Team by team auction draft review and rankings!

Predictive analysis is a fun exercise. The Major League Baseball regular season does not start for a few weeks. So we have some time to fill between our auction draft this past weekend and the start of countable events. The next few posts will qualitatively analyze the auction draft of each team on a team-by-team basis.

Each team will be reviewed by me, and purely on conjecture. I’m using various projection systems to rate these teams and surmise my opinions. But, the ratings are based on how I feel about the core of each team. I’m using my experience with the league setup, so comments both positive and negative should be taken with a grain of salt.

Each team will be rated on their offense, pitching and their depth. Here’s the scale from best to worst: Outstanding, Great, Very Good, Good, Alright, Not quite, Uh-oh, Whoops.

  • Outstanding¬†– Outstanding was reserved for a few special cases where almost anyone in the league would prefer this group over their own group. There’s room for failure and the group should still be great.
  • Great –¬†Great squads have good balance or at least a good strategy poured into their group, most teams would trade their group for these groups, but it is not perfect.
  • Very Good – Everything about this group is good, I just prefer it to the other good groups.
  • Good –¬†Better than average as a whole, if things go well things will be great, but there’s enough reason to see the downsides.
  • Alright – Everything about this group is good, I just prefer the other good groups.
  • Not quite – There¬†are¬†some holes here that are for concern. ¬†I could be surprised, but those holes…
  • Uh-oh –¬†Well, all is not lost! I am sure most can agree with the lack of¬†excitement about this group. Where’s the bang?
  • Whoops – I mean punting a whole group is a God damn bold strategy and I respect the hell out of you for trying it. I for one cannot wait to¬†see how it works out.

I gave ratings to each team’s Hitting, Pitching and Depth. The first two groups being more important than the third.

For each hitting group I focused on the ten hitters most likely being the everyday starter while peaking at the bench behind them all.

For each pitching group I focused on your first four starters, gave bonuses for good bullpens, and then peaked at the remaining starters available.

For the depth group I rated your team for positional flexibility and basically imagined a couple of bad injuries to your starters and how would your team flesh out. Good depth is great if you have to use it, but you probably would prefer to not break the glass.

Finally I break down in a few short sentences what has to go right for the team to be viable for the final four. Then a few short sentences of what goes wrong and you’re looking at the basement four (anyone have¬†a better name¬†for these brackets? please?).

I plan on releasing three or four teams each day as I edit them. While, things may change between now and then; the reviews will stay focused as if the draft had just occurred. For a teaser here’s how my ratings broke down:

Hitting:
(1) Outstanding
(2) Great
(2) Very Good
(4) Good
(4) Alright
(1) Not Quite
(1) Uh-oh
(1) Whoops

Pitching
(2) Outstanding
(3) Great
(2) Very Good
(2) Good
(2) Alright
(3) Not Quite
(1) Uh-oh
(1) Whoops

Depth
(0) Outstanding
(2) Great
(2) Very Good
(5) Good
(3) Alright
(3) Not Quite
(1) Uh-oh
(0) Whoops

Where was the value at?

Immediately within the first hour of the auction¬†draft it was clear that value was not easy to find.¬†Prices of players were not¬†excruciatingly high or overspent. But, these prices were high enough to ensure that there was not large values at the top either. Shrewd drafting made Saturday’s event an interesting battle of attrition as the player pool continued to shrink. As the pool shrank there was a¬†seemingly never ending pile of teams with money looming over each auction.

Immediately, it looks like the teams that left money on the table are the most hurt. 50% of the league, 8-teams spent 100% of their budget. Leaving zero dollars left on the table. Of the remaining teams:

The Foundation – $1
Beach Bum – $5
Senior Squids – $6
TBD – $10
Preseason Favorite – $10
We Talk Fantasy Sports – $14
Capital City Ironmen – $21
The Wilfred Brimley Fighting Diabeetuses – $28

In some cases that unspent auction money being left on the table is not terribly frightening. But, at the bottom of that list, I can only imagine the day after regret. Good fantasy baseball talent auctioned off in that $10-$20 range. Even if you did not need a particular player, at least that drafted player has value. These extra auction dollars left unspent, are lost. They have no value.

