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How to Use ADP Data to Find Draft Sleepers

ADPs, or Average Draft Positions, are perhaps the single biggest obsession and reference point for the great majority of fantasy baseball drafters. And it makes sense: you can see where a player is being drafted, judge whether you like him more or less than his ADP, and poof, you’ve spotted the guys to avoid or target in your draft. Do it successfully and you may just have found yourself a few draft-day bargains.

What’s not to like? Well, there is a huge, elephant-sized hitch: not everyone in your league uses the same ADPs to do their research. Some owners aren't using ADPs at all. If you’re deciding when to draft players based on their ADPs, while your fellow fantasy GMs aren't referencing those ADPs, your research winds up being meaningless because you have no way to tell when your fellow GMs will consider drafting the player you want! Whatever direction the ADP data steers you in, it will be the wrong one. You will be targeting players based on their ADPs, while your competition is taking some of those players way earlier or later because they’re not using that data at all!

This is the gift and the curse of ADPs. They can be valuable tools to get an idea which players are being overvalued and undervalued. If you rely on them too heavily, especially while your competitors are not, you will be making decisions in an information vacuum. And that, my fellow RotoBallers, is a recipe for draft-day disaster.

If you’ve been relying on ADP data to find your “sleepers” and you just read the above, your reaction might be - “oh shiz, what if no one else in my league is using ADP data?" Well worry not, RotoBaller has the key strategies you can use to maximize value from ADP data and make sure you find your sleepers and draft-day bargains. Also, be sure to check out RotoBaller's ADP Comparison Tool to help you find sleepers.


1. Make sure you are including ADP / Rankings data from your league provider

If you play on Yahoo!, use Yahoo!'s ADP data and their rankings. CBS? Use CBS’s ADPs and ranks. This is extremely important! When people are drafting and they’re having a tough time choosing a player, they will err on the side of taking a player on the top of the draft board, usually the top-ranked available players according to that site’s rankings.

It is human nature to go with the guy at the top of the list when in doubt! When hundreds of drafts happen, and GMs are selecting players at the top of the list a few times each draft, ADPs start to closely mirror the original player rankings put out by that site. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rankings influence ADPs, and ADPs reinforce the rankings.

Bottom line, if you are using Yahoo! for your fantasy league, make sure to pay attention to Yahoo! rankings and ADPs, and less so Mock Draft Central or NFBC or CBS or ESPN.


2. Use projections to find good value, not just ADPs

No one really knows how players will perform at the end of the day - no expert, no projection formula, no one. So the best you can ever hope to do is to consider a variety of important factors, including the existing projections for a player and your own projections.

If you think Jay Bruce is going to take rebound and finish the year with a .270-30-100-90-10 line, then you should feel very confident drafting him in the fifth or sixth round - those are legit third-fourth round numbers but because of his down 2014 you can likely get him at a discount. If you feel Troy Tulowitzki is going to finish the year with .310-25-80-75-5 line because of injuries, then you should stay away from him in the first (which means you won’t wind up with him at all!). Sound projections, with a nice dose of your "gut", are the best way to figure out where to draft and reach for players.


3. Pay attention to ADP trends

ADP trends are a good way to get a pulse for the market. Chances are, if a guy is rocketing up the ADP charts because of a hot spring, then his buzz is being heard by all your league mates and you can't wait as long to draft him.  If you really like a guy who is trending upwards, make sure to jump a little early so another GM doesn’t get him first.

The key here: don’t reach too high! Most players who will have huge ADP jumps are unproven guys riding the strength of hot spring performances. Without much history on which to base a projection, you will really be shooting from the hip. I could say Player X who's having a great spring is good for 10 W, 150 K, a 3.5 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 170 IP, and that sounds pretty tasty late in a draft, but really, honestly, truthfully, I have no clue if Player X is going to put up numbers like this.

The bottom line here is that trends are important, and they can be helpful in knowing when to pounce a little early on a player. However, you shouldn’t reach too high just on spring stats because it’s tough to project these types of players very accurately.