With fantasy baseball draft season getting into high gear, here are some of my best tips to a successful draft.
Go with a stars and scrubs pitching staff-One commodity that exists in spades is good, cheap pitching. As the overall offensive levels have gone down, power has become scarcer, but lower end pitching is all over the place and is valuable. The result is that a strategy coupling an ace like Justin Clayton Kershaw with four or five pitchers under $5 or drafted after the 15th round is a strong strategy as long as you focus on the skill set and not the superficial numbers. Players like A.J. Griffin, Marco Estrada, Ivan Nova and a host of others will do you well, even in mixed leagues.
Don’t draft one dimensional players-The other commodity that there is plenty of is cheap speed. There are probably 20 players that can get you 15-20 steals for a dollar, so there is no reason to pay a higher price for players like Billy Hamilton when you can get players cheap speed 5-15 rounds later. That is not to say you should build a team based on this; but go for power early and if you need to there are plenty of speedy backup plans at the end of your draft.
Know the player pool better than you think possible-Your motto is: “if a name comes up that I do not recognize, I have failed.” Your draft preparation must be extremely thorough and broad-based if you want to be a serious player. In a garden-variety 12- or 15-team league there is no excuse. You cannot be fumbling around for names or stats when its time to pick or bid.
Be flexible-In fantasy baseball, like war, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. We have all had players sniped from us, or planned on getting a closer in a particular round only to see a run steal them all from you. That doesn’t mean you draft a closer you didn’t want because they are going off the board. Zig when others are zagging and throw your plan and your caution to the wind. You will be surprised how well it will turn out. Players are mostly fungible commodities, so whether you get any particular one doesn’t matter in the least.
Don’t stick to “value”-As a corollary to being flexible, there is no need to stick to projected “value.” Only 2/3 of players will generate production within +/- $5 of their market value. That means any player will fall within a seven- or eight-round group if you are in a draft league. It will only hurt you if you pass a player you like because it is a round or two early, or because his price is $1 or $2 higher than projected. Fantasy baseball is a game of markets, not accuracy of projections.
When in doubt draft a multi-position guy-This is even more important in deeper leagues or leagues with large benches. When it comes to hitters the free-agent wires in recent years have become ridiculously bereft of usable players. You do not want to have to pick up garbage like from the free agent pool in a pinch. Go the extra dollar or round on a player with multiple eligibility at a middle infield position so that you can keep to the corners or OF with your FAAB budget.
Don’t bring books to your draft-only cheat sheets- There are few things that are more annoying in a draft than someone calling “time” while they pull out a book looking up a stat or to get a player name to nominate. Your preparation should be thorough enough that all you need is a ranking/dollar value list and maybe depth charts. It is more important to be attuned to the ebb and flow of the draft/auction than it is to know that Player X had a .275 BA last year. If you are prepared you will know that anyway, and that piece of information doesn’t really matter.
Know your league’s rules- This seems straightforward, but even in expert’s leagues auction there have been past controversies with previously auctioned players being rolled back because someone didn’t know the rules. Can you over-auction players and put them on your bench? If a player gets 1 game at a position is he then eligible? What happens if there is a tie in FAAB bidding? We are willing to bet that many owners do not know the answers to these in their leagues, and if you do not you are not likely to be a serious contender.
Successful drafts are closer to an art than a science, so treat them as such; be flexible, don’t get beholden to “values” or ADPs and draft players you prefer at every chance rather than take a stab on someone who has a better projection that you just do not feel confident in. And, most importantly, do not make a pick because you do not want to look foolish. Your skills, and your wallet, will thank you.
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