Moving on to the auction money that got spent. More importantly how that money got spent. We can see how efficient teams were compared to this setting of the FanGraphs Auction Calculator. Keep in mind this calculator does not factor in our dynasty format (the hidden and unknown value of opportunity cost for keeping guys), nor does it fully understand our relievers scoring. But, for this exercise, and based on the results of the draft, it was quite accurate.

value

 

What you see above is the chart of how each of the teams did. Teams with positive values, overspent according to the FanGraphs calculator and the teams with negative values found bargains. The rank is from 1 “most efficient” to 16 “least efficient”.

Now before you go and say well done and patting yourself on the back, this is removing a lot of context away from the story. I believe you are sitting in a great place if you were most efficient with value, and you spent all of your auction budget. My team The Foundation finds itself there, so take that bias for what it is worth.

If you did not spend all of your auction money and you were not efficient in how you spent the money either, well you may have some extra work to do. Maybe your projections and targets are valued differently than how FanGraphs did and if so you’re probably okay! FanGraphs and projections are¬†wrong more often than not.

Going a step further, let us take a look at everyone’s “best value”. What you should see below is a table¬†that has the FanGraphs calculator value, how much they were paid for in the auction, and then the difference.

 

ss+(2016-03-13+at+10.06.30)

The best value of the day was projections wonder-boy Wei-Yin Chen who was bought for $17, and had been projected to be worth $48. Chen’s¬†transition to the National¬†League, to the Marlins ballpark and being away from the American League East is likely positive.

It does seems like pitchers stole the value show:¬†Alex Wood, CJ Wilson, James Shields, Jeff Samardzija and Jimmy Nelson were their representative team’s best value and created over $20 in value per player. Outfielders might be the next undervalued commodity in the draft as you see Alex Gordon, Nick Markakis, Melky Cabrera, Josh Reddick and Khris Davis on the list above.

Finally, we also have a look at each team’s “worst” value. Now, I must warn you. If you’re the kind of guy who’s into the hot young star and cannot stand to see them in any negative light, please look away.

ss+(2016-03-13+at+10.03.38)

Corey Seager, Addison Russell, Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton. Phew these¬†boys cost a pretty penny to claim. Trea Turner, Noah Syndergaard, Randal Grichuk¬†and¬†Jurickson Profar were all also coveted prospects¬†on draft day. None of those guys are terribly far off in lost value, they’re all capable of being worth what they’re paid. Plus we have discussed before about the opportunity cost of getting said players. There is value in these overspends. But, how much?

The Auction Draft is Over!

It is the morning after and I am finally collected enough to reflect on the draft yesterday. I have already started to pour over the data to see what kind of interesting nuggets available to¬†uncover. However, before sharing those with you I wanted to take a second to talk about yesterday’s draft and the entire Dynasty Grinders experience as a whole.

This league was born out of a few ideas with some added inspiration in November. We started recruiting for teams after Christmas. We were filled before the second week of January. Each team in the league voted in the first ever rules voting before the polling deadline. Each team paid their first two years of league dues, up front, well prior to the deadline.

It may not seem like much, but everything in that paragraph is a huge relief for any commissioner. But, it gets better.

The minor league snake draft, which started at the beginning of February, was done within two weeks. 240 minor league baseball players were selected and nobody missed their eight hour time window. Incredible participation. There was never a reason to speed up the time clock or pressure people into making picks. In fact, I stopped sending email notification updates after the 3rd or 4th round, because everyone was paying attention on their own.

Thirteen trades of one kind or another have occurred already. Our Slack chat has had over 27,000 messages posted between our slack channels or direct messages. That kind of participation exceeds my wildest and highest expectations.

Finally yesterday happened. We geared up for a 480 pick auction draft. We set out to do it in one day, broken into 2-hour sessions with 20-minute breaks squeezed in to make sure nobody died. The picks went fast and furious. And all said and done we were done in 8 hours and 12 minutes.

The draft came and went without a hitch.

Every owner was available and ready 10 minutes prior to the draft, many of us chatting in the Google Hangout as early as an hour prior to the draft.

