Tout Table: Early Draft Lessons

We’re back! Welcome to the inaugural Tout Wars Roundtable for the 2022 season. Once a week (or so), we’ll pose a query to the Touts and post the results here. We started off with an easy one:

What is something different you’ve noticed about this drafting season that readers can take into their upcoming drafts?

Brian Walton (CreativeSports2, @B_Walton): With the condensed spring training, many players remain unsigned. My advice is that well before your draft, ensure your league has documented a clear policy regarding free agent eligibility and that it is communicated to the league members.

James Anderson (Rotowire, @RealJRAnderson): Player values are changing faster than ever, so if at all possible, fantasy managers need to be working off a set of rankings/values that they’ve put together themselves. Drafting off a set of projections or a set of rankings from a site is more suboptimal than ever this year, as the news is coming in too fast for those sources to keep up with. For instance, guys like Matt Brash and Jeremy Pena are legitimate mixed league options, but you might not realize that if you’re looking at site rankings or projections. NFBC Main Event ADP is a good source of which players to consider. Obviously certain types of players get pushed up more there than in home leagues, but it’s a good way to see which players in the 200-400 range the sharps are on.

Alex Fast (Pitcher List, @AlexFast8): People seem far more willing to jump up the prospect that they’re interested in. Coming into this year we have a good chance of seeing a lot of high end prospects on Opening Day: Bobby Witt Jr, Julio Rodriguez, even Adley Rutschman before he got injured. I’ve noticed owners more willing to take risks on those guys earlier and earlier.

Michael A. Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): The scarcity of pitching – both starters and closers – has created a greater demand for the upper echelon pitchers at much higher prices. Closers are always volatile, but there are so few options of consistently successful closers which has created scenarios where they are going in the first 4-5 rounds. GMs are being forced to react to closer runs earlier than expected, so it is causing some shift in draft strategy for fear of missing out. There is also a greater willingness to reach for prospects who have not even made their big league debuts. The success of rookies recently has given GMs more confidence in drafting players such as Bobby Witt, Jr. much earlier than originally expected.

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): Especially in auction format, there has very aggressive pursuit of “solid closers” and SB guys, with a corresponding reduction in lower-tier SPs, creating bargains. Don’t wait too late, though. It feels like there are more rosterable hitters late than rosterable pitchers.

John Laghezza (The Athletic, @MLBMovingAvg): I’m seeing high stakes leagues drafting more risk averse than ever. I was shocked to see Ronald Acuña Jr. fall to pick 24, and Fernando Tatis Jr. fall to pick 152 in Main Events.

Anthony Perri (Fantistics, @Anthony_Perri): Starting Pitching! They are going off the board much faster than in previous seasons. We know that elite Starting Pitchers are much more valuable in a conventional 5×5 format than elite hitters because of the roster dynamics 14/9, however there is more inherit risk of repeatability (mostly because of injury). I’m fine with the risk for the top shelf pitcher, but the push is causing 2nd and 3rd tier starting pitching to be overvalued.

Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): In Tout NL I was blindsided by a depression of money spent on top pitchers. The curious part of that is that more money was spent on middling pitchers. My analysis says buy the best pitchers, the middlin’ guys are the worst risk. But the fact of pitching is if you get the right guy he can change your year no matter what he cost.

Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, The Process, @jeffwzimmerman): Many drafters are locked into the pre-CBA valuations and aren’t adjusting fast enough to changes in hitter playing time. Also, understanding that ERA and WHIP support the top closer prices and the point when a closer only helps in accumulating Saves (and drag down the ratios).

Andy Behrens (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @andybehrens): We are pretty clearly in a Closer Bubble right now and it’s going to wreck anyone who’s double-tapping Hendriks and Hader (or whoever else) at the top of drafts. This is some of the wildest in-draft behavior I’ve ever seen, with no hope of ending well. Zero. None. Don’t do this thing, friends. Saves can still be found late and/or on the wire.

