Man v. ADP – Drafting from the Third Slot
Does drafting relative to ADP create value picks? To find that out, I recently took part in a 12-team mock draft. I tried to simulate as best as possible and create a functional fantasy outfit. However, there was one important caveat – I used ADP as my North Star. I did not use my values or any other set of data or projections. My only mandate was to pick players who had gone past their current ADP. This is in stark contrast to how I would normally behave in a draft, but I wanted to see if specific position groups or certain types of players were available at different points in the draft. I used our ADP at Fantrax because, well, of course, I did. Besides, that is where you should be playing. Our players sure are smart. That was proven on more than one occasion throughout this trial.
I selected out of the three-hole. Having the third pick in a draft is a pretty good position to be in. There is a pretty distinct “Big Three” in most fantasy circles. This triumvirate consists of Ronald Acuna, Mike Trout, and Christian Yelich. At pick 3, you are guaranteed one of the consensus top-3 players, with a high probability of getting an ace pitcher or another masher in the second round. For this experiment, I drafted using Fantrax’s standard settings and rosters. The starting lineup consists of one catcher, one first baseman, one second baseman, one shortstop, one third baseman, one corner infielder, one middle infielder, five outfields, one utility hitter, and nine pitchers. Here are my results along with some commentary on the selections.
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Man vs. ADP Draft Results
1.3 – Trout and Acuna went 1-2 in this particular draft. I lean towards Acuna personally because Trout does not run as much as he used to, but it is hard to argue against the game’s best all-around player. Yelich is my pick here. Technically I stayed by the book here, as his ADP is 2.89, but I likely would take him here regardless of whether or not I was conducting this experiment.
2.10 – The only player who fits the parameters here is Fernando Tatis Jr., who currently has an ADP of 18.75. The budding star had a phenomenal rookie campaign before it was cut short in mid-August. Tatis hit .317 with 22 home runs and 16 stolen bases in just 84 games. I do want to caution against expecting a full-blown repeat. Tatis had a BA-xBA of .058 last season. That number was the largest of any hitter in the Statcast era. He is the type of player who can outperform some of his underlying metrics, but I would expect an average more in the .270-.280 range.
3.3 – We are pretty early on in this process and I already have a pick I probably would not make under normal circumstances. The only player who is considered an ADP value at pick number-27 is Shane Bieber. Bieber is currently 25.79 according to our ADP data. I do not mind Bieber per se, but I prefer Jack Flaherty if given the option. ADP has Bieber seventh and Flaherty 10th, and I have them flip-flopped. Though, to be fair, Mike Clevinger’s ADP will continue to fall in the coming weeks.
4.10 – I could take another starter here, in which case, the choice would be Luis Castillo and his 44.48 ADP. However, I simply cannot pass up Ketel Marte here. Marte’s ADP is 44.66, so I can sneak him here at pick 45. Marte focused on pulling the ball and increasing his launch angle last season, and the results were tremendous. He finished with a .329 average to go along with 32 home runs. A bit of pullback is likely, but his multi-position eligibility more than makes up for it in my estimation.
5.3 – I am glad I did not take Castillo here because there are no hitters available who meet the suggested criteria. Hitters seem to be coming off the board rather quickly in this draft. This is not necessarily going to be the case in leagues with more experienced players. Pitching is at a premium in many of those leagues, so keep that in mind.
As for Castillo, he was taken at 5.1 which was a bummer, but not unexpected. Instead, I will be taking Aaron Nola (ADP 49.48) here. Nola had a disappointing 2019, as his ERA rose by a full run and a half from his 2018 level. He is working on his command of the changeup in Spring Training. In 2019, Nola threw his changeup for a strike on just 32.1 percent of pitches in 1-0 or 1-1 counts. That number had been over 50 percent from 2017-2018. A more effective changeup should produce better results. A return to his 2018 numbers is unrealistic, but there is good reason to believe he can keep his ERA under 3.50 while striking out well over 200 hitters.
6.10 – Ah, there was the SP run I had been anticipating. Starters came off the board with six of the first eight picks in this round. This opens up my options. I can choose from several players here who are usually gone by the 70th pick. Players at multiple positions are available, as are players who offer different skill sets. I can take DJ Lemahieu, who is an excellent source of runs and batting average. Or I can take a pure thumper like Matt Olson, Eugenio Suarez, or Eloy Jimenez.
Because I have Marte, I am going to pass on LeMahieu, though I am intrigued by another .300-plus hitter who I can utilize at multiple positions. I just don’t want to fall too far behind on power. Marte and LeMahieu combined for 58 bombs last year, but I am expecting a big reduction in that total. Neither player had ever hit more than 15 homers in a season before 2019. I am going with Olson here. I am a little skeptical of the injury to Suarez, and outfield is deep, especially when compared to first base.
