Thousands of fantasy leagues have drafted this spring and thousands more will draft over the next week. Quite a few leagues will even start late, after the regular season begins Sunday night in Philadelphia. If you have a draft in your near future, use the previous draft history to your advantage. Average Draft Position (ADP) is a number that tells you where, on average, a player is drafted. It reflects the groupthink that fantasy drafts follow. I don't think groupthink is bad in this case -- actually it's unwise to reach for players well before their ADP comes up in a draft. For example, you might be convinced that this is the year Matt Cain becomes an elite pitcher, but please don't draft him ahead of Tim Lincecum.
You want to maximize your talent and avoid drafting a guy in round two that would still be on the board in round nine. ADP is a valuable guide for making those critical draft-day decisions. Ignore it at your peril. As the famous fantasy sports enthusiast George Santayana once said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Let's look at players with comparable numbers but with vastly different ADPs. If you can get similar value several rounds later in a draft that's for better. The goal is to get the best value out of each of your draft picks. Overpaying for a popular player that might be slightly better is for worse.
For Better: Ryan Doumit, C, Pirates For Worse:Joe Mauer, C, Twins
I'm a fan of Doumit. I admit it. I picked him up last year in a couple of leagues and he was one of the best hitters at a thin position. Last year he hit .318 with an .858 OPS -- fantastic production for a catcher. His numbers compared well to Mauer's .328 average and .864 OPS. Mauer's ADP is in the mid-70s while Doumit is about 40 slots later. Would you rather have Mauer in sixth round or Doumit in the ninth round? The recent Mauer injury makes this an easy decision.
For Better:Kelly Shoppach, C, Indians For Worse:Mike Napoli, C, Angels
Shoppach's ADP is a factor of confidence in teammate Victor Martinez. Martinez is coming off the draft board between Mauer and Doumit, around pick 100. If Martinez rebounds from a disastrous two-homer 2008 season he is a steal at pick 100. Last year, Shoppach was a revelation with 21 HR in only 352 at-bats. However, a healthy Martinez will cost Shoppach playing time and that is why Shoppach's ADP is over 200. He is essentially an end-of-draft flier, round 17 or later, if he is drafted at all. I think Shoppach is better than that and will get as many at-bats as last season. Martinez will get some starts at first base giving Shoppach time behind the dish. Compare Shoppach with Anaheim's Napoli. Last year they had similar power numbers, with Napoli hitting 20 HR in 227 at bats. Napoli is in a job share with Jeff Mathis, so his 2009 at-bats could be similar to Shoppach's. Napoli is also recuperating from off season shoulder surgery, limiting his work behind the plate. Napoli's ADP ranks as high as seventh among catchers, roughly an 11th round pick in a 12-team draft. Taking Shoppach six rounds later is a better value.
For Better:Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves For Worse:Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees
Jones gets hurt, I know. He already pulled up lame in the World Baseball Classic. Injuries and Jones go together -- I said that myself. But when the guy does play, he is an elite hitter at a thin fantasy position. A-Rod will miss at least a month of the season, which brings his expected playing time in line with a typical Jones season. Figure that both will get around 450 at bats. A-Rod will hit more homers; Jones will have the higher average. Last season Jones' OPS was 1.044, second only to Albert Pujols, and much higher than Rodriguez' .965. Fans are drafting Rodriguez somewhere between the 25th and 30th selection. Jones is going about 20 picks later and unlike A-Rod will play Opening Day.
For Better:Johnny Damon, OF, YankeesFor Worse:Nate McLouth, OF, Pirates
McClouth was a nice surprise last season, with 26 HR, 23 SB and a .276 average. McLouth's numbers were great in Roto, but also similar in impact to Damon's 17 HR and 29 SB and a.303 average. McLouth's ADP is in the mid-50s, while Damon's is 30 picks later.
For Better: Almost anybody but Derek Jeter at shortstop For Worse: Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: No hate mail please.
Jeter has been drafted higher than his fantasy value for years. It's the marquee name pushing up his ADP. Or it could be that more teenage girls play fantasy baseball than we think. Jeter is the fourth shortstop taken in most drafts and that's fine. The problem is that there is a huge decline in production going from the third-best shortstop (Jimmy Rollins) to Jeter. Moreover, Jeter is not significantly better than the glut of second-tier shortstops taken over the next four rounds. We have been saying this for years, but it bears repeating. What's the difference between Jeter and Michael Young? Answer: $15 million dollars and a posse of supermodels.