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Friday, March 9, 2012

Hitting Doubles and Green Flags

The problem with the average fantasy sports manager is that they are either playing it safe or trying to hit a home run on every pick.  Combining the two is better, but not by an awful lot.  My suggestion is that you try to hit as many doubles as you can.

Some risk but a fair amount of upside.

When you are considering a draft pick, not just in baseball, look at trying to hit a double and get as much value as you can with the pick while limiting exposure to risk.  This is achieved by looking at the so-called 'ceiling' and 'floor' of the player.  The ceiling is the highest possible outcome that would be thought to be reasonable, but nothing outlandish.

The floor, of course, is obvious.  What is the worst the player would do if he was healthy but just not "feeling it" this year?  That is your floor.

For most unproven players or ones that are returning from injury, the gap between floor and ceiling will be fairly large.  Don't be the person who gets enamored with what is possible...  So many fantasy players take one line of thought with what is something that could conceivably happen that is so great

Another thing to remember, the guy coming back from a big injury like Tommy John surgery could be worse than replacement level this year, even if he won the Cy Young in his last healthy season.  You can afford to swing for the fences on a few picks, especially late in your draft, but don't allow yourself to rely on these guys when there are safer alternatives available.

Similarly, there is a place for the boring but steady veteran who is what he is.  Nothing special, but a reliable performer.  There is no upside so their price is likely to be perfectly in proportion to what they will deliver, and there's nothing wrong with that.  In fact, taking a few of these sorts of players throughout your draft will help to establish a baseline for you, which is something I will talk about in my audio series later this year.  Building a baseline will let you know where you can take risks and where you need to try to squeeze more value.

My recommendation is that your sprinkle reliable veterans across your roster with about half of your late (or 'cheaper' in an auction) picks being the high risk guys... but everyone else will be where you are trying to hit doubles.  These are the guys with fairly high floors but also with some ability to over-achieve their projections.  Usually this will be found in guys just entering their prime.  Proven guys who have established what can reasonably be expected but who have the ability to do even better.  In baseball this will usually be guys around ages 26-28 who are entering maybe their third year in the league.  In football it is earlier for running backs (23-25) and a little later for receivers and quarterbacks (25-29).

A few things to think about when looking at guys entering their prime:

1.)  Evaluate their playing time situation.  Are they being handed a full-time gig this year?  Is there some prospect right behind them?  Or, maybe a veteran brought in to provide "experience and stability"?
2.)  What is their pedigree?  Were they a highly touted prospect?  A high draft pick?  What happened in the minors (if a baseball player)?  Is there a track record there?  What did they do their first year or two in the league?  If they had a bump, was it explainable?
3.)  Environment.  What is their coaching situation like?  What sort of impact will teammates have - defense on a pitcher, receivers on a quarterback, etc.?  What is their home field like - ballpark dimensions in baseball, turf/grass and weather in football, fans, etc.?

Often when we look at the riskiness of players we talk about red flags.  When I look at some of these things I take note of the exact opposite - green flags.  What indicators exist that show me evidence that the player could out-produce their draft cost?  Once those green flags start piling up you will begin to feel even better about the prospect joining your squad and out-producing their cost.

One additional thought about these sorts of players.  The reason why they have potentially hidden value is because they have shown themselves to be decent players but they haven't had that really big year yet.  If you look at their playing time situation, pedigree, and environment you can start to map out their logical ceiling.  Their floor has already been established.  The best of these types of players go in the later single-digit rounds of snake drafts (5th-9th) and maybe a little later.  In auctions your probably looking to spend in the $8-$14 range for these guys.

Like I said, they have stable value.  If a guy is projected to cost around $10 but is one of those "entering his prime" sorts of players that we just defined, you can anticipate that even if they bottom out they will still be worth about $7 or so to you.

But if they hit their ceiling?  Hoo boy... Well, you're talking maybe $30 of value.

That's how you win leagues, my friends.

More to come, stay tuned.