7.3 – LeMahieu, Suarez, and Jimenez are all still on the board here. That is a pleasant surprise. I think this is the right time to strike with LeMahieu. I can lock Olson down at first base and still rotate Marte between second and the outfield, with LeMahieu also eligible at second and third. It is possible that four of my first five hitters drafted can hit .300 and score over 100 runs apiece. I may be a little light on speed and power, but that can be addressed later in the draft as long as I am mindful of it.
8.10 – A lot of power bats were selected in this portion of the draft, including Joey Gallo and Jorge Soler, among others. In fact, I do not see a hitter that I can select based on ADP. It has to be a better pitcher, and there are a couple available. My choice comes down to Jose Berrios or Mike Soroka. I am intrigued by Soroka’s command and arsenal given his young age, but I am picking Berrios here. I do not think Berrios gets the love he deserves. He has already posted three seasons of at least 12 wins, a sub-4.00 ERA and sub-4.00 FIP, and is still just 25 years old. I do not think we have seen his ceiling yet, and would not be surprised to see him take a step forward in 2020.
9.3 – Soroka is still here, as is Corey Kluber. I can also take Jeff McNeil. I happen to love Jeff McNeil. He is another player who can hit for a high average and can play multiple positions. However, he is another player with suspect power. As much as Soroka is probably the smart play here, there are still a lot of pitchers on the board as well. I feel confident that I can grab a couple more who can provide value. A lot of the thumpers available in the middle rounds of the draft have a suspect batting average, so selecting McNeil here guards against that potential drain to some degree. Also, having Marte, LeMahieu, and McNeil allows me to grab an extra pitcher or two down the road.
10.10 – Another debate at pick 118 overall. I can pick a pitcher here, most notably Eduardo Rodriguez, Frankie Montas, Madison Bumgarner, or Zac Gallen. However, I think it makes more sense to secure some power with Carlos Santana. Santana had a career year at age 33 last year. That is not necessarily something I want to buy into. Y’know, juiced ball and all. But a lot of his metrics suggest that his prowess was legitimate, and he is hitting in the middle of a solid lineup in Cleveland. He should provide solid counting categories, and a batting average over .250 is a bonus.
11.3 – None of the pitchers I mentioned in the last round were selected, so they are all in play here. I like all of them, so I don’t mind going in any direction with this pick. There is some stink on Montas after he was suspended 80 games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He finished the year as a top-30 starting pitcher in Roto formats despite pitching fewer than 100 innings. Some may see that as a direct result of the PEDs, but I think Montas can easily finish top-30 once again, even with some regression. He has top-10 upside if he can maintain last season’s pace over a full year. I will happily take him at SP33.
12.10 – Part of a successful draft is taking what the draft gives you. And sometimes, things just happen to fall into place. This seems like one of those times. One of the only hitters available to me per my pre-ordained limits is a player who offers a high combination of power and speed but who may be a liability when it comes to batting average. He also qualifies in the infield and the outfield. That player is Cavan Biggio of the Toronto Blue Jays. Biggio has one of the strangest hitting profiles you will see, but the net result is a player who could easily hit 20 homers and swipe 20 bags. He makes for a really good fit with the hitters I have assembled to this point in the draft.
13.3 – I am eager to select Max Fried at this stage in the game, as he is usually gone by pick 125. His 18.90 K-BB percentage was 25th among qualified starters, including the likes of Nola and Berrios. The 17 wins are a bit fluky, but the same can be said about his 4.02 ERA when you consider his 3.32 xFIP. Fried is a solid starter, especially at this stage of the draft. He developed his slider last season, and I think he can bring that ERA down by half a run, making him well worth a selection here even if he does experience a bit of regression in the win column.
14.10 – So, as fun as this experiment is to test theories and the like, there are some pitfalls. First and foremost is the concept of relying too heavily on ADP in the first place. To that end, there are no relievers available at this stage who are falling based on their ADP. Everybody wants saves, and most pay above market value to get them. It looks as though this trial will lead to me inadvertently punting saves. It’s not the worst idea in the world considering the climate surrounding many bullpens around the league, but it is also not a strategy I plan on employing in real drafts.
With that said, when pitchers are being drafted early according to their ADP, that means players at other positions fall. One such player is Justin Turner. Turner is one of those boring vets that continues to be underappreciated in drafts. He won’t run, but he can hit .300 and hit 20-plus home runs. He is also probably hitting third in a lineup that features two first-round fantasy players in Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. As of this selection, all of my infield positions are spoken for, but three of my players can be shifted to the outfield, so Turner’s production will be a welcomed addition.
