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How to Beat the Default Rankings

Most experienced owners enter the draft room with their own personal player ranks. Whether or not owners take the time to construct a formal list, everybody makes judgement calls throughout the draft that deviate from the default rank list provided by the host site. It is important, however, to have a good understanding of where certain players are ranked by your host site because those rankings can have a significant impact on where players get selected.

Don’t believe me? Here is some ADP data from the major sites that will illustrate the impact that the default rank lists can have. Take a look at the table below:

Player Y! ADP Y! Rank ESPN ADP ESPN Rank CBS ADP CBS Rank
Adam Jones 9 10 16 15 18 17
Troy Tulowitzki 22 25 12 14 13 21
Robinson Cano 14 14 13 12 20 32
Josh Donaldson 28 23 31 31 14 14
Adrian Beltre 20 18 20 17 36 35

Each player listed here has what I would consider to be an outlier ADP from one of the three sites. Adam Jones is being drafted 9th overall in Y! leagues and he is listed at 10 on the default rank list. Is it a coincidence that Y! is the only site where Jones is going off the board in the top 12?

While Troy Tulowitzki’s CBS default rank is far lower than his ADP, the Y! crew is the lowest of the group on the Rockies’ slugger. His Y! ADP of 22 is driven by the fact that the default list has him ranked as a 3rd round pick.

Robinson Cano is listed as a top 15 player on most sites, but a very low ranking from CBS has caused his ADP to fall all the way down to 20. The same thing happened with Adrian Beltre, who is being drafted about a round and a half later on CBS than he is on Y! and ESPN.

Josh Donaldson’s ADP is all over the map. CBS has him ranked at 14, and that is where he is being drafted there. Y! and ESPN have him ranked as a mid 3rd round pick. That is precisely where hs is being drafted in ESPN leagues, but in Y! he is sneaking into the top 25 in terms of ADP.

This is a small sample size, but it is very easy to see the correlation between ADP differences and the default rank lists provided by the host site. The explanation is quite simple. When an owner is deciding between drafting player A and player B, logic states that the player appearing higher on the default rank list is much less likely to still be available in the next round. Drafters often use the default ranks as an informal tiebreaker between players whether they realize it or not. Therefor, a players’ ADP is usually influenced by where they sit in the default rankings.

How can we use this data?

A six pick ADP difference for Adam Jones could prove meaningful, but a small value gap on a top 20 player is not likely to have a significant impact on the strength of your overall team. Later in the draft, however, these value gaps can grow increasingly wider, and shrewd owners have an opportunity to exploit them.

For example, Nolan Arenado is a hot name in the fantasy community right now. His overall ADP sits in the mid 50s and most sites have him ranked somewhere in that neighborhood. Anytime you want to land a trendy player like Arenado, you will likely have to reach about a round or a round and a half early to make sure you get the job done.

Y! just recently changed their default ranks (of the major sites, they are the only ones who routinely do this), so all ADP’s from Y! need to be taken with a grain of salt. They may reflect previous default ranks. For example, Arenado’s Y! ADP of 57 almost mirrors his original ranking (55th). In the most recent iteration, he is ranked 42nd. Based on this, owners would likely need to grab him with their 3rd round pick, or early in the 4th if they wanted to land him. He is now highly unlikely to last through the end of the 4th round even though he might have fallen that far before.

If I am drafting on ESPN, however, I might adjust my strategy a little bit if I wanted Arenado. ESPN makes subtle adjustments for injuries, but their ranks stay more or less the same. ESPN currently ranks Arenado 74th and his ADP sits at 68. Because of his rank, I would not even consider Arenado in the 3rd round even though I think he is good enough to be drafted there. I might even pass him up in the 4th. Based on where is ADP lies and depending on where my draft slot is, there is a reasonable chance that Arenado will still be there for me in the 5th

Remember, drafting a great team is dependent on value. Sometimes that means taking some calculated risks during the draft. I might pass on a player like Arenado in round four even if he is the highest ranked player on my board. If I think I have a chance to get him in round five, waiting could allow me to grab another elite player at a different position.

Knowing your league’s default ranks inside and out can help you maximize value at the draft table and assemble the best possible team. If you play in annual league with the same owners year in and year out, be sure to account for your knowledge of the other owners when deciding whether or not to pass on your key target.

Analyzing the Ranks From Each Site

In this section, I will take a look at some of the players who may make good draft day bargains based on where they appear on the default rank list. This is not necessarily a list of players who I value highly. It is intended to give readers an idea of which players fall lower on the default rank list than you might ordinarily expect.

