Chaining draft picks

Let’s say you are in a draft and with your first-round pick you select second baseman Chase Utley. Not a bad choice, I’ve seen it done plenty of times before. That the remaining second basemen become much less valuable to your team is a concept most people understand.

The extent that the remaining second basemen drop in value depends on your league settings—whether there is only one second base roster spot or multiple positions you could stick a second baseman (e.g. a middle infield spot) is the determinate. And obviously the more positions you can stick a second baseman, the less each available second baseman drops in value to you. Only to you.

In the short term, most people are aware of this drop in value in drafts. I know this because rarely do you see someone take two second basemen early in a draft. Even when there are more than two spots to play second basemen on your roster, most people will hold off on a second one until at least the middle rounds, and when there are only two spots for second basemen (2B + Util spot) most people will not even take a second one.

Whereas people understand this in the short term, when it comes to putting together a full draft people forget that who you draft in the first round affects even who is most valuable to your team in the last round. I hate throwing the term value around like a curse word in a painfully unfunny Bob Saget comedy stand-up, so let me give you something more tangible to grasp.

Let’s say you are about to start a draft. At this point you know next to nothing about how it will end up looking—you don’t even know what pick you are going to have yet. All you have are your positional rankings and a list of sleepers to target at the end. Your top three sleepers are a shortstop, an outfielder and a pitcher.

Although you should not completely base your first few rounds on who you think you might will grab in the later rounds, it does make sense for your first three picks to not be a shortstop, outfielder and pitcher. You might draft a player from one or even two of these positions in the early rounds—if there is a great outfielder out there in the second round, go get him—but understanding how that affects the rest of your draft is important.

So you go into the drafting looking to target a first, second or third baseman early. The draft begins and you get your first and third baseman early, but a good second baseman eludes you as the draft heads into the dreaded middle rounds. With no second baseman on your sleeper list you’d be comfortable with in a starting gig, now is the perfect time to “reach” on a second baseman in the middle rounds, say Jose Lopez in the eighth round. Sure it might not be the best pick and sure his ADP is almost 30 picks later, but with the special need you have the pick is more than defensible.

Now, you do not want all of your middle-round picks to be this sort of defensive type, but if you are going to reach at some point on a player, reaching in this situation can be called ideal.

I understand that the concept discussed in this article is not something most people don’t know, but I do believe it is something people should be more consciously aware of in drafts. Understand that your late round targets affect your first round targets, and who you actually get in the first rounds affects the value of certain players later in the draft. Any position that gets lost in the shuffle can excusably be targeted in the middle rounds and when you chain the parts of a draft together in this way, you will put yourself in the best position to get the most out of a draft.

Ultimately, though, it is the individual players themselves who determine how good a draft was.


