I'm sure many of you (like me) are in the midst of developing a plan for your league draft or auction. It is in these early days that rosters are at their most limitless and conceptual. You could
have a team with a crushing offense or a miniscule ERA. You could
steal more bases or save more games than all the other teams in the league. Or, you could not.
With every selection you make on draft day, your team will get more defined and your fate - for good or for bad - will get more sealed. How do you ace your draft day? It's simple: don't overpay for the players you want and don't bank on players falling to you that will be gone. We can all look at ADP to get a sense for where a player might go, but what ADP doesn't tell you is the variability associated with the ranking. This kind of sanity check (which many owners fail to do) ensures your draft day approach will actually be implementable
. Think of the RotoWire Roundtable as a proxy for all the different strategies you may encounter: the more diversity there is in our rankings, the more unpredictable that player is likely to be in your own league draft or auction.
Before we jump in, first let's lay out the ground rules: our rankings were assembled for 12-team, 5x5 mixed leagues that starts two catchers per team (thus there is a positional scarcity component added for catchers). We use five rankers: Jeff Erickson
, Derek VanRiper
, Michael Rusignola
, Jason Collette
and our newest ranker, Andrew Martinez
. The rankings were completely blinded -- none of the rankers saw any of the other rankings before the publication of this article. We aim to publish an update before Opening Day with one more in the series at the All-Star Break to get you set for the second half.
An Overview of Early March's Rankings
Early March rankings always tend to have the most variability, as playing time and off-season health issues are not yet resolved. As is always the case, our fearless leader Jeff Erickson's rankings were to be the most centrist of the bunch (see Table 1a), also exhibiting the highest correlation with the four other rankings (see Table 1b). Overall, there was less variability between the rankings than there was last year. Naturally, batters represented a significant portion of the early draft (see Table 2). Jason once again gave the lowest premium to the top starters. Michael and Andrew were the most bullish on the catching crop. Andrew and Jason had the biggest divide over the ranking of relievers, with Andrew pro-reliever (average elite reliever 62.0) and Jason anti-reliever (average elite reliever 80.8).
Table 1a: Correlation with Final Ranks
Table 1b: Correlation between Rankers
|Correlations with the final ranks||0.99||0.95||0.95||0.87||0.95|
Table 2: Position Breakdown
|Average Rank of Top...||50 Batters||3 Catchers||15 Starters||5 Relievers|
Rankings with One Outlier
Let's start by going through a couple of players where four of the rankers were in alignment but one ranker was out on the proverbial limb.
Alex Gordon (OF)
- The Pessimist: Andrew (194); The Pack: Jeff (58), DVR (56), Michael (52), Jason (52).
Our pessimist cites that the lack of power production, the batting average (which spiked for a few seasons but crashed in the second half of last season), and the lack of stolen bases as key contributing factors to the low rating. If Gordon had one outstanding skill to be trusted, our pessimist likely wouldn't have him this low. The pack thinks Gordon dropping down in the lineup means a slight hit in runs scored and steals, but plenty more runs driven in and an uptick in batting average, as he'll be hitting w/RISP a lot. Pitchers are worse out of the stretch than they are from the windup, which is something Gordon will benefit from.
Adam Eaton (OF)
- The Optimist: Andrew (115); The Pack: Jeff (252), DVR (252), Michael (249), Jason (228).
Our optimist thinks Eaton could be Shane Victorino
but with a higher batting average upside. Eaton as the everyday centerfielder for the White Sox would mean double-digit homers with 25+ stolen bases and a decent average. If he hits leadoff, bump up those stolen bases a little bit more. The pack think that Eaton's value has been driven largely by speculation on what he might do rather than what he's done. They know that Eaton has a green light to run, but they're not quite certain that his on-base skills completely carry over at the big league level. If they don't, then the plate appearances and counting stats that everyone is hoping for might not happen, given that the White Sox have four outfielders for three spots with the DH not available.
Will Venable (OF)
- The Optimist: Andrew (92); The Pack: Jeff (195), DVR (209), Michael (209), Jason (186).
Our optimist doesn't see much difference between Venable and Alex Rios
. He expects some regression in his power numbers, but still views Venable as a highly productive player that could go 20/20 again in 2014. The list of outfielders that deliver that kind of production is shorter than you might think. The pack thinks, with the increased playing time afforded by the Maybin injury, Venable will be overexposed. He doesn't hit lefties that well, and nearly all of his power is versus right-handed pitching.
Players that Divided our Rankers into Two Camps
The players below split our rankers evenly, with half of the rankers taking an optimistic outlook on the player and the other half taking a more pessimistic view.
Chris Davis (1B)
- Optimistic Camp: Jeff (6), Michael (6), Jason (8); Pessimistic Camp: DVR (21), Andrew (21).
