Every owner walks into a draft with the exact same thought:
“What do I need to do to enter this room in 12 months as the defending champion?”
Well, drafting good players is a nice place to start. Drafting good players at tough to fill positions is even better.
But what is a “good” player? To fully understand what is good, it is as much a study in statistics as it is positioning. Consider this: Buster Posey (72 runs, 22 homers, 89 RBIs, and a .311 batting average) had a similar overall Fantasy Baseball impact, numerically speaking, as Jayson Werth (85-16-82-.292) and Freddie Freeman (93-18-78-.288), yet he finished 2014 as the unquestioned top performer at his position as opposed to a middling OF2 or a fringe 1B starter respectively. Clearly, not all numbers are created equal and each position requires specific analysis.
This might be news to you, but in order to win a Fantasy league, you do NOT have to be the best at every position. It seems obvious, but when comparing your team to the others in your league, you cannot help but breaking it down player by player. Don’t do that … it doesn’t matter.
How you win a league is getting above average production from the most possible spots. Here is what the average Fantasy starter averaged in a 12-team Yahoo! league last season.
Now, you could simply take the average of all these numbers (72 runs, 16.5 home runs, 68 RBIs, 11.4 steals, and a .277 batting average) and try to draft 12 players that approach that stat line, but you’re going to find that it is difficult to fill every spot on your roster with essentially the 2014 version of Hanley Ramirez. Instead, use this chart to tell you which statistics you should look target at each position. Obviously the exact numbers will fluctuate, but the fact that 35.1 percent of stolen bases came from middle infielders last season or that 22.8 percent of RBI and 28.1 percent of home runs came from first basemen (not including the “corner infield” slot) and the top outfielders is worth noting.
You can use whatever projection scheme you like, I prefer this numerically driven one, but now you have an idea of what stats you should expect to fill at specific positions. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, which I why I prefer to use the “grouping system” when it comes to this style of drafting. That’s to say that I will essentially break my starting roster into four sets of three players and then aim to hit the cumulative production goals.
Example: Pre-draft, I decided to group my OF1 with my OF5 and my 3B based on my projection system. Random? Never. I had a middle of the pack pick and felt that I could safely land Jacoby Ellsbury with my second pick, so I adjusted my statistical needs to match rostering the Yankees speedster. The idea of this system isn’t to change the studs you draft, but rather to properly build a roster around your big money player. In 2015, I have Ellsbury projected to produce stats similar to his 2014 numbers: 71 runs, 16 homers, 70 RBIs, 39 steals, and a .271 batting average. This result would put me well ahead in stolen bases but a little behind in the other four categories. Not to worry, however, as I had Marlon Byrd targeted as a sleeper that I would be willing to reach in the later rounds for and Matt Carpenter as a viable option at my hot corner. To keep with the comparison theme, my numbers suggest that the 2015 version of Byrd could very much look like Jhonny Peralta’s 2014 (61 runs, 21 homers, 75 RBIs, 3 stolen bases, and a .263 batting average) and Carpenter’s final stat line should mirror that of 2014 Nick Markakis (81-14-50-4-.276).
My OF1 production took a left turn, as plus power was a theme among OF1s last season, but by grouping Ellsbury with Byrd and Carpenter, my projected production of 213 runs, 51 homers, 195 RBIs, 46 steals, and a .271 batting average is very close to my pre-draft goal for these three positions (228-56-216-29-.279). I’m a little behind pace but I’ve narrowed the gap and I’m within shouting distance having used only one early pick. I’ve also simplified my projections by comparing my forecasted production to that of a player last season. In reality, I have Ellsbury penciled in for a little more power, Byrd for a few more RBIs, and Carpenter for a few more runs. With all of that said, I’d feel pretty good about this trio satisfying my statistical goals, even though none of them profile as the ideal option at their position.
By dividing your roster into four groups, you allow yourself some mobility while still ultimately looking to reach the statistical levels specified in the above table. Even if you are unable to achieve the exact totals that you’re looking for, there are some trends worth keeping in mind as you navigate your draft.*
- Availability cannot be overstated
- The Top 4 catchers in terms of at-bats finished within Fantasy’s Top 5 last season
- None of the Top 4 Fantasy first basemen ranked lower than sixth in at-bats for the position
- Five of the Top 6 Fantasy second basemen notched a Top 6 at-bat total at second base
- Six of the Top 8 producing 3B finished inside the Top 7 in at-bats at the hot corner
- Shortstop, on the other hand, favored elite talent over durability, as only two of the Fantasy Top 7 ranked within the Top 7 in at-bats at the position
- Ten of the 12 middle infield options had a HR plus SB total of at least 15, and 11 of those 12 players had more runs scored than runs driven in
- Ten of the 12 corner infielders had a RBI total that exceeded their run total
I used this research with regard to a standard 12-team league, but the same train of thought can be used in any sized league. In the interest to helping the highest number of people possible, here is the chart for the next most popular option: a 10-team standard league.
As you’d expect, the production expectations rise a bit, as a player who was a low end OF1 is now the cream of the crop among the OF2s. Instead of looking for 12 Hanley Ramirez’s (the 119th ranked player via Yahoo! last season) when it comes to the average stat line, you are now targeting 12 Alex Gordons (the 74 ranked player), as the average starter production jumped from 72 runs, 17 home runs, 68 RBIs, 11 steals, and a .277 batting average to 75-18-72-12-.280. It is a bit minor, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the difference. The Ellsbury-Byrd-Carpenter combination would be less appealing here, as the increased expectations would leave us nearly 30 runs, 10 homers, and 35 RBIs short. But, if you are high on Byrd and to a lesser extent Carpenter, like I am, this is where value comes into play. By penciling in Byrd and Carpenter as starters you allow yourself more flexibility in the early rounds, thus allowing you to compensate for your projected deficiencies. For example, you could spend three of your first five picks (you’ve already used one on Ellsbury and let’s say you drafted an ace to anchor your staff as well) to scoop up Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, and Alex Gordon. Regardless of the projection set you choose to use, that trio is likely to out-perform the 242 runs – 68 homer – 225 RBI stat line that we want from a 1B/3B/OF2 combination, thus putting you right back on track to achieve the roster production you are targeting (and potentially ahead of pace!).
In short, use the table that applies to your league and break your roster into quarters. This gives you a general guide as to what statistics should be available and what is considered “good” production for each position. This should prevent you from fatal errors that occur late in drafts, like expecting to catch up in the power statistics at middle infield. By sticking to your groups and being conscious of the type of player you want at each position, you should be able to construct a well-balanced roster with no big holes. Again, the focus should be on what type of player you want, not the player you want, as that leads to in-draft panic and will end your season before it even starts.
*Dual position players are listed at the position in which they were most utilized on Fantasy Baseball rosters in 2014