Earlier this week, I polled my fellow Tout Warriors and asked that they define the term scarcity as it pertains to fantasy baseball and then discuss how they account for it in their drafting strategy. The results can be found in this week’s edition of Lord Zola’s Fantasy Baseball Round Table, posted HERE. What follows is my take on the subject.
The purpose of this exercise was to illustrate how a single concept can be looked upon in so many ways. At the end of the day, no definition is right or wrong, though as will soon be elucidated, I do take issue with the means some choose to account for their perception of scarcity.
As I alluded to in my wrap-up to the Round Table, my first thought when it comes to scarcity is ensuring there are sufficient players in the draft-worthy pool to legally fill your league’s rosters. The size of the draft-worthy pool is exactly as necessary to fill everyone’s opening day active roster. In a 12-team league with 14 active hitters, the hitting draft-worthy pool contains 168 batter priced at $1 or more. The idea being if the entire player pool is ranked blindly, irrespective of position, there may not be enough players at some positions in the draft worthy-pool. According to my perception of the term, these positions are scarce and a pricing adjustment needs to be enacted. This adjustment is bottom-up, with the lowest ranked player at each position being assigned a value of $1 with everyone else scaled up in proportion to the expected percentage contribution. The draft-worthy pool now contains ample players at each position to legally fill everyone’s roster.
As I suspected, there is a plethora of uses of the term "scarcity." Two that I sense existed were indeed confirmed in the Round Table. The first has to do with the gap in talent between the top tier and the rest of the players in a positional pool while the second considers the relative talent in the positional pool as a whole. Obviously, I have always been aware of these scenarios, but I have never deemed it necessary to adjust my pricing because of it. I have always felt these were issues to be dealt with strategically. For what it is worth, I am not the only person with this conundrum as I recall fellow Tout Jeff Erickson from Rotowire blogging about this very topic.
As I have been thinking about where I want to take this next, I have concluded I can take it in any of a number of directions. But since I only have another 1000 or so words before I lose your attention today, I will focus on one particular conundrum I have and save the rest for what will hopefully be some follow-up discussion or future essays.
My problem is I have a bunch of thoughts jumbled up in my head, and I am having a difficult time making sense of it all. Individually, each make sense to me, but collectively, I see some contradictions. To wit:
Here’s the deal. I have no issue with the talent drop-off in some positions being thought of as a form of scarcity. If you want to play semantics, it can be said that the talent at the top of a pool is scarce. Where I take issue is the manner some choose to deal with this gap and that is to overdraft or overpay for players at those positions. To use a specific example apropos to this season’s player pool, I question drafting Troy Tulowitzki in the top-five or paying the same amount as Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp or Albert Pujols in an auction.
My reasoning is as follows. No one that champions taking Tulowitzki that high does so saying they feel the Rockies’ shortstop will produce a raw stat line akin to Pujols, Cabrera, et al, but rather citing the huge talent gap before you get to the next tier of shortstops. The idea is the edge you have at the position over your competitors leads to an overall roster edge, which is the point I dispute.
Given that value or rank is a range and we don’t know what will happen, overdrafting or overpaying is still an inefficient use of assets. I believe that while you will indeed have the best shortstop in the league, arguably by far, this does not aid in constructing the best roster, at least at the conclusion of the draft or auction, which ultimately may be the point I am missing….. MAYBE. We’ll get to that in a moment.
The best way to explain this is to pretend we are not drafting dynamic potential and instead we are drafting fixed, static numbers. By taking Tulowitzki that early, you are leaving stats on the table that you WILL NOT be able to make up for later. I’m sorry, but in a static environment, you won’t. Your shortstop is better than my shortstop, but my roster is better than your roster because the difference between the player I get in the first round and my shortstop exceeds Tulowitzki and the player you get the same time I take my shortstop. The rest of the rounds can be a complete wash – I win because my first round guy has better stats than Tulo and my shortstop has the same stats as the guy you took when I took my shortstop.
