Step one, select Mike Trout.
I’m kidding. Finding a good value in the power department can be a challenge in the early rounds. Assuming you’re not picking at the very front of the draft, your options usually fall into one of two categories.
- 15 to 30 home runs, 15 to 30 stolen bases
- 40 or more home runs, no stolen bases
This makes for a difficult decision. Very few players later in the draft offer both power and speed. Those that do come with serious red flags – else they would be selected much earlier. The all-speed profile of a Billy Hamilton hasn’t parlayed into fantasy championships when selected in the early and middle rounds. In fact, playing Hamilton tends to be seriously detrimental to winning. As such, you almost have to select speed in the first few rounds.
But hold up. The first round is usually the easiest place to select players who project to hit 45 or more home runs. Again, the guys who might do it later – like Joey Gallo – come with some serious red flags. When practically everybody in the league is hitting 20 home runs, aggregating power in one roster spot is a great way to squeak ahead of the competition.
So we should select speed in the first round and also we should pick up big time power. Apparently tradeoffs must be made.
As is always the case with tradeoffs, there is more than one way to skin the draft. What I propose are three easy steps that have worked on several occasions in recent years. We’re discussing some anecdotal findings – in part because historic ADPs aren’t publicly available (and I seem to have lost mine).
Step 1 – Identify Players Like The Top Power Bats
If this seems obvious, it’s because it is. Think back to last spring. The guys everybody wanted for power were Nolan Arenado and Giancarlo Stanton. Aaron Judge was second fiddle. Hanging out around the start of the third round was J.D. Martinez. His value was depressed by modest injury concerns. He wound up as the best power bat. The others all supplied plenty of production, but you would have been better off with a multi-category guy and JDM.
In 2017, everybody wanted Arenado, Manny Machado, and (a bit later) Nelson Cruz. The actual top performer was… Stanton. Looking back to 2016, Arenado and Miguel Cabrera were ousted by Mark Trumbo and Cruz.
The anecdotal moral of the story: you can find big power in the early-mid rounds. While Trumbo is a bad example, the top of the power club has remained remarkably consistent over the years. All that has changed are the ADPs.
Step 2 – Fade The Previous Hero
Arenado keeps putting up first round numbers. The other home run heroes toss up an outlier season, get drafted in the first round, then regress back to third-round value. Even Stanton and Joey Votto have suffered this curse. The sluggers who fell short of expectations or missed time with minor injuries are the guys who go at a relative discount on draft day.
Step 3 – Asset Management
This is what separates good drafters from the bad. People think the picks matter. Technically, sure, the picks matter. However, asset management is so much more important. What you score in the early rounds will shape how you develop your portfolio. By forgoing the bluest chip power sources – i.e. Arenado and JDM, you’ve increased the volatility of your home run category.
Just as money managers convert volatile stocks and bonds into predictable assets by bundling them, you’ll need to bundle your power. Toss in some late fliers on Miguel Sano, Rougned Odor, and Luke Voit. Individually, those are all scary players to depend upon. As a group, you can count on good things happening.
This works in the other direction too. If you go for Martinez early, prepare to load up on extra stolen bases later.