How playing in leagues with different player-selection formats can make you a better overall fantasy player.
We have auctions and we have drafts. Some of you all might only do drafts and some of you all might only do auctions, while some do both. Of those of us who do both, most have a preference for a certain format. When I write here about fantasy baseball (which is almost always), I will sometimes write about a particular format and I will sometimes write about an idea that can or may be applied to drafts, auctions, keeper leagues, dynasty leagues, redrafts, etc.
Partaking in multiple formats can be a lot of work, but there are also benefits. Today we will discuss some of the benefits of preparing for both auctions and drafts. Mostly, it allows for a very nice sanity check.
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Why the Astros shortstop might already warrant consideration to be the first-overall pick in 2016 drafts.
Prospect-savvy fantasy owners knew that Carlos Correa had the potential to blossom into a superstar eventually, but nobody could have anticipated that he would burst onto the scene the way he has over the past two months, slashing .288/.349/.557 with 14 home runs, 31 runs scored, 37 RBI, and nine stolen bases in his first 54 games (235 plate appearances). An intoxicating blend of age, elite five-category production, and shortstop eligibility has Correa poised to rank among the top-10 most valuable commodities in re-draft leagues next season. However, it’s time to start seriously considering whether or not he deserves to be in the conversation with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper for the top-overall selection in keeper and dynasty formats going forward.
Setting aside the small sample size caveat (which certainly applies here), let’s acknowledge that Correa has already established himself as the top shortstop in fantasy baseball at just 20 years old. His .312 TAv ranks second (trailing only Brandon Crawford’s .315 TAv) among shortstops with at least 200 plate appearances this season. Only Crawford, Troy Tulowitzki, and the perennially underrated Jhonny Peralta, all of whom have nearly twice as many plate appearances, have hit more home runs this year. It’s not even much of a debate when you take a closer look at the current valuations, which matter more from a fantasy perspective than anything else.
Comparing when the fantasy staff would advise you to take players to when they're actually being selected.
This article took shape thanks to the comments and suggestions of BP readers Tuck and TroJim. The former noted that a column elaborating on some of the larger discrepancies between Mike Gianella’s Top 300 list and current ADP numbers might be a helpful exercise in helping drafters determine value, and I agree. And then in a response to questions about the utility of our Darkhorses series focusing on generally known and highly drafted players, TroJim made the following excellent point: “Like the stock market... some people try to get rich on penny stocks and others find success in discerning which blue chips will perform the best.”
And lo, a column was born. I’m going to focus this article on the players with the largest gaps between our own ranking and ADP from the top 84 names on Mike’s list, as that cutoff represents the top six rounds of a standard 14-team league. I don’t think I’m breaking much ground with this declaration, but the top six rounds of a draft are extremely important rounds. These are your blue chip players, the foundation upon which your team is built. It’s possible to win with an underwhelming start, but it’s awfully difficult.
How being conscious of others' opinions can impact what you do on draft day.
In scouring the strategy and decision-making side of fantasy baseball for potential areas of improvement, we have now arrived in the land of draft setting. In making this definition up in order to fit the points I am trying to make in the rest of the article, we can break draft setting into two parts: draft medium (in-person or online) and competition (familiars or strangers). The draft setting matters, particularly how we view and know our competition, because the way in which we perceive our decisions will be perceived by others will often influence the decisions we make. As we have mentioned about other decisions, these factors should not matter when we make decisions in an auction or draft, but, alas, they do.
This is not something that only happens to your average fantasy baseball participant, such as me, this is something that happens to the experts too. In discussing the results of his NL Tout auction, Mike Gianella messaged me the following:
There are moments of calm that come before you sit down to participate in a draft or an auction, even when it’s a heightened environment, because you’ve almost always seen what is about to be thrown at you before. On Saturday, the environment was certainly heightened—as I was at Tout Wars, surrounded by a very well-versed and smart group of participants—but the calm was missing. After all, this wasn’t a standard draft or auction.
The concept behind Tout Wars X is that each year the format will change—testing out new twists and turns on the game that we all love. And in its inaugural season, that format was the monthly game made quite popular by Ron Shandler at his site, shandlerpark.com. So on this day, myself and nine other participants were snake drafting players at set salary cap values to use for the first four weeks of the season. So while the game was new, the stakes were much lower than the other auctions going on around us, simply because we were playing for one-sixth of the upcoming season. At the beginning of each subsequent month, we will all be selecting our teams using a basic salary cap system, just without the fun of the live draft.
