Round 4 and Round 5 of Early Mock Draft, and Hacking a Draft

I didn’t participate in the first RotoGraphs mock draft of 2015. (Check out the full results at Couch Managers.) But I will share my thoughts on it here and there, like now. Other writers did Round 1 and Round 2, and then I posted Round 3. Guess what comes next.

You’re half correct. Unless you’d already deduced the answer from the title. Either way, you’re probably eager to consume what’s coming – at least the tables. I’ll try to give you something else to chew on, though.

Round 4 contains plenty of familiar names, naturally. Of course, there are a couple of previously unfamiliar ones. Same stuff every year, basically.

OVR Player TM POS Manager
37 Stephen Strasburg WSH SP wiers
38 Hunter Pence SF OF Blue Sox
39 Yu Darvish TEX SP wydiyd
40 Ian Kinsler DET 2B ColinZarzycki
41 David Price DET SP cwik
42 Corey Dickerson COL OF Scott Spratt
43 Billy Hamilton CIN OF jhicks
44 Starling Marte PIT OF Paul Sporer
45 Dee Gordon MIA 2B enosarris
46 Craig Kimbrel ATL RP Zach Sanders
47 Albert Pujols LAA 1B Pod
48 Victor Martinez DET 1B DanSchwartz

Similar junk in Round 5. No real surprises. We’ve already reached the territory where a round or so doesn’t make a huge difference, at least in terms of after-the-fact evaluations. If Kimbrel, Marte, or Dickerson had lasted into the fifth round, would you heckle the drafters? And there might be a few players in Round 5 you would’ve been willing to take in Round 4.

OVR Player TM POS Manager
49 Aroldis Chapman CIN RP DanSchwartz
50 Jose Reyes TOR SS Pod
51 J.D. Martinez DET OF Zach Sanders
52 Johnny Cueto CIN SP enosarris
53 Adrian Gonzalez LAD 1B Paul Sporer
54 Jon Lester CHC SP jhicks
55 George Springer HOU OF Scott Spratt
56 Matt Kemp SD OF cwik
57 Kyle Seager SEA 3B ColinZarzycki
58 David Ortiz BOS DH wydiyd
59 Nolan Arenado COL 3B Blue Sox
60 Jordan Zimmermann WSH SP wiers

Really, if you aren’t already, by the end of this coming season, you might be thinking that the number of players going both ways, and even outside these rounds, could’ve been much greater. (Obviously, the deeper you go into a draft, the more they do, anyway.) Take a look at last year’s average picks. Do any seem better or worse now than they did then?

Hindsight is 20/20, but it can improve your foresight. Which kind of brings me to my prompts: the comments on my Round 3 blog, specifically those about David Wiers’ choice of Jason Kipnis at No. 36 overall and my declaration of my interest in him at a similar cost. I don’t begrudge the views of that pick as either a stretch or a bad one. It might be either, although, in my view, it’s a lot closer to the former. But those kinds of reactions can catalyze fun debates, can’t they?

Regarding the Kipnis pick, explicitly, I’ll concede that its price reflects pretty close to the expectation of a full rebound. There’s some risk involved. Entering his age-28 campaign, he’s considered past peak. That’s true in general about players’ physical ability, but not necessarily about Kipnis’ rotisserie or head-to-head statistical production. But, yes, the percentages are probably a little less in this player’s favor than they were before. …

Before, say, last year, when, prior to it, some believed that Kipnis would be the best second baseman in the fantasy game. Then 2014 happened, and now he’s Steamer’s … 89th? Yikes! … projected hitter, although Steamer doesn’t account for the fact that Kipnis played through injuries.

Without having projected and researched more about Kipnis, I’ll say that I’d be willing to gamble a round or even two ahead of where the crowd generally rates him that he’ll bounce back by a lot – so maybe not in the third round, especially if I don’t think I have to take him then, but soon afterward. I’m not the only one who thinks he’ll do that, but I don’t know that all those who also do would draft similarly. That’s just me, and my view may change.

Pretty close to a full rebound is likely, if Kipnis stays healthy. More is doable, if a little more goes right. But now that he’s been injured and his performance has been affected, he’s probably less likely to stay healthy. Thus, overall, he’s less appealing to everyone, in general.

