Winning Your Draft

The fantasy season is coming to a close. Whether your team dominated all the way through the playoffs — or stunk from the beginning — it’s always important to review your teams at the conclusion of the season. What went wrong/right? Most of that analysis can be done simply by looking at your draft results. Waiver-wire pickups and trades can have a significant effect on your team, but you acquire most of your players through the draft. If you happen to draft well, you have a chance at winning your league. Draft poorly, and it’s almost impossible to climb out of that hole.

Unfortunately, the draft can be “lost” in any round. Making the wrong choices will definitely sink your fantasy team. This is particularly devastating in the early rounds, however. This may seem like common sense, but the best fantasy players are supposed to be drafted in the first couple rounds. These are the guys your team is built around, and the guys you are depending on this season. When one of them fails to live up to expectations, it can cripple a fantasy team. Since these players usually have a history of consistency and high-level performance, it’s unlikely you drafted a strong backup at their position. Miss on a top draft pick and you are going to be in for a rough season.

2011 Examples: Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford.

The middle rounds aren’t that much better. You can find a few guys that outperform their draft position in these rounds, but it’s tough to find major value here. Since it’s the middle of the draft, you are likely expecting adequate production from most of these players. Should one outperform their draft slot, you likely expected a solid performance anyway. That’s not to say drafting well in the middle rounds is not important; just that it’s still tough to “win” your draft based on the guys you selected in the middle rounds. It’s possible, but really tough. Again, you can very easily “lose” your draft based on poor selections in the middle rounds.

2011 Examples: Good: Hunter Pence Bad: Adam Dunn

You can really “win” your draft in the late rounds. As Michael Barr wrote in his draft retrospective, he could’ve won his league by assembling players selected in the eighth round or later. Again, this makes sense. At this point in the draft, you should be taking flyers on guys with high upside. If you manage to hit on one of those players, your fantasy team can see a huge benefit. Conversely, whiffing on players in the later rounds comes with very little consequence for your fantasy team. If these players struggle out of the gate, you can cut them without agonizing over the decision. The draft can certainly be “won” in the later rounds, but you have to be a little lucky as well.

2011 Examples: Craig Kimbrel, Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Morse

After analyzing your drafts, would you generally agree or disagree? Are drafts “won” in the later rounds? Are they “lost” in the early rounds? What the heck happens in the middle?




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


31 Responses to “Winning Your Draft”

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  1. Kyle says:

    I dropped Morse after a poor beginning of the season :(

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  2. Nash says:

    This article forgot to point out that the sky is blue, water is wet, and fire is hot.

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  3. Don G says:

    I say their won in the later rounds. I had Hanley and Crawford in a keeper league, and drafted Gaby Sanchez, Kimbrel, and Berkman in the later rounds. I’m now toiling in the championship game. You can have a great first few rounds, but if you don’t hit gold with some of those late picks, you’ll likely lose.

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  4. charlie says:

    lets not forget ian kennedy, cj wilon and r romero….

    these guys were ranked so low in my leagues. lol off the charts not even top 40 SP. haaaaahaaaaaaaa ( the experts dont know what they were thinking )

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  5. Sean says:

    In most leagues, even dynasties, there are a handful of game-breaking players who start the year in the free agent pool because they don’t get drafted at all. Identifying those players and getting them first is really as important as whatever you do in the draft. This year there were guys like Morse, Alex Gordon, etc. typically going undrafted. In 2010 it was some guy named Jose Bautista.

    For early rounds I am going for floor, in later rounds I am getting lottery tickets. In the middle it’s positional need.

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  6. Dave S. says:

    Seriously, Ellsbury in the late rounds? He was a 2nd or 3rd round pick in all serious leagues. Don’t write about drafting and team construction if you have no clue what you’re talking about.

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    • cs3 says:

      “Seriously, Ellsbury in the late rounds? He was a 2nd or 3rd round pick in all serious leagues. Don’t write about drafting and team construction if you have no clue what you’re talking about.”
      ===============================
      no he wasnt.

      his median ADP across all sites was ~65. see here:
      https://spreadsheets.google.com/lv?key=0AjW3GnrGtehvcGNEWnFJV3RqN21wd1Y5WVgySGI5SkE&hl=en
      thats nowhere near 2nd/3rd round.

      his Yahoo ADP was 87. thats late rd 7/early round 8.
      there are almost NO leagues where he was drafted before the 4th round, and if you think it was common practice then you are delusional.

      so perhaps you should take your own advice and stay silent if you “have no clue what you’re talking about”

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      • Dave S. says:

        I’m sorry, I must have only been thinking about the high-stakes national contests where each team throws down $1500 to play, works at the craft of fantasy baseball for 12 months out of the year and has a way more accurate projection of player values. In NFBC main event leagues, his ADP was 29, which puts him at the back end of the 2nd round.

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      • cs3 says:

        “I’m sorry, I must have only been thinking about the high-stakes national contests where each team throws down $1500 to play, works at the craft of fantasy baseball for 12 months out of the year and has a way more accurate projection of player values. In NFBC main event leagues, his ADP was 29, which puts him at the back end of the 2nd round.”
        =======================================

        oh i see. so his ADP was in the 3rd round in ONE of your leagues, which means it must be the norm for every league, right?

        or maybe what you are saying is that your league is the only “competitive” league there is? is that it?

        or perhaps the message is that if you dont pay $1500 to play fantasy baseball, then your league is by definition, “not competitive”?

