Chance Favors the Prepared Fantasy Baseball Mind - ADP: A Necessary Evil

by Todd Zola, on March 28, 2013 @ 14:15:40 PDT


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Let's use an example. In a 15-team league, pick 80 is the fifth pick of the sixth round, so the players ranked between 62 and 98 are all the same as player 80, assuming you agree a player +/- $2 is the same player. What would happen if at that pick, you chose a guy with an ADP of 95? You'd be chided for taking him too early, but did you? According to APE, you took a guy within the two dollar range, so no, it was not too early. Now think if this were the 10th round, there would be 30 players above and below. If you took a player with an ADP 27 picks later, hysterical laughter would ensue and insults would fly -- all unwarranted.

Going back to pick 80, what if player 65 was still on the board and you drafted him, what would the reaction be? Everyone would be lauding what a great value pick you just made -- or was it? He's also within that $2 boundary, so was it really that great a pick? Not according to APE it wasn't.

I realize there are fallacies in this argument. The ranking by dollar values does not necessarily mesh with the projected dollar values if you order them via ADP, but they'll be pretty darned close. At minimum, they are close enough so the notion of APE can still be applied.

The bottom line is I no longer need to use straw man arguments for why I feel ADPs being misused, I can demonstrate it mathematically. Even if the ADP is a perfect reflection of the market and is generated by a group that really knows their stuff, the application of the ADP is faulty. It's not a judge of the quality of the pick unless the choice was so egregious it falls out of the limits set by APE. And even then, the intrinsic value of the pick could make it viable.

The intrinsic potential is how much the player contributes to your team's ability to win. It is dependent on your team construct and your strategy. Different players may have different intrinsic potentials to different teams. It is your job as a fantasy owner to put as much potential on your team as possible.

One way to do this is be better in tune with the player pool. Another is to know the market value of the players so, on occasion, you can utilize this to wait on a player with greater intrinsic potential because his market value strongly suggests he will be there in a later round. This allows you to first take another player with a lot of intrinsic potential, but whose market value suggests won't be available next time around. You need to be careful when doing this and it's not likely you can play this game with every pick, but you can squeeze an extra player or two onto your roster by knowing the market value of the players.

To give credit where credit is due, this concept was originally crystallized by KJ Duke, a very successful high-stakes player, in a forum discussion from a couple of years ago. By day, KJ is also a very successful portfolio manager and compared buying stocks with the greatest intrinsic potential at the lowest market value to assembling a fantasy squad.

Another use of an ADP could be to devise a general strategy in concert with tiered rankings. The idea is to find pockets of players with similar intrinsic potential and see where they are likely to be drafted. If you pencil in taking a player at that position around that time, you can better decide what players or positions to take earlier.

Today's message is short and sweet. Some live and die by ADP and feel it is the most accurate ranking of players. Others want to make a point and proclaim the ADP as useless. All that matters is what you think. As is often the case, the truth lies in between. ADP is a tool that if used properly can assist in constructing your team in an optimal manner -- nothing more, nothing less. To follow it blindly is a mistake. But so is categorically ignoring it.

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About Todd Zola,

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at and, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums. Fantasy Baseball

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