DRAFT & HOLD: You May Be Right

...I just may be crazy. But if it's lunacy you're looking for, you've come to the right place. It all starts here. That's right, we're gonna be takin' some chances here.

Here's a hypothetical. Let's say you're guaranteed to finish in third place in your redraft league (play along for a moment). However, there is a series of moves you could make that would give you a 20% chance of winning the league outright, but a 50% chance of finishing in 8th place or worse. Would you do it? If your answer is "no," then stop reading and go back to your draft planning. The rest of you, continue on...

See, over the years, we've tried to systematize the draft process. LIMA. RIMA. SANTANA. Portfolio3. They're all strong systems, and if executed properly (and your fortune is at least average), they will build teams that are strong contenders. But they all are designed to play the odds. They're the "smart" plays. But sometimes the crazy guy wins.

Embrace the Crazy

Draft-and-hold leagues may give us the freedom to depart from the starched-shirt, rigid structure of these systems. And the reason is simple: you get to draft a lot of players. The Law of Large Numbers is more in your favor. The more chances you take, the more you're likely to hit. You don't need 50 good players! Just 23 hits against 27 misses is enough.

Consider that our Speculator column frequently warns that the scenarios listed are 20% plays at best. In draft-and-hold, if you "hit" on 20% of your 50 players, you'll end up with 10 breakouts. Which obviously isn't enough to win anything.

Okay, but what if you made 40 speculative picks? Or 35? If you "hit" on 20% of 35 players, that's seven hits. And if you can draft 15 relatively solid players as a foundation, you're now at 22 strong players. Toss in a marginal catcher, and now you've really got something.

Call in the CRAZY system. I won't bother forcing it into an actual acronym. It's about taking risks. Lots of them. Big, crazy, delirious risks. And here's the craziest part: because they're uncorrelated, they're much less risky as a whole than as individual risks.

The Foundation

So you start with the foundation. You'll need 12-15 strong, reasonably reliable players. Make your first four rounds all about laying that strong, solid, reliable foundation. After all, we're crazy, not stupid. Use the Tier 1 players as your start. All hitters. Over the following two rounds, grab a solid starting pitcher and a closer. By this point, you may have even convinced your fellow drafters that you're strictly following the Portfolio3 plan. Then you shock them with your next pick: Dexter Fowler.

Okay, it doesn't need to be Fowler. Carlos Beltran? Dustin Ackley? Crazy, right? These guys are going as much as nine rounds later! That's true, but it's because they're risky: Beltran has no knees, and Fowler and Ackley are young and still mostly unproven. But they all have skills, and they all have upside. Yeah, only one of the three might actually have production that matches those skills, but that's kind of the point—just draft all three.

Wait, what happened to 12-15 foundation players? Why did we stop after six? No worries; there will be plenty of foundational players later. But you needed to start thinking CRAZY.

What Else?

Overall, only three or four of your foundation guys should be pitchers. Pitchers are easier to hit on, and you will have gobs of quality relievers at the back end of the draft. The main focus of the foundation needs to be hitters, covering a number of positions. Multi-position players are especially valuable here, as there's no guarantee that your "hits" will be distributed across all positions.

By Round 15 or so, you should have the majority of your foundation players, plus a few of your CRAZY picks. This is when you go full-on CRAZY; pick up your remaining foundation guys along the way, if a particularly boring player has fallen more than he should. But your main focus here is upside. Upside comes in several flavors:

  • High-skilled players with:
    • Low projected playing time
    • History of poor performance
    • Lack of experience
    • Injury histories
  • "One-skill away" players
  • "Once you display a skill" players
  • Lesser-skilled players who have lucked into playing time
  • Rookies who stand a chance of being called up
  • Eduardo Nunez

You should still endeavor to choose from a range of positions, in order to have players to fill in holes. In particular, feel free to liberally select solid LIMA relievers in the later rounds. At the very worst, they will allow you to field a competitive pitching staff while you're waiting for your CRAZY starters to start showing that upside.

And In The End

Might you crash and burn? Absolutely. If your goal is to not look stupid in front of your fellow owners, this is not for you. If it's "championship or bust," on the other hand, then best of luck to you. At the very least, you should be in for an enjoyable draft. Being bad feels pretty good, huh?


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.