As we wend our way towards NFBC Main Event drafts, it’s of course important to understand the market you’ll be playing in. For fantasy baseball managers planning on entering the Main Event, the best reference now might be ADP data from NFBC Draft Championship Leagues since FAAB leagues have not started up in earnest yet. While the ADP will of course move plenty between now and March Main Event drafts, this ADP is a good indication of the 2022 baseline and much of it will be in place even then.
I decided to examine the first base position in this article, as this position represents a stark choice about how to start a fantasy draft. A Main Event owner’s draft plan could start out an early source of elite power plus batting average at first base, or hold off and bargain hunt in order to use their earlier picks on other hitters or pitching selections.
In the chart below I’m only including primary first basemen in this analysis – eliminating those with dual eligibility at other infield spots – because my theory is those players are more valuable at 2B, SS, 3B, or C than 1B. However, those with dual eligibility in the OF are included below.
|STEAMER STATS||PLATE APP||BA||HR||SB||RUNS||RBI||AUCTION CALCULATOR 15-TEAM MIXED|
|LaMont Wade Jr.||577||0.242||17||8||68||67||$2.80|
This leaves us with 27 first basemen being drafted in the first 317 picks (roughly 22 rounds of a 15-team league). If each fantasy owner in the league was looking for two of these players (there are three eligible positions to put them in: 1B, Corner, and Utility) then this is primarily the pool that is being considered for starting lineups.
Vlad and Everyone Else
Obviously, the team that drafts Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is at a significant advantage at first base compared to the other teams in the league, but this has to be weighed against whether some of the stats you give up with lesser first basemen can be salvaged with lower picks. Since first base doesn’t provide steals (no player in the top 27 first baseman is projected for double-digit steals), we can focus on the other four categories. Similarly, there are top hitters at other positions that can provide strong batting average. If you draft these other hitters in the first three rounds, a late first baseman can be drafted to target stats in the three remaining offensive categories – runs, RBI, and home runs.
This approach would allow an owner to look for value in their first base selections. But that begs the question of where is that sweet spot which provides value for the selection greater than the cost in a given round?
I show in the chart below the “Net Value” which is the dollar value generated by Steamer projections minus the round value for 15-team leagues. Assuming the Steamer projections are accurate, you can look for players that will provide the highest Net Value based on draft cost. In this iteration, Pete Alonso, Jared Walsh, and Josh Bell represent values in the first ten rounds, and there are a group of later choices between rounds 16 and 19 that are worthy of consideration as well: Frank Schwindel, Spencer Torkelson, Miguel Sano, and Luke Voit.
But the key here is to look at the assumed plate appearances in the chart at the top. Is Frank Schwindel going to be the unquestioned starter for the Cubs and get those 576 plate appearances? Will Luke Voit find his way to regular playing time (Steamer has him projected for 572 plate appearances) or will he be buried on the Yankees’ depth chart?
|STEAMER STATS: (LISTED IN ORDER OF DRAFT RANK Jan 6-20)||ADP||NET (auction value minus approx. round value)|
|LaMont Wade Jr.||305||$0.80|
Other questions can be raised about the first basemen with lower Steamer projections. Two of the lowest projections (under 500 plate appearances) are those for Alex Kirilloff and Rowdy Tellez. Drafters seem to be buying on Kirilloff’s chances (13th round of a 15-team league) to find regular at-bats, but selling Tellez’s opportunity (20th round).
One thing is certain, though, if a fantasy owner CAN find a late first base selection with playing time, they can use earlier picks to draft players that provide steals and a strong batting average base (not to mention pitching). The alternate approach is to take the relatively sure thing with an earlier first base choice and find later options for steals and pitching – utilizing the earlier first base choice to provide a strong batting average along with the other offensive stats. Either way, my counsel is to look carefully at the plate appearance projections – if you see an underestimate, there may be hidden value that is worth targeting during draft season.