When drafting a Fantasy Baseball team, getting good draft value is the most important thing to keep in mind.
Every Fantasy player now has the majority of the same information and statistics to use, so the basic playing field has been leveled. The key is using the information at hand to create a more valuable team than your competitors.
Whether the league is 5×5 categories, Points, Head-to-Head or Rotisserie, you need to bring value to your team with each and every pick. Now what exactly qualifies as a good draft value pick?
Something that I have figured out in the past few seasons of both Fantasy Football and Baseball is that the player available that scores the most points (or brings the best category numbers) does not always create the most value for your team. This thought has been widely accepted now in Fantasy Football already — in the majority of leagues, quarterbacks score more than anyone, but very few are taken in the first round.
The key is using this line of thinking throughout the whole draft. We already know that getting an elite running back or wide receiver is more valuable than a quarterback that scores more, now we just have to use that logic on every pick.
Draft Value = No. 1 Priority
The easiest way to explain the advantage of using value as your No. 1 priority when drafting is to look at an example.
I think first base is the deepest position outside of starting pitchers this season. So let’s say you are picking in the last 30s to early 40s and you need both a first basemen and shortstop. You have Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes staring you in the face, and they are a virtual toss-up to you. What are you going to do?
Let’s look at some average projections:
It’s hard to distinguish which player has more value, but you pick one of them by a coin flip.
So then you fill other needs and around pick No. 180 or so, and you need to fill the position (1B/SS) that you didn’t pick earlier and the best available are Jean Segura and Justin Morneau. Let’s look at their average projections and the sum of the two you would have drafted:
So while the numbers seem similar, you are actually getting an 8% increase in runs, 10% in home runs, 7% in stolen bases and 6% in batting average while only suffering a 3% dip in runs batted in. You passed on a possibly a better all-around player to begin with, but you get more value in the long run. Now, how can this be used in an efficient style while drafting?
Create and Stick To Your Projections
The Fantasy Baseball player can find hundreds of sets of projections online now. The trick is to find a set or create one that you trust. No projections are perfect, and everyone is searching for that coveted “10%” that separates the best from the worst sets. There is an easy way to create your own estimates based off of a respectable template.
The first step is to find 2-3 sets of forecasts that you relatively agree with. Export them out to an Excel sheet to get an average for each of the top 200 players or so, depending on the size of your league.
You can then go through and make adjustments. If you think George Springer will explode with power, add a few home runs to his total.
If you think Elvis Andrus will get caught stealing even more this season, take his stolen bases back a notch. It is an easy and simple way to combine your own predictions with thoroughly researched prognostications.
Use Your Fantasy League’s Totals From Last Year
Whether you play in a Rotissiere or Head-to-Head league, the year-end totals of your league need to be foremost in mind. Most websites will have last year’s stats available and easy to access. Once you have the numbers, find the baseline values that you want to aim for — for me I try to get third in every category because if you try to get first then you will sacrifice other categories and hurt your team overall.
Now with your projections mapped out and your goals for each category in place, you can more accurately see which players will give you the most value. Depending on your Excel prowess, this can be done to many different degrees.
The most modest route is having a blank sheet with each position listed out and simple sum formulas at the bottom. As you draft each player you can see how close you are to your goals. That way whenever you come to a decision between two similar players, you can see which one fills your needs more.
If you really are adept at Excel, then you can create a PAR: Percentage Above Replacement. This method is much more time consuming, but can give you a clearer picture of a player’s actual value.
By using percentage formulas for each category you can get a quick guess at how much each player contributes to each set. For example, if your goal is 225 total home runs for your team and Troy Tulowitzki is projected to hit 22.5 home runs, he is getting you 10% of the total needed. You can also combine the percentages (with a little tweak on an average category by simply subtracting the goal from the player’s average) to come up with the player’s overall PAR. The PAR can be used to see which position has the most valuable depth left.
Making Your Draft Efficient
Now this can all become quite a bit to handle when there are just 30 seconds to make a draft pick. If you do not go to the extent of creating a PAR for each player, then you can just use the percentages as a deciding factor on coin-flip decisions. If you do use the PAR method, you can get a gauge on how much value is to be obtained.
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Let’s say you have 10 teams in your league and you only start one first basemen and no corner infielder. By this route, you should be able to draft the 10th-best first basemen (obviously, dual-position eligibility makes it a little more complicated, but you can get the basic idea) later on.
With your PAR already figured out, you can see how much value you obtain with the second-best first basemen over the 10th-best, while also seeing the difference at the other position you are thinking of selecting.
Now let’s take this method back to our example. By my main league’s rules and scoring, Adrian Gonzalez and Jean Segura combine for an overall PAR of 61.8%. The combination of Jose Reyes and Justin Morneau combine for an overall PAR of 67.4%. That is a pretty drastic difference to obtain and can easily be seen by preparing in this manner.
If you really want to streamline the process and can use VLookups and Macros on Excel, then you will want to create a draft tab on your spreadsheet. On this page, you can use VLookups and Max/Large formulas to see where each player fits at each position. If you separate it out by all the positions, as well as the overall category, your decision can be made in just a few seconds.
Obtaining Draft Value With Every Pick
Now if you have the time and willingness to prepare in this fashion, it can not only create more draft value with each of your picks, but it also simplifies the selection process. I know I focused on category-style of play, but this system works with the points-based type of game, as well. In fact, if your league uses points the whole preparation is slightly easier since every category can be combined/compared together based on its point value.
No matter your league type or amount of teams, this value-based preparation can help your team. The more time and Excel-skill you have will only help give you more draft value and insight as to what the best pick would be. If you are able to create a PAR for each player then you can finally accurately compare the value between players regardless of position. This will help strengthen your Fantasy team’s depth, and get you another step closer to a championship.
Jose Reyes Photo Credit: Keith Allison
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