My name is Nick Fleder, and I’m a new contributor to THT Fantasy. I’ve been playing fantasy baseball all my life, really (it’s been a short life so far), and it’s no less than an obsession. This is all very exciting for me, and I’d love to see feedback, comments, criticism, quips, love/hate mail in the comment section and via e-mail. Hit me up at nick DOT fleder AT gmail DOT com.
Drafting is where the magic happens. Yes, it’s important to hit, and hit big, on your first few selections. Whether it be a first round pick in a snake draft or a big $40 stud in an auction, it’s important to get your core right. But it’s not enough to assemble a few superstars and mid-round sleepers if you waste your late picks on middling and dwindling veterans.
Much like the GMs in actual baseball, smart owners will search for the market inefficiencies. They will try to avoid the overvalued and assemble a winning team in whatever way they see fit, even if some of the decisions are instinctive.
One approach I often use is nabbing bullpen arms with good WHIP and ERA stats. While I supplement the one or two aces (Cliff Lee, for example) on my staff with a bunch of crappy NL-only level starters to chase wins (Chris Narveson), I might be able to undo any collateral damage by picking up three or four good bullpen arms in my 10-player supplemental draft. After all, a Mike Adams or three can be as valuable as an ace.
But the most glaring fantasy baseball market inefficiency is the rookie player. Here are some offensive rookie stats from the last two years you may be familiar with:
Name (Year) HR RBI Runs Batting Average Stolen Bases F. Freeman (2011) 21 76 67 0.282 4 D. Espinosa (2011) 21 66 72 0.236 17 J. Heyward (2010) 18 72 83 0.277 11 G. Sanchez (2010) 19 85 72 0.273 5 I. Desmond (2010) 10 65 59 0.269 17
Things you may have observed:
1) This is a stellar crop of rookies from the last two years, who…
2) All had opening day jobs at the beginning of the 2010 or 2011 season…
Things you may not have observed:
1) How low their average draft positions were…
2) Who was selected near our rookies at hand in a snake draft:
Name (Rookie Year) ADP* Drafted Within Five Spots F. Freeman (2011) 213 Daniel Bard D. Espinosa (2011) 308 Jose Lopez J. Heyward (2010) 222 Joba Chamberlain G. Sanchez (2010) N/A N/A I. Desmond (2010) 320 Jason Marquis
*ADP taken from Mock Draft Central for 2010 numbers, and The Fantasy Fix for 2011 numbers
The same trend holds true for pitchers, too. Their stats are useful at worst…:
Name (Year) Wins ERA WHIP Strikeouts J. Hellickson (2011) 13 2.95 1.15 117 M. Pineda (2011) 9 3.74 1.10 173 I. Nova (2011) 16 3.70 1.33 98 W. Davis (2010) 12 4.07 1.35 113 B. Matusz (2010) 10 4.30 1.34 143
…but their Average Draft Position reflects very little to no cost on Draft Day.
Name (Rookie Year) ADP Drafted Within Five Spots J. Hellickson (2011) 165 Phil Hughes I. Nova (2011) N/A N/A M. Pineda (2011) 342 Miguel Olivo W. Davis (2010) 232 Aaron Harang B. Matusz (2010) 243 Jason Frasor
There are, of course, a couple of things to note:
1) Hellickson is an example of a rarity: A hyped rookie pitcher with a job wrapped up since the previous September who shot up the ADP rankings and was picked in the 16th round (at the earliest). Compared to the ADP of the other rookie pitchers examined here, this may seem high. But the 16th round isn’t exactly full of stars. Guys picked in the same vicinity included Joe Nathan, Rajai Davis, Brad Lidge, Ryan Franklin, Matt Thornton, Ian Stewart, and Brett Myers. Play the upside here, but especially…
2) …In the 23rd and 24th rounds, and so on (if you even have that many rounds). The ESPN Player Rater is imperfect but sheds some light as to actual production in comparison to draft position. (Unfortunately, ESPN seems to be lax about archiving Average Draft Position and Player Rater tools, so we’ll examine 2011 rookies drafted whose Player Rater totals are still readily avaliable.)
Name ADP Player Rater by Position J. Hellickson (2011) 165 25th I. Nova (2011) N/A 66th M. Pineda (2011) 342 37th F. Freeman (2011) 213 18th D. Espinosa (2011) 308 13th
As you see, starting pitching and first base were deep this year. But every league I’ve ever seen has, at a minimum, nine pitchers spots and room for at least three first basemen (First Base, Corner Infield, Utility). If you can identify rookies over the winter and in March who will have full-time jobs in April, do yourself a favor and spend a late pick on them.
The Hellicksons of the world are few and far between (the ultra-hyped Heyward went in the 22nd round on average in all drafts conducted before April 2010), but have the potential to pay off substantially, and the Freemans and Espinosas of the world only further illustrate that point.
Craig Kimbrel is another glowing example. A quick look at ESPN Standard League Live Draft Results will leave you with this of mind-blowing number: Kimbrel went for $4.1 in the average league. Yes, Jonny Venters was on the horizon (Kimbrel, the righty, should have been seen as the clear favorite for save oppurtunities), but the kid was in line for at least a share of the saves in Atlanta and had a 17.4 K/9 in 20 innings the previous September.
His low draft position is rookie bias, and it’s heartbreaking for those who missed on him. Sure, some rookies flop, but considering risk versus reward, it’s silly to ignore first-year talent that has ample playing time. We study the past to learn from our mistakes at times, so don’t make the mistake of passing up the $4 rookie to spend your money on a lower upside Vladimir Guerrero ($4.1 on ESPN). Take a chance on the rook.