The time us fantasy baseball fanatics have been waiting for is finally here. It’s draft season! With many of us starting drafts as early as last month, it’s time for a quick refresher on basic draft prep. Run through these five simple steps to make sure you are ready.
1. Know Thy League Settings
Many of us fantasy owners do many different types of leagues. 5×5 Roto, Auction, Snake, Points, Head to Head, Scoresheet–you name it, we play it. With so many different types of leagues it’s important to make sure you know exactly what the league settings are.
For example, Yahoo! leagues require hitters to play 10 games at a position to have eligibility, while ESPN requires 20 games. This can make a big difference if you want to draft someone that may have dual position eligibility , or someone changing positions. Think of the RP and SP settings, too. If there are designated slots for relief pitchers and starting pitchers it may pay to draft someone a little earlier, someone who can get you saves from the SP position.
Is the league head to head? Then you can’t really count on getting all your wins every week so concentrate more on the other pitching categories like strikeouts and saves. Are you in a points league with a deduction for strikeouts? Make sure you stay away from those high strikeout guys like Adam Dunn.
You get the point: know your league settings and plan your draft accordingly.
2. Learn Your Player Pool
If you are doing a 12 team league with one catcher position, don’t waste time on trying to figure out who your #16 catcher is. You won’t be needing to pick that deep. Instead, figure out which players will fit your league and your normal in-season playing style.
Know who the closers are as of draft time and know who is next in line. Check for injuries that have occurred in spring training that will limit your player pool.
If you are the type of fantasy owner that makes tons of trades during the season, make sure you target safer guys that others may want. Taking a safe player instead of a riskier pick at the same draft slot ensures you can still find trading partners later on for that pick.
3. Do Your Own Prep Work
It’s acceptable to look at the cheat sheets and draft tools that this site and other sites offer, but good fantasy GMs augment these tools with their own knowledge. If you are using projections from our draft guide or maybe Baseball Prospectus‘s PECOTA, make sure you have familiarized yourself with them and determine how they help you make decisions at draft time. Do mock drafts based on the projections you are using and tweak them accordingly to fit your personal drafting style.
If you are not going to go after pitching in the first 10 rounds, then make sure you spend the time figuring out which pitchers will produce for you that will be available in the second half of the draft.
Make your own cheat sheet or tier guide based on ADP or, if you want to use one that someone else made, don’t treat it as the bible. It’s your draft prep. If you like Josh Donaldson better than Ryan Zimmerman, that’s fine. You have your own reasons to pick a player, so be sure to use your own knowledge and insight. Don’t rely solely on what some random expert tells you.
4. Keep it Simple Stupid
Don’t get overly complex! Make sure you don’t get to your drafting location–whether it be a friend’s house, your man-cave, or even Vegas–loaded down with too many materials. If you think you may need one, have a book or magazine that you can use to reference player information, but don’t plan on being able to rely on it. Most experts will only have a one- or two-page cheat sheet in front of them in a draft. I would recommend you arrange it in tiers or custom-make it for your particular league based on the research you did (See Rule #3) in the weeks prior to the draft.
These days many people are starting to use fancy draft software. If you are doing an online draft, are you really going to be able to refer to or update the software and still get your pick off? Most people can’t handle the extreme multitasking it takes to interpret those draft results and still pick in time. Make sure you know your limitations, because if you rely on too much outside help it can only spell disaster for your draft–what if something happened like, say, the software crashes? This is why I recommend keeping it as simple as possible.
5. Relax and Have Fun
Finally, make sure your draft is fun. Don’t draft with your kids running around or your spouse asking you to help with something during your draft. Try not to rush to your draft. Spend a little time getting comfortable. Fill up a drink, prepare a sandwich, go to the bathroom, whatever you need to do so you can draft in the best setting possible. You spent all this time preparing, so don’t go into your draft overly tense and ready to make mistakes.
Have a conversation about something completely unrelated to baseball shortly before your draft whenever possible. It will help clear your head. Maybe you are out with the guys or maybe it’s a workplace draft–chat it up. The draft is a fun place. Remember we play fantasy sports for the fun, so don’t make the draft feel like work
These Five Commandments will make sure you have a successful draft that you personally can be proud of. It won’t guarantee victory in your league, but it will guarantee that you will feel good about your draft and be ready to enjoy the long season ahead.