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  7. Eminor3rd says:

    I won on the waiver wire. Well, actually, I made it to the championship and lost, but considering I had Crawford, Choo, Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis, and Jorge Posada as guys I could rely upon, I consider it a win lol

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  8. Brad Johnson says:

    Leagues are won with time. The more time an owner puts into a league, the more likely he is to reach the money. Strategy doesn’t matter much so long as it’s coherent. One of the better owners in my home league leans heavily on the hot hand. Because the rest of us are mostly true talent fans, he does fairly well. In that league I spend the most time with my team. I came in 2nd last year and will win this year.

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  9. Harfunk says:

    The first half of of my draft was full of fail (Crawford, Liriano, J. Johnson, Furcal) and some other players that I expected more from (Youkilis, N. Cruz, Billingsley). But I did have some gems at the backend of the draft, including Granderson, Berkman, and Kimbrel.

    What saved my ass is that I flipped Berkman, Crawford, Billingsley, Nolasco, and others for Pujols, Lester, and Gallardo by May. My team was awesome after that.

    So the way I won my league was mostly through taking advantage of trigger-happy owners early in the season with lopsided trades. I would have been toast of it wasn’t for those trades.

    And Granderson helped a bunch as well.

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  10. charlie says:

    ells was rd 6, gardner was rd 7. matt kemp was rd 5 in the leagues i was in.

    these drafts were at around march 25 ( before the season started)

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  11. Metsox says:

    “Leagues are won with time. The more time an owner puts into a league, the more likely he is to reach the money. ”

    Very true.

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  12. Mark says:

    I’m not sure leagues aren’t won any more in the later rounds than on the wire and through in-season moves. Both aspects are similarly important. You cite Michael Morse as an example, but I highly doubt many mixed league owners who drafted Morse (such as myself) held him until he really started getting hot a month or two into the season. I held Brandon Belt over him, because I (and I still believe correctly) perceived that Belt had more actual “upside” than Morse, even if in hindsight Morse has had the far more productive season.

    I’m also not even sure Kimbrel and Ellsbury are such great examples, particularly Ellsbury who went at the 7-8 turn in my league. I’d be more inclined to cite guys like Asdrubal Cabrera, Alex Gordon, Matt Garza, James Shields, Ian Kennedy, Brandon League, Lance Berkman, etc. guys who legitimately went late and got off to hot enough starts to be kept all year. But no one in mixed leagues was holding guys like J.J. Hardy or Morse, despite the fact that they turned into excellent waiver wire adds later in the season.

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  13. Lyle Schweik says:

    I had Crawford and Dunn …. yuk!

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  14. Doug E. Fresh says:

    The first 10 rounds of our 23-round draft was used to re-claim our keepers, and I definitely won that part. Opening with Pujols, Utley, Zimmerman, Ellsbury, Kemp, J.Upton, Aramis, Kershaw, Haren, Latos is a great way to start a season.

    I snagged a few good pieces in the draft. Bruce with my first(11th round) pick, Zobrist (intending just to cover while Utley was on DL) in the 13th, and a solid RP corp with Storen(14th), Nunez(16th) and League (19th).

    But I wasted picks with Sizemore, Soto(too early), Alcides, Dom Brown, and Mike Adams…and with only 13 “new” picks, 5 is a lot to throw away.

    I figure I broke even in the “new” portion of the draft, maybe even lost a little. But strong keepers and some damned good in-season trading (I got Hamels, Cain, Romero, and Pedroia in various deals) is what won me this league this year.

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  15. Daniel says:

    Winning in the middle rounds- 2011- Bautista. Holla!

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  16. AdamM says:

    I thought that Granderson was the steal of the draft, moreso than Ellsbury or Pence.

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  17. charlie says:

    grandy, someone dropped him week 1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! he of course was waiver wire material in 2010…

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  18. Mike says:

    Finishing a close 2nd this year. The biggest change for me was going all in on hitters in the early rounds — picks like Granderson and Adrian Gonzalez and Kinsler were big and helped overcome a fail on Choo. After all the big name pitchers were taken off the board, I was able to still build a solid rotation with pleasant surprises from Shields, Zimmermann, and Bedard filled out with Garcia/Vogelsong/Luebke off waivers. You can win the league in the late rounds, but most of the late round surprises and early season waiver successes seem to be pitchers.

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  19. Jay Stevens says:

    I think you lose with bad picks in the early rounds, and win with good picks in the later rounds.

    Early rounders are supposed to be reliable and good — the players are usually well known and perform well. The only surprises are bad.

    Late rounders are less well known and have both high risks and rewards. (Like, say, Matt Joyce and Doug Fister in an AL-only league.) This is where knowledge rewards the owners who put time into the game. The only surprises are good.

    To win, obviously, you have to draft players who perform to expectation in the early rounds and get the players in the later rounds who have unexpectedly good years.

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