Now let’s remove the fixed stats constraint. As I explained, I understand all we are dealing with is potential, but I also explained that this potential can be ranked and I will leave the draft or auction with more POTENTIAL than the person that drafted Tulowitzki in the top few picks or paid very top dollar for him in an auction.
However, I am not willing to take the next step and proclaim that my potential TO WIN is any greater, though I obviously believe it is. Here is the point where this is just the beginning of the process kicks in. I am willing to cede that by the end of the season, because you have the best shortstop, you can POTENTIALLY have a better roster than mine if you use the next 26 weeks to gain an edge at some of the other positions. That is, if it ends up that all the other positions end up equal, you win because you have a better shortstop. If this is your reason for taking Tulo, I can accept that. I just don’t like your odds of being able to pull this off.
One of the philosophies I have when assembling a team is there are some positions you draft an edge, there are some you work hard to gain an edge and there are some you just hope to break even. Actually, it is not just a positional consideration, but categorical as well. Depending on the depth and format of the league, I may choose to use the long season to embellish a light category such as steals or saves.
Examples of gaining an edge are considering spots like your corner, middle, utility and fifth outfielder to be fungible, and funnel players through those spots until you settle on a consistent, reliable performer, superior to the player you drafted or bought in the end game. The same principle can be applied to the back end of your pitching staff and closer, you work the waiver wire in an effort to upgrade those spots.
At the beginning of a snake draft, depending on my pick number and the picks previous to my selection, I will decide what positions I intend to draft an edge and which I hope to break even. Similarly, in an auction, after the first handful of nominations, based on the prices, I will make the same decision. But here’s where I likely differ in philosophy from those proponents of the drop-off form of scarcity – my decision will involve not paying more than market value to accomplish both goals. That is, in order to gain my edge, I will not overpay or overdraft the player. I am simply not willing to leave potential on the table in the name of scarcity. I am completely comfortable that if I am patient, a player will be available to me at that position, at market value, sometime during the draft or auction.
As I suggested, there are a bunch of other big picture considerations. What position is most likely to produce undrafted useful players as the season progresses? What stats are most likely to be available? This all influences the intrinsic value of a player to your roster and may lead to a slight overpayment or overdrafting of a player to avoid the spots where the replacements are thin. This could even lead to tweaking the initial rank or value of each player to account for the fact that by season’s end, the number of players that contribute value exceed that of the number assigned value in the draft-worthy pool.
But, and here is the key – it is going to take an awfully persuasive argument to convince me there are factors I have omitted that result in it being better to start the year with a roster with less potential value in an effort to end the season with more realized value. It is my contention that dealing with the drop-off form of scarcity by overdrafting or overpaying results in a roster with lesser value. Anything you say to convince why your team will be better than mine can all be 100% true. But I will still be able to say, “Yeah, but your team could have even been BETTER had you not drafted Tulowitski first overall.”
This past Sunday, I had the privilege of representing Mastersball in the National League Tout Wars auction. The entire weekend is one of my favorites of the year, featuring the gathering at Foley’s on Friday night, the annual meal at Virgil’s and of course the auctions. This year, we were the guests of SiriusXM and held the festivities right in their studios, which was pretty neat unto itself.
My strategy was pretty simple as I decided to channel one of the original Mastersball credos: Draft for Value, Trade for Balance. Much of my recent focus has been on the National Fantasy Baseball Championship, where it is more important to draft in a balanced manner since there is no trading. But contrary to what some may contend, it is possible to consummate deals in industry leagues. I just need to practice what I preach when others complain that it is really hard to trade in their league – I tell them give the other person a reason to deal with you.
There is this belief that since it is hard to trade in a league like Tout Wars, one should not draft a team predicated on having to make a deal or two to win. I’ve never been one to believe in that sort of thing and find if you approach a negotiation in a respectful and courteous nature, it is often pretty easy to hammer out a symbiotic swap. I decided that if the auction dictated it, I was going to put that belief to the test.
So the plan was to find the soft spots in the auction and buy players in an agnostic manner, being blind to the names, positions and specific statistical contributions. I would simply accrue as much potential as I could, then spend the next twenty-six weeks managing the potential into rotisserie points. If I ended up strong at a position or in a category, I would parlay that excess into help elsewhere, just like I have advised my tens of followers over the years.
