How BABS Optimizes the First Round
Sections of this article appear in The BABS Project.
As we start inching our way into the 2017 draft season, one of the hottest topics will be the handling of the first round in snake drafts.
Intuitively, you would think that first round players are the most projectable. We obsess over our draft slot positioning. We use this pick as an anchor to determine how the next few rounds need to progress. And we need this pick to return fair value.
That’s a lot of pressure on these players to perform.
But history shows that first-rounders – our top 15 picks – are largely disappointments. According to the Baseball Forecaster, only 35.5 percent of first round picks finish with earnings ranked anywhere among the top 15 players. Only 52.8 percent of first-rounders earn value ranked anywhere in the top 30 players.
BABS knows that we attach high expectations to these top players and sometimes it is not justified. Those expectations do not take into account the risks that come bundled with the numbers we are hoping for. The conservative player should reject risk in the first round.
The 2016 season is a good example. Here is what the first round ADP ranking looked like coming into last season:
ADP Player Assets Liabilities 1 Mike Trout P+,s,AV 2 Paul Goldschmidt P+,AV+ 3 Bryce Harper P+,AV+ inj- 4 Clayton Kershaw E+,K+ 5 Josh Donaldson P+,AV+ 6 Carlos Correa p,AV EX,Rg 7 Nolan Arenado P+,AV 8 Manny Machado p,AV inj- 9 Giancarlo Stanton P+,AV+ inj- 10 Anthony Rizzo PW,AV+ 11 Kris Bryant P+,s,+ e 12 Jose Altuve SB,AV Rg 13 Andrew McCutchen P+,AV+ 14 Max Scherzer ER,K+ 15 Miguel Cabrera PW,AV+ inj-
There are a variety of skills pockets within these 15 players. Some are legitimately worthy of first-round consideration; some not so much. In fact, there are a good few players drafted after this group that would have been better considerations for the top 15.
I approached the above list in two stages: first screening out the players with major Liabilities and then focusing on the remaining best Asset profiles.
I am risk-averse when it comes to first-rounders so I immediately passed on Harper, Correa, Machado, Stanton, Bryant and Cabrera. That would have filtered out some of 2016’s biggest disappointments, even though I would have also missed out on a few good performances. There’s always that risk of collateral opportunity cost.
The remaining players would have been considered in order of best to worst Asset profiles, favoring batters over pitchers. My first round draft list would then have been:
The only real miss here was McCutchen. To fill out the rest of my draft list (assuming those nine players got drafted before my pick), I could pull up some low-risk second-rounders, like Edwin Encarnacion and Starling Marte. But by filtering out the bigger Liabilities up front, BABS increased my odds of avoiding a first round bust.
An early look at the 2017 first round ADPs looks like this (final 2016 ratings shown):
ADP Player Assets 1 Mike Trout P+ s AV 2 Mookie Betts p SB AV 3 Jose Altuve p s AV 4 Kris Bryant P+ AV 5 Clayton Kershaw E+ K+ 6 Paul Goldschmidt p AV 7 Nolan Arenado P+ AV 8 Manny Machado PW AV 9 Max Scherzer ER K+ 10 Bryce Harper p 11 Josh Donaldson P+ AV 12 Trea Turner P+ S+ AV 13 Anthony Rizzo PW AV 14 Charlie Blackmon PW AV 15 Madison Bumgarner ER KK
There are already several players who appear to be head-scratchers. The first pass of 2017 ratings will be out next week at which time we can begin the process of fully evaluating what this year’s drafts will look like.
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