SP Strategy Roundtable

MLB: NLDS-St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers

Hey everyone,

As we move along in our 12-team, 23-round industry slow mock draft, I just wanted to share with 411 Nation the e-mail responses to a draft-related question that Cory posed to the group. Below is Cory’s original question followed by replies from a number of the participants.

Cory says:

Strategy question for the room. I’ve noticed a couple of teams that took “elite” SP’s early on, then waited a bit to take their SP2, particularly:

EMack: Kershaw (1), Harvey (10)

Zach: Price (4), Shields (10)

Ray: Hamels (5), Archer (10)

Compare that to a couple of other teams who clearly went the “dual aces” route:

Jeff: Sale (3), Cueto (5)

Gonos: Darvish (4), Waino (6)

Seems to me that taking the former route somewhat defeats the purpose. If you take an early SP, but then wait for your SP2, doesn’t that somewhat “dilute” the ace? Whereas in the second approach, you essentially get two guys who, in the sum, are comparable/better than the diluted approach.

In other words, if you don’t back up the ace with a strong #2, does that somewhat defeat the purpose, and argue in favor of waiting to take two less expensive but comparable starters, more of a 1a/1b approach?

You can probably tell which way I lean based on how I’m framing the question, but I’m curious what the group thinks. I was the last team in this draft to take my SP1, and still only have that one, so obviously my approach is the outlier…curious what is viewed as the optimal approach based on a more traditional approach to drafting SP.

Thoughts?

And the replies:

David Gonos says: My preference is to wait a round or two from the top starters, then get a couple — since they’re NOT the very top — and then I benefit from two very good starters, while also using that very early pick for a very good hitter.

Todd Zola says: I don’t think you can look at SP in a vacuum as CL add more to a fantasy staff than many realize — especially now with top-to-bottom stats being bunched tighter and a few closers providing off-the-chart ratios. That said, I don’t think you can do the draft equivalent of Pedro and 6 $1 starters but you don’t have to necessarily follow up with your second SP the first 5 rounds either. It also depends on how many pitching points you want versus hitting points. A winning team can be constructed an infinite number of ways but I do feel your margin of error is lessened when taking an ace in the first two rounds. You can still assemble a staunch offense without a top pick, but you can’t miss on too many of the following picks.

Zach Steinhorn says: I used to be of the mindset to wait as long as possible (like Round 7-8) to draft my SP1 but have gradually shifted towards drafting one elite SP if I can get him at a fair cost. It just protects me against possible SP mistakes later on. As for the SP2, I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to get an impact bat (like Fielder in Round 5) to draft a 1A type SP (like Zimmermann) after already spending my previous pick on an SP. I guess I go more by the “spread the risk” philosophy. But like Todd said, I don’t think you can go into any draft with a set plan.

Jeff Erickson says: It somewhat depends for me. For the NFBC, it’s really difficult to get two aces unless you’re willing to take them in the first three rounds. Last year, my top tier had 12 pitchers, and they were all gone by the 40th pick – 3.10. I wimped out on Kershaw in the first round because the draft came after his first start in Australia and his subsequent injury. I then opted against taking the second starter in the draft at 2.4. By the time I picked again at 3.12, they were gone. In this format, it was purposeful for me to grab two aces. But Lester fell all the way to 8.12, and he is in my first tier, so that sort of backfired.

Ray Flowers says: For me, it’s more about the team you construct. I also try to build my rotation in the middle. I don’t target a top-10 arm. Instead, I like to have 3-4 of the top-35 arms. I often find myself going heavy pitchers in the 7-13 rounds. At that point, others tend to be targeting some positional weaknesses as the hitters grow scarce, an issue I don’t have to deal with since I’ve been adding bats while others were going pitching. As Todd said, it’s always league dependent. I also think that predicting success with arms isn’t difficult. In a few leagues last year, I had Cueto, Ross, Kluber – two of the three – as my outside the first 10 round selections. Add the right guys and you don’t have to go super early for starters. I like to try and find the value.

Tim Heaney says: I think you still can have an ace, then wait to find someone that could put up ace-like numbers. But as Ray said, you have to be confident the middle-rounder’s journey up toward acehood is a near lock. And with the top-end pitching numbers standing out more and more for those with a track record, that gap is actually widening a bit. I considered Lester the last of SP1s for whom I’d reach, and to land him as a SP2 in Round 8 was enjoyable. I hold Cobb, Teheran and Gray in a similar tier and planned to grab one a bit later — more than probable because it’s a 12-teamer. The flow of this draft made it possible; I can’t guarantee it would be like this elsewhere.

Lawr Michaels says: I guess my taking Madbum/Greinke 3/4 (with only your two picks in between, Cory) slipped your eyeballs? I do always bust up when asked not just what my strategy is going into a draft, especially the first rounds. The truth is, I don’t have a clue what I am going to do 99% of the time (#1 pick, when a Trout or Pujols or a healthy Miggy are out there makes up the 1% balance). However, I do know that first pick largely dictates what direction I take from there. We all know that pitching is deep this year, so waiting on starting pitching is not only fashionable, but it makes sense. Well, one thing I do try to do when drafting is select based upon what the guys in the league give/leave for me. Since I knew, or suspected that for a large part most of you guys would indeed fade pitching, I decided to grab two aces right there for a baseline, then pick a bunch of hitters, and then go back to pitching (which I kind of have been), then fill out. As to Cory’s point, I think it does seem to split the two (eg Kershaw 1, Harvey 10) defeats the purpose. Though again, pitching is so seemingly abundant that it is hard to wreck a pitching strategy up aside from taking everyone thinking of Marco Estrada in 2013, and getting Marco Estrada 2014.

Eric Mack says: I pick players when it makes sense based on their value…re: average draft position. I tend to pick pitchers very late in analyst leagues, because analysts don’t pick pitchers. I decided Kershaw was better than the alternatives when I picked, also the case in Chapman and Harvey. I think I picked the best three pitchers in baseball—Kershaw, Chapman and Harvey—regardless of where I picked them. Suggesting Harvey should drag on Kershaw is a farce. Unless you are a tiny cell in Harvey’s elbow that knows it’s not going to prove healed or you have some super advanced pitching metrics that suggests Harvey isn’t the pitcher he had shown before surgery. I know of neither. To me, he is an ace, albeit on a Mets team that might not have enough offense to win yet.

Well, that does it. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts.

-Zach

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