I would know within the first ten or so nominations how I would approach the bidding. If the room was overpaying, according to my numbers, for the top tier talent, I was going to exhibit excruciating patience and not get involved until that inflation turned to deflation and then I would just buy, regardless of position and contribution. If the first few players were not bid up to my value, I would be more than happy to give them a home. My gut expected the former and my gut was right.
I knew right off the bat it was going to be awhile before I built up my roster as the prices were consistently $3-$6 above what my little black attached to each player. I group players in tiers and almost all of the first several players went for a cost equivalent to a tier higher than I had them.
When using this extreme spread the risk tactic, it is imperative you time your entrance into the foray so you don’t end up overpaying for mediocrity but also don’t leave money on the table. Using my positional value tiers in conjunction with assigning a price I wanted to pay for each the 23 roster spots, I mapped out the plan. My sense was that I would be able to clean up in the outfield and possibly middle infield, but I was nervous about first base and starting pitcher, so if I had to go the extra buck there, I would.
The next step was just waiting, only getting involved with closers, because it is tradition in NL Tout Wars for one of the participants to nominate a closer at their turn each time early in the draft, so the way to deal with it is let the first couple of guys go to set the bar, then jump in the middle, before the “last good closer” realization kicks in.
Something else I noticed that while every other top player was going for a premium, Brian McCann went a bit undervalued. To see if this was going to be a trend, my next turn, I put Buster Posey out to bid and sure enough, he also went a few bucks under what I expected. At that point, I made the conscious decision to take advantage of this and nab two catchers I happen to like if they came in under price, Miguel Montero and Wilson Ramos. I would put them up for bid if necessary, as I expected that at some point, the catcher prices would rise. Sure enough, I got both of them a few bucks below what I would have paid.
A little while later, Jonathan Lucroy went for a reasonable price and while I did not regret buying Montero and Ramos, I shook my head, sort of bummed prices were still cheap since I hoped that prices would start inching up over value. Then it hit me – this year in Tout Wars we instituted a new rule, converting an outfielder into a swingman position, which is a second utility able to be filled by any hitter or pitcher. If the next catcher came in under value, why not use one of my two utility spots and draft for value then trade for balance? So when Carlos Ruiz stopped below value, yours truly was happy to put him at my utility spot. Lawr, who was manning the official roster tracker casually glanced at me as he was typing the name, I gave him subtle head nod and he sort of reciprocated with a head nod if his own.
A little while later, Nick Hundley was making the rounds. I had already decided that if another decent catcher also came in under value, I would take him. So while Hundley may not be the fantasy equivalent of Orlando Cepeda as the first official designated hitter, he will forever hold the distinction of being NL Tout’s first swingman.
My thinking was straightforward. During the auction, the market value of catchers was a couple of bucks less than what I had them priced at. My valuation system accounts for positional pricing, adding a couple bucks to catchers. So what I was doing was breaking even on the two utility spots, effectively paying what it should cost for a non-catcher with the same stats to fill the spot. So even if I am not able to parlay one of the receivers into help elsewhere, at worst I break even at utility.
The Cliff Note’s version on the rest of the team is I indeed ended up paying a little extra for Carlos Lee at first and Jordan Zimmermann to be my staff anchor. My first closer was Huston Street, who is a bit of a health risk, so I opted to buy another full-time closer in Jason Motte, another possible application of drafting value as I liked the price of both relative to other closers. I am fine with my middle infield, getting Marcos Scutaro at what I considered to be a huge discount while picking up Jose Altuve and Zack Cozart, a couple of youngsters I like at what may seem like high prices, but they were in fact spot on with what I expected. Where I made my hay was the outfield, getting four guys all well under my projected cost.
The pitching staff has several holes, with three starters that may not start in the majors and a dinged up Jonny Venters. But remember, there is the swingman position that I can use to occasionally start a pitcher to help make up for lost innings before I deal a receiver for a hurler.