How much less? It’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to quantify. This goes back to something Eno and I have discussed in some podcasts, one of them still entirely on the cutting room floor, unfortunately. (My bad.) As Eno has essentially put it, projections are incredibly useful, but if we all drafted based pretty strictly on projections, then we’d all want many of the same players at many of the same times. If we were all risk-averse, then we’d all avoid the players who have been injured a lot (or not play the game at all). And if either or both of those were true, then different people would probably have won our fantasy baseball leagues in previous years. At some point, you have to try to hack your draft or auction.

Projection systems give us a seemingly probable outcome and, resultantly, prices to be our guidelines. Besides the fact that the systems lack input from non-statistical data, however, they don’t give us options to factor into a player’s possible outcomes, such as reasonable floor, reasonable ceiling, assessed risk, historical reliability, etc. One of those outcomes might be more probable than the projection, even though we may not or even cannot know it.

If that’s too much uncertainty for you, then what might be helpful is a price guide generator that doesn’t give just one value but a range of them based on things like I mentioned. The projection would drive the median price. The other things would approximate caps at both ends. There could even be a probability curve alongside the range, if we wanted to get crazy. I’d always wanted to build something like that but have yet to acquire all the knowledge to complete such an endeavor. Even if we had a value machine like that, though, we’d still have to try to outwit the competition, because they could use it (and/or make one), too.

In 2011, Ron Shandler’s first-round selection in that year’s FSTA draft caused a bit of a stir, at least at the draft and on the pages of some websites. Baseball HQ’s founder and the publisher of the Baseball Forecaster (who now does this kind of neat thing) had the second overall choice and took Ryan Braun. Back then, the Brewers’ outfielder (pre-PED issues and all that) was something like the consensus fifth-, sixth-, or seventh-best player available in redraft leagues.

Most of the reactions to Ron’s pick ranged from surprise to shock – like, well that’s ballsy to well that’s insane. Really. For a few places’ difference. I posted a blog, on a different site (now defunct), shortly after that draft (I wasn’t in it) about those reactions and what I thought of them. Basically, I wrote that they didn’t come from an open-minded place, but I did so in a passive, more questioning, sort of Zen manner. Is it really so crazy to think that Braun is, say, sixth-best but not second-best? (Braun’s outcome that season seems to make the question more rhetorical, granted, but it’s rhetorical.)

I understand why folks had those reactions, though. They’re kind of reflections of what we’re conditioned to think when we have projections, rankings, ADPs, etc. They help us to create some accord. The more information we have, the closer we get to compromise, and the smarter and safer it appears to be to choose that path. But that way has a lower return on investment (in terms of individual chances to win) as more people follow it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t go crazily bounding from the well-worn road. Right now, Kipnis is one of those players I’d use to try to cheat the system, though. In Round 4 and Round 5 of this mock draft, we can probably identify some other players whom roto and head-to-head managers will use to try to do similar. Darvish, perhaps? Springer? Arenado? Exciting possibilities. Not per se my ideas for ways to win, but they could work.

Even more easily, we can identify players who had unexpectedly good campaigns in 2014 and whom the participants have, as such, seemingly expressed confidence that it wasn’t a fluke. Dickerson. Gordon. J.D.-Mart. To lesser extents or in different ways, Kinsler, V-Mart, Lester, Zimmermann, a few others. Are any of them bad picks? We could run out of picks if we tried hard enough.

There are a lot of different kinds of information we can use to break the ties that projections and other types of lists create for the crowd. Some of them are more useful than others. Yes, there are bad picks, but maybe not as many as you think, or maybe not the ones you think. It’s not really about who’s right and who’s wrong about Kipnis … or anyone else. Everyone will be right and wrong about something by the end of the season, but the only thing that matters is who won the league.

We hoped you liked reading Round 4 and Round 5 of Early Mock Draft, and Hacking a Draft by Nicholas Minnix!

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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.

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You could have summed up paragraphs 2-9 after the rounds, by simply stating: “Ok you guys were right, I did overvalue Kipnis and he should probably be a 5-7th round pick.”