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Estimating value and worth can be a pain. You know what’s worse than just figuring it out for yourself? Doing that for your whole league, on the fly, as the draft is happening.

You’ll kill yourself if you’re actively trying to figure out everyone’s valuations moving forward, so don’t sweat that. What you can do is be the master of your domain and embody the “know thyself” adage.

Editor's note: Make sure you bookmark our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. Our rankings assistant tool combines all our staff's ranks in one place. You can easily filter and export all sorts of rankings and tiers - mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only, top prospects, dynasty ranks, and more.

 

Tiers: A Valuation Method Without Peer

Okay, so  what are tiers? Merriam-Webster has tier defined as “a row, rank, or layer of articles; especially: one of two or more rows, levels, or ranks arranged one above another”. For our purposes, it is a set of players that you see as being in the same level as the others. In our RotoBaller consensus ranks, we have Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Kris Bryant alone in Tier One as the top outfielders. They are close enough in expected production to be a step above the rest, and as such they should command the highest dollar amount.

So now imagine you’re in the middle of the draft and Justin Upton gets nominated. You’ve got your rankings list up and he’s the highest outfielder left on your board, so you know you’d like to snag him as your OF2. He is sitting there at $17 right now with someone else bidding against you. The question is how badly do you honestly want him, because if you’re just of the general persuasion that you like the guy it can be difficult to know how hard to push for Davis. You see that Jose Ramirez is still available, and he’s right behind Upton in your rankings, so you hold off on bidding any higher.

If you had tiers in your rankings then you might have realized that Upton was the last of the Tier Three outfielders available, and Ramirez is actually in Tier Four. You knew you liked Upton a tad more than Ramirez, but now you have a hard line of reference and you know that you see Upton as being on a higher level than Ramirez. Maybe you determined a cut-off based on general impression, or a blend of projections, or a specific HR+SB projected total where you’re trying to get the most out of those categories. Either way, you would have your bearings and could “mind the gap” between talent levels.

Now you saved two dollars by passing on Upton there, but are those going to really help you as much down the road with later picks to the point where it offsets the value-hit you took in settling for Ramirez? Most often, no they won’t. And of course, you can run into this tier-separation issue multiple times throughout one draft.

This brings up another plus to using tiers that can help you sidestep that scenario altogether. You’re not a fan of being pressed into overpaying for the last “best available” player in a tier. You can use the tiers to see when there are two or three players left in a tier, and look to get one of them before you are backed into a corner and have to choose between a bidding war or losing out on a player from that higher tier.

When you utilize tiers in your draft rankings, you will give yourself the best awareness at when certain tiers for certain positions are running dry (or not being attacked) as well as an easier way to organize your resources. A simple linear approach at the #1 player being worth $50 and then going on down to the $1 players is a decent starting point, but we both know talent in this league and the subsequent production does not work like that.

In auction drafts, you might see plenty of mediocre players nominated before the top talent really hits. You can also attack the rest of the draft room by seeing what players are going for in your respective tiers and then you get a mini-value tool moving forward with that group of players. With this, you can “take the temperature” of the room on this tier and avoid overpaying while more easily recognizing when someone is going for less than his cohorts.

Take our RotoBaller starting pitcher rankings for instance, where we have Kyle Hendricks above Jacob deGrom, and deGrom above Gerrit Cole. If I only had the columns listing “name” and “rank”, then a quick glance mid-draft would have me thinking Hendricks > deGrom > Cole, and that’s that. When in reality if you take the tiers into account, it looks more like Hendricks > deGrom >>> Cole.

 

Conclusion

Your mind is going to have plenty to keep track of when you’re in the heat of an auction draft, so you want to set yourself up with the best chance to utilize your energy in the most efficient manner. With tiers, you can see the cliffs coming in value as well as gluts of talent stacking up for the end of the draft. You can see that the room is overvaluing mid-tier third basemen as top level players and undervaluing second basemen after the top five guys went off the board. We rarely are faced with the opportunity to operate with one game-changing advantage, but building up an arsenal of smaller advantages over our opponents is very doable and can vault us to the top.





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