Rick Wolf (Fantasy Alarm, @RickWolf1): Most mixed and NL ONLY fantasy leagues that I am in, have not adapted to the DH being in the NL. In mixed leagues, owners are still giving NL preference to pitchers and did not adjust to the free agents mostly signing in the NL and the addition of a non-pitcher hitting 9th. Also, targets for NL Only leagues have to be adjusted. Lastly, heavy focus on the front line starters with the changing roles. Feels like group think has been to flow that way, but it does the opposite. It creates more value at the lower end of the pitching pool and takes dollars away from rostering the top hitters.

Matt Williams (The Athletic, @MattWi77iams): There have not been a strong enough adjustments in terms of acquisition cost to post-lockout playing time changes. At-bats are such an important part of player value and fantasy managers need to stay on top of those details.

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): 1) be on top of injury news like crazy right now because it will all be coming fast and furious this week. 2) account for the extra meaningful PAs in your NL projections from the DH. 3) take careful consideration of the opportunity cost when going for a premium closer; flipside is whether you can accumulate saves without one (some can, some can’t). 4) you can run out of starting pitchers quickly while there are solid batters to be had late–do not get caught overloading early bats. 5) you have to adjust faster than your projection systems update because of the rush of news all at the end of this truncated spring. Good luck!

Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotobuzzGuy): Closer value is at an all-time high in drafts. Even the mediocre guys who could land in committee situations are being pushed up in drafts. By the time you get to Round 10, you’re looking at Craig Kimbrel who is still waiting to be traded, David Bednar or one of the Barlows. You want saves, you’re going to have to pay for them.

Sara Sanchez (, @BCB_Sara): The deluge of injury news that followed the lockout has created some curious behavior in terms of how players are being assessed in drafts in the lead up to the season. At times it feels like people are reacting to an injury that may have occurred in December as if it just happened this week. Having the ability to read between the lines of an injury that occurred months ago and has already been sufficiently rehabbed as opposed to an ongoing issue is crucial. I’ve been trying to stay on top of workouts, who’s throwing off a mound outside of games, and looking for specific timelines to ensure I am taking injury risk seriously while simultaneously not overreacting to a four-month old injury as if it happened two weeks ago.

Brad Johnson (NBC SportsEDGE, @BaseballATeam): Reading over a lot of the comments above this, my reaction to most is “Yea, sometimes. But also the opposite happens a lot too.” I know we all draft with each other often so I wonder how much that is feeding into the trends we’ve observed. I will say, the guys I’ve targeted all winter are going earlier and earlier. Which I actually enjoy because it helps me to diversify to other players.

Tristan H. Cockcroft (ESPN, @SultanofStat): It’s not a universal trend, but catchers seem to be getting marked up in a lot of leagues I’ve been in or seen so far, as fantasy managers desperately attempt to avoid being stuck with the .220-hitting, 8-homer part-timer. I get that fear, but it doesn’t make sense to reach for guys like Daulton Varsho, Keibert Ruiz or Mitch Garver to the extent it seems you need to. I remind: In terms of raw earnings, meaning just the stats with no positional bonuses, the only catchers to finish among 2021’s top 160 earners were Salvador Perez and J.T. Realmuto.

Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): Here are a few of my pricing takes: 3B prices seem reasonably pushed up due to the dry position. SS prices have been overinflated – there are tons of good SS options in the mid-rounds. As Tristan just noted, catcher prices have been pushed up far too much. Starting pitcher prices have been in line with recent past, although with more added risk this year, possibly should not be. Others have already noted that closer prices have been insanely pushed up. Outfielders I have noticed have been relatively cheap. OF is a good place to find value this year. I’ve also noticed that the “free agent signing” effect has been high – simply signing with a team has pushed up ADPs significantly. Finally, the Baltimore field dimension changes seemed not to have an affect on player ADP, though it should. Most notably and contrary to logic – John Means’s market price actually went down slightly after the change.

Nick Pollack (Pitcher List, @PitcherList): Truly make sure you know all your options for infield positions before you enter your draft. Each can dry up quickly and if you spend the early rounds on outfielders and pitching, you can quickly find yourself in a place of confusion and disarray trying to figuring out who your best options are and at what point you should be reaching for them.