CBS Roto Ranks

I am using their roto rankings instead of head to head so that we can do an apples to apples comparison between the sites. Before I get into the potential value picks here, let me just say that CBS rankings are absurdly bad. If you have an upcoming draft on CBS, it is important to monitor the default list as you go, but never assume that the top ranked players available are ones that you should consider drafting. Here are just a few rankings I found to be ridiculous:

Jose Altuve: 5 – I like Altuve, but at 5 overall? Talk about paying full price for a career season.

George Springer: 12 – I am very high on Springer, but as a 1st round pick? Springer is ranked ahead of too many proven studs to make this a good idea.

Matt Kemp: 15 – I don’t see how anybody could even begin to justify this rank.

J.D. Martinez: 38 – Some players, like Martinez, get full benefit of the doubt with no consideration of risk. Again, I like J.D, but a top 40 ranking is not even in the ballpark.

Avisail Garcia: 73 – Garcia is a popular sleeper, but he has yet to really produce. He could have a breakout this season, but drafting him this early essentially eliminates all of his upside potential because you would be paying for it already.

Zach Britton: 46 – This might be my favorite. It is not just that Britton is ranked obscenely high (he is), but also that he is ranked ahead of Aroldis Chapman (51). Who in their right mind would ever consider drafting Britton ahead of Chapman in any format?

Brett Cecil: 101 – Cecil is ranked ahead of plenty of proven closers despite the fact that he is far from a lock to get the Blue Jays’ 9th inning gig.

Red Sox OF – OK, I lied earlier. This is definitely my favorite. Look at the following rankings for the Sox OF crew:

Hanley: 40
Castillo: 66
victorino: 142
Betts: 144

In case you lost count, that is four OF players each ranked in the top 150 overall. Unless the Red Sox are going with a softball lineup, this is not going to fly. David Ortiz is still on the team, so only three of these guys can play at any given time. Betts is not taking Pedroia’s spot and Hanley is going to be in LF.

These are just a few examples. Believe me, there are more. You need to stick with your own rank list if you are drafting on CBS, but when deciding between two guys, it is generally a good idea to take the player closer to the top of the list. Anybody sticking too close to the default list, however, is going to make a lot of mistakes.

Without further ado, here are the players who could become values:

Anthony Rendon: 43 – I probably would not consider Rendon in the 1st round here. I might even pass him by early in the 2nd because of the injury concerns. If you can land him anywhere after pick 18, you are playing with house money.

Freddie Freeman: 50 – Freeman in round 4 sounds pretty good to me.

Corey Kluber: 55 – Targeting the elite aces anywhere in rounds 3 or 4 is the way to go.

Madison Bumgarner: 57 –

Stephen Strasburg: 59 –

Buster Posey: 87 – Catchers typically get overdrafted in 1 catcher leagues, but many CBS roto formats use two Cs. Why Posey is ranked this low is beyond me. He is worth a 3rd round pick in 2 C leagues, but I might wait until the 5th if I start only 1 C.

Evan Longoria: 99 – I have always been a Longo hater, but this takes it way too far.

Matt Harvey: 116 – Harvey is an awesome value here. If he falls past pick 80, you should pounce.

Carlos Carrasco: 139 –

Gerrit Cole: 162 – Cole costs a 6th or 7th round pick in most leagues.

Alex Wood: 174 – Wood should be drafted in the top 130 in every league.

Tyson Ross: 184 –

Garrett Richards: 216 – The injury along with an apparent discount for all pitchers has Richards ranked far too low. Anywhere near pick 150 would still be a bargain.

Starlin Castro: 220 – Castro took some big steps as a hitter last year and should be among the top 6 or 7 SS options drafted. He is not ranked that way here.

Doug Fister: 259 – I am not a big Fister fan, but this is too much.

Xander Bogaerts: 263 – If you can capture Bogaerts’ upside with a late round pick, do it.

Gio Gonzalez: 268 – Another excellent pitching value

Sonny Gray: 291 – Gray is overrated everywhere else, but this is a cray overreaction. If others forget to scroll down, maybe you can nab Gray in round 15 or so?

Homer Bailey: 303 –

Danny Salazar: 308 –

Mat Latos: 311 –

Jose Fernandez: 320 – Yes he is going to be out awhile, but this is too good to pass up.

Yordano Ventura: 356 – Ventura should be drafted in the Gio range, whenever that happens.

Adam Eaton: 373 – Eaton has too much value in roto leagues to fall this far.

Matt Cain: 383 – I am not sure I would take Cain, but if you grab him in the last round he could turn a nice profit for you.

Brandon McCarthy: 385 – McCarthy is shooting up draft boards everywhere else, but he looks like an afterthought on this rank list.

