Don’t Forget This Key Piece of Snake Draft Prep

The LABR Mixed draft went off last night (or will begin in two hours as I being to type this), and I am hoping not to once again have to explain why I selected Billy Hamilton in the second round. Anyhow, I wanted to share an important piece of draft preparation that I have never read as being advised, but I do perform heading into every snake draft.

Before we get to this mysterious piece of prep, let’s quickly discuss the steps required before performing the exercise I will soon describe. First, when preparing for a snake draft, you must have a list of rankings. This is probably obvious. The list should include both of the following:

-Dollar values attached to each player
-Every position mixed together for an overall ranking (not just positional rankings)

Even though you’re not actually bidding and participating in an auction, you still want to include dollar values. Dollar values allow you to differentiate between players much more accurately and provide a clear picture of where drop-offs occur (or where a tier starts and ends, if you prefer that terminology). Without the values, you’re just guessing and in a competitive league with real money on the line, I don’t think you want to leave it up to straight guesswork.

You want to have a top 300 or 400 or 500, or whatever, rather than just positional rankings because you’re not forced to select a specific position in each round! If we were told to draft a first baseman in the first round, then it makes sense to only use positional rankings. But we’re not, we have the freedom to draft any position our heart desires. So how can you possibly determine which players is worth the most, or makes for the best selection, if they are only compared to players at their own position? The answer is you can’t. So an overall ranking list is the way to go.

Once you have an overall ranking list sorted in descending order of dollar value, you should attach every player’s ADP. For LABR, I use the NFBC ADP, which is great because the league format is the same — 15 teams and standard 23-man active rosters. If your league’s format is different, these ADP values will be less accurate. This is especially true in one catcher leagues, as catcher are significantly less valuable in those formats. Still, any ADP, even a set that is for a different format, is better than no ADP. So pick a set you’re comfortable with, perform some VLOOKUP magic on Excel, and add them on.

Now that you have the ADPs added, it’s time to reveal the super secret piece of draft prep that you must do next. Errrr, almost there. You need to set up your Excel rankings file first. Add two columns with the formula =ROUNDUP([Rank/ADP]/[Teams in League],0). In the first column, change [Rank/ADP] to reference the cell in which you have your personal ranking in. If Mike Trout is your top rated player and his rank of 1 is in cell A2, then your formula is =ROUNDUP(A2/[Teams in League],0). Then change [Teams in League] to the number of teams in your league. Let’s say it’s 12. Your final formula is now =ROUNDUP(A2/12,0). Do the same in the next column, this time changing A2 to the cell with the ADP number and copy the formulas down to all players. The formula turns your rank and ADP into the equivalent round.

The last step before analyzing what you have done is to insert another column, this time taking the difference between the round of your personal rank and ADP round. Once you do this, sort your rankings list so the most undervalued players are at the top.

The goal of this exercise is to determine which players you value significantly higher than ADP so you know which positions you can wait on to scoop that undervalued player later and which positions you should be okay drafting players at fair value early on.

After the list is sorted, start filtering by each position. Personally, I began with catchers for my LABR prep. I quickly realized that as usual, every single catcher is undervalued compared to my own value. This is not an exaggeration. My math has valued every single catcher higher than each is being drafted in NFBC. I’m used to this. It happens every year and even happens in my local auction league, as players go for at least several bucks less than my value. This is likely for three reasons.

Either…

-fantasy owners acknowledge that a home run from a catcher is worth more than from a first baseman, but are reluctant to add the full premium onto the catcher’s value, choosing to settle for doling out a partial boost
-fantasy owners are attempting to add the full premium, but are failing to do so accurately, likely without math
-fantasy owners are reducing catcher valuations across the board based on increased risk and given that the position has historically yielded the worst return on investment

Whatever the reason is doesn’t matter, as it’s not the topic of this article. The point of this tangent was that you can’t draft all catchers because they are undervalued. So instead, this exercise tells me which catcher(s) is/are the most undervalued. Once I have a name or two, I now know that I don’t need to pounce on a top tier catcher, but rather can wait on the most undervalued name later and maximize my profit potential. For this draft, I went a step further and found the catchers that by ADP went just ahead of the two undervalued catchers I listed. So my goal now is to wait for those several catchers to be drafted before I take the plunge on these two names, which will help me to maximize my profit and not select them earlier than I need to.

Do this for every other position — filter your rankings list and identify players seriously undervalued based on your math. Make a list of these undervalued players. It is important to understand this is not a target list. Do not go into your draft with this list of players thinking these are the guys you need to get. Instead, count how many undervalued players are at each position. If there are many, you could safely pass on the top tier in your draft and focus on the position(s) with few undervalued players early on.

Based on the NFBC ADP, the entire middle infield is generally valued properly, or even overvalued. I have one name at second base and he’s decidedly unsexy, and more of an early teen rounder. So I have made a note that I am free to select a top tier second baseman, as there’s less risk I fill that slot and then don’t have the roster space to take advantage of an undervalued second baseman later on.

Shortstop is even worse! I literally have zero names, with just three prospects who may get the call at some point this season and can earn some real value. So right now that’s the position I truly want a top option. Or, I should clarify by saying I don’t mind paying for a shortstop at value. Typically, I hate to buy players at value, as the goal is to maximize profit and if your entire roster is filled with guys taken right where they should be, you’ll have just an average roster.

First base yielded two names, resulting in a note that I can consider taking a top first baseman at value, but I should probably focus on the other infield spots first. At third, just one boring name, meaning along with second base and shortstop, I will have no issue paying value for a player early and not being as worried I might miss out on a bargain at the position later.

Because we draft so many outfielders, there are always a plethora I feel are undervalued both heading into the draft and during the draft. I have a bunch of names of my list, some prospects, and specific players that will provide gobs of steals so I am not tempted to select Billy Hamilton in round two again. With these names, I know I don’t have to feel bad about passing on top OFers early on as there will likely be many undervalued names later that I want to be able to take advantage of.

It’s much less important to include pitchers, whether starters or closers, as part of this exercise, as there will always be guys you like more than others. I rarely, if ever, pay value for the top starters, but you’ll have more than enough slots to fill with your guys that you can afford to draft a top starter if you’d like. You could perform the exercise if you want just so you have a better idea of who you end up with, but again, don’t lock yourself into targeting these names and by all means, do not draft them many rounds ahead of their ADP! Just be aware there’s a good chance they end up on your roster.

There’s one last caveat to this exercise. Not all difference numbers are the same. By that, I mean that your first rounder with a fifth round ADP is far more undervalued than a 10th rounder with a 14th round ADP. The largest gaps in value are at the beginning stages of the draft and value gaps decrease rapidly as you progress. So don’t pass on a top option because you have a 15th rounder than ADP says is going in the 21st! It’s best to stick with guys you value in the top 10 rounds.





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Nate
Member
Nate

Is it actually true that taking all your guys “right where they should be” would give an average roster? If my top 10 picks all lived up to expectations by season’s end, I think that would be pretty great. Probably all of my league mates would fail in this endeavor, leaving me with an above average roster. Thanks for the ADP advice, it is a critical piece of game theory in drafting that I never fully attempt to quantify in this manner. Good luck in LABR.

Bounty
Member
Bounty

The only way that would happen though (“right where they should be”) is if everyone is using the exact same valuations. In theory your opponents should screw up at some point and pick someone with less value earlier than they should have, creating an opening for you to pick the more valuable player.

Bounty
Member
Bounty

Along these lines, Mike, I think you should setup a 12 team 5×5 points league C,1B,2B,SS,OF,OF,OF,Util : 5 x SP and 4 x RP w/o any lineup changes. Ever.

For the 2015 season, last year. Everyone goes in with perfect information. Let the guy with the best math win. I’d love to see a fast draft (seconds) and a slow draft (hours.) Both with a decent amount of time to prepare.

If anyone is worried about draft position, then the object could be to (openly, show some generic math) project how each draft position should fare, beat your draft position projected standing.

The idea being like fintopaz said above, where getting a guy at his spot is the best you can do until someone screws up, or does something… interesting.