Maximizing every drop of value in every pick is hugely important. Taking a player in the fifth round that you could just as easily have taken in the sixth round is a major mistake. To avoid this, you need to know all about Average Draft Position (ADP).
While no two drafts are identical, knowing where a player typically goes gives you a general idea of where he will go in your draft. That said, be sure to do homework on your league mates subjective tendencies. For example, if there are Red Sox fans, be sure to snag guys like Lester and Youkilis a bit earlier than you normally would. In addition, you should talk up your sleepers before the draft (discreetly of course) to see if anyone is on to them. If you don’t, an opponent with an itchy trigger finger who hasn’t done his ADP homework might snag one of your sleepers a round before anyone else is typically taking him.
Now that you know WHY ADP is important, I want to show you HOW to exploit it by highlighting those players who are going too low compared to players with similar ADPs. You can grab an ADP report at Mock Draft Central.
Carl Crawford – Current ADP 15 – It’s no secret that I love speed (it never slumps, it kills, etc.). But, there is one real reason: stolen bases can be a reliable statistic week-to-week. If you can grab a 60+ base stealer (there were only three last year, and the fourth most steals was 42), you have an immediate step up on your weekly opponent. With Crawford’s steals, your opponent will have to dedicate two roster positions to stolen bases just to catch you and in the process sacrifice another statistic. It’s all about winning categories, which Crawford will help you do. Aside from an injury shortened 2008, Crawford has averaged 50 SBs a year, which would have given him the third most SBs last year. While cheap speed might be in abundance, 60+ SBs certainly are not. That’s why I’m grabbing Crawford over the likes of David Wright, Joe Mauer, Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira, Ian Kinsler and others.
Jacoby Ellsbury – Current ADP 20 – If I like Carl Crawford, I must be in love with Jacoby. In fact, I am. Ellsbury had ten more stolen bases than Carl Crawford –not a small number. Another reason to buy into Ellsbury: his OBP. In 2009, the Red Sox centerfielder posted a .355 OBP. In one AAA season, he posted a .360 OBP and in two AA seasons, he got on base at a .422 clip. If the Sox keep him at the top of the line-up, he’ll steal and score plenty. Because of his legs, Ellsbury alone can win you one category each week. To replace his stolen base production you’d need someone like Chone Figgins and Jimmy Rollins. And, even then, it would be a far less than perfect replacement as that would greatly diminish your power potential. I’d take Ellsbury over Crawford (which implies the above mentioned players), Mark Reynolds, Troy Tulowitzki, Jimmy Rollins and others with similar ADPs.
Justin Upton – Current ADP 25 – Man do I like Justin Upton this year (and for the next several). In just 138 games last year, Upton hit 26 HRs, scored 84 runs, knocked in 86 and stole 20 bases. He also managed a .300 AVE and a .366 OBP. Really, the only downside to Upton at this point is his health. While his health should certainly be accounted for (he missed 54 games in 2008 and 24 in 2009), his upside makes him a tempting draft pick. Typically, you don’t talk about upside with players ranked in the top 25 or so – given that most are at or near their peak performance. For this coming season, I think he could have a very similar year to a Miguel Cabrera – maybe a little worse average, but vastly more stolen bases. I’d be taking him over Jose Reyes, Victor Martinez, Matt Holliday, Jimmy Rollins, and many others.
Ryan Zimmerman – Current ADP 33 – I like to hate the Nationals, mostly because I’m a disgruntled and pathetic Orioles fan. This makes what I’m about to say about Zimmerman even more powerful. Zimmerman is only 24, yet he has played four full seasons in the majors. In those seasons (including just 106 games in 2008), Zimmerman has averaged 86 runs, 23 HRs, 90 RBIs, a .282 AVE and a .345 OBP. The more I look at it, the more I think Zimmerman is the second coming of Aramis Ramirez. Look at the obvious comparisons: Ramirez starred for a crappy team (the Pirates) and played four full seasons by his 25th birthday in which he averaged 77 runs, 29 HRs, 98 RBIs, a .282 AVE and a .332 OBP. I think Zimmerman has a tad more upside than 2004 Aramis, and could be in for a great year. I’d certainly be drafting him over Mark Reynolds, Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and others.
Jon Lester – Current ADP 58 – I don’t usually condone taking pitchers this high, but if you can build hitter depth with your first four – five selections, you could do worse (and many people are) by picking Lester at his ADP. Lester has posted amazingly consistent numbers over the last two years (2009: 3.41 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 2008: 3.21 ERA and 1.27 WHIP). However, something incredibly important to fantasy sets his 2009 campaign apart: 225 Ks (an increase of about 70 from 2008). That is a huge number; the fifth most in the majors last season. I’d be very comfortable with Lester as my first pitcher off the board, especially over Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Javier Vazquez and others.
FB 101’s 411: Speed, not greed, is good. Success at a young age presages more success. Jon Lester will continue to be awesome.