Harper Wallbanger's 2019 Tiers

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 drop-offs 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. This is one of the main weaknesses of using Replacement Levels to calculate player values. 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 C this year: Sanchez and Realmuto are an obvious top-2 of similar value, and are followed by gap before the next tier which contains Ramos, Contreras, Posey, Grandal, and Molina. After that, there is basically nothing above replacement level. It's a great argument for taking a C in the mid-rounds, before those top seven are gone. Conversely, if you don't get one of them, just chill out, don't panic and grab one of the crappy remaining guys immediately. If I don't get one of the top-7, I'll probably settle for a last-round catcher, or 2nd-to-last if I really have a favorite sleeper I’m targeting.

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:

 
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Included in that plot are red bars representing every above-replacement level player at each position, as well as black dashes for the average value of a player at each position and 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. The big gaps? Those are what mark out the tiers.

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:

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Here we have lists of the five most valuable players remaining at each position, with their values in green (to the left of the name), and the drop-off 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 drop-offs at a given position. For instance, right now Mondesi and Gallo are at similar values. But the gap from Gallo to the next OF is huge, $6! Even if you’re a bit worried about Gallo’s all or nothing approach, it’s time to grab him. Also keep an eye on the catchers… there are 5 remaining good ones, but they are going to start disappearing quick. Your next pick might be the time to pounce. 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. One of the best things you can do for your personal draft prep this offseason (besides buying the Big Board) is to look at each position, decide where you think the tiers exist, and start to form a draft plan from there. It's a great way to familiarize yourself with the players available at each position. My tiers should serve as a starting point but your opinions (or your league settings) may vary! I'll also mark spots where there are particularly large drop-offs. Tiers will have similar $ values, across all positions. That way you can compare apples to apples when considering what player to draft when. At the bottom of each position, I'll list an 'Upside' tier, low value players that I see value in, and a 'What's left' tier, the guys that I don't want, but you might be stuck with in late rounds/deep leagues. Anyway, here we go: