Converting ADP to Auction Values

Oftentimes, I write out of inspiration. This time, I write simply to write, because the subject happened to creep up into my thick ol’ skull without provocation, which I guess is a type of inspiration in and of itself but not wholly what I had in mind. No one specifically needs this post right now, or maybe everyone does. I don’t know.

Something I do see and have seen before, however, with frequency, are mentions of such-and-such player rising or falling in the ranks, usually by virtue of average draft position (ADP). ADP is a measure of a player’s rank by aggregating data for a whole boatload of snake drafts. It’s a good way of assessing a player’s market value.

The problem with ADP is, unless you have completed research nearly identical to this, you can’t possibly be expected to know how a player’s ADP rank might equate to a dollar value at auction. Having this knowledge, this intuition, is arguably helpful in understanding how much you’re staking on any particular player. Moreover, changes in ADP become easier to digest. Possibly. For me, it does. If you’ve never participated in an auction draft before, maybe it doesn’t.

In terms of attributing value, when baseball players play the sport of baseball — and, inadvertently, the fake sport of fantasy baseball — they perform, and their performance generates value. Typically, elite seasons are scarce; seasons of lesser caliber, less scarce; average seasons, a great many. In other words, baseball doesn’t evenly distribute the number of seasons that might be considered “elite,” “above average,” “average,” “terrible,” or otherwise. It all happens randomly, although this randomness commonly resembles a logarithmic function.

The mathematics of the type of curve (logarithmic! nerd!!!) is not as important as the shape: nonlinear. The best way to exemplify this, lest I lose you, is by example: $5 might be the difference between ADP 20 and ADP 35 — and also the difference between ADP 115 and ADP 200.

In other words, when a relatively low-ranked player rises 20 or 30 spots, how much has his value really changed? If you were in an auction, would this dramatically affect your approach to drafting him? In most instances, it probably wouldn’t.

I don’t intend to dispense advice with the information herein, but I do think it might initiate a shift in thinking about value at certain points in the draft and if you really want to reach for a player (which, perhaps, you do, and you should).

Firstly: here are the dollar value-equivalent salaries for each draft slot in 12- and 15-team leagues (assuming 29 rounds). In an auction league, every team begins with $260. However, in a snake draft, the teams that draft first are inherently at an advantage. This is something my colleague Jeff Zimmerman has discussed before, probably several times in these digital pages alone.

KDS* Salary Equivalents
Total Salary
Draft Slot 12 Teams 15 Teams
1 $274 $276
2 $268 $269
3 $264 $266
4 $262 $263
5 $260 $261
6 $258 $260
7 $257 $259
8 $256 $258
9 $256 $257
10 $255 $256
11 $255 $256
12 $255 $255
13 $255
14 $255
15 $255
Average $260 $260
*Kentucky Derby Style, or snake draft

Ultimately, drafting late in the first round does not, by any means, doom your season. If every team drafted perfectly, fantasy baseball would be insultingly boring and we wouldn’t play it. But you do, in theory, have to strategize slightly more carefully.

Secondly: here are the average dollar value-equivalents by round. This is the easiest way to depict how value is not evenly dispersed throughout a draft. I believe you know this intuitively, but seeing it is altogether something different. (Note: in this exercise, I do not force values to $1, the way you would be required to do so in a true auction draft.)

Value by Round
Round Avg $
1 $38
2 $27
3 $22
4 $19
5 $17
6 $15
7 $14
8 $12
9 $11
10 $10
11 $9
12 $8
13 $8
14 $7
15 $6
16 $6
17 $5
18 $5
19 $4
20 $4
21 $3
22 $3
23 $2
24 $2
25 $2
26 $1
27 $1
28 $0
29 $0

Lastly: here is a dynamic calculator I made that allows you to compare dollar values between draft slots. You can use this in myriad ways:

  • To compare the value of different draft spots;
  • To calculate the changing value of a player;
  • To compare your ranks to ADP;
  • To calculate a player’s profit potential assuming a certain level of upside;
  • And more! (Maybe.)

It’s worth noting that the methodology for converting ADP to dollar values I’ve employed here is not the be-all end-all. It just happens to be a (relatively) simple and straightforward method that closely resembles the auction dynamic as well as end-of-season values.

Anyway, that’s it. The last part, the dynamic calculator, is most important — to me, at least. Maybe I’m the only kind of person who finds it interesting or useful, though. Oh well!

Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 8-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's magazine (2018, 2019), Rotowire magazine (2021), and Baseball Prospectus (2022, 2023). Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.

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4 years ago

I play in a snake draft league, but I’ve done something similar to this in most recent offseasons, for keeper evaluation. So, if I’m deciding between Players A and B, I can figure out what value I “should” be getting from the keeper draft slot, figure out what the player’s production is expected to be, and then figure out which is likely to generate more “excess”.