When building a cheatsheet there are a slew of factors that need to be accounted for, but there are only three major ones — Average Draft Position, rankings and projections.
On draft day, you need to know the difference between the three and, more importantly, be able to see it instantly on your draft board.
A cheatsheet can be as simple or complex as someone wants to make it. If you want to make a list of speed players at each position, rookie players at each position, a list of 30-30 players, that’s all good. But the three cornerstones mentioned above are the key to a valuable draft board.
Start with ADP
Target Average Draft Position as your starting point. Every draft is different and some of your leaguemates are going to stretch for picks or let picks slide, but there is no better base than ADP.
Knowing where players “should” go is crucial to getting value.
Ranking vs. ADP
The next step is differentiating between ADP and your rankings.
This is the tricky part. Start with a tiering system. There are usually clear gaps in talent at each position that are easy to spot. Mark them and review the names in each tier.
By comparing ADP to rankings, we can find significant and minute values throughout the draft.
For example, let’s say you think Robinson Cano becomes a five-category stud this season and a top-25 player overall. However, the list you take with you on draft day should not have Cano in the Top-25 or in the top tier of second basemen.
ADPs have Cano going in the fifth round (10-team), around pick 45. Even if all your research says that Cano is going to be better than every second baseman after Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler, you still shouldn’t draft him before Brandon Phillips (34th overall) and Dustin Pedroia (37th) come off the board.
Pick him after those four second baseman. It’s really not as simple as it sounds — players can be thinking the same thing your thinking, the draft order may not be in your favor, etc. — but you need to pay close to fair market value for these players.
Cole Hamels offers a perfect example of this wild card scenario. After a down 2009, many people — myself included — consider Hamels a strong bounceback candidate. His current ADP puts him at 100th overall, behind Jake Peavy Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw and Yovanni Gallardo.
In 2008, Hamels harnessed his potential. A return to that form could put him among the top-5 pitchers. You shouldn’t draft him when Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia are coming off the board, but as a central Pennsylvania resident, I know Hamels will be valued a little higher by many of the Phillies fans at my draft.
In this case, reach a little. I’ll need to take Hamels before Peavy, Cain and Kershaw, maybe even push him into the seventh or eighth round.
Even with the push, it’s still better market value at pick 75, than if he gets picked based on Top-5 expectations. All Top-5 pitchers are off the board by the second pick of the fourth round, according to recent ADPs.
Projections are not gospel
The final part of this argument is projections.
Take all projections with a grain of salt. We don’t know how these players will play any more than you do. In fact, everyone should make up their own projections for at least some players. By using past player performance, studying playing opportunity scenarios, checking speed scores and home run to fly ball rates, we can all take a marginal guess what players will do.
If you look at a set of projections and find a player’s output looks ridiculous, do your own research. Maybe you’ll find that you were wrong and the projector was right. Or maybe you just found your super sleeper or super bust.
Also take into account that certain owners and fantasy writers will favor certain players. For instance, my projections for Geovany Soto are going to be higher than most. He’s a bounce-back candidate who could outproduce his draft slot considerably based on pre-2009 performances.
By bloating his projections I’m not saying Soto will be a top-3 catcher, I’m just trying to tell you he could be much better than ADPs and rankings suggest.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out fantasy baseball rankings. The baseline for those lists will be ADP. But refer to the commentary to determine if the ADP is an accurate ranking or if it’s bogus. There will be projections included. Please disagree at every opportunity. Post the disagreement in the comments and let us know why you disagree.
So, how do you build your cheatsheet? Let us know in the comments.