As promised, here are Baseball Prospectus’ rankings for players who play in draft leagues.
This is a list of the top 300 players as ranked by Bret Sayre and Mike Gianella. This list assumes standard 23-man rosters with two catchers, which is why the list is so catcher-heavy at the bottom. If you play in a league with one catcher, adjust accordingly.
Why our risk-averse nature sometimes leads us to scan past players we should be selecting.
Every year I look back on the season and say, “How did I miss on that guy?” Unfortunately, I always end up asking this question about multiple players after each season. I am going to venture a guess that I am not alone in experiencing this. That said, it is often a good thing that we miss on some out of nowhere players; to quote Kathryn Schulz’s excellent Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin Error, “being wrong is often a side effect of a system that is functioning exactly right.” In other words, when dealing with an uncertain future, good process can still lead to misses—to bad results. Missing on Danny Santana posting a .405 BABIP or Michael Brantley posting a HR:FB rate nearly double his previous career high (by “miss,” we mean not paying a draft or auction day price for these breakouts) is actually a positive for our process rather than a knock against it. (Note: If we missed for predictable reasons, then that would be a knock on our process.)
However, these misses—the bad beats, the good process-bad outcomes—are not the misses I was talking about earlier. Rather, I was talking about the misses that should have been avoided. More specifically, the ambiguity effect causes us to miss out on players each year. Below we will take a look at the ambiguity effect, its different forms, and some strategies to battle it.
You might want to highlight these players on your draft and auction lists this spring.
We’re changing things up a bit this year when it comes to our Players to Target and Players to Avoid fantasy series.
Last year, we had every member of the BP fantasy staff provide you with quick-hit blurbs for every target and every avoid piece. The problem is, this led to so many players being covered that we ended up being duplicative, supporting some guys we didn't really love or knocking down some obvious candidates. It got so bad that Mauricio Rubio told fantasy players not to target Derek Jeter, leading to one of the greatest BP comments of all time.
With drafts and auctions in the rearview mirror, Jeff looks back on his and underscores the importance of making adjustments.
By the time this article is up, there will be very few drafts and auctions remaining for the 2014 season. With the successes and failures of this draft and auction season still fresh in our minds, right now is the best time to analyze what went right and what went wrong. It is definitely better than doing so 11 months from now, when we are more likely to be misled by results (positive and negative) as opposed to focusing on process. So let’s dig in.
I have typed a lot of words about draft and auction preparation and strategy this offseason. I am far from being alone on the internet as someone who has done so. Preparation and strategy are great, but they can be made irrelevant if the strategy is not executed on draft or auction day. “Executing strategy” is a nice thing to talk about, but it is something that is not easily done. More importantly, executing your strategy is not always the best way to maximize your auction yield. Wait what? I have been preaching strategy and process all off season and now I say it is not to follow them? What kind on monster am I? I am not saying that strategy is unimportant, but I am saying that depending on the situation, a tweak or change to your strategy mid-auction or mid-draft can maximize your yield.
Examining how a theory of behavioral economics can help you exploit your league-mates in drafts and auctions.
Prospect theory, a theory of behavioral economics, is actually unrelated to both our beloved and non-beloved prospects. Rather, prospect theory describes how we choose between probabilistic alternatives when risk (uncertainty) is involved. Hang with me here because this has a huge impact on the decisions we make during fantasy drafts. More specifically, prospect theory explains how we choose to take on uncertainty with each draft pick. In understanding how our league-mates and we make decisions during the draft, we will be able to find some arbitrage opportunities throughout the draft. Sometimes we take more static players and sometimes we take more dynamic players. It is easy to chalk this all up to an owner’s individual risk appetite, but that would be oversimplifying the situation. A fantasy owner’s expectation for each draft slot and the players available for selection will also be major factors in determining how much risk each owner chooses to take on with each selection.
For every pick in a draft we expect to obtain a certain amount of value. The issue is that with pick 1.6, we cannot simply draft $38 of value; we cannot draft a .303 batting average, 27 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 102 runs, and 108 runs batted in with “x” amount of positional scarcity. We have to draft actual players. So with pick 1.6, we will either be drafting Robinson Cano, Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, or Chris Davis. Maybe we get lucky and one of Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, or Carlos Gonzalez falls to us. When it is time for our pick, there are three possible scenarios that we can encounter:
There have now been 71 different drafts completed by NFBC participants. The worksheet is now too large to turn into a scrollable embedded window, so the link to the complete online worksheet can be accessed here.
Here are the 5 largest gains and drops from the last report on 2/14: