High-target drafting

by BaseballHQ.com on February 25, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT

 


Draft Day is a grueling experience for most of us. Battling against fellow owners for the ownership rights to hundreds of players - often with financial stakes involved - can be a very high-stress affair. But what is it about the actual process that makes a draft so overwhelming?

Players. Lots of them. New faces. The uncertainty of future performance. The challenge of on-the-fly money management. The assimilation of hundreds of minute bits of information. The problem is ... we are inundated in so much data that it is very easy to find ourselves drowning.

A player comes up for bid. You shuffle through your papers to see where he is listed in your rankings, whether there is an open spot on your roster and how much you'd be willing to pay for him. You follow the bidding process, carefully watching to see who is upping the ante and gauging whether this faceless set of projected stats will go for under value. If the bidding stops short of the expectation on your list, you have to decide whether this is a below-value player you want on your roster. Only when the bidding starts heading northward can you sit back and take a breath ... and prepare to start the process all over again.

In High-Target Drafting (HTD), there is an easier way.

The baseline problem is that the player population is too darn big. There are too many players to keep track of and too much time wasted on inconsequential tasks. Bottom line: There are several hundred players who are just not worth having on your roster and can be immediately eliminated from consideration. HTD is designed to identify only those players worth following and organizing them in such a way to minimize your workload - and stress - on Draft Day.

HTD is accomplished in two steps:

1. Narrowing the Field

In researching and forecasting player performance, we know that there are factors that can make a player a high risk to perform according to expectation. He may be too old or too inexperienced. He may be coming off an injury. He may have recently switched teams, or league, or roles. All these factors contribute to elevating a player's forecast risk.

In HTD, we create our own draftable player pool by eliminating high-risk players. Now, you may certainly end up missing out on some potential jewels this way, but that will happen anyway in a normal draft. In eliminating high-risk players, you can maximize the effort you expend to acquire players with more upside.

Here are the guidelines for creating your own HTD player pool. Fill your pool only with players who meet all of the following criteria:

  • Must be between the ages of 25 and 34
  • Must not be coming off an injury of any kind
  • Must not have changed teams, unless he is still in the same league and in the same role
  • Batters must have a batting eye ratio (BB/K) of 0.50 or greater
  • Pitchers must have a command ratio (K/BB) of 1.75 or greater
  • Must not be a pitcher on the Colorado Rockies
  • Players who are valued at $20 or more must contribute in a minimum of three categories

This set of criteria significantly reduces the size of the talent pool and also helps to focus attention away from the massive influx of over-hyped rookies each year. While many of us would ache to have prime prospects on our teams, the risk to own unproven commodities thrust into high-profile roles is just too great. They may have great years, but there are better ways to spend your money.

By narrowing the field, we can more easily focus our attention on the one most important pre-draft task that most owners fail to address...

2. Planning Your Expenditures

In Steve Mann's Fantasy Baseball Guide, he uses a salary allocation table that he calls "the steering wheel that controls the vehicle." This table is presented as an excellent in-draft money management tool. In reality, it can be a pre-draft planning tool to be used with your HTD player pool. His chart:

Hitters
Pitchers
$30
$28
$27
$19
$25
$12
$20
$9
$14
$8
$10
$5
$9
$4
$8
$3
$7
$2
$6
 --
$5
 --
$4
 --
$3
 --
$2
 --

For in-draft purposes, as a player comes up for bid, you attempt to slot him into one of these dollar levels. A running total of overs and unders helps you keep track of what you can afford to spend.

For pre-draft purposes, we can use a similar chart to slot our targeted players in ahead of time. First, we can be a little bit more flexible with the actual dollar levels. Then, we can do a bit more planning as to what type of player we want in each slot based upon the available talent at each position.

Hitters
Pitchers
$25-30
$20-25
$25-30
$15-20
$20-25
$15-20
$15-20
$10-15
$15-20
$5-10
$10-15
$5-10
$5-10
$1-5
$5-10
$1-5
$5-10
$1-5
$5-10
 --
$1-5
 --
$1-5
 --
$1-5
 --
$1-5
 --

By sorting our talent pool by position, we can see where there are pockets of similar value. In HTD, you want to give yourself as many choices as you can. This means you might have to pass on a player like Mike Piazza because, if you don't land him for your $25-30 slot, there are no other catchers who you can backfill.

Take the following example. Let's assume that these are a group of American League catchers and represent all that's available in our talent pool.

Hitters
Pitchers
Player 1
$12
Player 2
$11
Player 3
$10
Player 4
$9
Player 5
$6
Player 6
$6
Player 7
$5
Player 8
$4
Player 9
$2

Given this grouping of talent, we might decide to put Players 1, 2 and 3 (and maybe 4) into the $10-15 slot for one catcher position, and 7, 8 and 9 into a $1-5 slot for the other catcher position. Do not create a positional slot unless you have at last three players that you can slot in there.

By going through this exercise for all positions, we can create a very targeted draft list. It is a challenge, however, to fit the available players into all the slots. Be flexible. You can create a $30-35 slot if there is a group of players that fit well there; to compensate, you can move several of the other slots around. Always try to list as many players as you can in each slot.

When a player on your list comes up for bid, it's time to jump into action. Remember that all names in a given slot are interchangeable commodities, so if the bidding exceeds the limit for one of three players in a given slot, you can drop out knowing that you have two more chances to fill that slot. If the second player passes you by as well, you may need to go to the wall for Player 3; if you have to overpay, make sure you make an adjustment somewhere else.

Another approach to your pitching staff is to bump the upper slot to $30-35 and fill it with the cream of the closer crop, thereby gaining a stronger position in saves. To compensate, you'd have to drop the two $5-10 slots to $1-5. However, going this route leaves you more vulnerable in case an injury brings down your ace.

During the course of the draft, you will need to follow the dollars pretty closely. If you grab one of your $10-15 players for $10, you'll need to know that you might be able to go up to $25 on the $20-25 slot.

The best part of this approach ... if someone throws a player up for bid who is not on your list, that means it's time to grab a brew. Do throw in some bids on other players from time to time just to keep the other owners honest. And when it's your turn to open, always try to toss out the name of someone not on your list. Get the money out on the table.

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