Let’s say you are in a draft and with your first-round pick you select second baseman Chase Utley. Not a bad choice, I’ve seen it done plenty of times before. That the remaining second basemen become much less valuable to your team is a concept most people understand.
The extent that the remaining second basemen drop in value depends on your league settings—whether there is only one second base roster spot or multiple positions you could stick a second baseman (e.g. a middle infield spot) is the determinate. And obviously the more positions you can stick a second baseman, the less each available second baseman drops in value to you. Only to you.
In the short term, most people are aware of this drop in value in drafts. I know this because rarely do you see someone take two second basemen early in a draft. Even when there are more than two spots to play second basemen on your roster, most people will hold off on a second one until at least the middle rounds, and when there are only two spots for second basemen (2B + Util spot) most people will not even take a second one.
Whereas people understand this in the short term, when it comes to putting together a full draft people forget that who you draft in the first round affects even who is most valuable to your team in the last round. I hate throwing the term value around like a curse word in a painfully unfunny Bob Saget comedy stand-up, so let me give you something more tangible to grasp.
Let’s say you are about to start a draft. At this point you know next to nothing about how it will end up looking—you don’t even know what pick you are going to have yet. All you have are your positional rankings and a list of sleepers to target at the end. Your top three sleepers are a shortstop, an outfielder and a pitcher.
Although you should not completely base your first few rounds on who you think you might will grab in the later rounds, it does make sense for your first three picks to not be a shortstop, outfielder and pitcher. You might draft a player from one or even two of these positions in the early rounds—if there is a great outfielder out there in the second round, go get him—but understanding how that affects the rest of your draft is important.
So you go into the drafting looking to target a first, second or third baseman early. The draft begins and you get your first and third baseman early, but a good second baseman eludes you as the draft heads into the dreaded middle rounds. With no second baseman on your sleeper list you’d be comfortable with in a starting gig, now is the perfect time to “reach” on a second baseman in the middle rounds, say Jose Lopez in the eighth round. Sure it might not be the best pick and sure his ADP is almost 30 picks later, but with the special need you have the pick is more than defensible.
Now, you do not want all of your middle-round picks to be this sort of defensive type, but if you are going to reach at some point on a player, reaching in this situation can be called ideal.
I understand that the concept discussed in this article is not something most people don’t know, but I do believe it is something people should be more consciously aware of in drafts. Understand that your late round targets affect your first round targets, and who you actually get in the first rounds affects the value of certain players later in the draft. Any position that gets lost in the shuffle can excusably be targeted in the middle rounds and when you chain the parts of a draft together in this way, you will put yourself in the best position to get the most out of a draft.
Ultimately, though, it is the individual players themselves who determine how good a draft was.