ADP is the dumbest way to draft a fantasy sports team. But EWB, you shout through a nougat-filled mouth, what if I miss value? Drafting by ADP (average draft position) is like going holiday shopping and choosing the presents nobody wants. Kids, gather round the Festivus Pole and look at this snow blower I got for 50% off! Doesn’t matter that we live by the equator and it hasn’t snowed in a decade — nobody else wanted it and it was a value! 

ADP is a social construct. ADP is the draft price that people expect to pay for a player; it’s not an objective rating. Maybe you’ve seen my previous Bible-length essay about ADP. I wrote it while contemplating the holographic principle. Is a baseball even a ball? I digress.

The best use of ADP is to know where the rest of your league is heading. When you see them take the lure, you cut away from the pack and draft the league winner. The easiest way to deploy this tactic is to realize the worst ADP values on the board when you’re drafting. If there are players you know that you’re avoiding, it makes it easier to identify your desired targets and compose a superior team.

Here are the top Starting Pitchers to avoid at current ADP values. ADP values are taken from National Fantasy Baseball Championship drafts that have completed in January — 61 drafts at the time of writing.

Tarik Skubal: I’m a Twins fan (sigh), which means I’m naturally averse to promoting any AL Central competition. Tarik Skubal is currently SP12 by NFBC ADP, with an average ADP in the 5th round and a high pick of 31st overall (which is the start of the 3rd round in 15-team leagues!). Tarik Skubal has a 23-27 career record and an ERA near 3.90 in 400 career IP. After battling significant shoulder injuries from 2022-2023, Skubal emerged near the end of the 2023 season to rack up a 7-3 record with a nearly 11.5 K/9. My followers — shout out to all 16 of you! — benefitted from my early advice to pick up Skubal while he was still tossing simulated games. Skubal is a good pitcher. But at SP12 by ADP? That means that in a 12-teamer, he’s somebody’s SP1. How about this perspective? Over the past two years combined, Tarik Skubal has 2 less wins and nearly 25% fewer strikeouts than [checks notes] Dane Dunning. Double-D has an ADP of 460 right now and plays for the reigning World Champions. Tarik Skubal plays for the Tigers, who have a Vegas line for 80 Wins right now. So, if Skubal stays healthy all year, he might garner…10 Wins? Skubal is going ahead of guys who finished in the Top 20 SP last year, like Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Logan Webb, and Kodai Senga. Skubal is a fine SP2 or a great value at SP3. Maybe around pick 70-80, I’m getting “excited” about drafting a Tigers starter. But right now, you’re probably watching other teams start their 2024 journeys with a draft like Aaron Judge / Gunnar Henderson / Tarik Skubal. My lawd, did you pay for that team? Let somebody else overpay for Skubal and take somebody with a stronger track record a few rounds later.

Grayson Rodriguez: Our beloved GrayRod made the “too expensive” ADP list last year as well. People love a good prospect! GrayRod is going 71st overall, right after Blake Snell and Kodai Senga and before Logan Gilbert [stifles laughter]. Gilbert finished as SP14 last year and has put up nearly 80 starts in 3 years for a 32-18 record and a 3.76 ERA over nearly 500 IP. GrayRod started 2023 with a 7.30 ERA over 10 starts. Yeesh. GrayRod went to the minors and fixed his command and re-emerged with low K/9 (8.6) and reasonable BB/9 (2.5) rates. Those are fine numbers. Just about any starter can make those kinds of numbers for 70 IP. You know who had more Wins, higher K/9, and lower ERA than GrayRod over a similar number of IP? Tampa Bay Rays middle reliever Colin Poche. You can get GrayRod in the 7th round as your SP2, or Colin Poche for free in free agency — what do you do? ENYWHEY. Somebody out there is drafting Aaron Judge / Gunner Henderson / Tarik Skubal / Nico Hoerner / Grayson Rodriguez and claiming league victory while their hand is stuck in a can of Pringles. Meanwhile, you’re quietly building a rotation of Aaron Nola and Logan Gilbert while piling up bats for victory

Eury Perez: ADP of 82 with a high pick of 64. How many of you want a 21-year-old Marlins pitcher as your SP2? How about a guy whose FIP/xFIP was a full point higher than his ERA? How about a guy with a CSW% below 30% (that’s not great)? What about a guy with a nearly 11% barrel rate on the year (that’s awful)? Well, then draft Eury Perez. I don’t get it. Joe Ryan and Kyle Bradish (2023 SP10) are getting drafted at least a round later than Perez on average. Whatever. Personally, I’m not targeting Eury Perez anywhere — Marlins starters are notoriously poor for Wins and Perez isn’t even guaranteed to start in the Majors. The guy is 21! Let him become a mistake for somebody else.

ADP Targets

Kyle Bradish: Not Top 10 SP material, but he’s got 300 MLB IP under his belt with a 3.70 ERA / FIP and an ADP near 100. That’s a deal no matter what.

Dylan Cease: He’s always going to have control issues. That’s just who he is. But when he’s in peak form, he’s good enough to be your SP1. In 2022, his ERA was a point lower than his FIP, which drove his insane ADP in 2023. In 2023, his ERA was a half point more than his FIP, while his K/9  and BB/9 remained roughly in line with career norms. He’s now got an ADP of 110, which is like SP3-4 for most teams. Basically, take everything that people write about Blake Snell and put it here. That’s an absolute steal for ADP of 100+.

Joe Musgrove: A freak weight-training accident in 2023 spring training derailed his year. On a per game basis for full time starters in 2023, Musgrove was 6th overall in value per game. Perhaps drafters are worried about his shoulder injury that shut him down for 2023. Per local reporters, the Padres proactively shut down Musgrove because they were out of the playoff race and wanted to allow Musgrove time to fully recover. Musgrove is going 116th overall in 2024. So while you’re piling up bats early in the draft, how does a Nola / Senga / Cease / Musgrove start to your rotation sound? Sounds good to me!

What ADP absurdities are you seeing out there? Let me know down in the comments. Have an awesome week!