ROTISSERIE: 2015 Straight Draft Guide (updated 4/1)

For those new to this annual exercise, our Straight Draft Guide is our attempt to coalesce the wealth of tools and analysis offered here at into a coherent approach to your straight draft. This is anything but a one-man effort, as throughout this piece we draw extensively from both our history of straight draft coverage, and the excellent analysis of others regarding this year's player pool.

How we got here

We have tinkered with our approach quite a bit over the years. Some of that work is best left to the archives, but in the spirit of "showing our work," we present the full archive of prior SDGs anyway:

History: 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Also, our work here is heavily based in the principles of the Mayberry Method and Portfolio3 Plan. If you are new here, this is a key area to dive into.

Now, on to 2015...

2015 straight draft rankings (projections as of 4/1):

Mixed Leagues: MS Excel format  |  HTML format
AL-only: MS Excel format HTML format
NL-only: MS Excel format  |  HTML format
(special thanks to Matt Cederholm for generating this year's rankings)

The Plan - 2015 edition

You know that feeling you get when someone comes to you and says "You were right all along"? We got that kind of validation from Todd Zola's recent Research article, Comparison of drafted stats to final totals. In a couple of thousand words, this piece crystallized and confirmed our entire approach to this Straight Draft guide over the past decade or so. Best of all, not only did Todd's piece say "You were right all along," but he even provided the data to prove it! If there's one thing we love more than validation, it's data supported-validation!

A few of Todd's conclusions particularly resonated with us:

  • drafting based on category targets is less important than accumulating as many stats as possible (without regard to balance).
  • league winners in both "only" leagues and mixed leagues consistently find hitting upgrades in-season. In mixed leagues, the deeper pool of available talent makes it easier to find these upgrades, but also makes them mandatory for success.
  • mixed leaguers traditionally think they can find saves in-season, but Todd's study suggests that league winners tend to chase saves aggressively at the draft table.

This all dovetails nicely with the "Starting 12" plan, which we codified back in the 2012 edition of the SDG. As a reminder, this approach lays out a target profile for what your roster should look like after Round 12:

  • 8 hitters (consisting of exactly 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF)
  • 2 SP
  • 2 closers

In more recent editions, we have suggested that some deviation from that structure is permissible. Particularly if you sit at either end of your snake draft and are thus closed out of pockets of talent that go in between your long waits between picks, some variation is practically inevitable. But this research piece reminds us of the benefits of trying to implement this plan:

  • This structure optimally positions you to chase varying talents in the end game: whether you end up feeling like you need a particular profile of hitter or pitcher (positional or categorical), you have room to fit them into your roster.
  • Similarly, you enter the mid- and end-game of the draft with sufficient flexibility to chase whatever the draft table seems to be undervaluing, and/or to target high-upside end-game players based solely on their upside, and without regard to where they fit on your roster.
  • This flexibility extends in-season, when you have built a rosster with relatively low bars for replacement at positions in the MI, CI, OF, and SP, so that whenever a prospective impact pickup is available, you can chase them without worrying about how they fit your roster.

Pockets of talent

It's useful to look at the spread of talent by position within the ADP top 100, just to get an idea of where the "dead spots" in the draft are. For instance, if trying to build a roster toward our "Starting 12" target, it's ok to start OF-OF with your first two picks, but you at least want to know what the player pool looks like in the next few rounds as you start to pivot toward some other positions. Luckily, the ADP data allows us to map this out in broad terms. First, here are the top 100 players by ADP, sorted by position:

 C  1B   2B   3B   SS   OF   SP   RP
==  ==   ==   ==   ==   ==   ==   ==
 5  15    8   10    5   29   25    8

Next, if we eliminate OF and P (assuming that they are available at all points in the top 100 picks, by sheer volume), mapping out the distribution of the other positions illustrates some some clusters and gaps in the talent distribution:

ADP range    C  1B   2B   3B   SS
=========   ==  ==   ==   ==   ==
  1-10           3
 11-20           3    3    1    1
 21-30       1        1    1    2
 31-40           1         2
 41-50           1    1         1
 51-60           2    1    2
 61-70       1   1    1    2
 71-80           1    1    1
 81-90       1
91-100       2        1         1

A few observations:

  • Outside of SP and OF, the most plentiful positions at the top of the draft are 1B and (somewhat oddly) 2B. In fact, with Anthony Rendon having 2B/3B dual eligibility, Troy Tulowitzki is the only player in the ADP top 20 who has sole eligibility at any of 3B/SS/C.
  • After that, the 2B and 3B pools are both pretty evenly distributed throughout the top 100, while SS stays relatively barren. As we have been discussing in our First Pitch tour, MI (and SS in particular) get more fertile around rounds 8-12 in a mixed league setting, so shaping your early round picks to set yourself up to fish in that pocket of talent is a viable approach.
  • The catching pool is rather clustered in the group behind Posey (top 30 ADP). If you're on the ends of the snake and/or considering grabbing both of your catchers in succession, the sweet spot to do that is just outside the ADP top 100, in roughly the Rd 7-10 range in a 15-team mixed.

Thinking through some of these permutations about where various skill sets are more freely available, combined with reasoning through annual questions like "what tiers of the closer market am I targeting, and in what rounds," should help you determine a broad-brush roadmap for how you intend to navigate your way through your first dozen picks.

Acceptable deviations

If you do have to step away from the optimal "Starting 12" roster construction, there are some deviations that are more palatable than others. Consider:

  • Getting a 2nd catcher in the top 12 rounds: the back end of the catching pool is always horrendous, and this year is no exception. Your chances of missing out on an impact end-game or free-agent catcher are relatively low. And locking up these hard-to-fill positions with legitimate contributors is good for your roster and has cascading effects on the position pool.
  • Taking a 4th OF or CI: these are the positions where the counting stats are plentiful, so if you have to sacrifice a bit of your flexibility, at least get the most bang for your buck in doing so.
  • Without reaching, it can be very helpful to find a multi-position eligible player fairly early (even 1B/3B or 1B/OF is helpful, and there are a bunch of interesting combinations this year). With one of those stashed on your roster, you may not be losing much flexibility at all even if circumstances force you away from the plan.

Required reading


A final word

If you have made it through the maze of links and projections above, you are now prepared to draft. Just remember: ADPs are a tool. Projected values and ranking lists are also tools. Lists of sleepers, breakout targets, upside candidates? All tools. And tools are great; you want to have them all at your disposal at the draft table. Just don't be a slave to any of them.

The most important tool you take to the draft table is, of course, your brain. That's the tool you should trust above all others. Everyone at your draft table will show up with the same tools: projections, rankings lists, target and avoid lists, etc. They will show up with their brains too, of course. But the person who has the best draft is less likely to be the one with the best rankings sheet, and more likely to be the one who uses their brain most effectively at the table.

By all means, have a plan. Better yet, have multiple plans. Then let them evolve, shift, and turn throughout your draft, and re-evaluate after every pick. Take all of the tools provided here and use them as inputs as you adjust on the fly, again and again.

Happy drafting!

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