2013 Fantasy BaseballBrett TalleyFantasy Baseball

FSWA Expert League Draft Recap: Positional Scarcity Has Gotten Out of Hand

posey land 2
Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

I had the privilege of participating in a draft Monday night with fellow members of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. This particular league includes such fantasy dignitaries as Jason Collette and James Quintong. It also included some friends of The Fix, Moe Koltun of rotoanalysis.com and Nick Raducanu and Tony Mauriello of FantasyTrade411. In this league OBP replaces average, SLG replaces home runs and quality starts replace wins.

By far the most interesting take away from the draft was the handling by the experts of the two-catcher format this  leagues uses. There’s no doubt that catchers get some sort of bump in such a format, but I would have guessed that experts might not reach as much as the average player would when two catchers are required. But I would have been wrong. Virtually every catcher went well above their average draft position, some substantially so.

See the full results of the draft here: http://games.espn.go.com/flb/tools/draftrecap?leagueId=26590&mode=0

Buster Posey went 14th to Collette and many wouldn’t quibble with this too much because Posey’s ADP is 16-17. But I take issue with Posey’s ADP being so high. I have Posey projected for .308 with 20 homers, one steal, 75 runs and 92 RBI. Disagree with those projections if you will, but they can’t be too far off other reasonable projections. While those numbers are solid for a catcher and clearly better than any other player at his position, those numbers are nowhere close to what you can get from hitters at other positions that were drafted both right after Posey and much later.

Justin Upton was the next hitter selected after Posey.  I have Upton projected for .287, 24 HR, 20 SB, 93 R, 91 RBI. So they’re a wash in RBI, Posey has a nice advantage in average, and Upton has a big advantage in steals and runs and a small advantage in HR. The bottom line is that Upton will produce more numbers in whole and will get you farther up the roto standings than Posey will. Same goes for my selection four picks after Posey, Edwin Encarnacion. I have E5 projected for .276, 33 HR, 10 SB, 88 R and 100 RBI. Encarnacion has significant advantages in every category other than average over Posey. And E5’s average isn’t so bad that he puts you in a hole you can’t get out of later in the draft.

There are guys going a full two rounds later like Matt Holliday or Yoenis Cespedes (my 4th round pick) that will still give you more production than Posey. Both will again trail in average (or OBP in this case), but both will hit for more power, Holliday will significantly out produce Posey in runs and RBI, and Cespedes will give you speed.

I have developed something call “Roto Rating” to help me rank players across positions based purely on their production. To get the full breakdown of the Roto Rating process and to see my top 200 hitter ranks, click here. But I can summarize quickly. I simply rank every hitter on a scale of 1-10 for all five roto categories based on my projections for them this year. Then I add up all five numbers to get a roto rating. Upton gets a 44, Encarnacion gets a 42, Holliday and Cespedes both get a 40, and Posey gets a 35. The production is not even close.

The counter argument here is that Posey is so much better than the rest of the guys at his position that he’s worth taking higher than his numbers warrant. But why would you want to cede the production? Some might say that no matter where you take a catcher you’ll be giving up some production to better hitters at other positions. But that’s not true. There are almost always a few guys who are underrated to the point where they’re being drafted around other guys who put up similar production. For example, I have Wilin Rosario projected to produce numbers similar to guys like Mike Morse and Chris Davis who play at deep positions. Yet Rosario is being drafted quite a bit later. As a result, Rosario provides value equal to or better than the spot he’s being selected whereas Posey is giving you the numbers of someone who should be drafted in the 5th round or so and requiring a second round pick. Rosario took a hit in this particular league because of his OBP, but I’m just using him as an example of the broader point.

But the other catchers may be the real story from this draft. Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Victor Martinez, Matt Wieters, Yadier Molina, and Salvador Perez all went between picks 60 and 73. This is insane. Aaron Hill went one spot after Mauer despite the fact that Hill is likely to outperform Mauer in every category other than average (again, OBP in this particular league). And Freddie Freeman, Eric Hosmer and Alex Rios went behind all of those other catchers. Freeman may end up with 25+ home runs and could be top 20 in the league in both runs and RBI in that lineup. Hosmer is also going to hit about that many home runs and will throw in the rare double-digit steal total from a first baseman. And Rios will give you above average production in every single category. None of those catchers are going to give you numbers anywhere close to that.

Some of us waited on catcher, and it paid off handsomely. After that initial run on the position, only two catchers were taken between picks 74 and 168. Then some of the experts made some really smart selections. The previously mentioned Rosario fell all the way to pick 200 which is a steal despite his OBP woes. Jeremie Ballinger made a great selection at pick 204 with Jonathan Lucroy. I have Lucroy ranked as my #10 catcher and he’s a solid play in an OBP league. My buddy Moe Koltun, who mentioned to me that he needed to catch up on OBP late as we were chatting during the draft, took OBP machine A.J. Ellis at pick 211. Neil Fitzgerald made another really solid pick of Alex Avila a pick 220. Avila is a great play in an OBP league and has some nice upside.

I was very disappointed that all three got snaked from me right before I wanted to take them. I ended up selecting another high OBP guy, John Jaso, at pick 223. On the right side of a platoon, Jaso should see enough plate appearances. In the very next round I snagged Carlos Ruiz who most might consider a top ten option if he were not suspended to begin the season. And finally I snagged my sleeper pick in the next to last round, Welington Castillo, to hold me over until Ruiz gets back.

The idea of drafting with a concern for positional scarcity is fairly engrained in most fantasy players at this point. I used to be a slave to it when I would constantly take shortstops in the early rounds. But I’ve seen the light. I’m giving up too much production and, subsequently, too many roto points by doing that. Don’t be a slave to positional scarcity anymore!

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