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Keeper League Player Depth

Posted By Justin On January 11, 2014 @ 9:30 am In Uncategorized | 2 Comments

As the second half of the brain trust known as “The ‘I’ in Team is in the A-Hole,” I am tasked with the responsibility of handling the analytic side of our fantasy baseball team. In my continuing preparation for the March draft, I stumbled across an interesting question: What is the best way to prepare for a fantasy draft in a keeper-style league?

From the outside, it is a very easy question to answer. The convenient availability of projections, rankings, and draft cheat-sheets provide a nice guide to determine which players to select. How would you prepare for the draft if the top 150 players were removed from the pool of players before the draft began? This is a challenge that team owners in keeper leagues face. In my league, assuming every owner keeps the maximum of 10 players, the top 100 players will be removed from the talent pool. Drafting in order and ranked by WAR, Starlin Castro would be the first overall pick in the draft. Although this is an exaggeration, it still proves the point I am trying to make. Keeper-league owners need to prepare for the draft differently than traditional redraft-league owners.

I like the umbrella approach WAR has to describing player value. I understand that rotisserie points are dependent on production. WAR provides a measure of general offensive production (wRAA), their ability to advance when on base (UBR and wSB), and their positional value on the field which, theoretically, translates to more playing time (UZR). To test the fantasy relevancy of WAR, I compared 2014 Steamer WAR projections to ESPN’s 2013 end of the year Player Rater. Although not significant, there was a 0.631 correlation. For the most part, the Player Rater aligned fairly well with the player’s projected WAR.

I then took the top 40 players ranked by WAR for positions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and DH and selected the top 100 players for the outfield. The total sample was 283 players. On average, Third Base (3B) is the most productive position (2.587) followed by Catcher (C) (2.487) and Outfield (OF) (2.376). To eliminate Mike Trout’s 9 WAR, I broke the position samples into four tiers. Tier 1 included the elite players (Top 25%) with subsequent tiers composed of lesser ranked players. Tier 1 players averaged a 3.88 WAR across the seven measured positions. When breaking the players into performance tiers, we see a significant decline from Tier 1 to Tier 2 (3.887 to 2.422). This is relevant because the majority of kept players will be from the Tier 1 group and will be ineligible for the draft. This decline continues through the four tiers. Third base represents the largest decline in projected WAR at -3.93.

Position

AVG WAR

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Third

2.5875

4.75

2.88

1.9

0.82

Catcher

2.4875

4.11

2.74

1.87

1.23

Outfield

2.376

4.084

2.524

1.76

1.136

First

2.0325

3.86

2.28

1.28

0.71

Shortstop

2.005

3.48

2.47

1.49

0.58

Second

1.8975

3.73

2.22

1.08

0.56

DH

1.66

3.2

1.84

1.16

0.44

AVG

3.887714

2.422

1.505714

0.782286

With the elite players gone, how do you decide which players to select? More importantly, how do you determine depth scarcity without the presence of those elite players? First Base (1B) and C represented the highest average WAR across the remaining three tiers (1.947 and 1.867 respectively). You could argue here that reaching for a 1B in the early rounds is unnecessary because there is potential performance deeper in the draft. Surprisingly, 3B also presents an opportunity for those owners without Miguel Cabrera. As a position, Tier 2 and Tier 3 average 2.88 and 1.9 WAR respectively and represent the highest average WAR for each of the collective tiers.

Avg Avail WAR

WAR

Catcher

1.867

First

1.947

Second

1.807

Third

1.423

Shortstop

1.513

Outfield

1.287

DH

1.147

Where is the position scarcity? If you are looking to draft OF, the data indicates you should plan on taking them early. After eliminating the elite players from the sample, OF averages the second-lowest WAR among the remaining tiers (1.287).

Interestingly enough, the data presents some obvious draft windows. For example, Second Base (2B) has one of the lowest average WAR (1.897); but teams need to select either a Tier 1 or a Tier 2 2B as the performance drop is significant (-3.17). Not only does this represent a decline in performance, but it also indicates an obvious area of position scarcity. Injuries here could be difficult to overcome during the season. The data also shows that there is no need to reach on a C or 1B as there will be decent depth throughout the draft. Tier 4 C averaged 1.23 WAR representing the highest value in Tier 4.

Decline

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Total

Third

4.75

-1.87

-0.98

-1.08

-3.93

Catcher

4.11

-1.37

-0.87

-0.64

-2.88

Outfield

4.084

-1.56

-0.764

-0.624

-2.948

First

3.86

-1.58

-1

-0.57

-3.15

Shortstop

3.48

-1.01

-0.98

-0.91

-2.9

Second

3.73

-1.51

-1.14

-0.52

-3.17

DH

3.2

-1.36

-0.68

-0.72

-2.76

It is critical to consider the value of your available roster spots. In the same way that MLB teams are looking to maximize their available 27 outs, fantasy owners should consider the value of their 25 available roster spots. An owner would need to roster a Tier 2 and a Tier 3 3B to produce comparable value to a Tier 1 3B. Maximization of available roster spots will provide the owner with the flexibility needed to adapt to the 26-week season.


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