The optimistic camp asks, is there any doubt that the power is legitimate? Even when he slowed down over the last 65 games of the season, he still slugged .515. Only 13 batters hit over 30 homers last year, part of an ongoing trend where power is falling off. Sure, hitting .240 could still happen, but he's also had three years of .266 or higher in a row. The strikeouts are scary, but they aren't everything. The pessimistic camp feels that Davis's second half (.245/.339/.515, 16 HR, 31.8% K%) showcased a player that more closely resembled what he did in 2012. Even if his baseline is closer to .265-.270 in terms of average, Davis doesn't run much, and as such, he'll provide value more in line with Giancarlo Stanton
or Jay Bruce
, albeit in a better lineup situation than both thus a slightly higher ranking.
Kole Calhoun (OF)
- Optimistic Camp: Michael (128), Jason (128); Pessimistic Camp: DVR (210), Andrew (218).
The optimists say that Calhoun has 20/15 potential and could bring in a .265-.270 average, upper teen homers, lower teen steals, and 80+ runs scored. Calhoun impressed the optimists last year with his play. The pessimists say that Calhoun lacks a standout tool, and he played at a couple of very hitter-friendly environments (Cal League, PCL) that may have inflated his numbers. While his value could rise with an opportunity to leadoff all season, it seems far from guaranteed. If he ends up in the bottom third of the order, or someone slides into a platoon, the volume of plate appearances will suffer.
Oscar Taveras (OF)
- Optimistic Camp: DVR (172), Andrew (189); Pessimistic Camp: Jeff (300), Michael (NR), Jason (NR).
The optimistic camp is quick to remind us that it's just a matter of health for Taveras. If Allen Craig
gets injured playing in the outfield regularly or if they move him back to first base, that opens up a corner outfield spot for Taveras. The disappointing numbers last season for Taveras seemed to be a function of attempting to play through the injury. Through the optimistic eyes, he's one of the leading candidates for ROY honors in the National League. The pessimists remind us that Taveras still hasn't started playing in spring training games yet, and wonder just how much he's going to be able to run on that ankle. There's a huge ceiling for him, no doubt, but between the health and playing time risks, they think that you're going to get less out of him than you think.
All over the Place
For these players, there was absolutely no consensus, with rankings coming in literally all over the place.
Allen Craig (OF)
- Michael (31), Jeff (48), Jason (59), DVR (91), Andrew (121).
For the second year running, Craig was one of the most divisive players on the list, with Michael on the high end at 31 and Andrew on the low end at 121. Last year, those rankings spanned from 65 to 125, so the gap has only widened. The optimists think that the wide variance in Craig's ranks stem from durability questions, especially because he's going to begin the year in right field to make room for Matt Adams
. Incidentally, Craig's projection affects Taveras's: if you believe that Craig will miss 30-40 games, then naturally the lower rankings in the group are more appropriate. The pessimists' biggest gripe with Craig is a less than glowing outlook on Craig and his foot. The fact that he's going from first to the outfield on said foot worries them even more. If they knew he was completely over the injury they'd be more optimistic. If Craig's BABIP were to take a dip, we're looking at an ordinary 1B/OF player.
Freddie Freeman (1B)
- DVR (16), Jeff (24), Michael (29), Jason (35), Andrew (61).
The optimists say Freeman looks like a player on the verge of a breakout. He did a better job hitting lefties last season, but more importantly, he seemed to take a step forward in the second half. Given his age, they're not convinced he's done in terms of power development. They're looking for .300/25+HR/95+RBI and plenty of runs scored in the heart of the Atlanta order. The pessimists ask what happens if he repeats 2012? If that were to occur, we're looking at someone whose value is suddenly very ordinary at first base. The only skills jump they noticed from 2012 to 2013 was a nearly 80-point jump in BABIP, which isn't a skill at all. Even if the power does jump, the batting average probably isn't coming with it.
Hanley Ramirez (SS)
- Jason (7), Andrew (11), Jeff (13), Michael (17), DVR (20).
Hard to believe a player in the consensus top 20 has divided the rankers but he has. The optimists see in Ramirez a guy who was a top-50 player last season despite only getting 304 at bats. Assume health, and he would have challenged Goldy for the MVP with the numbers he would have put up. If they're in a 12-team mock draft, Hanley isn't making it past them in the first round. The pessimists say that Han-Ram at the end of last season was very motivated and finally healthy after dealing with a major shoulder injury during the end of his time in Miami. The difference in ranking here says more about the players on the board between the middle of Round 1 and the end of Round 2 (assuming NFBC 15-team mixed). Once the reality of his injury history set in, the pessimists gave him a pretty steep downgrade based on durability concerns.
And on with...
NR = Not Ranked
Players with the same median were ranked secondarily by their average ranking. Players who were not ranked were assigned a ranking of 388 (the midpoint between 351 and 425, the total number of ranked players) for the purpose of computing the median and average.