While Grey and I are usually around (more Grey than me) to answer pre-draft and post-draft questions, we don’t have a solution just yet for inter-draft questions.
As we wait for the first prototype of our Razzball helmet that allows us to help call the plays for our readers, here are some tips that will allow you to call audibles like Peyton Manning. (Look slig me, Doc, I’m makin’ football analogies!)
I’m in the middle of a draft and I’m somewhat to completely set at a position BUT I can’t believe this hitter is still available. Should I draft him and 1) Fill CI, MI, or UTIL earlier in the draft than expected and/or 2) Draft him to set up a pre-season trade?
Generally no on #1. Always “No” on #2.
I’ll start with the answer to #2. NEVER draft thinking you’ll be able to trade anyone for close to face value. Two simple reasons: 1) Everyone is in wanderlust with their team after the draft and generally overvalue most players on their roster and 2) If they valued this player nearly as much as you, then he wouldn’t have dropped as far in the draft!
For #1, I’d only do this if the player is clearly the best hitter on the board with slight consideration for position scarcity. If you drafted Pujols in the 1st round and inexplicably Adrian Gonzalez still available in the 4th round, then sure. But I’m pretty confident that the 2B, SS, or 3B you have your eyes on isn’t by far the best hitter out there. I’m supremely confident if you’re eying a Catcher. But even if they are slightly better than a player at another position, I’d draft the other guy. Why? Better roster flexibility throughout the draft – you ALWAYS want the best values and filling up one position and being scarce in another prevents this – and if the league is undervaluing this position early (based on your valuation), then they probably will undervalue it late in the draft too.
Same as above but it’s a pitcher.
You’re not going to get good trade value from a starting pitcher and if you’ve already got a couple of top SPs, that next one will have less incremental value for you. You obviously value pitchers more than your league mates and will have no problem drafting 5-6 SPs you like spread out throughout the draft that’ll better maximize value and draft flexibility.
Relievers are the exception to the rule. They are the only players that have fair trade value given their scarcity. Nothing wrong with stocking up on saves in April/May and then trading a closer when a good deal can be had. But I can’t see any reason to draft more than 2 closers in the first 10 rounds – even if a top closer is still hanging around by the 9th/10th.
How do I factor upside into my draft choices?
Sprinkle it in throughout the draft and take more risks later in the draft.
For those who read this blog religiously (which must suck for our Jewish readership as our content must be even more nonsensical when read right to left), you may know that Grey has a perpetual boner (RIP btw) for upside while I’m a bit more conservative. Here’s why….
You have to realize that ‘upside’ is factored into legitimate projections (CHONE, ZiPs, PECOTA, Marcel) and that the chances of performing above these projections is about the same as performing below these projections. So ‘upside’ is a sunny word for risk and drafting on ‘upside’ (vs. projected results which represents their ‘average’ statistical outcome) generally means you are reaching for that player.
It’s best to balance ‘upside’ players with more dependable players so you’re getting the most value out of every draft pick and minimizing risk. I remember seeing a 2009 AL expert draft last year where someone drafted Liriano, David Price, and Chamberlain as 3 of his top 4 starters. That was nothing more than pitcher roulette in my eyes and they obviously didn’t hit their number.
But towards the end of the draft, upside is great because the ‘dependable’ players aren’t much better than the players available on the free agent wire. So you might as well take a shot on someone sexy in the hopes they overdeliver knowing you can fall back on a dependable player via free agency.
You play it too safe, Rudy. Flexibility. Manage risk. Blech. Screw your mutual fund approach. I want to play the stock market. Any recommendations?
While I think maximizing draft value is the best chance of winning a league, I admire someone who’s willing to roll the dice. Gamble is my last name.
If you want to gamble by taking a lot of young ‘upside’ picks, go ahead. It could work but I highly doubt it.
If you think you’re great at finding pitching bargains, go right ahead and wait until the 10th round or so to draft pitchers. Just realize that there will definitely be at least 1-2 drafters in your league already deploying that strategy which makes it tougher to win with this gambit (because of the increased competition for early hitters/late pitchers).
My gambit of choice would be to draft 2 pitchers in the 3rd-5th rounds – hopefully snagging 2 of the top 5 or 6 starters before an inevitable starting pitching run occurs. In the next 5 rounds, get 2 premium closers and another SP. Get at least two more closers before the end of the draft and some pitchers with solid Wins and K numbers. The intent is to finish near the top in all 5 pitching categories.
While hitters are generally valued higher than pitchers, it is tougher to find hitter values but they are there. I’d punt Catcher since you’re paying a premium for position scarcity and you want to focus on raw numbers to balance your pitcher-heavy draft. I’d punt both 2B and SS until at least the double-digit rounds as there are much better values to be had later in the draft. Throughout the draft, concentrate on everyday hitters with a likely shot of hitting 1st through 5th in the lineup – it doesn’t matter if they are on a bad team. The reason for focusing on lineup position is that they are solid bets for 160+ Runs and RBIs. Since power-speed players generally come at premiums, mix and match hitters who come undervalued because they are particularly weak in a dimension – e.g., Adam Dunn (average) and Michael Bourn (power). As the season goes on, trade closers to improve offensive numbers.
Will this strategy work? Yeah, some of the time. I wouldn’t recommend it over a more balanced draft but if it was a sure thing, they wouldn’t call it gambling…