Exploiting Draft Room Rankings

Depending upon where you draft, what websites you read, or which magazines you’ve picked up in the last 3 months you could have seen several different sets of MLB Fantasy Rankings. If you’re drafting on one of the two biggest fantasy baseball sites, Yahoo or ESPN, you could see drastically different values between their official rankings, which are used as the default for your draft room. In fact, some players may be downright different.

Case & point is Kyle Schwarber, who is able to play catcher in Yahoo leagues, but not in ESPN leagues. That makes a HUGE difference on where you draft Schwarber. While that is a positional issue, what if there was some way we could exploit the actual rankings differential between these multiple sources?

Lucky for us, WE CAN, with a bit of elbow grease. Steamer basically does this. They take a look at the Yahoo Ranking, and the NFBC Ranking to make a composite. Then Steamer runs its prediction model for 2017 stats, and then gives each player their own ranking. Then they compare the two and give us the difference between how their predictive models rated it versus how the big sites rated them. With these predictive models, we can see where the big sites are failing to realize value, and we can capitalize on our opponents by taking these players ahead of them.

I’m going to focus on just the ESPN & Y! rankings and make a composite of their rankings. To be completely transparent, I’m going to post my TFR Top 200 Ranking in a column as well. Let’s see if there’s some rankings bias that can be easily seen. This week I am going to focus on hitters that you can exploit with this method, and then I will show off pitchers you can exploit at a later time.

Jake Lamb

Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks, Third Base

Steamer Projection Difference Y! & ESPN AVG Y! Ranking ESPN Ranking TFR Top 200 Ranking
87 +64 151 147 155 139

+64 is a huge gulf, and according to his Steamer projections his performance vaults him into the Top 100.  Lamb’s 29 Home Run’s last year, in his first injury-free full season, were a revelation and Streamer thinks he can keep it up. If a few more of those doubles (31) get over the fence we’re looking at a legit 35-home run threat in a lineup that already includes Paul Goldschmidt.

He’s not going to help your team average (.249 in 2016) but his OBP (.332) and increasing walk rate shouldn’t hurt you. If he takes the next step forward as Streamer predicts he will, you could be getting round 8 production out of a round 12-15 price. Sign me up.

 

Joc Pederson

Joc Pederson, LA Dodgers, Outfielder

Steamer Projection Difference Y! & ESPN AVG Y! Ranking ESPN Ranking TFR Top 200 Ranking
141 +41.5 182.5 201 164 177

+41.5! Steamer’s got love for Joc, and it’s easy to see why. This is a kid who had a 30/30 season in the minors, which isn’t an easy feat. He’s been awful when it comes to putting the ball in play in the Majors. He’s had campaigns of 26 & 25 home runs, but batted .210 & .246 in those seasons. To make matters worse, he quit stealing bases. After seasons of 26, 29, 33, and 33 in the minors, he’s only stolen 10 bases in the bigs so far.

The other really strange thing about Joc is he has a great eye at the plate, which you usually wouldn’t say about a guy with a .224 MLB Career Average. Joc takes a lot of walks. 92 in his first seasons, and 63 last season. His career OBP is right around .350, which makes me wonder why the heck he isn’t stealing 2nd base more often.

Steamer says he’s going to take a step forward this year, and for the low low cost of pick 180ish, he can be yours! Why not take a shot at that price? Maybe Dave Roberts give him the greenlight this year to start stealing bags and we can see a 25/25 seasons.

 

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien, Oakland A’s, Shortstop

Steamer Projection Difference Y! & ESPN AVG Y! Ranking ESPN Ranking TFR Top 200 Ranking
147 +60 207 203 211 200

+60!  What a value.

Semien is a low-cost shortstop with power and a little speed. You could ignore shortstop the entire draft, and in the 18th round grab Semien and be thrilled about it? Why? Because he hit 27 home runs last year and stole 10 bases. At shortstop…in the 18th round. Sure, he bats .250 on a good day, but who cares? You just got 25 home run power and 10-15 SBs from your shortstop…in the 18th round!!! Are you catching on? He’s a bargain that late in drafts. Stockpile weapons and ignore shortstop until the end of the draft, and Marcus will be waiting with open arms…

 

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz, St Louis Cardinals, SS

Steamer Projection Difference Y! & ESPN AVG Y! Ranking ESPN Ranking TFR Top 200 Ranking
89 +54.5 143.5 151 136 135

+54.5 for Diaz. Another Cardinal outta nowhere to become a star in their infield. His minor league numbers stack favorably with what he did in the majors. His 17 home runs seemed lucky, but 10-15 isn’t crazy. He has a good eye at the plate (41BBs-60Ks) and has shown enough gap power to add 28 doubles to his 17 home runs. Currently sitting near 140 in ADP, Steamer says his value will be in the Top 100 by seasons end. Enjoy your discount!

 

Kole Calhoun

Kole Calhoun, LA Angels, Outfielder

Steamer Projection Difference Y! & ESPN AVG Y! Ranking ESPN Ranking TFR Top 200 Ranking
129 +34 166 186 146 137

+34. I really like Calhoun, and so does Steamer. TFR had him ranked higher than Yahoo & ESPN and for good reason. The kid hits in front of Trout, has 20 home run ability, and has increased his walk-rate for 3 straight seasons. There’s nothing flashy or sexy about Calhoun, he just does what he does. Bats .270, gets you 17-20 home runs, and scores 90-100 runs, and doesn’t really hurt your anywhere. In rounds 13-15? Yes, please and thank you! May I have another?

 

Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers, First Base/DH

Steamer Projection Difference Y! & ESPN AVG Y! Ranking ESPN Ranking TFR Top 200 Ranking
148 +40 188 237 139  122

+40, but this is an interesting case so pay attention to the numbers above. V-Mart is ranked SO LOW by Yahoo that it skews the number. By Steamer projections, both ESPN and we here at TFR have ranked him too high, but Yahoo has him almost 100 places further back in the rankings. Keep this in mind for those of you drafting on Yahoo, as you could be getting him for a bargain at rounds 14 and beyond.

 

Billy Hamilton

Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds, Outfielder

Steamer Projection Difference Y! & ESPN AVG Y! Ranking ESPN Ranking TFR Top 200 Ranking
103 -46.5 56.5 50 63 84

-46.5. Billy Hamilton continues to polarize the fantasy community. Steamer projects Hamilton’s value to fall just outside the Top 100. ESPN & Yahoo both have him ranked inside the Top 65, with our crew here at TFR ranking him further back at 84. Don’t get me wrong, I see the allure of a guy who can swipe 2nd, 3rd, and then home. It’s not the stolen bases that end up being the issue, it’s the negative effect starting Hamilton costs you in every other scoring category. His career BA (.248) and OBP (.297) make me think of the old adage “You can’t steal first.”

If you want to draft Hamilton, go right ahead. Enjoy winning the stolen bases category…because that all you’re going to be winning, most likely.

I hope you’re able to use this data to your advantage. If you’re in a Yahoo or ESPN draft, be sure to take a look at their draft room rankings and compare them with what you’re using. I’m looking for every edge I can get, and that even means using the default rankings in the draft room against your league mates. Hidden value as well as player & ranking bias exist everywhere. You just have to be willing to find it & bold enough to exploit it!

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