ADP Facts and Figures for 2019 Fantasy Baseball
Average Draft Position (ADP) is the best place in Fantasy baseball to monitor the pulse of how owners value and prioritize players during draft season. Fantasy Baseball ADP rankings are a large sample of correlated data that lists, in order, when players are being selected on all of the websites that host Fantasy baseball league drafts. There are web sites that track ADP for leagues managed only on their site and there are other sites that track ADP for all of the different major sites that host leagues. And, you can find ADP rankings listed according to each hosting site individually as well as an overall average of all of the sites combined.
Average Draft Position rankings are a living, breathing thing and as sample sizes grow, ADP changes. Just like owners’ minds and players’ circumstances. They aren’t an infallible predictor of how each individual league draft is going to unfold, but they do reflect trends. They are “suggestive.” They can also be misleading, as anything based on statistics and data can be when misinterpreted.
Competitive Fantasy baseball leagues are won by owners that find the best values and ADP is the best way to identify potentially overrated or underappreciated players and flaws in strategy or execution on draft night. ADP rankings tell us a lot about draft season if you know how to break the data down. That’s what I will do periodically over the next few weeks as draft season prep stampedes forward like a bull in a China shop.
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How To Interpret Average Draft Position Rankings
There are a multitude of ways to interpret data, making it important to properly understand the context of ADP numbers. Average Draft Position reflects how a player is valued compared to others at their specific position as well as how owners value them compared to the league on the whole. ADP often fluctuates from site to site because each site has variances in settings and formats. Yahoo, for example, has infamously low games played requirements for position eligibility and a player’s position eligibility can play a more significant role in determining when they are drafted than even their projected season statistics, within reason of course. NFBC league ADP’s are often given additional credibility because they are money leagues and the assumption is that when an owner puts their hard-earned cash on the line, and oftentimes those leagues play for large sums of it, that those leagues are played more seriously and by more skilled players and therefore their ADP’s are more accurate.
One of the most interesting aspects of ADP rankings is that they change week-to-week and month-to-month. You can literally watch on a daily basis to see who the cool kids are at any given moment of draft season. Average Draft Position rankings can be an informative indicator when used properly or do a significant disservice when it’s not. Buying into the buzz often results in a player being overdrafted and these rankings play an enormous part in that phenomenon. Anyone who leaped on the Royce Freeman bandwagon in Fantasy football can speak to the frustrations and regrets of falling victim to the overwhelming forward momentum that hype can create. ADP can function like an oceans under toe dragging us in and out and all about.
Average Draft Position Impressions
Early Round ADP’s
In the top 10, there are only two dual-position eligible players (Jose Ramirez and Manny Machado whose aggregate ADP is 11.8), five of the top 10 are outfielders and only two of the top 10 offensive players being drafted don’t offer relevant stolen base potential. And, there is only one pitcher – Max Scherzer.
Owners clearly value offense over pitching, which is nothing new, and they are risk-averse with their first picks. Bryce Harper and Javier Baez have an ADP of #16 and #17 while Giancarlo Stanton is being drafted #22 overall. That suggests owners aren’t yet sold on bounce-back seasons from Harper and Stanton and they have doubts that Baez can repeat his MVP-calibre 2018 season. If these trends continue it could result in a few of the better early-round values, but it’s prudent to be conservative with early picks and owners have been in February. Early round selections rarely win leagues, while a complete bust can lose them. Top 15 selections are the stars of the league and even in a disappointing year a top 15-20 pick is usually a productive player. There isn’t enough incentive to reach for “ceiling” and accept risk in return. The downside is too great while the upside is too limited.
Another early round trend developing is owners prioritizing overall statistical production over positional value or scarcity. Owners are showing that they aren’t overly enamored by dual-position eligibility, but they do want players that have dual-category potential. I have always preferred players that hit fewer home runs or stole fewer bases while offering the potential for an impactful amount of both rather than players like Giancarlo Stanton who could lead the league in home runs while providing minimal or negative value in other categories. I have always waited to draft “one-trick pony’s” until the separation between the dual-category contributor and the one category dominator was too significant to ignore. Javier Baez is being drafted #16 and Trevor Story #23. That is the neighborhood that Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton are being selected.
Early Round ADP “Trends & NoteWorthy’s”
Average Draft Position functions more as a preview of things to come in the early rounds than a tool owners can use to gain an edge on their competitors. Knowing that the industry consensus first pick is Mike Trout or that Manny Machado has been falling to #11 is informative while it can’t really be applied effectively to gain a significant advantage for that specific draft pick. It can be used to develop an overall draft strategy, but applying early-round ADP in that way can be a disservice. Owners are best served when they are flexible rather than rigidly apply a game plan.
Some player examples:
Nolan Arenado, 3B Colorado Rockies (#7.3 ADP)
J.D. Martinez, OF Boston Red Sox (#7.5 ADP)
Their average ADP is seven, but they are being drafted fifth or sixth overall and they’re the first selections that don’t offer meaningful stolen base potential. The next top pick to be a one-category contributor is Manny Machado at #12.3 and he could steal double-digit bases. If owners plan to draft either of these two players this early they will have to adapt later. The same goes for owners willing to use a top-10 pick on Max Scherzer (#10 ADP), the only starting pitcher currently being drafted in the first round.
