It’s always dicey to put too much stock into average draft position when strategizing for a draft, particularly for players you are heavily targeting. No owner wants to come up empty when four or five of his “must-haves” get snatched up a round or two sooner than expected, leaving said owner with a litter of panic picks and a team nothing like he’d envisioned. On the other hand, paying no attention to ADP could lead to a series of reaches, which might result in a draft devoid of any true value picks, and a team without some solid built-in value is a team with a long season ahead. In deeper leagues, these value picks are even more important. The deeper the league, the shallower the free agent pool, so while your hits have an even bigger positive impact on your team, your misses might leave you with nowhere to turn in an attempt to plug holes on your roster. Deeper leagues most definitely require near-perfect timing in a draft or auction, which makes assessing ADP — and when to use it versus when to ignore it — that much trickier.
Since I am obsessive enough about fantasy baseball that I now consider it more of a part-time job than a hobby, it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am currently — even though it’s only early February — finishing up my fourth slow draft of the season. So far, these are all 15-team mixed re-draft leagues, and while the format is different than some of my other leagues, the 15-teamers go deep enough that I am getting a good idea of players values that feel more “real” to me than just ADP numbers. What I want to look at today is a handful of outfielders whom I had considered as potential targets going into my drafts but have not ended up drafting yet. The reason? They all have been going significantly ahead of their current NFBC ADP. That ADP, of course, is still doing a great deal of fluctuating this early in the pre-season, and I think I’ve been too reliant on it when assessing where I hoped to draft some of my deep-league targets (the following players all currently have an NFBC ADP ranked well outside the top 200). Going into my next draft(s), I feel like I’ll know that if I really want any of these guys, I may have to reach a little further than I’d originally planned to secure them (and that’s not even taking into consideration value jumps that may happen depending on who looks healthy and productive in spring training).
Victor Reyes. Reyes’ current NFBC ADP is 430, which presents the biggest discrepancy between where I thought I might be able to draft him and where he actually has been getting drafted in my leagues: the lowest I’ve seen him drafted is #330, and he’s actually gone as high as #232. Reyes is one of those players who oddly seems to have risen in value after a demotion to the minors thanks to rule 5 manipulation. He had to remain on the Tigers’ MLB roster in 2018 after they plucked him from the D-Backs and, not surprisingly, barely made a ripple with his severely limited playing time — he really wasn’t able to get any regular playing time until 2019 when he could safely be demoted to triple A. I may still take a chance on him in at least a couple leagues this year as a guy that should see regular playing time at the big league level, and could provide decent if not spectacular deep-league production in terms of both power and speed… I just need to be aware that folks are waking up to his potential a little sooner than I’d expected them to.
Sam Hilliard. His current ADP is 298, and I’d take him at that price point all day long; I just don’t think I’ll have many opportunities to do so, as he’s gone between #207 and #281 in my drafts. I expect his ADP to continue to rise (unless he has a terrible spring) based on promise alone. When it comes to drafting players ranked outside the top 200, most of us fantasy baseball folk tend to think more with our hearts than our heads (as we should at times, in my opinion, since mining for upside at that point in a draft can be crucial to a team’s success). We can all imagine Hilliard hitting 35 homers with regular playing time in Colorado, but we can all also imagine suffering through months of torture watching Hilliard sitting on the bench while the Rockies trot Ian Desmond or the ghost of CarGo out to take precious at bats from him. But even in re-draft leagues, I think the promise of what could be is too great for me to ignore, and I feel the need to grab Hilliard in at least one league before all is said and done, even if I feel like I’m reaching a bit. And when I’m reminded that Hilliard had between 22 and 37 steals each of his years in the minors between 2016 and 2019, it makes me want to move him up my draft board even further.
Alex Verdugo. Verdugo is an obvious example of a change of circumstances making his ADP (which is currently 225) somewhat irrelevant, as he finally finds himself on the way to being a regular in Boston rather than potentially crowded out of the outfield picture in Los Angeles. I regret not grabbing some shares of him at his lower price point, but that may not stop me from taking a chance on him even if I have to do so a few rounds earlier than I would have hoped. Besides landing in what is pretty much a dream situation in terms of opportunity for more playing time and counting stats, I think he could be a sneaky source of positive batting average — he managed to hit .294 in 343 limited/injury-affected at bats last year, and both Steamer and Depth Charts projections have him hitting at a robust .307 clip in 2020.
Yoenis Cespedes. When it comes to his NFBC ADP, Cespedes qualifies as the deepest of deep-leaguers, as his currently stands at #496. That’s after the likes of Harrison Bader, Jason Heyward, and Tyler O’Neill, and just before Leury Garcia and Raimel Tapia — not exactly of who’s who of outfielders projected to lead a team to fantasy glory. I’ve got the sneaking suspicion, though, that Cespedes will be drafted well before this point in most leagues, until and unless it becomes clear that he is still no where near healthy enough to play baseball any time soon. He went at pick #340 in my last draft, which is still late enough for me to at least consider him. It will be interesting to see what spring training brings for Cespedes, and it certainly possible that his bizarre, boar-related injuries were indeed career-threatening on some level. But if nothing else one would have to believe that Cespedes is motivated now that the Mets have re-structured his contract and packed it full of incentives… and if it turns out that he is indeed healthier than anyone guessed, he could be the kind of deep-league lottery ticket that pays off big time.