Yesterday, I participated in a RealTime Fantasy Sports mock draft run by Tyler Gettmann of FantasySixPack.net.
My specific goal in this draft was to test three common myths that you have probably had pounded into your brains over recent weeks by plenty of Fantasy Baseball analysts.
I used this mock draft as an opportunity to find out what happened if I tested each of these three myths.
The settings for the mock draft were fairly simple — standard 5×5 Roto categories, standard roster sizes and formats with the exception of playing 2 Catchers.
I also operated under the assumption of a standard ESPN Roto maximum Pitcher Games Started limit of 180 games. It was a 12-team snake draft. I drafted out of the fifth overall spot to start the draft.
3 Myths For 2015 Fantasy Baseball Drafts
For purposes of testing my theories, I relied on ESPN’s projections for standard Roto leagues, and the numbers I cite from here on come from ESPN. For those who are truly interested in reviewing the entire mock draft results, go here.
Myth No. 1 — You MUST Get Power Early
This particular doctrine has been spouted plenty of places, most notably on ESPN. However, I entered this mock draft with the hypothesis that there is plenty of power later in the draft, and that it is batting average which comes into greater scarcity late in drafts. Therefore, my strategy was to focus on drafting high-AVG players early and sacrifice some AVG for all-speed or all-power guys later to fill out my roster.
Of the first eight hitters that I drafted (through the first 11 rounds of the draft), only ONE hitter (Brian Dozier) is projected for a 2015 AVG below .263. In particular, each of my first four picks (Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, Freddie Freeman, and Adrian Gonzalez) are projected to have at least a .277 AVG.
Of the remaining seven hitters that I drafted through the rest of the draft, only THREE (Billy Butler, Carlos Ruiz, and Denard Span) are projected to reach that .263 mark. In fact, 3 of my final 7 hitters (Wil Myers, Everth Cabrera, and Oswaldo Arcia) are projected to have an AVG below .250.
The concern here is this–the hitters that you draft early are going to be your better hitters, so whether they have power or not, they will likely hit for a high AVG. However, late in drafts, you’re drafting lesser hitters, so regardless of whether they have power, they are likely to have poor AVGs. Guys like Arcia, Marlon Byrd, Curtis Granderson, Mike Zunino, Steven Souza, Michael Morse, Mike Napoli, Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira, among others, all have 20+ HR ability. ALL OF THEM went in Round 19 or later (or were even undrafted) in this mock draft. Almost all of these guys will come at the expense of your AVG.
The misconception here is that power is down. And that may be true in terms of the HR leaders. ESPN projects only 14 hitters to reach 30+ HRs in 2015. However, ESPN also projects 72 hitters to reach 20+ HRs in 2015, and that DOESN’T include the likes of Votto, Myers, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Adams, Pablo Sandoval, and many more guys who we would not be shocked at all if they reached 20-plus. So while elite power may be down, power depth appears to still be quite plentiful.
Myth No. 2 — You NEED a “Staff Ace”
Another common talking point is that you need one “ace” to anchor your staff, allowing you to fill in as needed. So for this mock draft, I entered with the intent of NOT drafting an “ace” (for this “experiment,” I defined an ace as a Top 12 SP, or an SP1 given the 12-team league size) and instead drafting multiple SP2/SP3. I ultimately drafted 5 SPs — James Shields (Round 8), Tyson Ross (Round 9), Gio Gonzalez (Round 10), Francisco Liriano (Round 16), and T.J. House (Round 25).
Here’s how that rotation compares to ESPN’s preseason ranks: #19 (Shields), #22 (Gio), #23 (Ross), #42 (Liriano), and #83 (House). Granted, House was a last-round flyer that I’m high on because of his groundball rates and his pristine control, but look at my first 4 starters. If you break down the overall SP rankings based on the 12-team league size, I have THREE SP2s (aka SPs #13-24 overall) in Shields, Gio, and Ross, and a mid-pack SP4 (SPs #37-48) in Liriano. I would argue that, on this basis, my rotation can easily compete with any team that built its staff by drafting one of those top 12 SPs.