And finally, the purchase of Hundley cost me a reasonable third baseman, as I would not have minded needing to fill the corner infield spot with a part-timer. As it stands now, I may have two dead spots with Jerry Hairston and Brett Wallace joining Carlos Lee at the corner. That said, the prices of the end game third baseman were absolutely through the roof, so I may have actually ended up ahead with Hundley and Wallace as opposed to what I would have put at third and utility.
I certainly did not win the league at the table, not even close. But I do feel as though I have sufficient assets to work with to put the squad in the thick of things, and we’ll see what happens.
Below is the squad with what I paid. All the teams can be found HERE. I am more than happy to address all questions and criticisms in the comments section.
|C: Miguel Montero (18), Wilson Ramos (13)|
|1B/3B: Carlos Lee (21), Jerry Hairston (2), Brett Wallace (2)|
|2B/SS: Jose Altuve (17), Zack Cozart (13), Marcos Scutaro (14)|
|OF: JD Martinez (13), Jason Kubel (16), Angel Pagan (17), Allen Craig (17)|
|UT: Nick Hundley (10)|
|SW: Carlos Ruiz (9)|
|SP: Jordan Zimmermann (17), Shaun Marcum (13), Dustin Moseley (2), Erik Surkamp (2), Marco Estrada (1), Julio Teheran (2)|
|RP: Huston Street (15), Jason Motte (17), Jonny Venters (7)|
|RES: Jimmy Paredes, Jeff Karstens, Mike Fontenot, Steve Cishek|
Last Saturday evening, I was privileged to participate in the inaugural League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) mixed league draft, to be played out for the first time. For a few years, LABR has assembled some of the participants in the standard AL and NL auctions and conducted a mock draft for a mixed league but due to popular demand, this year curator Steve Gardner made the decision to make the mixed a real league and conduct the draft on-line, the weekend previous to LABR auction weekend.
This is going to be the first of a two-part series discussing the draft. Today, I will talk about my preparation and on Friday, I will go through my squad pick-by-pick.
The league is composed of 15 teams using standard rotisserie 5x5 scoring. The rosters consist of the normal 14 hitters and 9 pitchers. We have a short reserve list from which we can make weekly transactions and store disabled players. There is trading, and I have a hunch it will be more active than the other industry leagues I have participated in.
As I outline my strategy, please realize it transcends all snake drafts, though to be honest, I have become so NFBCentric lately, I had to remind myself there will be trading in this league, so my old motto “draft for value, trade for balance” is once again in play.
GENERAL PHILOSOPHY: CHOOSE, DON’T CHASE
I know the axiom, you can’t win a league in the first few rounds, but you can lose it. I prefer to think of it more as you can’t win a league in the first few rounds, but making certain choices put you in a better position to win.
I understand the intent of the original statement: there are a lot of good players and it is hard to go wrong if you pick good players. But I think there should be a definite plan behind the early picks, and that is so that for the final two-thirds or so of the draft, you are choosing the best player available at the time and not chasing certain positions or statistical needs. I believe that the first seven or eight rounds set one up for the final 17 or 18.
Some may be jumping to the conclusion that the key to this is being a positional scarcity drafter. Sorry, but that’s not the case. But, nor is being an advocate of taking the best player available. I prefer to consider the big picture and not focus on an individual round, but a bunch of them together. By the end of round eight or so, I would like to have players from every position except closer and even that depends on the flow. I don’t care about the order. I want to have my C1, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF1 and SP1 lines be filled. The way to facilitate this is to have an understanding of potential slope of each round. The difference in potential between players is greatest earliest in the draft, just like it is in the NLF rookie draft. As you work your way through the snake, the delta between consecutive players gets smaller and smaller. When you then consider that a player’s potential is really a range of possible outcomes, it does not take long before consecutive players and then multiple players have effectively the same value. The point this occurs is usually around the fourth round. So for the first three rounds, I will not force positional scarcity upon my pick. I will break ties by opting for a middle infielder or a catcher, but I prefer not to leave potential stats on the table by taking a lesser shortstop over a better outfielder in the first few rounds. I won’t take three outfielders; I probably will not take two unless the potential of the player is just too great to leave for the next drafter. The good thing is almost all the time, the first three picks are such that by the time round four rolls around, there will always be a player at a position of need sitting there amid the top players of ostensibly equal value.
