Player Valuation Tip #3: Valuing your Picks and Making Preseason Trades

Tip #1: Where do player values come from?
Tip #2: The Hit/Pitch split

Does everyone love the snake draft? No. Is the snake draft necessary because it's hard to convince people to spend 8 hours on an auction draft? Yes. For those of us in keeper leagues, this time of year brings the additional joyous task of trying to strategize for the upcoming draft. Do you trade away players for picks and rebuild in the draft? Trade away picks for players to strengthen your core team? Try to steal away the most undervalued players in the league before their owners realize what they have? Cut any number of ways, if you start throwing draft picks on the table at some point you’ll arrive at the question… what is a draft pick worth, anyway?

As referenced in my entry on the hit/pitch split, constructing a value curve for your league is fairly easy. Using either the Big Board or your favorite site’s Auction $ values, you can create a table to map an approx. $ value onto every pick of the draft. The Big Board makes it super easy since you can put in your specific league settings and out pops the BIGz values, in dollars, for every player. For example, if we pull up the default Big Board:

 
 

Here we have the $ values for the first 30 picks of the draft, ranging from $41 at pick 1 to $21 at pick 30. It's literally as easy as looking at the nth-ranked player's BIGz score if you want to find the value of the nth pick in the draft. Having this direct translation is great because now your draft picks become currency. Say someone is offering you Edwin Encarnacion ($21) for your Anthony Rizzo ($26). First of all, don’t do it, because Anthony Rizzo is the best. Second of all, you could balance this trade out by sending your 12th round pick (~$9) and getting back a 6th round pick (~$16). Now you're coming out $2 ahead! Every bit helps. I probably wouldn't do it if the total $ value for each side was even, but gaining a few bucks in value can be significant. And what's more, you can see this math play out super easily with the trade tool on the Big Board:

Sometimes it won’t be as simple as balancing the ledger – for instance, I probably wouldn’t trade away Mike Trout ($41) for four $10 players since the $10 value of each of those players will start to evaporate once I pick up other, non-zero valued players in the draft. The trade tool lets you account for this by putting a value on an empty roster spot. If, say, a roster spot is worth ~$5 to you, then the Mike Trout for four $10 guys trade actually becomes a big ~$16 loss for you:

Of course, there’s always wiggle room. Some managers will value depth over premium talent, some will value high ceilings over high floors, some want to win now and others, later (but come on, you want to win now, don’t you?). Countless articles out there will tell you all about the art of negotiation and ‘winning’ your trades. But translate your players and your picks to $ values and you’ve at least got somewhere to start when evaluating potential trades.