HQVAULT: Tracking Draft Trends

Over 20+ years that BaseballHQ.com has been in existence, and going back another decade to the Baseball Forecaster newsletter, we have accumulated hundreds of articles on fantasy strategy. These reside in the Strategy Library section of the site, and many include timeless tips on all aspects of fantasy league play, at various times in the fantasy league calendar. In a series to run occasionally throughout the season, we will be highlighting selected articles from the Library as part of a HQVAULT series. We welcome reader interaction with these older articles in the comments section below. Enjoy! —Ed.

Tracking Draft Trends

by Jon Enriquez

You already know how foolish it is to overreact based on a week or two of statistics. And so you are prudently turning your attention to in-season management strategies: trades, free agent pickups, waiver claims. The auction is a fond memory -- or maybe just a memory -- and it's the furthest thing from your mind.

However, revisiting your draft in the cool light of day can be a very profitable activity. Whether you are in a keeper league or not, you can glean information about your rivals' strategies, tactics, and tendencies. You can find an edge for future trade negotiations, and you can learn a lot about how to play the game. Here are some of the ways you can use information about your draft.

Openers

It's a fairly common strategy in the early rounds of an auction to nominate players you don't want to buy. Review each owner's first few openers to determine who a rival is not likely to buy. This is most useful if you can identify this during the draft, but it is also helpful afterwards. If Joe nominates Craig Kimbrel as the first player, you can be pretty sure that Joe is not likely to be a serious bidder for him and probably not for the other closers on the board. If you are seeking a closer, you need to steer the bidding around to the kind of players Joe wants. In trade negotiations, you can be reasonably sure that Joe will not be interested in a closer and you should offer him something else.

Of course, some people do actually nominate players they want to own. If you can identify a rival or two who follows this practice, you know who they want and can target those players as trade bait.

Last bids

This information is probably the most immediately useful material you can track. When you are writing down the price and team of each purchased player, take note of the team that made the last unsuccessful bid. If you buy a player for $23, it's very likely that the owners who bid $21 and $22 would be very interested in trading for him. Keep your eyes open for a potential trading match.

Draft Strategies

Try to reconstruct the draft from the point of view of each of your fellow owners, and see if you can figure out what they were trying to do. Look at the players each owner bought, and use last bids to identify the players they almost bought. This information might reveal a lot about your rivals' preferences. If you can determine that Babe tends to overpay for sluggers, or Lou is fond of left-handers, or Honus is partial to Pirates, or Cy stockpiles starting pitchers, or Ty likes to draft speedy head cases, then you can turn that into an edge in trade negotiations.

You can also use it as a way to learn about other strategies for possible future use. Is someone trying the All-Lefties Plan, or the Rockies Staff Plan? How well did that work? Is it possible to run a Bernhard Plan, or is it too easy for everyone to discover it at the table and thwart it? Consider it an experiment in other strategies, except that you don't have to take the risks. All you have to do is study, watch, and learn.

Finally, in keeper leagues you can also learn about the inclinations of your fellow owners. Is there someone who likes to spend his money in the first round? Is there an owner who flatly refuses to spend more than $30 on anyone? What about someone who nominates $1 specials throughout the draft? These tendencies can help you predict your opponents' behavior at subsequent drafts.

League Tendencies

The sum of your rivals' strategies is the condition of the league as a whole. This information could influence your future transaction strategies. If five or six owners decide to minimize their investment in pitching, then top starters should be relatively cheap and you should be able to corner the market on good pitching. If three owners are punting speed, can you turn that to an edge? Can you quietly develop a speed stockpile through trades and waiver claims in anticipation of trading to the punters? Or should you try to exchange some of your speed for power, since it's now easier to finish fourth or fifth in steals?

In keeper leagues, you can also identify league-wide trends to help you prepare for next year. Does the league ever pay more than $25 for a starter? Is it easy to buy potential closers, or are they routinely overpriced? How long should you expect to wait until the first $1 player is taken? Are the superstars concentrated in the first two rounds, or can you expect one or two to slip through? Once the first closer is purchased, do the rest follow immediately afterwards? You can also answer for yourself some of the questions that have been debated in online forums, such as the ongoing questions about inflation. Will the league routinely take $35 players to $50 but never bid a $20 player to $24? Are there really different rates of inflation for pitchers and hitters? Does the inflation rate change during the draft? If so, how?

Once you've analyzed your league's draft trends, tuck the information away in your toolbox. You shouldn't let the draft trends become the main influence in your management strategy, but you should take out your conclusions every now and then to remind yourself of the situation and use some of those edges in trade negotiations. Spending a few hours trying to make sense of your league's draft trends is a good way to expend your energy when you're trying not to overreact to two weeks of stats. And it could be very profitable.


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