This “seven positions in the first eight rounds” is not a hard and fast rule as I still will react to the flow of the draft, but the reason for deviating is because a position is sliding and I can wait to fill that spot with a capable player while solidifying another spot more than expected. If I am targeting a tier of catchers, as an example, and it is round eight and there are three catchers still there I would be happy with, I may roll the dice, fortify a different spot in round eight and take the catcher in round nine. This is where tiers come into play, but that’s a story for another day.
If I successfully fill those seven positions in my eight picks, I should now be in a position to choose not chase. Not so coincidentally, round eight or so is when most drafts start deviating from the ADP. The reason this is important is while the draft is “going chalk”, you can take advantage of the top players available all being similar in value. Around round eight is when everyone begins to have different expectations for the remaining inventory, and you need to be able to find a roster spot for the player you happen to consider to be the best each time. In other words, choose, don’t chase.
DRAFT THE PITCHER, NOT THE ROUND
This coming weekend, I am going to be a guest speaker at the East Coast swing of the First Pitch Forum tour, a three-hour fantasy baseball symposium sponsored by our colleagues at Baseball HQ. I can pretty much guarantee at all three sites (Washington DC/Baltimore, NYC and Boston), I will be asked “what round should I start drafting pitching?” My answer will be “draft the pitcher, not the round.” What this means is that you should map out what you want your pitching staff to look like at the end of the draft. Not so much with specific names, but with someone from this tier, two guys from this tier, etc. Then you time the flow of the draft to pick your pitchers when each of those tiers is leaving the board, regardless of the round. It takes some discipline, especially if the timing is different than what you expect, but at the end of the day, if you stick to your guns, your staff is composed just the way you want it.
DRAFT SOME EDGES, MANAGE OTHERS
Once you get past a mixed league of about fourteen teams, you are going to have a couple areas of weakness, at least when you compare your roster to the others. Personally, I am a selfish SOB and want to have the best player in the league at every position. But, while I am selfish, I am also both practical and realistic, thus understand I cannot draft the best player at every position: some I need to upgrade as the season progresses. Before each draft, I study the player pool and decide where I want to draft my edge and where I want to rely on my in-season management to gain the edge.
In this year’s mixed pool, I see an edge where others are usually reticent to go, and that is with catching, especially upper tier catching. I know all the risks: catchers get hurt and they wear down. But remember, I am a selfish SOB and there is no way I can draft an edge at catcher by waiting, so in mixed drafts, I will almost assuredly have a top or second tier catcher, and if the timing is right, my second catcher will be pretty good as well.
On the other hand, the position that is easiest to upgrade as the season progresses is outfield. This does not speak to the quality or depth of the position in draft, just that there are more platoon situations that occur in the outfield, plus more playing time surprises that you always want to have at least two outfield spots open late, and hopefully your utility as well. At the end of the draft, it is not about the better player, but the player you think will play more and this occurs more with outfield than any position. So even if I draft two outfielders in those first eight picks, I will always have my last two outfield spots empty at the end.
DRAFT FOR POTENTIAL, TRADE FOR BALANCE
If this were an NFBC primer, this part would be completely different as there are no trades so you need to focus more on balance. But since we can trade, I will not hesitate to be light in one area if that means I accrue extra potential in another area. That said, if I am going to be short somewhere, it will be steals and saves as all it takes is dealing for one player to gain points in the category. I want to be in a position so when I trade, I am losing no points in order to gain points. Most are willing to lose two points to gain four, as would I, but remember I am a selfish SOB and prefer to gain four without losing any.
That basically covers my drafting philosophy, with the caveat that nothing is written in stone, everything is fluid. But I have done enough of these over the years, and had ample success to be able to anticipate how some things will unfold and thus be best prepared to adjust to any situation that occurs on the fly.
