Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fantasy Focus: Stars and Scrubs vs Spreading the Wealth

This year, there is a clear top tier of just 2 players in MLB:  Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera.   In a traditional snake draft, there isn't a whole lot to think about.  If you have one of the first two picks, you there is absolutely no downside to taking one of them.  In an auction, it is more complicated as every player has a chance to get one, both or neither depending entirely no how much you are willing to pay.

A well known rule of thumb in fantasy baseball auctions is you should not pay more than $40 for any single player.  With that rule as point of reference, Trout and Cabrera are commanding an average of $60 each!  The problem for an auction player is that even if you have no interest in spending that much, you also cannot afford to just ignore those players and let someone else grab them for a bargain.  You have to think about price enforcement!

I went into my auction draft last night with 2 distinct plans in mind hingeing on how Trout and Cabrera played out.  I felt that in order for a "spread the wealth" strategy to work, someone else had to be forced to pay more than $60 each for the big 2.  Going in, I had a contingency plan for bidding up to $60 and taking both players for a total of $120 if I had to.  Although it would not be easy to build a competitive supporting cast with that much money off the table, I felt it was doable and looked forward to the challenge.  My preferred plan, though, was to spend no more than $40 on any one player and try to accumulate as many 5 category offensive players as possible while saving money on pitching by punting Saves and loading up on undervalued pitchers at the end of the draft.  Fortunately, the prices for both Trout and Cabrera blew right no through the $60 ceiling eliminating at least 2 managers from competing for the players I really wanted.

The manager who took Trout ended up paying a whopping $66 for him.  Now, I have no doubt that Trout is going to be a beast of a player this year, barring serious injury which is possible with any player.  The only question is was it worth it to pay that much for his elite production if it prevents you from paying for a top player at another position.  This same manager spent $1 on Brett Lawrie to be his 2B later in the draft.  My most expensive player was Ryan Braun, also an OF, at $41.  My 2B is Jason Kipnis who cost me $27.  The other guy spent a total of $67 on his top player and 2B while I paid a total of $68, essentially the same combined cost.  With that in mind, let's take a look at the projected combined stat lines for those 2 positions for both teams(Using ZIPS which I believe is the most accurate projection system):

Other Guy:

Mike Trout:   119 R, 29 HR, 95 RBI, 43 SB, .300 BA.
Brett Lawrie:   64 R, 16 HR, 62 RBI, 12 SB, .266 BA.

Combined:    175 R, 45 HR, 157 RBI, 55 SB, .283 BA.

Savvy Vets:

Ryan Braun:  99 R, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 22 SB, .300 BA.
Jason Kipnis: 88 R, 17 HR,   83 RBI, 25 SB, .263 BA

Combined:  187 R, 50 HR, 199 RBI, 47 SB, .282 BA.

As you can see, for the same price, the other guy has a small advantage in SB's, I have a modest advantage in R and HR's and a substantial advantage in RBI with BA being essentially tied.  Most likely 4 of the 5 categories are within the margin of error while the RBI's are probably a safe advantage for me.

This exercise does not show a clear advantage for 1 approach over the other.  It slightly favors spreading the wealth.  In a 10 team league, you can get surprisingly strong value at the very end of the draft which gives you cover for overspending early.  The difference might be significantly greater in a deeper league where the quality of the scrubs would be lower.

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