Jose Altuve, 2B Houston Astros
Bryce Harper, OF FA
Trevor Story, SS Colorado Rockies
I consider Jose Altuve and Bryce Harper to be viable first-round picks who could have similar 2019 seasons to Jose Ramirez or Nolan Arenado respectively and yet they are being selected #15 and #16 with an average ADP of #14.3 and #15.0. This is where we begin to see potential value and where owners have begun to accept some uncertainty in order to capitalize on potential upside. And, sandwiched between Harper and Story, is Javier Baez, Aaron Judge and Paul Goldschmidt.
All of these players had either disappointing or surprisingly good breakout seasons in 2018.
Trevor Story hit 37 home runs, stole 27 bases and batted .291 in 2018. That’s every bit the player Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts were and yet he is being drafted #20 overall instead of top five. And, he is being drafted after Alex Bregman and Ronald Acuna. It’s clear that owners are intrigued by Story, but that they don’t fully believe his 2018 season can be repeated. He is being drafted eight to 10 picks after Acuna and Bregman because he is seen as a player that will regress while Acuna and Bregman are perceived to still have upside. That’s a recipe for potential value and it is also a clear indicator that owners perceive some risk. Javier Baez profiles like Story, while Judge and Goldschmidt are a little different.
The sense I get is that most owners believe that Goldschmidt and Judge will have bounce-back seasons in 2019. Goldschmidt is downgraded because he qualifies at first base and because his ceiling isn’t quite as high as some of the elite players in the game because he is aging, while Judge is being punished for playing only 112 games in 2018. The concern/hesitation is understandable, but it’s bad profiling and makes him one of the best values of any of the top 20 picks. If Judge hit 40-45 home runs or more and stole eight to 10 bases in 2018, nevermind the 52 like HRs he hit in 2017, he would be a top-10 pick, ahead of Acuna or Bregman and possibly in the top five alongside J.D Martinez and Nolan Arenado. Irrational concerns happen often and are one of the best indicators that ADP rankings provide. I expect Judge’s ADP to rise as the sample sizes increase.
Position Runs, Tiering and Position Scarcity
I am an advocate of “Tiering” as a draft strategy while I am strongly opposed to drafting a player because of position scarcity. These two draft phenomenons can look similar, but they are, in my view, fundamentally different. ADP rankings identify where the “Tiers” are and when and who is being drafted because of the scarcity of their position.
Position Scarcity is when an owner drafts a player who projects to be an inferior statistical contributor compared to other players from other positions being selected at the same part of a draft because they project to be significantly better than other players at their specific position. In Fantasy baseball, Buster Posey has been that player for almost a decade and Troy Tulowitzki was at shortstop when shortstop was seen as a thin position. Rob Gronkowski has been the draft season example carrying the position-scarcity debate in Fantasy football. Position scarcity is more of an isolated occurrence that revolves around specific players while “Tiering” creates what we refer to as “Runs,” which are a repetitive process that re-occurs throughout a draft and impacts multiple players.
For a long time the debate about position scarcity revolved around shortstop and second base and isolated examples at catcher. Now, it is almost entirely relegated to the catcher position and in some ways, in points leagues, it can be applied to starting pitchers, as I discussed in my previous article.
Position Scarcity ADP’s
Gary Sanchez, CA New York Yankees – #54.5 ADP
Sanchez has the hit-tool and power to hit 30-40 home runs with a batting average of .270-.285. Thats similar to Kyle Schwarber and Nelson Cruz. And yet, Sanchez is being drafted in the same area as George Springer and Ozzie Albies and within a round of Anthony Rendon and Lorenzo Cain even though he doesn’t steal any bases. And, if Sanchez had repeated rather than regressed from his 2017 season when he hit 33 home runs, he would probably be drafted in the top 20 right now. The same case can be made against J.T. Realmuto, who is about to explode up draft boards because his home/road splits have fans dreaming on 35-40 home runs in Philadelphia this season rather than the 21 he swatted in Miami in the last one.
30 home runs without stolen base potential and a batting average under .290 is not a top 50-60 draft pick at any other position.
Here are a few players similar in production value that are being drafted later:
Marcell Ozuna – #76.8 ADP
2018 Stats: 23 Home Runs – Three Stolen Bases – .280 Batting Average
Mitch Haniger – #86.3 ADP
2018 Stats: 26 HRs – Eight SBs – .285 BA
Travis Shaw – ADP of #93.5
2018 Stats: 32 HRs – Five SBs – .241 BA
Nelson Cruz – ADP of #108.3
2018 Stats: 37 HRs – One SB – .256 BA
A Position Run is when one owner drafts a player that triggers a domino effect, resulting in multiple owners drafting the best remaining players at that same position until the separation between the quality of the players just drafted and the ones remaining is large enough for other owners to return to selecting the best available player regardless of position. Runs happen because of “Tiering.” They occur repeatedly throughout snake drafts and at all Fantasy positions. Most owners don’t want to be odd-man-out at any position and there is a legitimate argument for it.