Yahoo

Y! updates their rankings pretty frequently, so some of the players on this list may be rendered obsolete by the time your draft arrives. Y! tends to have the most difficult rank lists to take advantage of because they update and they are pretty good to begin with. Personally, I find this a little frustrating because a great default rank list tends to reward the underprepared.

Here are the values:

Troy Tulowitzki: 25 – I understand why Y! has him ranked this low, but I think they are overreacting somewhat. If he were not a health risk, he would be a top 3 pick.

Victor Martinez: 62 – This ranking will creep higher if Vmart proves healthy.

Carlos Santana: 97 – Santana should be ranked here if he were only eligible at 1B and 3B. With catcher eligibility though, he deserves to go at least 20 spots higher.

Kenley Jansen: 130 – I like this value, especially in K/9 leagues.

Hunter Pence: 135 – He is hurt, but only for a month.

Masahiro Tanaka: 141 – Want to gamble? The price looks good here.

Ben Revere: 151 – Revere is a difficult player to rank, but this looks a little light.

Josh Harrison: 153 – Great value for 2B, 3B and OF eligibility.

Michael Wacha: 168 – Wacha looks healthy and should make his owners very happy at a discount price.

Yasmany Tomas: 202 – Spring struggles in the field have cause the fantasy world to overreact. The man can still hit.

Sean Doolittle: 208 – Risky pick, but could be a great bargain.

Luke Gregerson: 266 – Likely to be Astros closer and he has the skills to keep the job.

Brad Boxberger: 299 – Boxberger has standalone value in daily change leagues, but there is also a chance he runs away with the Rays’ closer job.

Also, be sure to search your favorite minor league prospects. Some of the best values could be found with players like Jose Peraza and Micah Johnson. Be sure to search for your favorite prospects because some are buried deep in the ranks.

ESPN

ESPN s doing a better job of maintaining their ranks than they have in years past, but there are still some potential values to exploit here.

Josh Donaldson: 31 – I am not a huge fan of reaching early for Donaldson because I think there are better values in rounds 4 and 5, but if falls to the middle of round 3, you need to take him here.

Todd Frazier: 73 – Anything after round 5 would be a steal.

Nolan Arenado: 74 – Arenado is just as good as Donaldson. This ranking is far too low.

Joey Votto: 88 – Votto’s ESPN ADP is about 20 spots lower than every other major site. There is some nice value here.

Dee Gordon: 93 – I am not a huge Gordon fan, but if he falls this far it is a no brainer.

Jorge Soler: 141 – Immense upside meets a reasonable price.

J.D. Martinez: 155 – This is about 50 spots lower than where I would expect to see JDMart.

Ben Revere: 177 – Revere’s ESPN ADP of 160 is significantly pricier than his rank, but even that would be a great bargain. Anywhere after pick 120 is a deal.

Justin Verlander: 201 – I am not drafting Verlander, but this ranking is the most reasonable I have seen.

Mike Fiers: 249 – “Sleepers” get far too expensive on Y!. There are still some values here.

Steven Souza: 250 – One of my favorite 2015 values has become pricey of late.

Yasmany Tomas: 255 –

Brandon McCarthy: 269 –

Matt Shoemaker: 276 –

Avisail Garcia: 284 – This is why I hate his CBS rank.

Jesse Hahn: 317 –

Michael Morse: 324 – Batting cleanup in Miami should provide ample opportunity.

Michael Saunders: 360 – Saunders could be ready for opening day. He is a great late round value.

Like in Y!, there are plenty of talented prospects who could make sense as a late flier pick. Unlike in Y!, it may not be necessary because there many more bargains to be had.

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Tommy Landseadel
Tommy is also known as tlance on the CBS and Sports Hoopla message boards. He has been playing fantasy baseball for 16 years in many different format types and looks forward to helping you with your fantasy baseball questions! You can now follow me on Twitter @tlandseadel
Tommy Landseadel

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12 comments on “How to Beat the Default Rankings

  1. I like reading you write that Arenado is just as good as Donaldson! I took Nolan 16th overall in my money league. Mind you, it’s a points league, Arenado’s bread and butter, but I still realize I’m alone in the thought.

    I knew he wouldn’t get back to me at 45, and I was fine leaving guys like Tulo, Puig and Bumgarner on the board. I just really hate the 3B field this year, even though at first hand it looks deep.

    All this being said, if Arenado had an ADP in the 50-60 range, I might have tested the waters and waited until the 3rd, but CBS had him at 42, and if you’re only looking at hitters, he was in the late 20’s. I couldn’t resist!

    Other than that, I totally agree with looking for the bargains beyond the ADP…. good stuff!

