Part 1: The Hit-Pitch Split
It may come off as odd to say this, as a purveyor of the best draft tool around, but draft tools can't do everything. One of the great subtleties to drafting in fantasy baseball is seeing and exploiting tiers within each position. While the Big Board will help you see them, it's another thing to plan for them and make sure you avoid the biggest dropoffs in each position on draft day.
After calculating player values and ranking them, you'd like to think you could just always draft the best available remaining player... but if there were 4 great players and 8 terrible ones at a given position in a 12 team league, you would want to make sure you're one of the 4, not one of the 8. And on top of that, if you can get the 4th of the four good ones, you'll be able to spend time on other positions earlier in the draft without giving up much. This is illustrated pretty well at 3B this year: Donaldson, Machado, Bryant, and Arenado are followed by a HUGE gap before Tier 2 starts with Todd Frazier. It's a great argument for taking a 3B in the 1st/2nd round. If you don't get one of the top 4 3B, you're signing yourself up to gamble on the Tier 2 guys (Frazier, Beltre, Seager, Franco, Carpenter, Longo), or even one of the later ones. If I don't get one of the top-4, I'll be shooting for the last guy drafted out of tier 2.
Users of the Big Board will have seen this already, but using the default Big Board custom projections, the distribution of player values looks like this for a standard 5x5 ESPN league:
Included in that plot are blue circles representing every above-replacement level player at each position, as well as black dashes for the average value of a player at each position as well as bars for a positive and negative standard deviation above/below this value. It's a little hard to take too much away from just this initial look, but you can at least see here that there are clearly clusters of players that you might say are similarly valuable.
Another way to vizualize these tier dropoffs in the Big Board is in the Best Remaining tab. Around pick 100 in an ESPN league, your remaining players might look something like this:
For one, ESPN's ranking of Yasiel Puig is just silly, and he'll probably be gone by now. But before I get ahead of myself, here we have lists of the three most valuable players remaining at each position, with their values in green (to the left of the name), and the dropoff to the next player in red (to the right of the name). Large, dark red numbers are what we're looking for here - they represent big dropoffs at a given position. For instance, if Franco were drafted, you might want to prioritize drafting Longoria ASAP as there appears to be a big dropoff from him to the next 3B, Moustakas. Same could be said of the next two 2B's, Rendon and Murphy. Depending on your leaguemates' draft strategies, you may also need to look at ADP to determine when players are likely to be drafted, but the basic strategy remains the same. Don't miss the ends of those tiers!
And finally, I'll throw out some tiers for each position, based on the Big Board's valuations. I will point out a disclaimer here, that tiers can be extremely subjective, but I'll do my best to draw lines between players that make sense based on upside/downside as well as values as-calculated by the Big Board. The best thing you can do for your personal draft prep this offseason is to look at each position, decide where you think the tiers exist, and start to form a draft plan from there. These should serve as a starting point but your opinions may vary! More details and analysis to follow in the coming weeks, but for now here's where they stand:
