Rotoprofessor’s Draft Strategy: Drafting Prospects

Dec 4, 2008

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Drafting high-level rookie prospects is one of the toughest decisions to make because there generally is so much uncertainty surrounding them.  Unless you are drafting deep into Spring Training, you never know for sure if they will break camp with the big league club, and if they don’t how long it will be until they arrive.  You also have the uncertainty of exactly how they will produce (will they be Ryan Braun or Alex Gordon?).

Last year the big two players people debated over were Evan Longoria and Jay Bruce.  I was involved in a draft where Longoria was taken in the sixteenth round (out of twenty-one rounds), while Bruce went undrafted.  Obviously, we all know that Longoria paid huge dividends to this owner (well, he would have if he had not grown inpatient and dropped him in mid-May, though his lose was my gain).

Obviously, gambling on rookies doesn’t work for all formats.  If you are in a league that has a very small bench (3 or less), you really don’t have the room to stash a player away, hoping that he gets recalled and makes an impact.  That makes this a non-issue and they should be left for the waiver wire unless you are 100% positive that they will break camp with the team.

Keeper leagues, on the other hand, it’s a no-brainer to take the risk.  When you have the option to get a player who could help you for not only this season, but future years as well, you have to roll the dice, especially in the later rounds.

It’s those yearly leagues where you have plenty of bench space available to you where you have to determine if it is worth taking the gamble and when.  Honestly, it’s a very low risk proposition, especially at the tail end of your draft once you have your starting line-up set in stone.  Taking a player like that to potentially hold onto makes tremendous sense to me.  He has the potential to perform as a starter and give your team a tremendous boost in the later rounds.

Once you decide to draft a rookie, the next question is how do you decide who?  First of all, I’d be much more apt to gamble on a hitter over a pitcher, despite the fact pitchers are more likely to arrive in the majors.  A rookie pitcher has proven to be inconsistent, they could dominate one game and get shelled the next.  That’s not to say that rookie pitchers are unusable, but I’d rather grab them off the waiver wire as opposed to using a draft choice.

That leaves great young hitters as the object of our affections here.  I would’ve supported owners drafting Longoria and Bruce last season from the sixteenth round and later.  I would’ve recommended the same thing with Ryan Braun prior to 2007 (in fact, I had grabbed him in the reserve round of my auction draft).

For me, taking a gamble from the sixteenth round and later on a potentially impact young bat is an easy call, if the right player presents himself.  For the past two years, there have been options available to us.  There could be this year as well, though time will tell.  Someone like Matt Wieters has been all the rage in expert mock drafts, though in my opinion people are going a little too crazy in reaching to draft him.  Matt LaPorta is another name to keep an eye on, though he’s more likely to go undrafted due to the position he plays.

So, how do you go about drafting rookies?  Do you avoid them?  Do you target them in the mid-to-late rounds?

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