HEAD-TO-HEAD: 2016 Homogeneous Player Pool

Introduction

If you are one of our head-to-head players, you are likely familiar with the concept of building a homogeneous team. However, if this concept is new to you, we suggest you start by reading this seminal piece as well as our modification of the plan for the pitching era. In this article we will map how to create pools of homogeneous players so that you are ready to lock up your 6-8 core players when your draft day arrives.

The Basic Concept

In head-to-head fantasy baseball, you want to draft players that do the same thing well, as this will enhance your team's week-to-week consistency. In creating a homogenous team, we prioritize metrics that (1) ensure a baseline level of consistency (ct%, xBA, QC scores) and (2) target players that project well in the counting statistic categories (RC/G).

In the first ten (10) rounds of your draft, you should prioritize acquiring as many homogeneous players as possible. Based on the average draft positions (ADPs) of some of the targets below, it is possible to acquire some of these players in the latter rounds of the draft.

A Note on the Player Pools

The pools set forth below are not meant to be followed as a straight hierarchy. The pools must be analyzed in conjunction with a player's given ADP. For instance, while David Peralta (OF, ARI) falls into Pool 1, he is obviously not an early round draft candidate with an ADP of 131. Instead, as the middle of the draft approaches, this is a player that you want to target. The pools simply flag groups of players that have homogenous skill sets at certain metric cut-offs. When read in light of a player's ADP, the pools can be helpful in identifying targets for certain portions of your draft.

What is also important, particularly early in your drafts, is who you don't see listed in the pools below. There are certain players that are better suited for the rotisserie game. We will note some of these early round risks.

Pool 1 Players

As we know from prior research, the player pool that qualifies as "homogenous" has shrunk in recent years. We will still apply our original homogeneous metrics to generate our Pool 1 targets (using the power template rather than the speed version):

ct% greater than or equal to 80%
xBA greater than or equal to .280
PX  greater than or equal to 120
RC/G greater than or equal to 5

And here are our qualifying players based on BaseballHQ.com's 2016 projections:

Player          Team   ct%    PX    RC/G    xBA    QC      ADP 
==============  ===    ===   ===    ====    ===    ===   ======
Arenado, N.     COL    84    157    6.55    309     82     7.92
Correa, C.      HOU    80    128    6.11    298    111     7.97
Machado, M.     BAL    82    122    5.67    281    119     8.25
Cabrera, M.     DET    82    137    8.04    302     38    15.31
Encarnacion, E. TOR    84    158    7.32    299    148    22.67
Bautista, J.    TOR    81    154    6.53    285    133    27.44
Ortiz, D.       BOS    82    152    6.37    296    156   113.56
Peralta, D.     ARI    80    121    6.22    291     31   131.75
Lind, A.        SEA    81    131    5.83    284     22   247

Pool 1 Analysis: If you are picking at the middle to end of the first round, Nolan Arenado (3B, COL), Manny Machado (3B, BAL), and Carlos Correa (SS, HOU) all make fine targets, although the experience of Arenado and Machado should put them in front of Correa on your draft boards. Noticeably absent from this pool—as well as all other pools—is 2015 National League Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant (3B, CHC). In a head-to-head league, there is too much risk investing an early pick in Bryant given his contact rate shortcomings.

The aforementioned Peralta, the age-defying David Ortiz (DH, BOS) and righty-masher Adam Lind (1B, SEA) round out the first pool. While Lind is really a match-up play in leagues that allow daily transactions, Ortiz and Peralta are excellent values based on their ADPs.

Pool 2 Players

As we learned last year, the problem with making downward adjustments to the ct% or xBA metrics is that we see a fall-off in consistent performance. To correct for this in Pool 2, we use quality-consistency scores (QC scores). QC scores are based on week-to-week BPV and provide us with a measure of how consistent a player is on a week-to-week basis, which is critical in head-to-head formats. For more on QC scores, please review this article.

