Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Looking at Category Scarcity
You’ve probably heard a lot about position scarcity—make sure you get elite middle infielders and feel free to wait on your first baseman—and that a great draft is all about finding a balance between filling thin positions while not waiting too long to fill deeper ones.
It’s all true, but don’t forget about category scarcity.
Using a little bit of foresight (and a few easy to read graphs), we can get an idea of how a 2010 fantasy draft will play out. Those of you who are smart enough to keep coming back to Baseball Professor will continue to get access to this must-see math.
Yes, I'm a "stat head" with as much free time as baseball curiosity.
(If graphs aren't your thing, you can always check out our tips on Drafting Starting Pitching ).
All graphs are based on our 2010 Projections, which we will be releasing soon. Averages are calculated for all players projected to be taken in the designated rounds in a standard 10-team draft. Bear in mind, some rounds have more batters drafted than others, but this gives us an accurate snapshot of what we expect to see.
As we would expect, there is a steady decline in the average runs scored per player as the draft progresses. Of the 30 picks in rounds one through three, 22 are projected to be batters. Of those 22, 16 are projected to score 100 runs or more.
By comparison, rounds four through six feature 24 batters, but only three of them are projected to score 100 runs: Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter, and Jimmy Rollins. If you want an elite run scorer, make sure you get him early. But with 16-of-22 batters in rounds one through three scoring 100 runs or more, that shouldn’t be a problem.
We see a sharper decline in home run production than with any other category. Nine-of-22 batters in rounds one through three are projected to hit 35 home runs or more versus just two-of-24 batters in rounds four through six. In the latter group, only Adrian Gonzalez is projected to hit 40.
The drop-off gets even steeper as we head to rounds seven through nine and 10 through 12. In that six-round sample, we see a greater frequency of pitchers selected (25 pitches versus 35 batters), but only four batters are projected to hit 30 home runs: Adam Dunn (40), Raul Ibanez (32), Carlos Pena (37), and Jason Kubel (30).
With consistent home run production hard to come by in the mid-rounds, we can see the value players such as Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder have to a fantasy team. Even though first base is extremely deep, you cannot replace that production at any other position.
Runs Batted In
As home run production falls, so do RBI. The drop-off isn’t quite as steep as we just saw with four-baggers because there is obviously more than one way to drive in a run, but the two are clearly intertwined.
Only five-of-22 batters in rounds one through three are projected to drive in fewer than 100 runs. Two of them are Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury (and I don’t think you’re drafting them for their RBI potential).
You can still find high-RBI guys in the middle rounds, but they’re offset by slap-hitting, lead-off types. We project Bobby Abreu, Derrek Lee, Adam Dunn, Manny Ramirez, Josh Hamilton, Brandon Phillips, Aramis Ramirez, and Chipper Jones to come off draft boards in rounds six and seven. They all have 90-to-100+ RBI potential.
Of course, they also have major weaknesses or question marks as well, so it may be risky to invest a lot of your team’s RBI production in them.
Don’t let the erratic-looking line take away from the data—steals can be found all throughout the draft.
Yes, it’s nice to have the almost guaranteed 60+ stolen bases from Jacoby Ellsbury but, at the expense of 20-30 RBI, you can have Michael Bourn about nine rounds later.
If you want Ellsbury thats fine. He’s clearly an elite player and very valuable to have, but make sure you’re taking him for the right reasons. Drafting him in the second or third round because you need his stolen bases is not the right reason.
Batting average is surprisingly stable until about round 10. At that point, the draft transitions from players such as Shane Victorino, Michael Young, and Chris Coghlan to Jason Kubel, Jay Bruce, and Ryan Ludwick.
If we look at all the graphs we’ve seen and look at them cumulatively round-by-round, we see rounds seven through nine featuring a significant drop in home runs and a rise in stolen bases while maintaining a high batting average. Victorino, Young, and Coghlan fit this mold.
In rounds 10 through 12, we see HR totals plateau while batting average and stolen bases plummet, indicating guys who are more power-based. Sounds like McLouth, Bruce, and Ludwick to me.
Of course, there are exceptions to these generalizations since they’re only averages, but on the whole they are accurate profiles of how the draft will play out.
There is definitely something to be said for visual representation. Even as I write this, I’m surprised by certain trends. I knew stolen bases were plentiful throughout the draft, but I didn’t expect there to be such “stability” (and I use that loosely) as late as rounds 15 to 20.
I was also surprised to see rounds seven through nine post a batting average of .294, only five points less than rounds one through three, but it makes sense as guys like Pedroia, Nyjer Morgan, and Ichiro Suzuki are projected to be drafted here.
Looking deeper though, only three-of-19 batters projected in rounds seven through nine are expected to bat under .280 (Phillips, Adam Dunn, B.J. Upton).
Overall, use the data to formulate your optimal draft strategy. It says nothing of pitchers, but we’ll get to that another day.
Check out Baseball Professor for more 2010 Fantasy Draft help, and as always, send us your questions.
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