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2015 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide: How to Handle Non-Standard Roto Categories

In each of the last few baseball offseasons, I’ve written posts on how those playing in leagues with non-standard categories have to make sure to do draft preparation specifically geared to their unique categories. The vast majority of rankings you’ll see on various websites are geared toward the standard 5×5 roto categories. But if your league uses, say, on-base percentage instead of or in addition to batting average, the rankings on the big sites like ESPN/Yahoo or even the rankings here on our site, will be doing you a bit of a disservice.

Just as an example, let’s look at how Ben Revere’s value changes when OBP replaces batting average. Revere stole 49 bases last year and had a batting average of .306 over the last two years. He’s projected to steal anywhere from 36 to 45 bases this year and hit anywhere from .283 to .307. Being among the league leaders in steals while hitting for good average certainly makes Revere worth owning in even the shallowest of 5×5 mixed leagues. ESPN has him ranked 186, Yahoo has him 147 and he checks in at 130 in our consensus ranks. Not bad. A player ranked in the middle of that range should go for maybe $6-$8.

But if you play in a league where OBP replaces average and you walk into your draft with any of those sets of rankings, you’re going to overvalue Revere. I took the Steamer projections from Fangraphs and calculated how far above or below average each player was in each category. In batting average, Revere is projected to be 1.52 standard deviations better than the mean. But his OBP is projected to be .31 standard deviations below the mean. That’s obviously a huge gap, and switching categories would push Revere outside the top 200 overall. That makes him worth a buck, maybe two, in a ten-team mixed league with OBP.

Revere is a bit of an extreme example and one that you probably already knew or could have figured out. It doesn’t take much to figure out that a guy with a 2.1% walk rate last year might not be a good target in an OBP league. But there are certainly players where the gap between what they’re worth in each league type is smaller. Those small differences aren’t meaningless. If you’re overspending by a buck or two on many different players, that adds up and keeps you from spending your money in the most efficient manner possible.

The best way to make sure you’re spending your money (or your draft picks) wisely is to use rankings geared specifically toward your league type. However, there don’t seem to be too many rankings like that on the biggest platforms. What I would suggest is using the Fangraphs Auction Calculator where you can generate rankings and auction values for your specific categories. The rankings and values will be based upon projections like Steamer or ZiPS, so you still may have to go back in and move players up or down if you happen to think a player is in like to improve or decline this year. But these rankings will give you a better framework from which to work for your unique league settings.

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