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Fantasy Baseball Value-Based Drafting Primer (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Value-Based Drafting Primer (2024)

Of the many reasons to love fantasy baseball, the draft has to be at the top of the list. The draft is arguably the most fun part of any fantasy season and baseball extends the draft with more rounds, more players, and more gems to find. The value-based drafting (VBD) strategy is one that is widely used in fantasy football and has since crossed over into the baseball world, so let’s explore.

Value-Based Drafting Primer (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

What is VBD?

Value-based is a strategy of drafting using value relative to position scarcity. The idea is to build an optimal lineup and gain value at positions over your opponents, even if it means passing on players who may sometimes score more points. In football, think about why running backs are drafted higher than quarterbacks in a typical league even though they usually outscore them. This strategy is done by comparing every player at every position to a baseline player at that position and giving them a value.

Because many things go into the fantasy value of a player, finding that value can be tricky. Projections are a great starting point for any rankings, however, it can be difficult to translate projections to a singular comparison value in a categories league. For simplification, you can use projected fantasy points to compare, but projections should only be part of the equation. The following values are types of VBD.

VONA & VOLS & VORP, oh my!

  • VONA (Value Over Next Available) – How much better is this player compared to the best player available at the same position for your next pick? Keep in mind that this value will fluctuate with the flow of the draft, depending on what players are still available for your next pick.
  • VOLS (Value Over Last Starter) – How much better is this player compared to the worst starter at this position in the league?
  • VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) – How much better is this player compared to the best player at this position available on waivers?

Using a 12-team standard points league roster, FantasyPros average draft position (ADP), and CBS’ projected fantasy points (fpoints) in 2024, let’s find the VONA, VOLS, and VORP for Freddie Freeman to look at this with a real player example.

For this, we will be using a roster of: 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF, 1 U, 5 SP, 2 RP, 5 BN

Freeman is the first 1B (ADP of 9.8) with 562 projected fpoints in 2024. The second 1B is Matt Olson (APD of 18.0) with 557 projected fpoints. Freeman’s VONA = +5 fpoints.

When considering the roster spots and multi-position eligible players, you can assume there are at least 12 starting 1B in this format. Freeman is projected to get 562 fpoints and the twelfth 1B off the board, Christian Encarnacion-Strand (ADP of 120.5), is projected to score 330. Freeman’s VOLS = +232 fpoints

Of the 252 players drafted, 32 are first-base eligible by ADP. Compare Freeman’s 562 fpoints to Anthony Rizzo, the 33rd 1B (ADP of 265.0), who is projected to score 364 fpoints. Freeman’s VORP = +198 fpoints

Positional Value

Looking ahead to 2024 drafts, let’s discuss which positions drafters can be patient with and where they need to be aggressive. The goal is to try and get as much value as you can at every position.

In a one-catcher league, you can almost always be patient and wait to draft a catcher. The difference between the first catcher and any other starter isn’t going to be huge. Cal Raleigh is going 100 picks after Adley Rutschman, but they will likely have similar counting stats with more homers and a worse average.

First Base
This is the deepest position in fantasy baseball. Drafting Freeman is safe and he’ll probably end up as a top-five player, but you’re likely passing up on players at a position with more of a need. There are lots of options outside the top-100 with which you could be happy.

Second Base
There are four true standouts at this position: Mookie Betts, Ozzie Albies, Marcus Semien, and Jose Altuve. Getting one of these players could give you an advantage over your opponents.

Third Base
This position was surprisingly deeper in 2023 than was originally thought, although third base doesn’t offer a lot of options for speed. That doesn’t matter much in a points league, but it’s important to note for category leagues. There were only five players at the position with 25+ steals last season: Bobby Witt, Ha-Seong Kim, Elly De La Cruz, Willi Castro, and Jose Ramirez.

A perennially deep position, there are studs at the top, but you can also be patient. There is speed and upside throughout the shortstop player pool.

This position is a mess. Getting an OF1 is a top priority in most drafts, and even more so in any league starting five outfielders. Getting two top-20 outfielders would be ideal. Getting Ronald Acuna would be perfect.

Starting Pitcher
The top guys are accurately priced, but it’s hard to pass up a top hitter in the first round for a pitcher. Pitchers inherently have more injury risk and in a categories league, it’s likely that they’re not contributing to all pitching categories. Framber Valdez, Max Fried, Pablo Lopez, or Logan Webb can hold down a rotation as your SP1 if you want to wait.

Relief Pitcher
In a league that values saves, it is important to get at least one reliever you can trust to get most of a team’s opportunities, but you don’t have to be the first one to take a reliever either. Edwin Diaz is currently 28 spots behind Devin Williams in ADP and we know his upside at the position. In saves plus holds leagues, be as patient as you can handle, then wait for one more round.

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