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): Perhaps I haven’t been in enough leagues, but I have been surprised by the lack of consistency in valuation. I guess the one thing I’ve felt that has been happening is an over valuation of younger players and that’s made some boring vets potential bargains.

Derek Carty (RotoGrinders, @DerekCarty): Don’t overpay for rookies. Don’t overpay for rookies. Don’t overpay for rookies. Drafting Bobby Witt Jr. is throwing your season away. It’s not just good advice for this season, it’s every year. If you’re in a league with less than 20 people, don’t overpay for rookies or you lose 90% of the time.

CJ Kaltenbach (Fantasy Guru, @TheSeigeDFS): The goal is to win, been stunned to see how scared of risk owners were in Main event drafts, its hard to find top end talent on waivers so be aggressive and get it in your draft room!

Dr. Roto (Dr. Roto Fantasy Sports, @DrRoto): Remember that there is a DH in both leagues. Also, make note that 200 IP is a rarity these days. Focus on getting 150 IP from your starters.

Greg Jewett (Fantasy Alarm, @gjewett9): With closer roles unsettled in the fantasy landscape, read the room and target a reliever with a clear pathway towards saves early on in drafts, then build around him. Waiting too long will create the FAAB train chasing last week’s saves all season long. Presently undervalued options like Taylor Rogers, Matt Barnes and Jake McGee may not be in this category much longer.

Adam Ronis (Fantasy Alarm, @AdamRonis): The price for the top closers are higher than usual. With so many unsettled closer jobs and more committees, the closers with stable jobs are costing more. Be prepared to pay more in an auction or spend a higher pick than usual in a draft.

Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): Close prices other than Aroldis Chapman are through the roof. There are so few closers with locked down roles that fantasy managers are overpaying, again, other than Chapman. In my mind, that is an opportunity. Yes, there was some wildness but his K%, SWK%, FPK%, and gb% all consistent with career norms. Oh and that new splitter — well Fangraphs says he threw it 11% of the time with a 35+% swinging strike rate. Yep, I will take the steep discount vs. Iglesias, Pressley, Clase every day of the week.

Chris Blessing (Baseball HQ, @C_Blessing): We’re all so hard up for saves and paying way too much, trying to win the category when one injury here and one ineffective month there can send your squad spending coin on FAAB for a position you already overspent on in the draft. While I spent in AL Touts to get Raisel Iglesias, I’ve been willing to speculate on saves from a group of contenders in shakier bullpens, sometimes seemingly punting saves all together and grabbing bullpen talent. Everyone has their resources, of course. I love looking at closer depth charts and finding the guys who are not listed in the first couple slots, then speculating on the most talented of those groupings. It’s how I ran into saves last year, which helped propel my teams to the middle of save leaderboards. Guys like Jorge Alcala and Seranthony Dominguez fall into these categories this year.

Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): NFBC ADP for closers is significantly higher than what the non-NFBC market is paying for closers. This makes sense – it is imperative not to chuck a category overboard in a league with an overall contest component like NFBC has – but it is an opportunity for you to wait out the market and take the best of the top 8-10 closers a round or two later than they’re going in NFBC Draft Champions and Main Event leagues. I was able to capitalize on this in TGFBI by getting Jordan Romano 29 picks after his ADP and Will Smith in Tout Mixed Draft (ouch) before the Kenley Jansen signing nearly 35 picks after Smith’s ADP at the time.

Shelly Verougstraete (Dynasty Guru, @ShellyV_643): The price for closers has been crazy. Some of the guys that are in committees that normally would be taken in the later rounds are now going much higher. I get paying up for one of them but unless you are getting some of the top guys, it is not worth it.

Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): The disparity of ADPs for players that are either presently injured or are coming off of serious injury. For example, Ronald Acuna Jr. is targeting an early May return, yet he is ranked anywhere between 3 and 45. His present draft ADP is 12.0. Fernando Tatis Jr. fractured his wrist and may be out for as long as three months. He is ranked anywhere between 26 and 145. His present draft ADP is 48.0. You can build a draft strategy around these two players, if you are willing to take on the risk. The risks are high, but so are the rewards.

Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): The shortened spring has created less position battles and more uncertainty at some positions, especially at closer. I’m finding elite level closers, Hader, Hendricks etc. are being drafted earlier than years past and earlier than expected. In deeper drafts teams are also backing up their questionable closers with the presumed next in line.

Grey Albright (RazzBall, @razzball): I find the best thing to take into any draft is a snack. Maybe Wheat Thins, possibly a ball of cheese. Nothing covered in nuts.

Matt Truss (Razzball, @MattTruss): This drafting season being mixed in with FA signings/trades and a condensed spring training has been…interesting. Have Twitter handy, it can never hurt to run a search on a player’s name right before you draft them, just to confirm they haven’t been traded to the Marlins since you last checked.

Tim McCullough (Baseball Prospectus, @TimsTenz): Team roster moves are going to be fast and furious for awhile once the season starts. Keep a close eye on the news. This goes double for closers. Roles are going to change often for the high leverage guys. Don’t go crazy with FAAB trying to get the next “big closer” off the wire in the first month or two.

Bret Sayre (Baseball Prospectus, @BretSayreBP): I think the best thing about this drafting season, even though it is condensed, is that the lack of Spring Training games has caused less overthinking based unnecessary spring stats. It’s healthier for everyone involved.

Fred Zinkie (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @FredZinkieMLB): Get a 3B when you can. If you don’t you’ll overpay in the second half of your draft. Also, I agree that some injured players are being discounted too much, which is creating a buying opportunity.

Vlad Sedler (Fantasy Guru, @rotogut): Feels like more market volatility than ever. Drafters moving players up and down their draft boards based on spring training news, no matter big or small. Competition feels sharper and savvier than in past draft seasons. Really have to grind and plan!

Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): The closer crop stinks this year! There seem to be far fewer locked in guys than in the past, forcing you to speculate on which of three mediocre pitchers are going to earn the lion’s share of saves for the remaining teams without a set closer. It’s brutal. I usually like dipping into the lower locked in closer tier with good skills, but less experience. I don’t think that tier even exists this year. So it’s more important to get at least one solid, locked-in guy, since the speculations are worse and more challenging to predict.

Joe Sheehan (The Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, @joe_sheehan): I’m seeing a lot less rote drafting, and a lot more variance in approaches. Drafters, as a whole, seem more willing to deviate from ADPs and the most popular strategies and the things you “have” to do in favor of applying their own opinions and taking original approaches. They’re not all winners, to be sure, but it makes any given draft much less predictable and much more challenging.

Mike Alexander (Fantasy Alarm, @Roto_Wan): With the labor dispute causing such a disruption this spring I think we’re going to find playing time shifts to be the greatest arbitrage opportunity. The obvious cases of unknown closer roles and rotation spots will reward drafters who prioritize surety and/or low-cost risk. There will be injury news and lineup battles that continue to trickle about position players, however. Things that the organization knows but is keeping close to the vest.

Jason Collette (Rotowire, @jasoncollette): A better educated market in terms of bounce back pitchers. It used to be guys with 4+ ERA and homer problems saw discounts the following season, yet Aaron Nola, Yu Darvish, Logan Gilbert, and Triston McKenzie have seen little to no discount this year coming off their troubles last season.

Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): With so many teams having uncertain Closer situations, if you don’t nab one of the top Closers, feel free to wait until the latter stages of your draft – there will still be a handful of good options who are just an injury or a few blown Save opportunities away from a shot at being Closers themselves (e.g. – Anthony Bender, Pierce Johnson, Jonathan Loaisiga). Fill other roster needs first, then come back and grab a reliever or two during the end game.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Clearly, the goal in roto leagues is spreading stolen bases around, but if everyone wants to do it, the cost goes up and the inventory dries up fast. This leaves a race to Myles Straw which only one team can win. However, there are some late speed darts if you are left devoid of bags. Examples are Vidal Brujan, Victor Robles and Jorge Mateo.