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Andrew P
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Andrew P
I disagree.  Unless you’re operating in a league without trades, or an extremely short bench, the last few rounds of the draft are almost always going to be bench players, whether they’re sleepers or not.  Unless you’re in an uncommonly tailored league, drafting your late round sleepers to be starter(s) on your team usually isn’t a very viable strategy.  It also means that you’d be taking backups at other positions before taking your starters at the sleeper positions.  Now, if you feel extremely strongly that your mid-round backups will perform above their draft position, there’s an argument to be made… Read more »
Werthless
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Werthless
Andrew, I think Paul Singman is just emphasizing that your high ceiling sleepers should ideally be at positions where you don’t have a high value guy, and vice versa. You were a little hung up on “reaching” for a draft pick at a position, but maybe you can look at it as “passing” at another position. For example, let’s say you’ve labelled Scott Sizemore as a guy that you think will give you produce top 10 2B numbers (and thus be startable in your format). Well, you may pass up Utley for Longoria at the end of the first round,… Read more »
Jimbo
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Jimbo
Andrew, I’m not sure if bench spots are part of most leagues. It will be interesting to see which direction the “middle round drafting” series will go. This is the sort of thought process I hope gets discussed. This is the benefit of doing mock drafts. I have my share of mid/late round sleepers, and can tell in a mock draft which ones I regret most when I miss them. Where I don’t think Andrew’s logic applies to the article example is that I most certainly WOULD expect to ‘make up’ any value-reach in round 7! Top 10 rounds, you… Read more »
Larry
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Larry
This is an intriguing article.  I commend Paul on bringing these concepts to the conscious surface, even if they may be generally known.  That said, the idea of influencing your early round picks based upon perceived later-round sleepers at certain positions is definitely risky, as Andrew P notes.  BUT, as any past fantasy champion knows, there is always a fair amount of risk necessary to win (at least when competing owners are reasonably competent). The Jose Lopez example does confuse me a little in how it is termed.  Is this really a “reach”?  This strikes me as more of a… Read more »
David B
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David B
I think the problem with the article is that it assumes that the sleeper will pan out. Even if you think Scott Sizemore is going to be a top 10 2B, I still think it would be better to take Utley over other players if you think Utley is the most valuable player on the board. That way if Sizemore pans out you have a valuable trading chip in Utley and if he doesn’t you still have an above average starter at 2B. If one passes on Utley to start Sizemore and he tanks (a la popular sleepers like Chris… Read more »
Paul Singman
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Paul Singman
Great discussion guys. Andrew, I think Werthless’ post was a sufficient response to yours. Don’t get too hung up on the reaching part, Jose Lopez was just an example and perhaps “reaching” was not the best word choice. I’m not sure where some of you are getting the idea this strategy is “risky” or “depends on the sleepers” panning out. I’m not sure you could even classify it as risky or not. I started off making the assumption that one or two hitters that will start for your team will be drafted in the late rounds of your draft. Maybe… Read more »
Paul Singman
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Paul Singman
David, a player like Lopez that you draft in the middle rounds doesn’t have to “gain value” to make this work.  Just think about any normal draft. You’ll probably draft some hitters early, some hitters in the middle rounds, and some hitters late. All I’m saying is since you have the most control over the hitters you can draft late, assuming you will get those hitters, ideally the hitters you draft early will have different position eligibility than your sleepers. You are going to draft players with these picks regardless, I’m detailing the ideal way it will occur. If there… Read more »
David B
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David B
I think the reason this could be termed “risky” is because your assumption that someone like Jose Lopes gains value during the draft, but it seems to me that a player can only lose value not gain value. A player’s value predraft is his value over the replacement level player at any position for which he is eligible to start on your team. When a team drafts Utley Jose Lopes loses value to you because you have a better option than Lopez to start at 2B and now he can only start at Util (assuming the league does not have… Read more »
Jimbo
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Jimbo
Any team that dominates wire-to-wire, from their drafted roster, will likely have consistent players up and down the team. Probably need a superstar or three, probably need a couple late round picks to pan out. Other than that, the bulk of any team will be Jose Lopez-caliber players (give or take). Had one guy just crush the league offensively in 2007. He didn’t have a bunch of 30/30 guys…just a consisent level of production across the board. Pull any three guys at random and their stats wouldn’t scream domination. So quibbling about one or two rounds, in hindsight, isn’t what… Read more »
Andrew P
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Andrew P
i personally don’t care if my higher-ceiling sleepers are at a position i’ve already filled or not.  i want any player i draft to have the best combination of potential and likelihood to fulfill that potential as possible. if i have an extra startable player at a given position, i’ll just trade from a surplus to fill my positional need.  it not only presents less risk (you don’t need to gamble that your sleeper will fill a hole), but you don’t immediately give up 30 picks in value on ADP.  i realize that trade markets aren’t perfectly efficient, but it… Read more »
digglahhh
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digglahhh
Good discussion. Sorry I’m commenting a bit late. Andrew P., I , as well, think you may be a bit hung up on the specifc Lopez example. First, let me just say that the strategy I generally preach in regard to late round picks is to swing for the fences and hope you connect a few times and then replace those who you missed on with replacement level FAs. This means that in the mid rounds I want solid base line production and to maximize my value. Therefore, I do not want to be reaching to fill a positional need… Read more »
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