Please come back Friday when I discuss my LABR team with the above philosophies in mind.
We have been talking a lot about snake drafts so far this spring; it is time to give the auction format some love. What I am about to describe is the primary means I use to keep myself focused and on point. Auctions involve an element to fantasy baseball not found in the draft format and that is money management. In an auction, you can know the player pool inside and out, and have a feel for each player’s potential value and the market value, but if you mismanage your budget, it can all go for naught.
The chief issue is having more money to spend than there us talent to spend it on. So you either overpay for lesser talent or leave money on the table. In either case, you did not use your assets in the most efficient manner. It isn’t that you did not know the player inventory; you somehow misjudged the flow of the auction.
What I have found most helpful to prevent this sort of thing occurring is to use a combination of assigning a target dollar amount per roster spot in conjunction with tiered rankings. Before the auction, I draw 23 lines and assign a dollar value to each line, with the total equaling $260. I break it into hitters and pitchers and distribute the slots according to how much I intend to spend on hitting versus pitching.
I also have a sheet with player rankings separated into positional tiers. I group players with like dollar values together. For the purpose of the auction, a $22 player and a $24 player are worth the same. By putting them together, it helps remind me values are not absolute, but a range.
The tiers help me decide on the initial assignment of dollar values. I usually don’t worry about positions, other than to budget a certain amount for a closer and my best starting pitcher (more on this in a minute). The other 21 spots are chosen to match up with areas on the tiers plush with players in that value range. This maximizes my opportunity to fill in each spot with a player in that range.
The manner this keeps me focused is by tracking the top priced open spot versus how many players I can reasonably buy for that cost. When the inventory is running low, I either buy one before it runs out or I lower the target value attached and funnel the extra money to other spots. By staying on top of this, I hardly even find myself in the position of having to overpay to fill a spot or having surplus budget at the end of the proceedings.
The other key is to continually be flexible and bouncing money around, so long as you always keep the total at $260. If my highest open spot is $25 and there is a guy I have valued at $32 stopping at $27, I’ll but him at $28, put him on the $25 line and subtract $3 from another spot. Perhaps I buy someone I have valued at $18 for $12. What I might do here is put him on the $15 line and add $3 to other spots. The actual spots where I add or subtract are at least partially dictated by the ranking tiers as even in draft, I was to maximize my chances of filling the spot in the range it is assigned.
There may be times I assign a position as well as a dollar amount to a line if there are a bunch of similarly positioned players in a tier. This is particularly advantageous since now you know not to buy a player at this position for another spot, especially if the line is for an infielder, which is usually is.
I should mention at this point that this system works best in a redraft league, but can be helpful in an keeper auction, so long as you are extra flexible as values are basically tossed out the window in a keeper league with any level of significant inflation.
Below are three example budget distributions. Please realize I am not suggesting that you use exactly there, just providing an example to better illustrate the concept. The three examples represent three different general strategies:
STARS AND SCRUBS (S&S): Purchase several high priced players and fill in as best you can
SPREAD THE RISK (StR): Avoid the higher priced players, usually capping at $30 or $25, buy more players in the middle
EXTREME SPREAD THE RISK (xStR): Capping the top end players at $20 and focusing on players $5-$15
All the examples allocate $180 to hitting and $80 to pitching, which is exactly how the majority of leagues split the budget. Similar to the exact values per line, you can of course alter this distribution.
Here are the example budget distributions:
To reiterate, the numbers are a guide. The key is being flexible, but in a logical manner so you are always best suited to fill each line with a reasonably priced player.
I’m about to do something a little odd in that I’m not sure that the data presented below is of any major significance. That is, it may look cool and everything, but I’m not sure it is actionable in a practical sense. I suspect at the end of the day, the numbers are pretty and everything, but winning a league still comes down to picking good players. However, in leagues where the competition is skilled and balanced, any edge is a good one. Besides, I have spent the bulk of my time typing into word documents lately and my Excel program is feeling neglected.
Here’s the principle. By definition, a draft consists of successive picks, dropping in potential value as you serpentine through the snake. The reversal of the order for each round is done to equalize the potential each owner can amass. If this is the case, the expected difference between consecutive picks should be the same.
