange, Craig Kimbrel, and Carlos Estévez, relievers with more closing experience or a clearer path to the ninth in 2024. If the Rangers add a closer in the offseason, his ADP is sure to plummet, but if they save their money and continue to place their trust in Leclerc, it will only continue to rise. You’d be smart to be wary of the recency bias that has preemptively awarded him the closer role.


Featured Image Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Jake Crumpler

A Bay Area sports fan and lover of baseball, Jake is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in English Literature. He currently writes fantasy articles for Pitcher List, is the lead baseball writer at The Athletes Hub, and does playing time analysis at BaseballHQ. Some consider his knowledge of the sport to be encyclopedic.

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