Does the Draft Matter?

How much does the draft really matter? I have been hearing claims that the draft is the
most important part of the season, and that you can win alone on the draft. Looking at
draft results and power rankings seems to suggest otherwise.

I collected the draft results for all 252 teams this year. But how should I judge the “goodness” of a draft. One way would be to set rosters and and calculate the current standings. Besides for being more work than I want to put in, it is not the best way to go. Some owners drafted more innings pitched, and some drafted players on the DL that would come back later. So what I decided to do is to calculate the “value” of a team’s draft by summing the player rater values for all players drafted by team–this is the “Draft Rating” in the table to the right. This is nice, because it uses a metric that calculates points in the standing, removes subjectivity and gives value to drafted bench players.

Clearly some owners drafted much better than others, as the draft rating range is almost 110 points. Congratulations to those in the top 10.

Looking up and down the list you can see that there are teams with great drafts but low power rank, and teams with poor drafts but high power ranks (you can sort the table by Power Rank). One can see all teams in the plot below. There seems to be only a medium correlation and dependence between the draft and a team’s success. But as we know correlation does not imply causation. Those who draft well, are more likely to be experienced owners who know value better, trade and play the waiver-wire well.


There are stronger correlations at the extremes. In other words, the dependence seems to get a little better if you had a very bad draft or a very good draft. It should be stated again that correlation does not imply causation. Many teams with horrible drafts may have soon quit, while teams with great drafts tend to become more active. Since the correlation is already not too strong, the causation is probably even smaller.

You should learn from this that the draft is important, but not nearly as important as the moves you make after the draft. There is an enormous value after the draft in free-agency (such as Jose Bautista last year), which can be worth more than your first few rounds of picks. Trading opens up the door for even more talent.

If you draft a team, only change you roster, and not pick up or trade for value, it is impossible to win a league where the other owners are adding and trading for players.