In 2015, the players in Pool 1 had an average QC score of 93, which is excellent. Of those players who played at least six (6) weeks in 2015 (the Qualifiers), only nine (9) had QC scores over 90 last year. In Pool 2, we will target players with QC scores of 50 of higher. Of the Qualifiers, there were only 25 players in baseball who had a QC score of 50 or higher in 2015. We will drop PX a tick and keep RC/G consistent:

QC greater than or equal to 50
PX  greater than or equal to 117
RC/G greater than or equal to 5  

Here are the qualifiers:

Player          Team    PX    RCG     QC    xBA     ADP 
==============  ===    ===    ===    ====   ===    ======
Trout, M.       LAA    172    8       111   280      1.75
Goldschmidt, P. ARI    171    8.29    111   291      2.17
Harper, B.      WAS    175    8.55    141   294      2.69
Donaldson, J.   TOR    152    6.68     74   285      5.08
Rizzo, A.       CHC    145    6.54     82   284     11.47
Stanton, G.     MIA    201    7.22     50   274     11.64
Betts, M.       BOS    118    6.56     92   285     17.86
Seager, C.      LA     131    5.62    100   285     56.72
Gonzalez, C.    COL    154    5.89     52   276     60
Pence, H.       SF     119    5.42    109   273    113.89
Davis, K.       OAK    167    5.33     55   272    128.78
Conforto, M.    NYM    147    6.13    100   286    178.22
Teixeira, M.    NYY    157    6.17    117   285    180.22

Pool 2 Analysis: Pool 2 validates multiple other early round candidates, including the Big 3 (as if we needed that), but more importantly it provides some mid- and late round options as well. Despite his youth, with an ADP of 178, Michael Conforto (OF, NYM) is a recommendation addition to every head-to-head team in 2016. And while you certainly do not want to roster all three of the injury-prone Carlos Gonzalez (OF, COL), Hunter Pence (OF, SF) and Mark Teixeira (1B, NYY), if they begin to slip due to their injury histories, they all provide nice value.

On the noticeable absentee list, we find Chris Davis (1B, BAL), Kyle Schwarber (C, CHC) and Carlos Gomez (OF, HOU), all of whom are projected to be drafted between the second and fifth rounds. Each of the aforementioned lack the week-to-week consistency that solidifies a roster.

Pool 3 Players

Having exhausted use of QC scores, we now switch back to a control filter that looks at players that either have a projected ct% over 80% or a projected xBA over .280. We also need to drop our PX filter—this is the last call for above average contact and power at your draft tables.

ct% greater than or equal to 80% or xBA greater than or equal to .280
PX greater than or equal to 100
RC/G greater than or equal to 5

Player Name     Team    RCG    PX    ct%    xBA     ADP
============    ====   ====   ====   ===   ====   ======
Pollock, A.     ARI    6.03    110    85    295    15.31
Abreu, J.       CHW    6.53    143    77    289    22.43
Marte, S.       PIT    5.14    118    77    289    23.63
Votto, J.       CIN    8.34    143    76    288    36
Braun, R.       MIL    6.23    132    78    283    42.55
Cano, R.        SEA    6.18    107    85    304    52.68
Gonzalez, A.    LA     6.05    119    81    289    69.4
Hosmer, E.      KC     5.62    105    82    290    70.73
Pujols, A.      LAA    5.14    110    88    283     1.25
Dickerson, C.   TAM    4.95    143    76    286    93.85
Brantley, M.    CLE    6.53    104    90    315   102
Kang, J.        PIT    5.51    123    77    281   173.68
Turner, J.      LA     5.7     114    82    289   267.64
Travis, D.      TOR    5.52    109    81    294   291.3
Ethier, A.      LA     5.31    111    80    283   415.85

Pool 3 Analysis: There is certainly value to be had in this pool, particularly in the infield. Between this pool and next pool, there are nice late targets at second base in particular. Jung-ho Kang (3B, PIT) or Devon Travis (2B, TOR) qualify as quality injury-stashes that may both provide significant value this season. Many of the players in this pool will be under-valued by your league mates either based on poor performance or injuries in 2015. When they slide, be ready.

Pool 4 Players

Our last pool lacks above average power, but these players will not drain your team's batting average.

ct% greater than or equal to 80% or xBA greater than or equal to .280
RC/G greater than or equal to 5

Here are our last group of qualifiers:

Player Name   Team    RCG    PX    ct%  xBA    ADP
===========   ====   ====   ====   ===  ===   ======
Altuve, J.    HOU    5.72    81    90   288    11.15
Posey, B.     SF     6.78    98    88   290    21.1
Heyward, J.   CHC    5.91    95    83   281    69.7
Beltre, A.    TEX    5.87    99    88   287    98.63
Lucroy, J.    MIL    5.2     95    84   284   101.76
Yelich, C.    MIA    5.47    88    77   287   106.13
Murphy, D.    WAS    5.24    90    89   290   165.35
Parra, G.     COL    5.17    93    83   288   220
Span, D.      SF     5.31    75    88   294   256.46
Kendrick, H.  LA     4.93    76    82   287   257.9
Panik, J.     SF     5.28    79    89   290   264.58
Mauer, J.     MIN    5.07    84    81   280   340.61

Pool 4 Analysis: The purpose of the players in the last pool is that they won't torpedo a team batting average that you've been working hard to solidify. Drafting a player like Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN) for his speed defeats the purpose of building an otherwise homogeneous team, as the cost of his speed will negatively impact your team's batting average.