A few weeks back, I presented some data showing that in practical terms, this is not the case. There is what I term a value slope that is steepest early and flattens out as the draft proceeds. The difference in expected value between the first pick and last pick in each round is greatest in round one and lessens from there. I compared this to the National Football League draft. You may be familiar with a trading grid that is provided to the clubs to help them deal equal value in a trade. For example, switching picks in the first round and switching picks in the third round is not a fair trade, as the difference in quality of the players in the first round exceeds that of the players in the third, even though they are the separated by the same number of picks.
Today, I am going to present that data again, but this time in conjunction with how the potential value in a snake draft “should” be, where the slope is constant from the first pick to the last. The hypothesis is perhaps something can be learned about the expected return on investment of each pick. Maybe we can glean where we should play it safe and when we should start taking chances, I suspect there is an analogy to poker betting here, but to be honest, I am not a poker player. I just have seen enough and can deduce enough that there may be a way to quantify how much risk one should take at each draft spot the same way you can quantify your bets most efficiently with respect to the pot and your chances of winning. Actually, I like that approach – perhaps this is a means to be more efficient with your picks.
We will base the values on the standard $260 for an auction and I will use 15 teams, the principle is the same regardless. I used the values from our most recent update. There will be 345 picks with a total value of $3900 (15 x $260). Please realize these values are derived from the site projections. The exact values will be different from year to year, but the range is pretty close. That is, the top player will usually be worth about $45. Conventionally, the last player drafted is worth $1, in my system, it is actually $.501 which rounds up to $1.
To compare, I set the 345th player at $.501 and added the same amount to each player, so at the end, the sum total of all 345 players is $3900 and the difference between consecutive players is the same throughout.
Before I go on, I want to present some data I first discussed about ten years ago, just because I have seen this exact exercise repeated since and I selfishly want everyone to know I have been doing it for ten years. Below is a table adding up the potential value per team. You can readily see what I was talking about with the value slope and how in a practical sense, the snake does not even out the potential value.
Note how TEAM 1 at least has the potential to accrue more value if the draft goes “chalk”. I also included the values for the snake, which should be the same per team except an active roster has an odd number of players so the team picking first gets just a little more than the rest because the even round is not there to balance the snake.
OK, here is the data for a 15-team, 23 round snake draft. The final column is the expected return on investment (projected value – expected value)/expected value. The expected value is that which is determined from the snake.
Again, I’m not completely sure what this all means. I do think it is interesting that the return on investment flips at the end of round four. My initial reaction is this is all the more reason to not take chances early, but rather to try to realize as much of that expected ROI as possible, then take chances after round four since that is the point the expected return becomes negative.
In the name of full disclosure, the real impetus for doing this is due to an interesting discussion I am having with respect to playing it safe in the first round or taking more of a chance. I was sort of hoping this exercise would help me figure out the right answer. And maybe it does. The actual discussion revolves around Robinson Cano and my contention that I would take him as early as 5th overall, even though I would be eschewing other players “projected higher.” My argument is I prefer the sure thing value in the first round while the counter is even if Cano performs as expected, there are still going to be several teams ahead of me when comparing the first round return.
Studies have shown that 30% of players drafted in the first round in recent seasons ended the year with first round value, which means in a 15 team league, there will only be 4 or 5 “non-busts” in the first round. To reiterate, my present position is I want better odds of being one of those 4 or 5 with Cano than hoping I picked one of the others that finished better, especially since I feel Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are as equally reliable as they are productive and if I am taking Cano, they are obviously gone which means there are 1 or 2 more guys (by my odds) that have a chance at beating Cano.
What I am wondering is if there is a mathematical means of plugging his expected value into a specific draft spot and use the expected snake value and 30% factoid to quantify the proper move.
Part of me feels one of my shortcomings is I fail to take risks at the appropriate time and I am hoping this will help elucidate the appropriate time. But, like I said, it all sounds really cool, but at the end of the day, it still comes down to just picking lots of good players.