Are Some Positions Riskier Than Others In The Early Rounds?

I have been browsing around the Reddit fantasy baseball community recently and I’ve seen some good questions pop up here and there. But, yesterday there was one particular claim that I had to test out. You see, there was a user who warned of the “high risk of drafting pitchers” in a post. Based on his experience over the past two years, he noted that pitchers were too unreliable to use early draft picks on. Maybe it was because I watched Mythbusters earlier that day but I felt very compelled to test that hypothesis.

Because of my recent post where I looked at the draft trends over the past six years based on player age, I already had a lot of ADP data at my disposal (once again, a thank you to FantasyGameday for sharing their archives with me). Regarding his claim, there was two things I needed to do in order to prepare: break down my data by position and only include the early round draft picks.

I opted to only include those drafted on average in the top 75 in a given year over the past six years and that left me with a pool of 504 players. The top drafted positions were OF (138), SP (97) and 1B (84). This gave us a fairly decent amount of players to be able to draw a conclusion from.

Average Change in ADP

In my first crunch of data, I looked at how much a player’s average draft position changed from one year to the next on average.

Pos Avg Draft Day ADP Avg Next Yr ADP Avg Change
SS 33 51 -19
OF 36 57 -21
2B 42 64 -22
3B 31 54 -23
SP 46 69 -23
C 48 77 -29
1B 30 60 -30
RP 62 98 -37
Total 39 63 -24

It actually turned out that SP’s were about average when it came to a drop in draft position. There wasn’t a huge difference within the top five here and it actually seemed like the volatility came from the C, 1B and RP positions.

“Major” Drops

That data didn’t tell the whole story though. There could be a catcher who dropped 250 spots and threw off the whole average here so it’s crucial to look at this another way too.

I decided to see what percentage of players experienced a “major” drop from one season to the next. For these early round draft picks, I felt that if they dropped more than 50 draft spots the next season then it was a major drop in value.

Pos % Major Drops
3B 13%
SS 15%
SP 15%
2B 17%
1B 21%
C 22%
OF 23%
RP 24%
Total 19%

With this data, we can see that SP’s actually were one of the least likely positions to suffer a major drop in value for their elite players. Once again, we see C, 1B and RP among those that were worse than league average so take that for what its worth as well.

Don’t Believe The Hype!

So there you have it. Thanks to my desire to debunk claims on internet forums, we all learned a little bit more today. Starting pitchers aren’t more unreliable than other positions. Relievers and catchers are a tad bit unreliable though so maybe watch out for them.

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  • Kelly Pfleiger
    February 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Always knew Relief Pitchers were volatile from year to year, but it is nice to see stats backing up that feeling. Great read.

  • Michael Barlow
    March 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Curious how you account for the major difference between the two statistics for OF?

  • Luke
    March 1, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    I'd have to look at the data a bit further to fully investigate but my thought is that OFers in the top of drafts were pretty much in two camps: rock solid (staying within one or two spots from year to year) or flash-in-the-pan (big drop the next year). As a result, the average change wasn't huge because of so many rock solid guys from year to year despite the number of major drops.