If you’ve been following me over on Twitter, then you’ll know that there’s nothing I love more during the offseason than a good ol’ mock draft. I love researching players and setting myself up with my own set of rankings and Draft Day depth charts, but one of the best tools for in-draft decisions is understanding public opinion.
It’s one of those rare instances in life where what everyone else thinks does, in fact, matter. Does no one seem to believe in this guy, so I can easily wait a few more rounds for him (i.e. my earlier Travis Wood dilemma)? Is he a recently outed sleeper whose public opinion has grown more mainstream thus forcing me to take him earlier than I had originally thought? These are always questions we ask ourselves during drafts and given that they usually hit us when we’re under the gun and have no more than a minute and a half (usually) to make that decision, knowing the answers ahead of time make it all the more easy to think and act on the fly.
And since we’re still talking starting pitchers over here this week and mock draft season is just getting underway — I’ve actually done six already, if you can believe that — I thought that looking at how pitching is already being viewed by many would be a good start. You’ll get a jump on things in the early goings and it also might help you make some of those tough keeper decisions you probably have sitting in front of you.
A couple of things to keep in mind before we start talking about Average Draft Position (ADP) specifics —
1. When reading through fantasy baseball magazines and other draft kits, be wary of the always over-used, “I never like to take starting pitching this early but…” Seriously, how many times have you seen that in a write-up on an experts mock draft? While I’m actually a firm subscriber to the ‘wait on pitching’ belief, you also have to understand when and why it is appropriate. If you have an extensive working knowledge of the player pool, understand the similar end-game values of a well-known starter and a lesser-known youngster and play in a league filled with a few casual fans, then yes, you wait. Many who are still playing in long-term home leagues often mistake longevity for competitiveness and while those leagues are great, they also afford you a much easier opportunity to wait on pitching. But throw 15 experts into one draft to compete against each other and suddenly every one of those late-round sleepers become well-known commodities and you aren’t able to wait on all of them as you would in your home league. And because of that, there may be more of a need to grab one of those high-cost, front-line starters early to secure a quality pitching staff. Hence the “never this early, but…” The more competitive the league, the more difficult it becomes to start building your staff after the eighth round.
2. Understand trends and small sample sizes. Yes, this may seem overly-basic to many of you here at FanGraphs/RotoGraphs, but this site is pulling in newer and younger readers all the time and not all of them have been dragged through the comments section debates just yet. Not everyone who has been turned onto this site is a mathematical genius (yes, I’m saying this slightly tongue-in-cheek here, so don’t be offended, geniuses, I am not putting myself into your category) and while they may use some of the statistical trends we discover here, not everyone is fully aware as to why one stat is deemed acceptable after 200 plate appearances while another is regularly dismissed before 500 plate appearances are in the books. ADP works the same way. The fewer the drafts we have, the more unreliable the data becomes. Players trending upwards or downwards tend to see more volatile swings in their ADP rankings, so don’t be too misled just yet that a player is on the rise (or decline).
3. ADP is a guideline, not the gospel. Every league is different and while many owners have similar strategies, rarely are those strategies implemented in the same way. A league full of east coasters could lean more heavily towards Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox than they do Mariners, Dodgers and Giants which means the lesser known players on those west coast teams could be had for more of a bargain while a potential pitching prospect for the Phillies is far more well-known and at least half a dozen owners in the league are looking for him earlier than they should. If a player’s ADP says mid-fourteenth round pick, make sure you know his level of popularity. Do you have to take him in the early-thirteenth to secure him or can you wait until the end of the sixteenth? Use the ADP numbers to get a general idea, but keep in mind that there are almost always outside forces working against you.
There are obviously a few other things to keep in mind, but for the sake of an introductory ADP piece, we can leave it at that for now. I’ll be checking in on the numbers throughout the offseason, so as other things pop up, I’ll mention them. Now let’s take a look at some early ADP numbers for starting pitchers.
Obviously it’s still plenty early, so I’m not a fan of using numbers from Mock Draft Central or ESPN just yet. But to get a good starting point, you can always turn to the National Fantasy Baseball Championships (NFBC). Those who compete in the NFBC tend to be quite knowledgeable, though I have encountered some who just seem to be wealthy and playful, and therefore take their mock drafts a little more seriously. So for the early part of the offseason, I lean towards using their ADP numbers. Closer to the start of the regular season, I will incorporate them all.
Remember, NFBC leagues are 15-team, mixed roto leagues and there is no trading allowed, so those consistent, front-line starters have a little more value than in leagues where you can take some more chances and, if you fail, you can always trade for help.
NFBC Top 50 Starting Pitcher ADP
|Rank||Player||Team||Avg Pick||Min Pick||Max Pick|
These numbers are as of January 8, 2014 (Happy 79th, Elvis!), so obviously some of the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt and there’s no reason to compare them with numbers from a week ago as the data isn’t coming from a large number of mocks just yet. But it makes for a good starting point to recognize certain things, i.e. the number of young starters who broke into the majors in 2013 sitting here in the top 50 and how high some of them are going. Will a semi-unproven Michael Wacha really be a better pick than Matt Cain or James Shields or are these numbers filled with far too much hype right now? Or how about the ADP of Taijuan Walker? He doesn’t even have a rotation spot secured. Is taking Clayton Kershaw so early in the first round really a wise move? These are some of the things that we’ll continue to look at over the next several weeks, so stay tuned. We’ve got lots more ADP work to cover.
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