I’d argue that my Top 4 can compete with any top 4 in the league, and I didn’t draft an SP until the 8th round, allowing me to build a very formidable foundation for my offense. On the flip side, Damian Schaab, for example, drafted 7 SP. Assuming all 7 make 30+ starts, he’s on pace for 210+ starts, well beyond the standard Games Started limit. As a result, he’s almost certainly going to have to either a) bench some of his starts; b) drop an SP; and/or c) find himself scrambling to make a late-season trade before he hits his max and loses all value for all of his SPs. By only drafting 5, if you’re operating off of a standard ESPN 180 Games Started max, I’ve got arguably 150 starts here (assuming House wins a rotation spot). As a result, I’ve maintained my quality/ratios and provided myself some flexibility for spot starts or to utilize my depth in offense/relief pitching to supplement my staff as the season progresses.
Myth No. 3 — Don’t Pay For Saves
Lastly, I’m sure plenty of you have heard this saying, perhaps made most famous once upon a time by Matthew Berry and repeated by many after him. However, many people misunderstand the concept’s intent–it’s not that you shouldn’t DRAFT elite closers. It’s that you shouldn’t OVERPAY for elite closers. The key with Saves (and really ANY position/category, for that matter) is the potential for the return of value. In this case, I decided to go along with the myth to see how it played out. I ended up drafting 3 closers who I believe have strangleholds (whether rightly or not) on their jobs — Jonathan Papelbon (Round 12), Zach Britton (Round 13), and Francisco Rodriguez (Round 15). I also grabbed Ken Giles (Round 21) and Tyler Clippard (Round 22) late in the draft to boost my ratios/Ks and give me the potential for additional saves.
Like we did above with SPs, let’s look at how I fared: I ended up without an “elite” (aka top 12) relief pitcher, but I ended up with the #13 (Paps), #18 (Britton), and #25 (K-Rod) RPs. If you subtract RP-eligible SPs like Alex Wood, and subtract elite setup men like Andrew Miller, I ended up with the #11 (Paps), #16 (Britton), and #22 (K-Rod) projected closers. So despite waiting until the 12th round to take my first closer, I have a trio of closers that arguably can be considered one of the favorites to win Saves.
Keep in mind, again, the point is value. I grabbed 3 of the top 22 projected closers despite not taking my first one until Round 12. Meanwhile, 9 of the other 11 participants drafted AT LEAST one closer before I took Paps, with 4 of them drafting TWO closers before I took Paps. Despite that, with my group, again, I believe I will compete to win the Saves category, and it didn’t prevent me from building a fantastic foundation to both my offense and my rotation.
What Have We Learned About 2015 Fantasy Baseball Drafts Myths?
|2015 Fantasy Rankings & Tiers|
In summary, I believe that the “myth” that you must draft power early is totally blown out of proportion. There is plenty of power to be had late in drafts. What is NOT as readily available late in drafts is AVG. Therefore, while it is important to draft well-rounded, 5-tool contributors early in drafts, it is crucial that you build the foundation for AVG early so that your team can absorb the likes of Granderson, Arcia, Howard, and so on as you fill in with bargain-bin, 20+ HR hitters.
Similarly, the “myth” that you need a staff ace is blown out of proportion. If you are willing to go on a “rotation run” in the middle of your draft (let’s call it the “2015 Boston Red Sox Strategy”), you can easily build a rotation that lacks a staff ace but has plenty of quality, allowing you to focus on the scarcity of quality hitters while still fielding a competitive rotation.
Lastly, I think there is some serious merit to the TRUTH of not overpaying for closers. Much like with your rotation, you can easily pass up on an “RP1” and instead grab a handful of RP2/RP3 players and still be extremely competitive in Saves. This, too, will allow you to focus on the more pressing matters of building an elite offense and building a solid rotation foundation.
Gio Gonzalez Photo Credit: Scott Ableman