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What You’ll Pay, Where You Play

By Jon J. Simmons, guest contributor to Fantasy Baseball Dugout

Let’s face it, in an attempt to bring fantasy baseball to the masses, online fantasy baseball leagues had to present information to help prevent the casual fantasy player from feeling lost. Thus, every online draft program now has numbers next to every player like average draft position, average auction value, and projected stats.

Inevitably, these numbers are self-fulfilling prophecies as team managers use these number staring them in the face to make decisions as the clock ticks down. This creates a new variable that every manager needs to be aware of.

For instance, if the drafting window says that Carl Pavano is the best player left and Team 9 needs a pitcher, what are the chances that Pavano gets an extra long look?

We call this venue value. Even a fantasy manager who is well prepared with their own research can be sucked in to this trap.

Remember that the values used are based on the default league setting for the particular website, but you can still use the relative value of players no matter what your league settings may be.

The ESPN.com standard league is 25 players and teams have $260 for the auction.

Carl Crawford OF

  • Average Value $39
  • Average Draft Pick 4.2

There is no question that Crawford is a great fantasy player and a likely first round pick in most league formats, but is he the 3rd best player overall as his current ESPN drafting stats suggest? ESPN projections basically have him duplicating last year’s career best production, which is probably a bit optimistic, as most projection systems show him regressing a bit to his career average power numbers. However, even if he gets to 20 HRs and gets 100 RsBI is that worth 15% of your budget or is this a case of bad venue value? The answer is the latter, especially from deep talent rich OF position.

Crawford owners are really paying for Delmon Young (ESPN AV $10) with 40 more steals. In an ESPN league, that works out to about $0.75 per extra steal; almost thrice the marginal value we place on steals from an outfield position when formulating the U value rankings.

Instead, what about targeting Matt Holliday (ESPN AV $29) and Elvis Andrus (ESPN AV $10)? Replacing Crawford’s steals at the SS position doesn’t present a huge opportunity cost and Holliday certainly contributes better counting stats to your team.

In any drafting league, the calculus is a little different since you only have one first round pick and you have to spend it on somebody. But, if you have an early first round pick you won’t pick again until the 20?s in a twelve team league. That means you’ve probably lost out on a chance to get the best player at any position unless you are the unfortunate one to break the ice on the closers.

Its not a bad pick to get Crawford in the first round but it doesn’t make you feel like you’ve established a significant competitive advantage either.

Bottom Line - If you target Crawford on ESPN be ready to pay out the nose in an auction and don’t expect him to make it past the fist five picks in a draft.

Josh Johnson SP

  • Average Value $14
  • Average Draft Pick 65

Granted, most of a starting pitcher’s value comes from wins which are notoriously difficult to predict. ESPN thinks Johnson is only good for 12 wins this year, likely due in part to injury concerns. However, there have been no signs of back and shoulder issues this preseason and the relatively young Johnson probably is gearing up for the difficult task of trying to win a Cy Young award on a mediocre team.

Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like Felix Hernandez (ESPN AV $30)? What is the marginal value of going with Hernandez instead? We see it as about 30 more innings of quality ERA and WHIP and 30 more K’s. How about passing on King Felix bidding war and instead targeting Johnson and Mat Latos (ESPN AV $13)?

Best case scenario is that both Johnson and Latos challenge King Felix for the Cy Young trophy, but you are also protected in case one of them goes down with an injury. Because starting pitching is the most difficult position to predict for fantasy stats and the most likely position to be ravaged by injuries, it’s better to have a bevy of quality arms rather than banking on the performance of one elite starter.

In a draft setting, the U has always advocated waiting for starting pitching. In an ESPN league managers can expect to see Johnson around in the sixth round even with 12 teams drafting. While Johnson isn’t a dominating #1 starter for your team, he can hold down that spot if you add a strong #2 starter.

Also, don’t forget that you’ve been busy racking up points with elite hitters during those first five rounds, so your Johnson pick is likely keeping you out of some crazy run on 2B that involves Richie Weeks (ESPN ADP 69) and Martin Prado (ESPN ADP 74).

Bottom Line- Spend some money and draft picks on offense first knowing that Johnson will probably be there when you need him to be.

If you want more insight on how to draft this year for your fantasy baseball league, check out http://www.fantasybaseballu.com. My blog at http://www.fantasybaseballu.com has more articles filled with tips and advice to help you win your fantasy baseball league this year.

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