15.3 – If I am taking a hitter here, it is likely Lourdes Gurriel Jr. There are a few pitchers available as well. Options include Sean Manaea, German Marquez, and Julio Urias. Let me just say that as talented as Marquez is, I am never taking a Rockies pitcher in a Roto league. Not even if there’s a fire. If one happens to beat me, so be it. I love the potential of Urias, but I do not fully trust Los Angeles to unleash him. That gives me a bit of pause, though I suppose there are worse fliers as an SP6. Still, I am taking Manaea and trusting that his elite control combined with a revamped slider can help keep my ratios in check.
16.10 – The back half of the draft begins with pick 190. The options are beginning to open up a bit, which helps at this point in this exercise. However, I still am not able to draft a full-time closer. Hopefully, that changes. In the meantime, Andrew Heaney stands out to me. I highlighted him among nine potential breakout candidates earlier this month. His strikeout stuff is elite, but he gives up way too many long balls. Heaney is much like Matthew Boyd in that respect. Boyd went a full three rounds earlier in this draft, so I will take Heaney at the discount and hope he figures it out.
17.3 – Can I just draft Hansel Robles and pretend I followed protocol? No? Well, in that case, I am going to take Brandon Lowe. I’m not going to lie – I do not love the pick. The good news is that, as of right now, he is slated to lead off for a pretty good Rays lineup. But he also may be one of 12 different players with between 350-500 plate appearances based on the way they like to mix and match their lineups. For now, he can slot in as either some bench depth, or he can bump Biggio to the outfield.
18.10 – As frustrating as this whole reliever thing is, I guess the bright side is that Fantrax drafters are not going out of their way to draft crappy closers. So I am going to dive back into that quickly-thinning starter pool because I am locked out of catchers as well. Christian Vazquez has a current ADP of 214.44 and this is pick 214. I suppose I can ask for some leeway, but for argument’s sake, I will take Mike Foltyniewicz. He showed some flashes upon his return last season, so perhaps he can approach the level he achieved in 2018.
19.3 – I lied. I’m not taking Vazquez. I could, and I likely would in a two-catcher league. But since this is only a one-catcher format, and since Joe Musgrove just so happens to slide in just under the ADP threshold, I am taking him here. For those scoring at home, that is now a total of nine starters through 19 rounds, including six out of my last nine. Time will tell if some options finally open up in the bullpen. If I cannot tally some saves, at least I can hopefully grab some relievers who will keep my ratios down.
20.10 – I think I will fill my catcher position now and get that over with. I am going with Vazquez over Omar Narvaez.
21.3 – I still have some flexibility with my offense, which makes it a bit easier to plug in some holes and find players who fit. Options in this round include Eric Hosmer, Gio Urshela, Miguel Andujar, Shin-Soo Choo, and David Peralta. I am going to opt for Peralta here. He is super boring, but he is just two seasons removed from a year in which he hit 30 home runs (presumably without a juiced ball) and hit .293. He also has a front-row seat to the Marte Partay, as Sterling and Ketel should provide him with plenty of RBI opportunities. This is probably as unsexy a pick as you can get, but Peralta will probably spend a healthy amount of the season in one of my five OF spots.
22.10 – In this round, there are again a few hitters I can take. I am making a point to take a player I am quite high on in this range. That is Mark Canha in Oakland. Canha had a breakout season in 2019 but continues to go largely ignored in shallow drafts. He can usually be had right around pick 250, but I think he should be going closer to the 200 range. Many will write off his power surge to the baseball, and that may have something to do with it. But he also nearly doubled his walk rate, which suggests a more polished approach at the plate. Canha won’t win a batting title anytime soon, but he can pop 30 round-trippers at virtually no cost. He is also eligible at first and the outfield, which makes for a nice added selling point.
23.3 – My Round 23 selection is Dansby Swanson. He is another player whose 2019 breakout seems to have been forgotten. His final numbers may not indicate a breakout. But the breakout was in effect before a heel injury sidelined him for over a month. Before his injury, Swanson played in 98 games. In those games, he hit .265 with 64 runs scored and 57 runs batted in. He posted a wRC+ of 108 over the first half of the season and hit all 17 of his home runs. Swanson was simply not the same player upon his return to the lineup in late August. He hit just .194 with no home runs and five total extra-base hits over his final 27 games. A clean bill of health heading into 2020 should do wonders for the former first-overall MLB Draft choice.
In addition to an improved batter profile, Swanson also can steal bases. He had the same sprint speed last season as Christian Yelich, Tommy Pham, and Tim Anderson. These are all players who many are projecting to steal at least 20 bases in 2020. Yet most projections seem to assume Swanson will fall well short of that mark. I think he can at least get to 20/15, which makes him a, well, a steal this late in drafts.
