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What You’ll Pay, Where You Play
Let’s face it, in an attempt to bring fantasy baseball to the masses, online fantasy baseball leagues had to present information to help keep the casual gamer from feeling lost. So every online draft program now has numbers next to each player, like average draft position, average bid value, and projected stats.
Inevitably, these numbers are self-fulfilling prophecies as team leaders use these numbers face-to-face to make decisions as time goes by. This creates a new variable that every manager should be aware of.
For example, if the selection window says Carl Pavano is the best remaining player and Team 9 needs a pitcher, what are the odds that Pavano will get an extra long look?
We call this site value. Even a fantastic manager who is well prepared with their own research can be sucked into this trap.
Remember that the values used are based on the default league setting for the website in question, but you can always use the relative player value regardless of your league settings.
The ESPN.com standard league is 25 players and teams have $260 for bidding.
Carl Crawford DE
Average value $39
Average Draft Pick 4.2
There’s no doubt that Crawford is a fantastic big player and a likely first-round pick in most league formats, but is he the 3rd-best player overall, as his current ESPN pick stats suggest? ESPN’s projections have him essentially replicating last year’s career-best production, which is probably a little optimistic, since most projection systems show him a bit regressing from his average power numbers in career. However, even if it hits 20 HR and gets 100 RsBI, is it worth 15% of your budget or is it a case of bad location value? The answer is the latter, especially from the deep talent-rich OF position.
Crawford owners are really paying for Delmon Young (ESPN AV $10) with 40 more steals. In an ESPN league, this equates to approximately $0.75 per additional flight; almost three times the marginal value we place on steals from an outfield position when formulating U-value rankings.
Instead, what about targeting Matt Holliday (ESPN AV $29) and Elvis Andrus (ESPN AV $10)? Replacing steals from Crawford to the SS post doesn’t come with a huge opportunity cost, and Holliday certainly contributes to better tally stats for your team.
In any draft league, the math is a little different since you only have one first-round pick and you have to spend it on someone. But, if you have a first-round pick, you won’t pick again until 20 years into a twelve-team league. That means you’ve probably lost a chance to get the best player at any position, unless you’re the unfortunate one breaking the ice during the closeouts.
It’s not a bad choice to get Crawford in the first round, but it also doesn’t make you feel like you’ve established a significant competitive advantage.
Conclusion– If you target Crawford on ESPN, be prepared to pay your nose in an auction and don’t expect him to top the top five picks in a draft.
Josh Johnson SP
Average value $14
Average draft pick 65
Granted, most of a starting pitcher’s value comes from notoriously hard-to-predict wins. ESPN believes Johnson is only good for 12 wins this year, likely in part due to injury concerns. However, there have been no signs of back and shoulder problems this pre-season and the relatively young Johnson is likely preparing for the difficult task of trying to win a Cy Young award on a mediocre team.
Doesn’t that sound a lot like Felix Hernandez (ESPN AV $30)? What’s the marginal value of going with Hernandez instead? We see it as about 30 more ERA and WHIP quality innings and 30 more Ks. How about passing on King Felix’s bidding war and instead targeting Johnson and Mat Latos (ESPN AV $13)?
Best-case scenario Johnson and Latos challenge King Felix for the Cy Young Trophy, but you’re also protected in case one of them gets hurt. Because the tee shot is the most difficult position to predict for fantasy stats and the position most likely to be ravaged by injury, it’s better to have a wealth of quality weapons than to rely on the performance of an elite starter.
In a draft setting, the U has always advocated waiting to start throwing. In an ESPN league, managers can expect to see Johnson in the sixth round, even with 12 teams in the draft. While Johnson isn’t a dominant No. 1 starter for your team, he can hold onto that spot if you add a strong No. 2 starter.
Also, remember you’ve been busy racking up runs with elite hitters in those first five rounds, so your Johnson pick will likely save you from a wild ride on 2B that involves Richie Weeks (ESPN ADP 69) and Martin Prado (ESPN ADP 74).
Conclusion– Spend cash and draft picks on offense first knowing that Johnson will likely be there when you need him.
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