  2. Thanks Chad!

    It is really tough when you pick on one end or the other. When you really want somebody, sometimes you have to reach.

    I think I would have rolled the dice and hoped he got back if I were in your spot, but I agree it is highly unlikely that he would have.

  3. Great article! Any way you would write the same article for head to head points rankings? I’m drafting a 12 team CBS head to head points league in the 12 hole (traded the 2 hole for the 12th pick) for a guy’s 5th round pick. He gets my 7th in return.

    • Good idea!

      I will put that together. You can look for the article on Monday.

      So, let me get this straight on the trade. You pick at 12 and 23, and you get his pick 60 for your pick 74? No offense, but if that is true and there is not more to the deal, I am afraid you may have gotten hosed.

      Because his 5th round pick is at the very end of the round, and your 7th is at the beginning, they are essentially only 1 round apart (14 pick gap). You gave away a 10 pick differential in round 1 that is worth a whole lot more than the 14 pick difference that you received later on.

      In order to make this fair, you would have had to swap even rounds. For example, his 4th (pick 37) for your 6th (pick 71) would better represent the premium you would need to receive to move down from the top of round 1 to the bottom.

      • We use the snake format. I like having the bookend picks (1 or 12) so that I can snag two players at once. He gets McCutchen (or Trout if they guy in the 1st slot loses his mind) at pick 2 and I get picks 12/13 and then 36/37 etc… Except in round 5 I also get his pick (50) for my 7th round pick (84) as the price for trading draft order. There ends up being a 34 pick difference between traded picks.

        I think that might better represent a fair deal no?

        Thank you very much for taking the time to type up a H2H scoring version of this article. Brilliant insight.

        • I misunderstood your meaning there. I thought you just swapped a couple picks, not your entire draft position.

          In terms of value, all 12 draft positions in a snake are equal. You can certainly make a case that specific spots are preferable given the talent pool and a drafter’s personal preference. The fact that you were able to parlay a draft position swap into a 34 pick upgrade is not just good, it is awesome. In fact, I am quite sure I would rather pick at 12 than 1 or 2 in a points league draft this year. Well done!

  4. Like the article. I always remind myself to watch the autodrafting managers for signs that they are using the default rankings so I can guess who they will draft and adjust my strategy on when to reach.

  5. Thanks Dennis!

    Obviously the default ranks don’t govern a live drafter the way they might an auto drafter, but they absolutely shape our thinking. Like in the case with Arenado, ESPN drafters tend to wait longer. This is not because they like him less than the rest of the fantasy world, but they do think they can get away with waiting because of where he is ranked.

  6. Great article! I regularly play fantasy sports at the Y! and I agree, the constant change in rankings can get quite annoying as I was getting players like Donaldson, Arenado, Bryant, Pollock, Fiers, and Shoemaker at a much better price than where they are being taken now; guys like Odor, Pompey, D’Arnaud, and Semien were virtually irrelevant.
    Thoughts on Rodon and Burns? Like when they will make the team, if they even do in 2015, if they would be worth a late round flier, etc. Anyway, this was a good read!

    PS – If you don’t mind, I would like the link to the CBS roto rankings for a good chuckle.

  7. Rodon and Burns have each had strong springs, although I don’t think either is likely to break camp with the big club. Rodon should get a chance before too long, so he is definitely worth drafting. The only question is whether he starts or pitches out of the bullpen once he does get the call. As for Burns, the A’s OF depth chart is filled with mediocre injury prone players, so it would not be a stretch to think he may get a chance before too long. I love the idea of taking a minor league speed burner toward the end of the draft, and Burns certainly qualifies. With him, the ceiling is not as high as Rodon’s, but a poor man’s Billy Hamilton line certainly looks plausible.

    As for posting the CBS ranks, there may be a way to do it, but I actually had a tough time finding them. I ended up entering a mock draft room to find the ranks. It is worth 30 minutes of your time to do a mock draft so you can mock their rankings. Just be sure to sign up for a roto draft. Points league rankings look much different.

    Thanks for reading!

  8. Just a note. I play on CBS and where players are ranked in their mock drafts do not always match up with where they are in my regular draft. It’s something I’ve noticed two years in a row and I don’t really understand why. I like doing mocks but the cbs mock for roto is with 2 catchers and 5 of’s so it makes it difficult to judge where these players would be going in my one catcher 4 of league.

    • Which is amazing that can be the case. Why do a mock at all if the rankings are different?

      I agree that mocks on CBS are virtually useless aside from entertainment value.

      By the way, I triple checked before posting and the ranks used in this article do seem to be the actual default rankings.

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