Friday, February 09, 2007

Average Draft Position

I've seen a lot of commentary about "Average Draft Position" floating around on the Internet, but this article, from Rotoworld is as good a place as anything else to examine this.

While I agree with the first premise, that you can use ADP to differentiate yourself, I don't necessarily agree with both of the article's two main points.

I do agree that starting pitchers are going too low. It doesn't matter much that starting pitching sucks now, or no one won 20 games, or Johan Santana is the only bonafide ace in baseball. Half of your categories are going to come from pitching. While it's true that pitchers are riskier than hitters, you still want to try to build a good staff. You're also not allocating auctiong dollars in a draft, so you should be drafting pitchers sooner.

What I'm not crazy about is over-drafting simply for the sake of position scarcity.

It's obviously early yet—although thankfully pitchers and catchers start reporting very soon—but at this point the ADP numbers suggest two smart strategies can be put into play. One is that, all things being somewhat close to equal, you want to let the power-only sluggers slide past you and focus on up-the-middle players who are at the top of their position. In other words, take someone like Mauer or Rollins, let someone else jump on the non-elite sluggers too early, and snatch up the second- and third-tier first basemen and outfielders a little later on.

I believe I ran through this exercise in a previous post, but let's take a look a the average value at each position in the American League, assuming a league with 18 1B, 18 2B, 18 SS, 18 3B, 60 OF and 24 C:

Outfield = $15.77
Shortstop = $15.11
First Base = $15
Third Base = $14.61
Second Base = $14
Catcher = $9

I'm not quite ready to declare position scarcity dead and buried, but it sure took a beating in 2006.

Nor am I saying to always take the best player on the board. A draft is different than an auction; you might very well want to grab Ramon Hernandez in an earlier round if you feel like the catchers are drying up. But the evidence from last year does seem to indicate that you shouldn't overdraft for the sake of position scarcity.

Perversely, I come to the opposite conclusion of Aaron Gleeman. I think ADP is a very useful barometer of perceived value, and that perceived value is an excellent starting point to look at value. It shouldn't be the be all and end all. And, yes, you should split pitcher and hitter values judiciously. But there's a reason these guys rank the way they do in ADP:

Lance Berkman – ADP: 14
Carlos Lee – ADP: 15
Travis Hafner – ADP: 16
Vernon Wells – ADP: 20
Justin Morneau – ADP: 29
Jermaine Dye – ADP: 34
Andruw Jones – ADP: 37
Paul Konerko – ADP: 38

It's because, simply put, there's just as much of a difference between Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera as there is between Paul Konerko and Jason Giambi ($9 gap) in 2006. ADP actually seem to comprehend this.

So, in conclusion, use Gleeman's perception to your advantage, if someone in your draft league shares it. Let that owner jump all over Robinson Cano early. You're better off with Jermaine Dye. OF is just as weak (or balanced, depending on your point of view), and the gap between Dye and the next tier is wider than you'd think.

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