Everyone seemed to be very prepared and were very aware of what was going on and for the first time as a commissioner in any sense of the form, I was truly able to participate and focus more as an owner and leave my commissioner hat hanging on the hook for a day.

It does not get better than that. Hours, days and weeks of preparation by myself and everyone in the league is what allowed yesterday to breeze through. Now, I cannot say how everyone feels about their teams today, but I got so many positive notes and interactions post draft, that I believe everyone had fun and is even more excited going forward.

Baseball is still a few weeks away, but I cannot wait to fill the time with trade speculation, predictions, fluff, and other non-sense. Thank you everyone, I truly appreciate your participation!

Dynasty Grinders Podcast – Episode 10

Jordan and Andrew lament on how the draft hasn’t even happened yet. So we drive into the subject of the draft, Byron Buxton and all that is wonderful about Kyle Zimmer. Things get real, things get discussed, and…. ¬†Well the draft is soon. Get ready for the post draft podcast a week or so from now. If we’re talking to each other at that point.

Greed Dollars in Perpetuity: A Dynasty Grinders Life Hack

If players who got on base were the market inefficiency of the early century, then greed dollars in perpetuity are the market inefficiency of Dynasty Grinders.

For those who have no idea what “greed dollars in perpetuity” means, it’s really just a fancy way of saying “forever”. ¬†If I were to acquire the Foundation’s ¬†greed dollar in¬†perpetuity from say Team Hydra, that would mean I control an extra dollar of greed for the Foundation every year. With that extra dollar, I would be able to put $2 on any one of The Foundation’s players or $1 on two of their players. I know there have already been scholarly articles written on greed dollar strategy, but the way I see it, I will always be putting the dollar(s) on the most undervalued player. I think doing anything else would be too cute.

Reasons to trade your greed dollars in perpetuity

  • Efficiency: If I were to control twice (or more) of the amount of greed dollars for someone else‚Äôs team, you can be positive I won‚Äôt be half-assing it. With twice the power, comes twice the responsibility. Therefore, I assume that if I were to trade a greed dollar in perpetuity to someone else, they would be taking the task of assigning 2 greed dollars with more thought than they would otherwise. Since that extra greed dollar is being assigned to my opponent, it is to my benefit that someone else is putting forth additional consideration and thought into what player he will assign those dollars to. In a sense, greed dollar will be used more efficiently.
  • Consideration: A greed dollar in perpetuity is an asset, thus you should be able to get something for it. Whether it‚Äôs a throw in to get a deal done or a simple deal for an auction dollar or two, by trading it away, you will be getting something in return.
  • Time: You will have more time on your hands. Imagine the time it will take to browse a 30 man roster and determine who the best player to stick with $1 will take. Let‚Äôs say it will take 2 minutes. Now imagine you‚Äôre in this league for 30 years. That‚Äôs 30 times the amount of time. Now imagine if you traded all 15 of your dollars controlled greed dollars in perpetuity away. Woah. That‚Äôs 900 minutes‚Ķ 15 hours. Basically the amount of time you‚Äôre up in a day. Longer if you plan on being in this league for 30 years. Now, I understand part of the draw to this league is that there is something to do every month, even in the offseason. If you look forward to greed allocation every season, this article isn‚Äôt for you. I probably should have said that earlier, but you‚Äôve already read up to this point anyway. If you do choose to trade away all your greed dollars in perpetuity, please take some time in the free day I just gave you to write me a thank you note.

moneyball 

Conclusion: Trading away your greed seems like a no brainer to me. Your dollar will be used more efficiently by someone who now has more power/responsibility in assigning it, you will get something in return for it, and you will be saving a ton of time. You’re welcome

Note: all trading and deals involving greed dollars in perpetuity are intended to be for non collusive deals. Please see the example I used at the beginning for reference to what I was describing.

Starting pitchers what say you?

Those who are new to an OttoNeu scoring league such as this are in for a real treat. Especially with our head to head rules that limit teams to seven (7) games started (GS) by a SP each week. This creates a huge opportunity cost when selecting the starts you will be using each week. So on this leap day, let’s leap into it!

Would you rather have one Clayton Kershaw or¬†three versions of James Shields? The answer isn’t so clear. James Shields is pretty good. He’s slightly above average. He’s one of my “comfortable” starters. Meaning any given week, I’ll use his start that week without much hesitation. He’s not awesome anymore, but he’s not awful either.

Kershaw is projected to go for over $100 in the auction and no matter what, based on past production he’s certainly going to go for a value. What you’re buying with Kershaw is an ability to get deep into games. The last three years of Kershaw saw him pitch into the 7th inning 73 of his 93 starts (that’s more than 78% of the time).

You’re also buying that he’s the team ace so he’s going to rarely get pulled before the 5th. Part of his job is to give his team’s bullpen a breather. In fact, Kershaw failed to get through five¬†innings just twice in the last three seasons, and one of those games was the last game of the year in 2015 where he was pitching for records.

What do those two things mean? Deep into games often leads towards higher points ceilings. Low chance of an early hook means higher points floors.

Now there’s more than a few aces out there who accomplish both of those things every five days. But Kershaw, as you know, is ridiculously good on top of just chewing up innings. He strikes guys out (points!), he doesn’t allow many walks, homers or hits (avoid negative points!), and he’s reliable.

Here’s the final tally on each of Kershaw’s 93 starts over the last 3 seasons:

kershaw

Wow. Starting pitchers are really cool, right? Well hold your pants. That’s a really good starter. Here’s what Shields over the same time looks like:

Keep in mind that before you look at the following graph, that James Shields makes 101 starts, with an average 32.5 points per start (getting 32.5 points from a start is very good!).

shields

Wow. Those are two different distributions. Keep in mind, Shields according to Steamer projections is set to be about the 30th best SP for 2016. In a 16-team league, Shields is a SP2. There’s two things to really take from this. Kershaw, about once a season, in one single start, is worth the equivalent of almost three GOOD starts. THREE!

Then on the flip side the awful starts. Kershaw has one a season. Shields has just enough that you’re probably not predicting when they happen to avoid. Those negative starts hurt your week. A lot. Bad starts don’t hurt your week so much, but they don’t make you feel good. Average starts you take and put in your hat and move on. Any good start gets your juices flowing.

It’s amazing what Kershaw could do for any team. He’s so far above the rest of the world that his value is basically “name a price and just pay it.” When Kershaw has a two start week, odds are great that you’re basically playing with a 30+ point jump at a minimum over any other two start combo that your weekly match-ups throw at you.

Consider that like an extra start, or like adding Ryan Braun‘s average for a week to your line up as a bonus. Unreal.

As you go down further in the pitcher pool, you’ll see what you’d expect: the distribution leans even more left (that’s the bad side). There’s some guys who will have a distribution that is much flatter, they’re¬†inconsistently good, awful, average.

A lot of times you can guess when these guys will be good based on match-ups and you can combine a few different guys to look like a good starter, but its a risky game. For those who may be consider punting pitchers, be careful, you don’t want to be in a position where you’re praying for at least a bad start from a guy who’s a spot starter that you found in the free agent pool because he’s hot garbage. It’s very difficult to cobble together your starting pitching. The opportunity cost that the 7-start per week limit adds to these aces is significant.

Oh and so just show how Kershaw is in his own tier. Here’s SP #2 overall, Max Scherzer:

max

Leans to the right. Yes. Max was quite good. Those perfect games, no-no are seriously awesome. But, to compare to Kershaw. Kershaw had 9 starts, average or worse. Max has SIX awful starts. Eight bad starts and nine average starts. Don’t get me wrong. Max is amazing! But he occasionally has an off day. Kerhsaw is just absurdly good.

For fun, let us take a look at what an average pitcher looks like over 3 years. This becomes a hard exercise, nobody is exactly average for three straight years, so what I did was combined Jarrod Parkers 2013 with Jorge de la Rosa‘s 2014 and Mark Buerhle‘s 2015 and smashed them together to make the 27 point per start SP. Here’s the graph.

average

It’s a mixed bag. Plenty of great useful starts in there, but the red and peach columns start to add up really quick. You’re looking at a $10-$20 pitcher. Good luck!

A couple of “greed” allocation strategies…

Before I start spewing ideas, I should probably reiterate what “greed” is in our league.

Greed is kind of¬†a surrogate for arbitration. It’s a way of letting the market — our stable of owners — adjust the value of players league wide. Every offseason, each owner is given $1 to blindly add to a player from every other¬†roster. (This is in addition to a natural raise of $2 every major leaguer will receive.) The only players protected from this allocation process are minor league players who have cost control status and major leaguers whose salaries place them in the top-30 of the league ledger. (Read the official rules here.)

Now that that’s out of the way, how might¬†greed be applied?

The first, most obvious way to apply greed, is to slap it onto each opposing roster’s most underpaid player. Take AJ Pollock, for example. Coming into 2015, Pollock’s statistics suggested a break out may have been imminent, but he dealt with injuries and had no previous track record of sustained success. The Diamondbacks’ outfield appeared crowded. Hypothetically speaking, he may have been rostered for $5 as a reserve outfielder.

Obviously, he outplayed that number in a big way in 2015.

Based on our league settings and taking into account his monster 2015 campaign, the FanGraphs auction calculator projects him for $28 of value next season. Frankly, that’s conservative. The calculator doesn’t account for marketplace or the dynasty aspect of our league. But we’re dealing in examples here, so it’s fine.

Now, if Pollock cost $5 heading into 2015, he would by default cost $7 heading into 2016. He gets that $2 raise, y’know. At this point, he’s still projected to provide $21 of surplus value.

You fundamentally do not want your competing owners to have surplus value. So it makes sense that when applying your greed, you slap $1 on Pollock. Maybe other teams follow. For the sake of argument, let’s say nine¬†other owners see what a bargain Pollock is and hit him with their dollar as well. Suddenly, Pollock’s contract is $17.

He’s still a bargain at this price and you’re definitely keeping him, but let’s say he replicates his 2015 in 2016 and is again projected to produce $28 of value heading into 2017. A two dollar raise puts him at $19, and let’s say this year 12 total owners slap greed on him. Now he’s contracted at $31. Suddenly, the tide has shifted. If the projections hit exactly (and they pretty much never do, of course), in two offseasons your AJ Pollock has gone from a surplus boon to a -$3 valuation. He’s still a great player, so maybe that $3 isn’t a big deal and you hang onto him*, but you have a decision on your hands at this point.

* I’ve never played in an Ottoneu league but I’ve read up on it¬†and one strategy I see a lot is this: if a player is not providing surplus, he’s a cut. It seems simple enough, but I’m not sure how hard and fast a rule it should be. If you’re paying Clayton Kershaw $100 and he’s only providing you $95 of value, is he not still Clayton Kershaw? I understand cutting him and hoping to win him back at auction for less, but I can’t imagine every time the surplus scale tips even the teeniest bit dumping players is always the right answer.

I think in terms of options for placing greed, the Pollock scenario is the easiest to arrive at. But how about another example?

Let’s say first base was a black hole for you in 2015. Heading into 2016, you’d probably like to avoid¬†navigating¬†the same problem, but you’ve exhausted the trade market. You either need to hit on a free agent pick-up in-season, or you need your opponents to cut players that you can bid on at auction. That last part, you can sort of help.

Let’s say¬†you scour the league and find three guys on different teams — let’s just go with Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Lind, and Mark Teixeira — who after their $2 raises are teetering between providing surplus value and being a cut. Well, you can tip that scale. You can add your dollar to each of these guys and while, sure, a dollar isn’t a lot, it could be enough to¬†make another owner’s decision for them. Maybe they were torn between a $12 Zimmerman and a — I don’t know — $7 Yonder Alonso or something as their reserve 1B, and Zimmerman suddenly jumping to $13 seals the deal. If you force even one of these guys into the free agent pool, you’ve given yourself an additional option at a position of need.

If you really hated your 1B situation from a year prior, you could put your $1 towards a 1B on every team and hope it pushes more than one guy out.

There are all kinds of ways you could go with your greed allocations. We touched on them in one of our podcasts and I’m sure we’ll go down that road again, particularly 10-11 months from now when greed allocation is upon us. But you may want to start churning those gears in your head now.

