ROTISSERIE: 2017 Straight Draft Guide (updated 3/29)

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: 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 and Portfolio3 Plan. If you are new here, this is a key area to dive into. And for those of you looking for the annual Mayberry worksheet, it's here.

With introductions out of the way, let's dive into the 2017 plan:

2017 straight draft rankings (last updated 3/29)

Mixed Leagues: MS Excel format  |  HTML format
AL-only: MS Excel format | HTML format
NL-only: MS Excel format  | HTML format

The Plan - 2017 edition

We have a dozen years' worth of this exercise at the above links, warts and all. But today's straight draft approach is not nearly the same as it was back in 2005. Back in the day, positional scarcity was a lynchpin of our approach in this space. Today, positional scarcity is about as relevant as your Blackberry.

This is a story best told in chart form. The chart below was a component of our just-concluded First Pitch Forums tour (speaker notes now available for purchase), and it's also directly relevant to our charge here. In the program, we used this chart as the introduction to each position.  Soak this in for a minute, then we'll discuss below:

Bubble image

The vertical axis shows total value available by position, in a 15-team mixed 5x5 league. The horizontal axis shows draft round.

Use the OF bubbles as your reference point: the size of those bubbles represent the biggest-possible value pockets at any point, for comparison purposes.

  • Looking across the rows, the 3B row is the closest to an expected "normal" distribution of value. Working left to right, each 3B bubble holds incrementally less value than the previous one (except that the far-right bubble is a bit bigger than the next-rightmost bubble).
  • You can read this chart vertically, too: other than catcher, there is good value to be had among all batters in the first three rounds, with a particular concentration of 1Bmen in the first column. 3B makes a nice target position in the round 4-7 range, while both SS and 2B hold on to a good chunk of their relative value well into the middle rounds. That is, the size of the 2B/SS bubbles to the middle/right of the chart compares well with the other (non-OF and P) positions. Taken together, this set of findings undercut our old scarcity argument: there's no advantage to paying a premium to fill those middle infield spots with early picks.
  • The placement of the very smallest bubbles is also noteworthy. It's not surprising to see a tiny dot for Catchers in the first three rounds (Buster Posey the only C who ever gets taken that early), but there is a similar dearth of SS value in the round 4-7 range. The minimal value to be found in end-game 1Bmen is also somewhat surprising.
  • This simple graphical representation shows the perils of the catching pool. But even within the overall wasteland of a position, this shows that the pockets of relative value are in rounds 4-7 or 13-17.
  • The larger numbers of SP and OF available (and drafted) smooths the distribution of the talent at those positions. This sets you up nicely to weave those positions throughout your draft, essentially using them as filler pieces around the other positions, balancing off your category needs in the process.


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) Manny Machado is #15 and Kris Bryant is #9. They're both top-tier players. If your plan, your preference, your gut, tell you to to take Starling Marte (#30) over Roughned Odor (#20), 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 drafted stats vs. those you inquire 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. 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. Be like Doug Dennis at the LABR-NL draft, knowing how much the room was going to pay for every player before they even knew it themselves. Trust that knowledge above all, particularly when it conflicts with anything that we have written here.

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.