Howie Kendrick (2B, LAD) and Joe Panik (2B, SF) are both excellent draft values. Like Conforto, Panik is another recommended target for all head-to-head teams this year.

Although Jose Altuve (2B, HOU) and Buster Posey (C, SF) both make the cut, their lack of power coupled with their high ADPs make them less desirable as roster anchors.

Playing it Out—An Interesting Starting Pitching Twist in 2016

If you adopt this strategy using the above player pools, during your drafts you will notice that around rounds 3-4 and 5-7 you will have an opportunity to select very good starting pitchers. This is largely based on the ADPs of the 2016 homogeneous player pool. While we still encourage you to wait on pitching, this year you will have the option to lock up two rotation anchors and still land a roster of homogeneous talent. Based on ADPs, you could conceivably draft the following team with your first ten (10) picks:

Player        ADP Round
=========     ======
Arenado, N.      1
Abreu, J.        2
Sale, C.         3
Braun, R.        5
Seager, C.       6
Gray, S.         6
Lucroy, J.       9
Pence, H.       10
Conforto, M.    15
Panik, J.       22

Although we reached on a few picks for illustrative purposes (meaning your roster should be even better than this), in sum, you could land eight batters at all starting positions (C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, OF, OF) as well as Chris Sale (SP, CHW) and Sonny Gray (SP, OAK) to anchor your staff.

What do this team's aggregate projected stats look like?

Runs: 632
HR: 175
RBI: 635
SB: 44
AVG: .287

To ensure that our homogeneous team has strength in 4 out of 5 hitting categories, let's draft a second team that focuses more on a roto-type balance between categories:

Player         ADP Round
========       ========
Stanton, G.        1 
Gordon, D.         2
Schwarber, K.      3
Kluber, C.         4
Lindor, F.         5
Hamilton, B.       6
Hamels, C.         7
Polanco, G.        8
Pujols, A.         9
Franco, M.        10

This team has mashers like Giancarlo Stanton (OF, MIA) and Kyle Schwarber (C, CHC) as well as speed demons Dee Gordon (2B, MIA) and Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN). It also has two good rotation anchors in Corey Kluber (SP, CLE) and Cole Hamels (SP, TEX). It's 2016 projected hitting stats are pretty solid:

Runs: 605
HR: 144
RBI: 536
SB: 183
AVG: .266

Although this team clearly has more speed, in a head-to-head matchup, our homogenous team still has the edge:

Runs: +27
HR: +31
RBI: +99
SB: -139
AVG: +.021

Additional Player Pool Comments

You may have noticed that the above player pools do not contain many shortstops. This is because there are very few shortstops that HQ projects to generate in excess of five (5) runs created per game. When we drop the number to 4 RC/G, and filter for players with either ct% greater than or equal to 80% or xBA greater than or equal to .280, additional, but not quite as ideal, targets emerge: 

Player       Team    RCG    ct%   xBA     ADP
=========    ====    ====   ===   ===    ======
Lindor, F.    CLE    4.53    81   265     64.22
Reyes, J.     COL    4.74    88   269    142.34
Marte, K.     SEA    4       83   272    226.49
Peralta, J.   STL    4.72    80   265    240.69
Flores, W.    NYM    4.06    85   271    357.18
Simmons, A.   LAA    4.08    90   276    358.37
Arcia, O.     MIL    4.43    84   264    421.14
Crawford, J.  PHI    4.01    84   258    441.15
Nunez, E.     MIN    4.14    84   268    649.83

Ironically, most of these options will incidentally improve your steals numbers without adversely affecting your batting average. Of course, the trade off is that they will not contribute to the power-laden lineup you've built. But given their low acquisition cost, if you miss out on the top shortstop options, you should have enough power rostered by the time your pick comes around to roll the dice on some incidental speed.

If you find yourself in a similar situation with another position, use our MACK Team Tracker "Power Tools" to identify players that have high ct% or xBAs that might be available later in drafts due to their lack of power or runs generated. At this point, you should have drafted enough power bats to absorb a player that does not fit the typical homogeneous power profile.

Conclusion

When a head-to-head draft approach focuses on acquiring players that do the same thing well, consistency is automatically built into a roster. Incorporating the above player pools into your draft strategy will help you generate a roster that week in and week out is simply more consistent than the competition.


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