Here are a few “Runs” that we are seeing early in 2019 Fantasy baseball drafts. I ignored the outfield position because so many outfielders are drafted that to pinpoint a stretch of selections and call it an “outfielder run” would do a disservice. When there is a run of outfielders it is unlikely that it was because of the position, like it is with other positions. The explanation will be more complicated and nuanced and based more on category contributions than the thinning out of the position or Tiering.
#22: Corey Kluber, SP Cleveland Indians
#24: Aaron Nola, SP Philadelphia Phillies
#25: Justin Verlander, SP Houston Astros
#26: Blake Snell, SP Tampa Bay Rays
#29: Gerrit Cole, SP Houston Astros
#63: Blake Treinen, RP Oakland A’s
#71: Craig Kimbrel, RP FA
#77: Kenley Jansen, RP Los Angeles Dodgers
#78: Aroldis Chapman, RP New York Yankees
#83: Roberto Osuna, RP Houston Astros
#80: Scooter Gennett, 2B Cincinnati Reds
#88: Travis Shaw, 2B/3B Milwaukee Brewers
#91: Dee Gordon, 2B/OF Seattle Mariners
#94: Jonathan Villar, 2B/SS Baltimore Orioles
#100: Daniel Murphy, 2B/1B Colorado Rockies
#105: Max Muncy, 1B/2B/3B Los Angeles Dodgers
#88: Travis Shaw, 2B/3B Milwaukee Brewers
#95: Josh Donaldson, 3B Atlanta Braves
#101: Wil Myers, 3B/OF San Diego Padres
#102: Matt Chapman, 3B Oakland A’s
#105: Max Muncy, 3B/2B/1B Los Angeles Dodgers
#42: Raul Adalberto Mondesi, SS/2B Kansas City Royals
#43: Carlos Correa, SS Houston Astros
#49: Xander Bogaerts, SS Boston Red Sox
#56: Gleyber Torres, SS/2B New York Yankees
#67: Jean Segura, SS Philadelphia Phillies
#69: Corey Seager, SS Los Angeles Dodgers
#237: Jorge Alfaro, CA Miami Marlins
#245: Mike Zunino, CA Tampa Bay Rays
#251: Robinson Chirinos, CA Houston Astros
#261: Welington Castillo, CA Chicago White Sox
#265: Willians Astudillo, CA/3B Minnesota Twins
#266: Yan Gomes, CA Washington Nationals
Tiering is when owners see the quality of the remaining players available at a specific position approaching a significant drop-off and they prioritize drafting the best of what’s remaining so they aren’t “stuck with the best of the least.” For example, Nolan Arenado and Alex Bregman are being drafted in the top 12 according to Fantasypros.com consensus ADP rankings and on Fantrax.com. Kris Bryant ranks sixth amongst third baseman and is being drafted #32 overall. Bryant is no slouch and I believe he is going to have a bounceback year in 2019. But, in early drafts, owners are either paying up for Arenado and Bregman or looking elsewhere for almost two full rounds before reconsidering Bryant. Thats an example of how ADP rankings can identify trends in Tiering and the same thing happens with runs.
“Runs” Identified by Early Average Draft Position Rankings
Runs are fun and they are a repeated occurrence in every draft. Most owners don’t want to punt a position or be stuck at a significant disadvantage compared to their opponents at a position and so once one goes, a few often follow. Runs are as predictable as the comments in the chatroom about them after they happen. An owner drafts the first closer or a middle infielder with both power and speed and other owners take notice. One owner breaks the seal, makes it acceptable, in public in front of everyone, and the flood gates open. All of a sudden, it becomes OK to draft these players at this stage in the draft and the lemmings flood the position with selections. Three or four or five players from the same position are drafted within a 10-15 pick grouping. All of a sudden a position that was full of viable options turns into a position owners primarily ignore for 25-50 selections.
During a mock draft I participated in with experts from CBSSportsline.com there was actually a five-player run of Mets. Yes. Five New York Mets players were drafted in a row. Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, Keon Broxton (Me), Yoenis Cespedes and Jeff McNeil. And, Jed Lowrie was drafted three picks before the run began, tenderizing the room for the Mets feast to come I suppose. A little flavor for the readers. Enjoy it with spice.
It isn’t always prudent to participate in a Run because it can lead to reaching for a player that doesn’t warrant an investment at that draft-day price, but I believe in Tiering, so it is warranted in some cases. ADP rankings can provide insights into whether a run at a certain time or position is one you want to either start, jump in on or avoid.
It’s February and when snow is on the ground that means ADP data is being compiled. The rankings will change. They will fluctuate from wild swings to slow, methodical moves. It’s important to be aware but also be smart about what the data tells you. I will continue to monitor the ADP rankings and be discussing in more detail the nuances going forward. My next few articles will be focused more specifically on Tiering, Runs, Position Scarcity and some general thoughts about specific players.
You can follow me on Twitter @CJMitch73 or on Facebook in the Fantasy Sports group “A Podcast To Be Named Later” and we will have a Podcast coming in the not-too-distant future, so keep an eye-out.
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