ROTISSERIE: 2019 Straight Draft Guide—updated 3/28

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: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Also, our work here is heavily based in the principles of the Mayberry Method. If you are new here, this is a key area to dive into. Related: here is the Mayberry Tiers worksheet for this year.

With introductions out of the way, let's refresh the plan for 2019.

2019 straight draft rankings (last updated 3/28)

Mixed Leagues | AL-only | NL-only

The Plan - 2019 edition

We had a question in our Great First Pitch Survey of 2019 that captured the tension that permeates the straight draft:

Which of the following categories of players would you be most inclined to overdraft/overpay for in 2019?

  • Ace (top-12) SP
  • Top-tier closer
  • 40+ SB source
  • Top catcher: JT Realmuto or Gary Sanchez

The results of the poll:

This question captures the essence of the straight draft: limited resources to deploy against competing priorities, forcing tough choices. So which choices are you making? All of the commodities in this chart are scarce: there are fewer 200 IP/200 K pitchers than ever before, the closer market is completely fractured, stolen bases are in an ongoing downturn, and the catcher position is a dumpster fire. The straight draft format doesn't limit you to choosing just one of these resources, but you can't likely get them all... or if you do, you will have sacrificed something else of critical importance, like power.

The survey is useful in that it tells you which choices the public is making: top-level starting pitching is scarcer than ever, and the market is chasing it harder. One side effect we're seeing as a result is that closer ADPs have drifted a couple of rounds later than in recent years, at least at the top end of the closer market. That correction doesn't mean that those closers are now a good buy, given the volatility of the position and the still-high value of a Round 5-7 pick that it will take to land one of the Top 7 or 8 closers.

The speed market has some layers to it; the poll indicates a significant number of people buying speed early. That does not mean that you have to do the same—there are pockets of SB sources available further down in the draft. You just need to have done your research in advance to know where they are, and be aware of the tradeoffs you're making in fishing in those lower tiers. There is more risk with those later speedsters: playing time risk, injury risk, and the risk of rostering one-category specialists that actively hurt the rest of your offense. But there are multiple ways to attack the SB category... including choosing not to attack it at all, with a punt or semi-punt strategy.

Battle-testing the plan in TGFBI

This annual Straight Draft Guide is typically a theoretical exercise, but this year we have something new available to us: actual field-tested draft results. Thanks to Justin Mason, Matt Adams, and the team at The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI), we have a nice sample size of draft results from writers in a straight draft competition.

While the HQ staff doesn't think with a hive mind, we do generally share a common set of principles. So, in this spreadsheet of every pick made by our staff in TGFBI (also available in PDF format here) you can take a look across a number of drafts for common elements, like:

  • Three teams started their draft with Max Scherzer; how did they go about building their offense from there? How long did they wait on additional starters?
  • Two teams got the first pick and took Mike Trout. One followed up with two hitters on the 2/3 turn, while the other took two pitchers. How do their drafts contrast from there?
  • Three teams picked from the back-end of the snake, either the 14 or 15 spot. SB sources are a bit tougher to find at that end of the snake—how did these guys attack that problem?
  • Who chased the top closers? Who waited on Saves?
  • There's much more to explore in this data... spend some time with it.

Here is a fun chart: across the 14 BHQ writer entries in TGFBI, here are the players that our staff rostered more than twice:

PLAYER               # ROSTERED BY BHQ (of 14)
================     =========================
Corey Dickerson       7
Asdrubal Cabrera      5
Brad Peacock          5
Dee Gordon            5
Kike Hernandez        5
Carlos Santana        4
Hunter Renfroe        4
Jonathan Villar       4
Kyle Hendricks        4
Miguel Andujar        4
Zach Eflin            4
Austin Hedges         3
Brad Hand             3
Brandon Belt          3
Brian Dozier          3
Charlie Blackmon      3
Chase Anderson        3
Cody Bellinger        3
Diego Castillo        3
Drew Steckenrider     3
Dylan Bundy           3
Jay Bruce             3
Jonathan Schoop       3
Kurt Suzuki           3
Mallex Smith          3
Matt Kemp             3
Max Scherzer          3
Mitch Garver          3

Annual disclaimers

1. First and foremost, the attached rankings are meant to be general, not specific. Treat the player rankings as tiered—it's completely meaningless that (in the mixed league rankings) Khris Davis is #29 and Rhys Hoskins is #31. They're very similar players and obviously fall in the same tier. If your plan, your preference, your gut, tell you to to take Gleyber Torres (#52) over Scooter Gennett (#40), or anything else that these rankings don't support, that's fine. It's your draft. Own it.

2. Remember that your draft is just a starting point: stay mindful of Todd Zola's research into the impact of stats you draft vs. those you acquire in-season. You never win your league on Draft Day.

3. The ranking lists also include ADP data, from the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. ADP data is eye candy, but you must not become a slave to it. In particular, the NFBC data set has grown to a large size at this point in the spring (well over 100 drafts), which creates a large denominator effect—the data is no longer quick to react to changing spring situations. Use ADP as a reference, but don't be a slave to it... and actively discount it for players who have seen their outlooks (health, role, lineup position, etc) evolve here in March.

4. Do not take this list into your draft and just start drafting straight from the top. This list needs to be paired with some assessment of the market. You know your own league better than than anyone. You know your opponents, their tendencies, the round that the closer run tends to happen every year. You also know what you're good at in-season, whether it's churning two-start SP, mining for closers-in-waiting, or finding that bench bat with skills before it gets thrust into a full-time role. Trust that knowledge above all, particularly when it conflicts with anything that we have written here.

5. These values are generated from our Custom Draft Guide, but we also throw in a little bit of risk calculation here: it's why, for instance, Miles Mikolas (AAC Reliability) nudges ahead of Gerrit Cole (DAB) in the rankings. Their projections are similar, but if you run the Custom Draft Guide, Cole would come out a couple of bucks ahead. Here, Mikolas ends up with a slightly higher ranking. Again, per point #1 above, the point is that they're basically interchangeable anyway.

Happy drafting!


Required reading (we'll add to this list over the rest of March)


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