24.10 – Still no luck with relievers, I’m afraid. I am going to take another hitter who offers some flexibility in this round. I know, shocking… in this case, it is Wil Myers. Myers is a player who can provide some power and speed. Despite tantalizing fantasy owners for what seems like forever, Myers is still not yet 30 years old. It would likely require a trade out of San Diego for Myers to reach his full potential this season, but at this point in the draft, he is worth a flier.
25.3 – With only six rounds to go, something has to give with the pitching. I still only have nine starters and have yet to draft a reliever. These parameters are not conducive to such restrictions. As things stand, I believe the best pitcher available is Steven Matz. Matz should provide length and can post some solid numbers in stretches.
26.10 – After pick 300, and especially given the issues I have encountered constructing this pitching staff, I just want some bodies that can maybe give me some innings early on in the season. I will be playing the waiver/FAAB game with relievers, so I will add Marco Gonzales. Gonzales in the de facto ace of the Seattle Mariners, which isn’t saying much. He has a below-average fastball but is effective in sequencing his pitchers to throw hitters off. He is little more than a streaming option who should not be relied on over the long haul.
27.3 – There are a few intriguing options here, particularly at corner infield. Andujar is still available, as is Tommy La Stella. I like both players but have concerns about their playing time. I have no such concerns about Renato Nunez, which is why I am grabbing him in this spot. Nunez hit 31 home runs and drive in 90 in 2019. Considering the lack of potent bats in Baltimore’s lineup, I see no reason why Nunez cannot approach those numbers again in 2020. He has a pretty clear path to full-time at-bats and will hit in the middle of the lineup playing half his games in a hitters’ haven. Nunez also should benefit from the number of left-handed starters he stands to face within his division. He posted an OPS of .836 against southpaws last year, more than 100 points better than his mark against righties.
28.10 – Again, I am just looking for as many spot starts and quality innings as I can muster. It is hard to rely on Johnny Cueto since he has totaled just 69 innings over the past two seasons. I will select Julio Teheran with this pick. The former Brave has made at least 30 starts in seven consecutive seasons. He may face some obstacles pitching in the AL West, but he should be a relatively competent pitcher who can eat up some innings without inflicting too much damage to the ratios.
29.3 – So, this is pick 339. Daniel Hudson was on the board in the last round. His ADP is 338.12. He is not even the closer, though he does have a path to saves, as evidenced in last season’s World Series run. So of course, Team 1 takes him with the 337th pick, thus denying me my once chance to draft a pitcher who has any chance to back into the occasional save. Oh well. My options are Cueto or Nick Madrigal. There is zero chance I would take Cueto under normal conditions, but I desperately need to string some innings together, so I will add the veteran righty with my penultimate pick.
30.10 – In the final installment of this experiment refusing to allow me a reliever, my final pick is 358. Nathan Eovaldi (again, another pitcher who is not supposed to close, but who could at some point conceivably end up there) has an ADP of 358.09. Can’t make this stuff up. So I will not be going that route. Instead, I am selecting Teoscar Hernandez. I just cannot quit him. I planted my flag with Hernandez last spring and he began the year by taking that flag and planting it somewhere else. He picked things up in the second half, but that was well after I and many others had dropped him. His contact rate is still abysmal, but there is a lot of life in that bat. Hopefully, he can put it together over a full season before it is too late.
Well, this was not what I was expecting. I ran a Draft Analysis on FantasyPros and it gave me a grade of 89 out of 100, with a projected second-place finish. I was kind of amazed because I have no relievers whatsoever on my roster, which forced me to grab a few starters I would not normally pursue. What was interesting is that it projects me to finish sixth in hitting and fifth in pitching. I like my offense quite a bit. Now, granted, I am a distant fifth in pitching. Points-wise, I am much closer to first in hitting than I am in pitching. It is good to know that if I play my cards right and grab a couple of key relievers, I should be able to contend with this ragtag pitching staff.
As far as the experiment itself, it was frustrating at times. I rigidly stuck to the plan, which resulted in several picks that I would not have made in a real draft. Overall, though, this was an enjoyable exercise. The main takeaway, as I have preached on many occasions, is to not let ADP dictate where you take a player. You can see how quickly that snowball rolls downhill and picks up steam when you blindly follow a flawed system like ADP. Though I seemingly made the best of it, I would not recommend drafting in this manner. I am going to conduct a couple more of these drafts from different points to see if anything changes concerning the results or the process itself.
Does ADP come into play when you draft? Let us know your take in the comments below.
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