Tier 1: Posey, Schwarber Tier 2: McCann, S. Perez Tier 3: Lucroy, Mesoraco, D'Arnaud, Grandal, R. Martin Tier 4: Hundley, Y. Gomes, Vogt, Molina, Wieters, D. Norris
Tier 1: Goldschmidt, M. Cabrera, Rizzo Tier 2: Abreu, Encarnacion, Votto, Freeman Tier 3: Pujols, Hosmer, A. Gonzalez Tier 4: Teixiera, Belt, B. Park, Santana, Duda Tier 5: Zimmerman, Bour, Lind, Adams, Cron, Mauer, Moreland, Carter
Tier 1: Altuve, Gordon Tier 2: Cano, Odor Tier 3: Rendon, Kinsler, Kipnis, Pedroia, Dozier, Zobrist, Murphy, Harrison Tier 4: LeMahieu, Forsythe, Wong, Philips, Walker, Schoop Tier 5: Panik, Baez, Travis, Kendrick, C. Hernandez, T. Turner
Tier 1: Correa Tier 2: Bogaerts, Tulowitzki Tier 3: C. Seager, Lindor Tier 4: Kang, Andrus, Russell, Reyes, Semien, Desmond Tier 5: K. Marte, Crawford, Castro, J. Peralta, J. Iglesias, Segura Tier 6: Aybar, Escobar, B. Miller, Simmons
Tier 1: Donaldson, Machado, Arenado, Bryant Tier 2: Frazier, Beltre, K. Seager, Franco, Longoria Tier 3: Carpenter, Moustakas, Duffy Tier 4: Sandoval, Castellanos, Plouffe, J. Turner, Headley, Reynolds Tier 5: Tomas, Valbuena, Prado, Lamb, Wright, Valencia
Tier 1: Trout, Harper, Stanton Tier 2: McCutchen, Betts, Pollock, Marte, C. Davis, J. Upton Tier 3: Braun, J. Bautista, J.D. Martinez, Blackmon, Heyward, C. Gonzalez, Springer, Puig, A. Jones, N. Cruz Tier 4: B. Hamilton, Cespedes, Cain, Gomez, Yelich, Ellsbury Tier 5: Kemp, Polanco, D. Peralta, H. Ramirez, Pillar, Grichuk, Parra Tier 6: Pence, Soler, Deshields, Trumbo, Myers, Bruce, Reddick Tier 7: Calhoun, Choo, Pederson, A. Gordon, Piscotty, Holliday Tier 8: Melky Cabrera, Eaton, K. Davis, Ozuna, Granderson, Gardner, A. Garcia, Conforto, Burns Tier 9: Buxton, Dickerson, Brantley, Revere, Inciarte, Fowler, Rosario, H. Kim, Souza, Duvall, Kiermaier
Tier 1: Kershaw Tier 2: Scherzer, Arrieta, Sale, Bumgarner, Price Tier 3: Greinke, Cole, Kluber, Strasburg, J. Fernandez, Harvey, DeGrom, Carrasco, Archer, F. Hernandez, Lester Tier 4: Keuchel, Syndergaard, Cueto, Tanaka Tier 5: Gray, Hamels, Wainwright, Salazar, Liriano, Pineda, Samardzidja, T. Ross, Stroman Tier 6: W. Chen, R. Iglesias, Wacha, McCullers, Severino, Matz, Shields, Quintana, Smyly Tier 7: C. Martinez, Darvish, Rodon, G. Richards, Odorizzi, Ventura, T. Walker, Corbin Tier 8: McHugh, Maeda, Iwakuma, Lackey, Verlander, Zimmermann, Hendricks, Fiers, Ryu Tier 9: Kazmir, Kennedy, Buchholz, Porcello, Teheran, G. Gonzalez, E. Rodriguez, Cashner, Desclafani, Nola, J. Ross, Eickhoff, Eovaldi Tier 10: A. Sanchez, Hammel, Hahn, R. d.l.Rosa, Hutchison, Heaney, Happ, R. Hill, S. Miller, J. Garcia Tier 11: Cobb, Bailey, Wheeler, Lamb, Finnegan, A. Wood, M. Moore, C. Anderson, J. Nelson, Medlen, Heston, D. Norris Tier 12: Berrios, Glasnow, Giolito, Snell
Tier 1: Davis, Jansen, Kimbrel Tier 2: Chapman, Allen, Britton Tier 3: Rosenthal, Melancon, Familia, Robertson, Rondon Tier 4: Giles, Papelbon, Capps, Ramos, Boxberger, Doolittle, Perkins Tier 5: Grilli, F. Rodriguez, Tolleson, McGee, Street, Storen, Casilla Tier 6: A. Miller, Betances, Hoover, Rodney, Ziegler, Osuna, Cishek, Vizcaino, D. Hernandez Tier 7: Romo, Strickland, O'Day, Watson, C. Smith, W. Smith, Jeffress, Kela, Dyson, Uehara, Hudson, Gregerson