Everyone knows a fantasy baseball draft is all about maximizing value. You want to add the best possible player on the board or best overall value in the first round, and after that you want to build a team that maximizes value throughout.
Thus, I've decided to offer the following guide for finding the best values in each of the early rounds (minus the first round, since players taken in the first round represent excellent value) based on average draft position.
These players each have their own risks, but the potential reward based on where they are being drafted is immense. The following five players are guys I'll be targeting, and you should be as well.
2nd Round: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
There are two reasons I had the slightest of hesitations making this pick. First of all, I love Buster Posey's average draft position of 17.0 in ESPN leagues. If I can get a player like Posey in the second round, who is easily the top catcher at a thin offensive position, I'm thrilled.
And yes, I know all about Tulo's injury history. He's a huge risk, I get it.
But Tulo is worth the risk. When healthy, he gives you first-round production, and gives it at a traditionally weak offensive position, shortstop. His 162-game average for his career is a .292 batting average with 28 home runs, 102 RBI, 103 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. His potential is even greater than that.
With an ADP of 12.9, you're getting all of that early in the second round in 10-team leagues. I understand your reservations, but Tulowitzki is the type of value pick that wins championships.
3rd Round: Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
Longoria is another player that comes with some risk, but the potential reward is outstanding. As ESPN notes, Longoria's 162-game stats from last year would have been a .289 batting average with 36 home runs, 116 RBI and 82 runs scored.
Not bad from a third-round third baseman, right?
At the age of 27, Longoria is firmly in his prime and has MVP potential. If he stays healthy, you're getting an absolute stud in the third round, as Longoria's ADP is 22.0 in ESPN leagues.
4th Round: Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
How you judge Adrian Gonzalez's potential home-run output will determine whether you think he's a solid value. If you think his 18 home runs last season were the new norm, he's probably a slight reach in the fourth round.
But if you think he's still the player that hit 27 or more home runs in the previous five seasons, than you are getting amazing value in the fourth round.
With Gonzalez, a few things are certain. He's going to hit at least .290, he'll hit the 100-RBI mark and he'll likely score at least 80 runs. If you miss out on the elite first-base options, wait until the fourth and snag Gonzalez. With an ADP of 36.8 in ESPN leagues, he's a second-round value two rounds later.
5th Round: Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox
In the fifth round, you can take a chance on Ellsbury's health, especially when he has first-round ability.
Yes, he played just 74 games last year and has missed 236 games over the past three seasons. But don't forget his 2011 season, when he was arguably fantasy baseball's MVP after hitting .321 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 119 runs scored and 39 stolen bases.
Sure, I don't think he'll ever quite reach those power numbers again, and expecting him to score 119 runs hitting atop a less talented lineup than the Red Sox in 2011 might be expecting too much. But Ellsbury is still a player that can hit .300 with 20 home runs, 90 RBI, 100 runs scored and 40 stolen bases.
Those are first-round numbers, and you're getting them in the fifth. With an ADP of 48.0 in ESPN leagues, he could end up being the steal of this year's draft.
6th Round: Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants
Generally speaking, I don't even consider adding pitchers until the fourth round. Ideally, I try to add at least three solid starters between the fifth and 10th rounds.
So if I can add a player like Madison Bumgarner in the sixth round—who has the potential to be an elite fantasy starter this season—I'm jumping at the chance. He was excellent in 2012, finishing 16-11 with a 3.37 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 191 strikeouts.
He's a guy that could feasibly lower his ERA below 3.00, surpass 200 strikeouts and keep his WHIP steady. He's looked very strong this spring and should hit the ground running this season.
If Bumgarner is available in the sixth round—he has an ADP of 53.5 in ESPN drafts—snatch him off the board immediately. You might just be getting the ace of your staff at an amazing value.