Preparing For Your Fantasy Baseball Draft: Part IV
Over the course of the next week, we’ll be running a series to help you prepare for your upcoming fantasy baseball draft. This particular series will be more focused on the methods behind your draft preparation than specific players, but we’ll use a few examples as well.
Part I: Overview
Part II: Knowing Your Enemies
Part III: Draft Prep - Part I
Part IV: Draft Prep - Part II
Part V: Keepers, Trades, and Prospects
Part VI: Positional Nuances - Hitting
Part VII: Positonal Nuances - Pitching
Draft Preparation - Part II
Don't Go Overboard Deciding Who To Select In The First Round
The most common discussion amongst those who are in the standard draft structure is always the same thing. Who goes in the first round? This is one of those items where many people suffer from an acute hyper focus on the subject. In reality, it just doesn't matter that much. Sure it’s nice to have a great player to anchor your team, but it is not the whole team. That one player represents a very small fraction of your overall year end totals. Your first round pick should be the most complete player on your team in terms of production across the board, but you are also paying the most for the player, so that is implied. Ultimately, you cannot make money with this pick. You can lose money with it, though. It’s sort of like a new car in that the value is already lost the second you draft him. The only thing you can hope for is that the engine keeps running and pray for no accidents. The precipice for production really occurs noticeably after the 25th pick or so and holds true most years.
So unless you are in an extremely shallow all-star type of league with only 6-8 teams, focus on who you'll take later in the draft. Managers who were lucky enough to land Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander, Matt Kemp, Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran or Alex Gordon generally fared pretty well last year. They were able to do better because they added a player that belonged in the upper echelon at a fraction of the price. While that sounds rational and makes sense, is it realistic to identify those players? In my opinion, the answer is no. However, you can mitigate the risks associated with bombing your lower round picks by doing some research to determine what players to grab.
Average Draft Position
Your next friend will be Average Draft Position (ADP) or one of the projection systems we listed in the previous installment. Both will provide you with similar results.
Before your league starts up, Mock Draft Central is a great source for ADP valuations. Some projection systems have tools that assign projected dollar values based on your league settings. When you break down the numbers and you determine what kind of year a player will have, you can determine whether or not you have a shot at getting them. Let’s say you really like Mike Napoli for your fourth round pick or at a value of $27 in your auction draft. Mock Draft Central and one of the projection systems will let you know where he is falling on average. If you see he is between the picks where your fourth round would occur - or later - you stand a shot at getting him on draft day. If he is being taken in the first three rounds, save yourself some time and move on.
Once the major fantasy sites open up, many of them have mock drafts available for free as well. This exercise is certainly more practical for the standard player that is for owners in an auction league. However, for the auction league players out there, if you can get a sense of the average draft positions for players you can still get a decent indication of where players will fall - particularly with players falling lower in the draft. For both league types, remember to save your results so you can average the totals. If you see Napoli going in draft slots 45, 50, 51, 54, 65, and 68, that lets you know that - if you want him badly enough - you should probably take him if you're picking around #45 overall. If you are in a snake draft, you can safely assume he'll be gone when your slot comes back up if you pass on him there.
Another tool at your disposal is Park Factors. Most fantasy players know these well, but not everyone takes as much advantage of them as they should. Stadiums on the poles are best bets for consistency. You can look at historical data with park factors and determine why they fall one way or another based on the team. The Phillies fell off the higher end of the equation because Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Vance Worley were great. Sure... Their offense declined, but they had a rotation that would rank in the top 5 percent all time. Think about those instances before you take park factors as gospel.
Regarding players that play in the top third in terms of hitters parks, it should absolutely be taken into consideration when filling your bats. You don’t want to make it a point to grab them exclusively, but certainly use that as a tiebreaker in an instance where you might be have two players that you consider to be close in terms of value.
On the other hand, we have our pitchers' parks. You will find some pitchers there who may not be sexy normally, but in a deeper league they are Jessica Biel and some of her hot friends. Just to be explicit, this is not mining for gold and becoming a millionaire, this is mining for gold and finding a nugget that can keep your team working tomorrow. It can give you value over what you would normally pay for a commodity.
- If you have the choice between two similar pitchers, if one is in the NL and the other in the AL, take the NL guy. Facing another team’s opposing SP is much more appealing than facing another professional hitter in the lineup.
- Pitching in the National League generally boosts strikeout rates as well, as they get to face the opposing pitchers each time through the order.
- When two pitchers are similar and one is in the AL East, take the other. That division is just a beast on pitchers and there's no indication that's going to change any time soon.
It is important to note that in many cases this is a great determining factor when deciding between two similar pitchers, but you shouldn't overrate it. Don't take Cory Luebke over John Lester because Luebke is in the NL in a pitchers' park and Lester is in the AL East. However, it would not be a stretch to take Luebke over a pitcher with a similar ADP like Jeremy Hellickson.
Don't Overrate Splits
The last preparation tip that I have deals with the split stat fad. A lot of times there will be justification that player X has finished the second half of the season with X numbers that are mind boggling! You have to keep in mind the reason why they are being touted as such. In many cases, it is because they have proven that they cannot put a full season together. That’s the same reason Ricky Nolasco and Brandon Morrow have been sleepers for three seasons in a row. They are immensely talented pitchers and should not be discounted in any capacity in terms of their abilities. However, in terms of ranking them, your team is going to be better served looking for a guy who throws closer to 200 innings and actually realizes that potential. There is certainly a chance that one of those two pitchers put it together, but always remember to get them at the right price. Do not overpay for them or the players who are emulating them. There are a few Nolasco and Morrow types every year. Just don’t be the person who buys too much into the sleeper hype. The "sleepers" the fantasy media pushes often actually tend to become overvalued and overdrafted.
That's it for today. Tomorrow, we'll be back with some tips on keepers, trading, and prospects.