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January 28, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Reviewing the First Expert Draft

by Jason Collette

Given the fact that my article from earlier this week was relevant for all of thirty minutes, I am not going to focus on any one particular player with this piece. This past Monday night, many fantasy notables—which included three of my AL Tout Wars competitors—gathered in Las Vegas to participate in the FSTA 13 team mixed league draft. As the first expert draft of the season, this draft gives us a peek at how the experts are viewing players, as opposed to those who are spending their time mock drafting over at mockdraftcentral.com.

I have normally been someone who has done only auction drafts, but having helped run the NFBC drafts these past two seasons, I have seen just how revered ADP is with players in those types of leagues. It is always helpful to see where the “experts” are tracking guys, because these are the same people who are producing the draft kits with which your own leaguemates are doing their draft prep. It also affects your own draft planning, because it helps you track which players the experts are going to start pushing up the charts these final few weeks, and which ones will start coming down, possibly causing you to re-think your own plans.

In between fever-induced coughing fits, I took the FSTA draft results and compared them to the ADP of the last 116 mixed mock drafts over at mockdraftcentral and found some rather interesting results. Here are the top five players that had the biggest difference between their draft slot at FSTA and their ADP:

·         David Freese: 168/397 (+229)

·         Neil Walker: 142/344 (+202)

·         Yunel Escobar: 183/380 (+197)

·         Koji Uehara: 197/394 (+197)

·         Austin Jackson: 140/331 (+191)

I am at a loss to explain why Freese exceeded his ADP by that much. There is nothing in his established skill set to suggest he is on the verge of some kind of breakout, and even if you look at the three months he played last year, it was clear that the league was starting to figure him out by June. The only other factor to consider was the talent pool at the position when he was drafted, because if you examine the draft results at the link above, there was a very sharp drop-off. On the other hand, Walker’s jump can be explained by the fact that he qualifies at second base and profiles as an above-average bat at that position.  The former top prospect finally stayed relatively healthy and put up the kind of numbers people have long expected of him. Now that he is entering his statistical prime, pundits believe he will continue to improve and are willing to ignore his ADP.

Escobar, like Freese, was a matter of available talent. Sure, he might hit 10+ home runs in the new bandbox of the American League but I like the pick of Danny Espinosa at 245 better than Escobar at 183. Uehara has two of the big skills pundits drool over for closer – a high K/9 and a high K/BB. Uehara quietly had a very good season outside of a few blow-ups against the Yankees. He also ended the season with elbow pain and has a history of injury issues making his overdraft an extremely questionable move. Jackson, like a lot of speedsters, got overdrafted. Yes, he had 27 steals last year but he also had a .400 BABIP and struck out 28% of the time last year. If one expects his chances to get on base to come down with BABIP regression, then certainly his stolen base production comes down. Since that is where a lot of his value lies, this was an extremely risky reach.

Conversely, here were the five players that were drafted well below their ADPs:

·         Ryan Ludwick: 339/142 (-197)

·         Alex Gonzalez: 344/156 (-188)

·         Johan Santana: 313/203 (-110)

·         Aubrey Huff: 213/108 (-105)

·         Scott Rolen: 307/203 (-104)

Clearly the pundits see what the mock drafters do not with Ludwick, and that is bad trends. Yes, he hit .299 with 37 home runs and 113 RBI in 2008, but that was in St. Louis with an inflated hit rate and a sky high HR/FB ratio. Welcome to Petco, where fly balls go to die. His hit rate has normalized, his HR/FB ratio is half of what it was back in 2008, and the home park won’t help that any. 2010 was the first time Gonzalez has had more than 435 at bats since 2004, and yet mock drafters are all in on him after seeing his 23 home run season last season. He hit 10 of his 23 home runs last season in the first five scoring periods in the home run derby played in the Rogers Centre and hit just 13 more over the remaining 21 scoring periods. Santana’s drop is all about the recovery from shoulder surgery and the fact that mock drafters see less risk than a real competition. After all, Santana’s K/BB ratio has been in a six-year slide from an impossible 5.3 to a more human 2.6.

Huff may have the cool rally thong, but I’m not sure why he was slighted this much unless people believe in patterns. Since 2006, Huff’s HR/FB ratio has been 15%, 8%, 15%, 9%, and 14% last season. If people expect that trend to continue, than there is a reason for Huff to slide that far down past his ADP. However, he showed more patience at the plate last season than ever before while maintaining the rest of his skills, and I do not foresee that much of a drop-off for him myself. Lastly, Rolen’s 475 at-bats last season were his most since the 2006 season and his HR/FB hit double digits for the first time since that same season in 2010. Do you pick the guy who hit 20 home runs in 471 at bats last season or the guy who hit 30 in his previous 1275 at bats? At his age, I am banking on the latter.

We still have LABR, FP911 Invitational, and Tout Wars left on the Expert League circuit to help line up where the experts are compared to the rest of the mock drafters, but the FSTA draft was a nice early peek and where things are lining up so far. If you would like to see the full break down of pick compared to ADP for the draft, see this google spreadsheet of the results.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Mock Draft

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