Overvalued Minor League Draft Picks

While preparing for minor league drafts, the easiest way to get started is to find some top prospect lists by top sites like Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.  However, it is important to remember that these sites are creating lists for real life, not fantasy, so defense and intangibles are part of the thought process.  As fantasy owners, our scouting report is much simpler, and predetermined by league settings.

In Dynasty Grinders, we do not count runs scored or RBI, and ERA is not a big deal. ¬†So while scanning all of these lists, it’s important to look a bit deeper into a players’ past production, read the scouting reports, and find players that fit our specific league scoring system.

A member of the r/FantasyBaseball community on Reddit was kind enough to put together a top 100 list that combined multiple top 100 lists from reputable sites.

I’ve complied a list of multiple Top 100 Prospect lists into one. This is purely a mathematical based list not based on any scouting. The formula is based on how many lists they are on, the rage of their positions on the list, their high and low position, their average position and scores weighted more towards fantasy than real life prospect lists.

Now again, your league will determine how valuable each individual player is, and in this league, we could not draft certain players that had limited MLB experience.  After removing them from the list, leaving us with 85 players and moving what was left up the rankings, here are the players that we overvalued by 10 or more draft slots, when you compare our draft slot versus their ranking.

MILB Draft Overvalued

FND, HYD, LB and WYH each selected two players at least 10 spots ahead of their top 85 ranking.

However, it was GAU with the “worst” pick of the draft, selecting Brady Aiken with the 34th overall selection, when he was rank 70th. The differential, 36, was actually higher then the draft slot! Obviously Aiken is a well known name around baseball after being selected 1st overall in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft by the Houston Astros. However, he did not sign and was then selected 17th in the following draft by the Cleveland Indians. He has yet to throw a pitch in a game that counts as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

We have discussed the Foundation’s selection of Jeff Hoffman with the 18th pick a lot in our Slack chat, so I will let this one go, as to not embarrass his owner any more. But FND also selected Jesse Winker ahead of his rank, 34, with his first round pick and did so even before selecting Hoffman in round two. Prior to 2015, MLB.com ranked Winker¬†the 26th overall prospect in baseball and with 14 Top 100 prospects removed from our list of eligible players, the selection does make some sense. He is often compared to Jay Bruce, mainly because they came up through the Reds farm system. If Winker turns into 2012/2013 Bruce, this pick will be a steal.

Team Hydra may have reached for Pirates 2B Alen Hansen, but I think they got a real nice piece in Bobby Bradley, a player we were targeting with our next pick. Hanson is slotted in at 2B for the Pirates this season with Neil Walker being traded to the Mets and Jung-Ho Kang out to start the season. Hanson can fly and if he can get on base could be a valuable piece to the Pirates as a utility player this season. However, our league does not count runs scored and Hanson has a .320 OBP despite a .275 BA over two seasons at AA ball.

The Rays drafted Taylor Guerrieri way back in the first round of the 2011 draft out of Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. ¬†Who’s Your Haddy selected him 30 picks ahead of his rank, with the 53rd pick. ¬†Over four minor league seasons, and 206.1 IP, he owns a 1.61 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP with 178 strikeouts. ¬†Those are some nice numbers. ¬†He just turned 23 in December and will look to join the Rays rotation by early 2017. ¬†However, he is one full season removed from Tommy John surgery and has faced a 50 game suspension for a positive drug test. ¬†The Rays are loaded with pitchers and Guerrieri is their 3rd or fourth best pitching prospect. ¬†WYH hopes to not see him land in the bullpen, and a trade wouldn’t be the worst thing, as long as it is not to the Colorado Rockies!

With the 44th pick, WYH drafted Cubs OF Billy McKinney, despite being ranked 71st.  Chicago is loaded in the OF, signing Jason Heyward this offseason in addition Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler (just re-signed), Jorge Soler and prospects Albert Almora and Ian Happ.  MLB Pipeline ranks McKinney the Cubs #2 prospect behind SS Gleyber Torres, ahead of Almora and Happ.  He is actually a perfect prospect to own as he is a high BA/high OBP guy.  He just needs Soler to be traded.

Long Ball to LF drafted two MLB ready players ahead of their rank, but I like both Jameson Tallion and Willson Contreras, despite both going a round earlier than their rank suggests.