I believe an overlooked part of draft/auction strategy is finding pools of players that are consistently undervalued. This fits best with a “maximize value” draft strategy, the goal being to add the maximum value onto your team as possible. It can be combined with a “get your guys” strategy, but this analysis is player agnostic.

To do this, I’ve taken to preparing for drafts by analyzing how the market (ADP) prices various fantasy assets as compared to projections. The process:

  • Take the last 3 year’s worth of  data
    • ADP data from NFBC
    • Projected $ value from my home league
    • Translate ADP to $ value by assigning the top player my top $ value, descending (this removes bias from my valuation methodology)
  • Break the pool up into various buckets of players
    • SP bucket, RPs, Hitters
  • Graph the descending values against each other

These value curves provide us a look into how the market prices pools of players, and help us plan how to allocate resources.

Starting Pitchers

An example will help clarify – here’s the value curve for Starting Pitchers:

Places on the curve where the Projected $ line (purple) lands above the ADP $ line (green) indicate a bargain – you can acquire these pitchers for cheaper than their projected $ value. On the flip side, when the green/ADP line sits on top, the market forces you to pay a premium. A few takeaways:

  • The SP market has very few “weak” spots to get deals
  • By this measure, the top 5 SP, on average, are the the best bargains you’ll find in the entire draft
    • Top SP always project out highly. For arguments not to draft these pitchers, read any article Grey writes
  • The entire 2nd/3rd tier of SP are overvalued by this methodology
    • If you’re buying in the SP6-SP36 range, you should be happy just to break even with projected value – don’t expect any big bargains
  • Everything in the SP4+ range is appropriately priced

This doesn’t mean individual players won’t break the mold above, but in general, you should expect bargains at the top, an overpriced middle, and to break-even at the back end of your rotation.

Relief Pitchers

What about the other pitchers we deal with – Relievers?

No big surprises here. Generally speaking, we know that closers are “overvalued” compared to projections. Any smart projection discounts saves totals to balance the odds of losing the role; but, all fantasy owners are trying to grab 2-3 of the guys who have the job today.

  • You may be able to break even in value by grabbing a top 2 closer; ask Edwin Diaz owners how that worked out last year
  • Pretty much everyone else with a solid hold of the job is going to cost an extra $2-4 than they “should”
  • Taking fliers on cheap closers/setup men is usually a good value strategy…
  • But in a shortened season, there’s minimal time available for jobs to turn over. I would expect even MORE of a premium here in July


We know that overpricing needs to be balanced out by bargains (fixed total $ value in the pool). If SP & RP have significant premiums through much of the curves, where are the corresponding bargains? Here’s the Hitter Value Curve:

And there’s our bargains.

  • The close mapping at the very top just indicates that there’s consensus between projected $ value & ADP – the top players are the top players
  • From about #5-#30, few deals should be expected. Be happy paying full price for a few studs.
  • Starting at hitter #30, and through ~110, you should expect to find some bargains
    • In general, this is the middle class of hitters, roughly the $8-$22 range
    • If you like to draft with a “spread the risk” strategy, you’ll be maximizing value through this portion
  • Late hitters map pretty closely to value


This approach helps you know what to expect going into your draft/auction. In general, the 2nd/3rd tier of SP will cost more than they are “worth”, and you can get bargains on middle-tier hitters. Don’t take this as prescriptive for every player in your draft this month; Do use these value curves to get a sense for how the market will price the various pools of players available.

  1. The Great Knoche says:

    This is good info. Thanks

  2. LenFuego says:

    So the takeaways here in, say, a 12 team league, would seem to be:

    1) ignore Grey’s advice not to take the very top SPs
    2) between round 4 and oh, round 15 or so, err on the side of taking bats over arms, and
    3) RPs suck.

    Did I miss anything?

    • TheTinDoor

      TheTinDoor says:

      So this is all based on projected $ value. If your goal is to maximize projected $ value on your team, those are the right takeaways.

      Rudy has written eloquently on why “maximizing projected $ Value” isn’t the primary goal when assembling a team.

      So I use these graphs more as a way to understand ahead of time what the costs should be for a player. I should be willing to pay full price for top players, and if I see even a small bargain on an SP3 I like, I should snap him up. I should build into my plan that I need to pay a little extra for saves than the spreadsheet says.

  3. I always convert ADP to dollar value and research shows that only the top SPs provide reliability. However I feel this trend of taking more than 1top Sp in the first 4 rounds leads to terrible balance. As for Closers, it’s either 2 top closers or roll the dice as in a full season, research points to only several Closers keeping their job throughout the year. Converting ADP to dollar value will lead to plenty of bargains with Hitting, but after the top tier, Pitching is very much a crap shoot. Needless to say, I’m not responsible for the research, it was done by 2 leading minds in the industry one of whom is a former Tout Wars Champion.

    • TheTinDoor

      TheTinDoor says:

      I like to think of everything in terms of $val, even if I’m in a draft. My brain does a lot better job judging $23 vs 8, compared to 36 vs 124 or whatever

      • Totally agree with you. We use cash every day so it’s easier to understand the values.

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