I have never been a fan of February drafts. I mean, sure, it’s great to get a team early, get into the league, and immediately begin making trades or squawking on the message board about how great your thirteenth round pick was. Or better, what value you landed in your final five picks.
But … it’s February. There’s still snow covering a quarter of the United States. Pitchers and catchers barely reported. In 2018, 100+ free agents were still wearing sandwich board signs reading something like:
- Former Cy Young Award Winner – Can Still Pitch With Nastiness
- Professional Masher – 38 Bombs Was Just the Beginning
It worked for Samuel Nix. LOL. But I digress.
In all seriousness, the Free Agent Freeze of 2018 (rightfully so, in this writer’s opinion, but that’s another article) did lead to one of the more difficult aspects in drafting for fantasy, right? Drafting a player who has talent, is the *right* age, but has not yet signed a contract. Because not knowing where super-late signings J.D. Martinez (BOS) was going to hit or where Jake Arrieta (PHI) will pitch – could that really impact their value? In some cases, I would argue absolutely.
But I would submit to you that the most difficult aspect in fantasy drafting is knowing when to pounce on that minor league player you know with all certainty (barring injury, trade, or divine intervention) will make his Major League debut this summer. Or perhaps as early as spring, just as soon as enough calendar has elapsed such that at the season’s conclusion, the player still has less than a full year of service time accrued. This is also known as the “Kris Bryant strategy.”
We are going to spend the next two weeks looking for Average Draft Position (ADP) Gems for minor league outfielders that were selected in fantasy drafts as of March 12, 2018. But we will begin our journey with my own Major League Fantasy Sports Staff experience just this past Sunday, March 11, 2018.
All queued up and ready to go (literally, I had 50 players in my queue), the draft began promptly at 7:00 PM EDT. In our MLFS Staff 12-team Mock Draft, I was positioned at #5 in the odd rounds and #8 in the even rounds. Not overly bad positioning, but Mike Trout (LAA) – Bryce Harper (WAS) – Jose Altuve (HOU) – Nolan Arenado (COL) were all gone in about 45 seconds. My immediate thought: “Is it too soon for Ronald Acuna (ATL)?” Realizing I am a writer on this very site and wanting to impress my fellow MLFS staff-mates, I opted for Trea Turner (WAS). Power, speed, average, potential for positional flexibility … checks so many boxes, and if we do end up playing out this league, Turner helps in many ways.
The Draft Clock was set to 30 seconds and very few picks even used ten of those seconds. Picks were flying off the board. (For the record, we completed a 12-team, 27-round draft in 62 minutes. That’s an average of 5.22 picks per minute which is pretty impressive. Well done MLFS staff!)
I had scarcely a moment to re-review my own Draft Now article featuring the aforementioned Acuna. Here’s a quick excerpt from that article on drafting Acuna:
- In a 12-team new/ re-draft league, I’m targeting him in the 8th round (puts him around the 27th/28th OF drafted).
- In a Keeper League, maybe even sooner. At 20-years-young, you are truly looking at your CF for the next decade. (If your keeper rules allow you to hang on to a player that long.)
But sometimes we outsmart ourselves. Or as a good friend puts it when shooting pool, “Think long, think wrong.” I ended up drafting the following:
Round 7 (77): with 22 outfielders off the board (and remembering my own advice), I had Acuna at the top of my queue. And then I drafted Domingo Santana (MIL).
Each round thereafter, Acuna was number one in my queue and I ended up with a different pick, round after round, ignoring my own advice. Finally, Bilal put me out of my misery by drafting Acuna in Round 14 (160).
Looking back, the honest assessment is I got caught up in a vortex of contributing factors:
- Wanting to look good for management.
Don’t do that … just be yourself! Always easier said than done, right?!
- Straying from your core gameplan.
Why make a plan if you’re not going to stick with it? (There are options for several other plans, but your primary plan was constructed with purpose.)
- Too much weight given to ADP and XRANK (Yahoo!’s expert ranking) values.
When I was drafting, I too often measured a player’s availability with those ADP and XRANK values. If Justin Smoak – drafted in Round 12 (144) – was still there at 144 even though his XRANK was sub-100, there’s a reason. See reason #2!
- TWELVE rounds saw a pick that I was going to make that round be taken by a GM before me in that round. SEVEN times it was the pick immediately before mine.
This happens all the time in drafts. Those that come prepared and can pivot more gracefully will ultimately triumph. In truth, with a 30-second clock and too much of #1 and #3 and not enough of #2, I think I did okay. Not stellar and not the full result I wanted, but it is a team I would gladly compete with.
Did I land Acuna? No. Because I wavered from my conviction in his talent. I would have likely been able to land 80-90% of the remaining players I drafted even drafting Acuna in Round 7 (77) or Round 8 (92). Comparing where Acuna went in our draft – Round 14 (160) – to the other major sites, as well as some other MiLB outfielders that were drafted:
|Ronald Acuna (ATL)||160||38||132||159||102||192||128||114||103||133.0|
|David Dahl (COL)||196||66||229||268||229||374||203||228||213||252.5|
|Willie Calhoun (TEX)||221||73||254||271||280||352||269||245||202||269.8|
|Lewis Brinson (MIA)||275||103||364||–||283||371||321||296||298||313.8|
|Jesse Winker (CIN)||293||109||390||–||301||353||–||317||306||319.3|
|Victor Robles (WAS)||295||87||311||–||258||334||342||295||275||300.8|
*OF – Nth outfielder drafted
**RTS – RealTime Fantasy Sports
^NFBC – National Fantasy Baseball Championship
^^FT – Fantrax
To a player, we as a league drafted these outfielders earlier than the national average with the lone exception of Superman himself, Acuna. That’s surprising. My interpretation of “Gem” is a player you were able to secure early enough to warrant considerable value but late enough such that it didn’t negatively impact your drafting strategy. Acuna at #160 indeed qualifies a Gem.
You could debate that each player in the above table is a Gem, especially Winker (higher average with some power) and Robles (contact hitter with speed and tremendous defensive prowess) taken largely as bench bodies. Would you temporarily surrender one of your bench positions for one of the above players suspecting, borderline knowing, that they will be on that MLB roster soon? As evidenced above with my own draft choices, in previous articles, and in my own game play, I know I sure would. (The true master knows when to leverage that aging veteran for the next MiLB breakout performer, perpetually keeping his team in the hunt for Fantasy Championships.)
Next week we will dive even deeper for some more ADP Gems, but the key is that you must believe in these players that you will be drafting. In this Mock Draft with the MLFS gurus, I was able to secure two of my Draft Now players, missing on the third only because of my own hesitation. Perhaps in my next draft (March 22), I won’t deviate from my plan. Time will tell.
Until next week … thanks for reading!
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts and Bilal Chaudry live on Sunday March 11th, 2018 from [8:20]-9:45pm EST for episode #105 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. This is our mock draft review special for the 2018 season. MLFS writers, and legacy league owners will be guests for 5 minutes to discuss their strategy.