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How to Assess the Value of a Draft Pick in a Trade (Fantasy Baseball)

by Carmen Maiorano | @carmsclubhouse | Featured Writer
May 20, 2020

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Trades are a crazy thing. You can trade Maikel Franco for Carlos Santana after the first month of the 2019 season and win a championship. Yep, definitely did that. You can also trade Shane Bieber for Jurickson Profar and Yasiel Puig and regret it for years to come. Nope, I definitely didn’t do that one. Definitely didn’t. Now, add on top of that trying to assess the value of a draft pick in an upcoming dynasty or keeper league draft, and it gets even tougher.

Of course, a pick’s value is based on the number of teams in your league, how deep rosters are, how many keepers you get — the list of factors goes on and on. But there are a few general tips you can rely on when shopping a draft pick. Let’s go through those.

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Who’s Available?

Who is available largely depends on how many teams are in the league and how deep rosters are. If you are trading a first-round draft pick, that could actually mean a player with 31st-round value if your league keeps 30 players and the league-mate that you are trying to trade with is looking to win now. In a 12-team league, this could mean picking up a back-of-the-rotation starter with upside. If you are trading with a league-mate that’s trying to win later, that first-round pick is likely someone drafted in real life in the previous season (think Andrew Vaughn or Adley Rutschman from the 2019 draft). If it’s a much deeper league (think 15 teams, 40-50 players each), the draft will likely be all first-year players across the board, plus some deeper prospects.

In a league with limited IL spots, some other early-round archetypes are players who were injured for most of 2019 but are due back in 2020. Salvador Perez and Andrew McCutchen from 2019 are great examples. Leagues that feature holds can occasionally have top setup men drafted in the early rounds as well. Finally, overseas players who were posted and get signed by a major league team tend to get drafted early. The further down the draft board you go, the players available are likely going to whittle down to fringe major leaguers and prospects with a low ceiling.

To give an example, let’s look at the #FantasyProsAndFriends dynasty league (12 teams, 40 rosters spots per year, keep 30 players). The first couple of rounds in the second-year draft looked like this.

The general rule of thumb is that the shallower the league, the greater value an additional draft pick would have. So if you’re in a shallower league, you may want to think twice about giving up that draft pick.

Shopping Around

Let’s start with why you’re trading this draft pick in the first place. You’ve likely already targeted players from other teams that you value more than the team that owns that player. That could be any type of player — a prospect, or a guy in the bigs. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to win now or later if you can find value by shopping this pick.

As I alluded to, there are going to be three categories of teams you are shopping the draft pick around to. These are 1) win now, 2) win later, and 3) confused. Trading the pick for a team that falls into that last section will likely yield the most value, given that you can take advantage of their lack of strategy by trading for a player that has more value than that owner views him.

If you are in a savvy league, there shouldn’t be any teams in that third category. So, to sell your draft pick, you’ll have to convince league-mates who are trying to win now that there’s enough value in the early rounds that getting an extra draft pick will put that team over the top. Similarly, you’ll have to persuade the squads attempting to win later that there is plenty of prospect value to take an additional lottery ticket on.

What To Ask For

What to ask for depends on your needs and strategy for the upcoming season. Maybe you’re trying to win now and have a plethora of outfielders, but you lack a solid corner infielder. You could trade from your outfield surplus, add in an early-round draft pick, and land a corner guy that you’ve been targeting. If you’re trying to win later and build up hitter depth, you can trade that draft pick for a young bat that you value more than your opponent does.

The key to remember is to balance your needs with your strategy. If you think you can go all-in in a year or two, having an extra second baseman won’t kill you in the near-term. That’s because you can probably move him at the trade deadline of this upcoming season to a team trying to win now, and you’ll get a much greater value than you otherwise would have in the offseason. If you’re trying to win now, but you need one or two more pitching pieces that you won’t find in the draft, trading those draft picks makes a ton of sense.

Teams in your league likely value draft selections very differently, so getting a consensus on a pick is difficult. Luckily, our members with a premium subscription get to use the Trade Analyzer feature. While this Analyzer does not take draft picks into account, you can certainly use it to value the main players involved in a trade as a good foundation, and then subsequently discuss what the draft pick means to your opponent. Additionally, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter to get additional insight!

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Carmen Maiorano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Carmen, check out his archive and personal fantasy blogand follow him @carmsclubhouse.

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