Anyone with any real experience playing fantasy baseball knows you can’t expect to go into a draft without a clear strategy and expect to win. You don’t just need to come prepared, with high caliber projections that are easily-referenced on the fly, you need to have a method or strategy you can implement to aide in your player selection as well. Although developing and refining that strategy over years is the key to staying competitive over time, the truth is, if you want to be successful you still have to pay attention to the basics.
The following ten rules and strategies may seem obvious at first, but the extent to which you not only understand but master these basics may very well determine your fantasy baseball success. Good luck.
1. Know your positions- Before you can even begin to think about statistics, it makes sense to know the positions you’ll need to fill in your draft or auction and what the available player pool will be. This may seem obvious, but actually the fine print here is just as important as the bold, especially if you’ve just joined a new league. Does your league use a UT spot or a DH? Nine pitchers or 10? P, SP, or RP designations? Just as importantly, what are the rules regarding position eligibility in these areas in terms of AB and IP? You don’t want to be researching your league settings mid-draft or mid-auction so do the nitty gritty research ahead of time and arrive fully prepared.
2. Know your categories- Another no-brainer, perhaps, but the fact is: you need to know the individual categories you’ll be pursuing as well as the overall total you seek to accumulate in those categories as well. If you think going out and simply drafting the best player available round after round will yield the best results, than you’re probably playing H2H (not a bad strategy there, actually). But if you’re playing a season-long Rotisserie-style game, you might want to take a look at the results from previous years and come up with target totals in each of the respective categories. Then, as you draft or acquire players through auction format, you can subtract the projected totals you expect to accumulate through those players to reveal what you still need. There really is no reason you shouldn’t be doing this already.
3. Know your projections- Of course, alongside positional and categorical know-how, possessing and having familiarity with high-caliber player projections is absolutely essential to fantasy success. If you’re reading this article, you’ve already taken a major step toward fantasy dominance by accessing the oddly reliable projections provided by the FP911 staff. Even so, it’s not enough to have your projections in hand on draft day: you need to read and sort those projections into easily referenced lists according to your own personal strategy and league settings. Distinct tiers for each position are helpful, but so are lists of projections by category alone, at least as regards notably scarce counting stats like HR, SB, W, and K. Trust me, you’re gonna want those lists come draft day.
4. Know your enemy- Once you’ve got all the statistical analysis down to a science, having some inside information on your opponents’ predispositions, whether they be to a particular team (Yankees? Red Sox?), player (Carl Crawford? Ichiro Suzuki?), or strategy (positional scarcity? injury risk sleepers?), it pays to know your opponent’s leanings ahead of time.
5. Come Prepared- Okay, so it’s been written three ways, but here it is again, please and with a cherry on top: come to your draft completely prepared. That includes, but is not limited to the following Ten Must-Haves for Draft Day:
(1) positional tiers from a reputable source (you can check that one off already)
(2) projections sorted by player, position, and category (HR, SB, W, and K)
(3) a customized spreadsheet, blank tablet or e-document for making notes
(4) at least one full meal, preferably pre-cooked, and an easily-consumable snack
(5) an empty bladder (for as long as that lasts anyway)
(6) no more beers than you’d be comfortable drinking before driving your bosses’ SUV
(7) child-care, for as long as you can financially and morally afford to secure it
(8) a stable internet connection, unless you’re attending one of those fabled live drafts
(9) a good night’s sleep, with or without the use of your wife’s Xanax, if necessary
(10) the youthful enthusiasm you felt when you played fantasy baseball for the first time; this is draft day, the most important day of the year! (besides your anniversary, of course)
Have these essential items on hand and you will be rewarded with a fun, productive draft or auction free from chaos, hunger, drunkenness and children…because that’s where productivity comes from, reportedly.
6. Bob and Weave- No, I’m not talking about the two most popular haircuts you can get at SuperCuts, I’m talking about making adjustments to your fantasy strategy in real time, just as a skilled boxer would. It’s fine to think positional or categorical scarcity is the name of the game (or my own preferred hybrid, posigorical scarcity), but what happens when the best five category player is Desmond Jennings but potential 25 HR sluggers like Jayson Werth are still hanging around? Confining your pick to a speedy SB contributor or non-pitcher (based on some strategy you devised before the draft even began) when a more valuable player is available limits your ability to take advantage of your opponents reaching based on their own cockamamie notions of strategy. In short, be flexible.
7. Take Calculated Risks-For every rookie breakout, there are several misses who won’t even hold down the full-time job all year. Drafting the sexiest name out there just so you can look cool to your friends is great, assuming you’d rather look cool than win. Take a few calculated risks based on some actual statistical analysis of either AAA or major league numbers, and you will more than likely be rewarded. Litter your lineup with nothing but prospects and that’s all you have for the year ahead: prospects. Take more risks on older position players than pitchers, and fewer on catchers who tend to work on their defense in their first full season, and you’ll notice more of your risks pan out.
8. Hedge Your Bets-If you do take a risk on a promising can’t-miss prospect or injury-risk sleeper, make sure you back your selection up with a low-risk, medium reward player at the same position. Don’t be afraid to take a cagey veteran in the mold of Nick Markakis, Will Venable or the indomitable John Lackey; those are often the types of picks that win championships. Likewise, one-category wonders like Rajai Davis, Dee Gordon, or Michael Bourn can be plugged in for SB (or trade) value in the event of a complete rookie flop. Again, if you draft a full roster of only prospects and sleepers, you’ll be scrambling to make waiver claims to fill holes within the first month, guaranteed.
9. Posigorical Scarcity Posigorical scarcity, is much more relevant in a snake draft than at an auction because you can’t control when runs on certain positions or categories will occur. If you find yourself drafting from one of the two poles (early or late), those runs can go on even longer and affect you even more. That being said, if you don’t play in a particularly deep or in an AL or NL-only league, you probably don’t need to worry about scarcity right off the bat.
Instead, draft the highest-valued player available for about the first 1/4 of your draft and make sure you get several high-caliber players. Then, assess which categories are beginning to lack in available talent (using the category projections lists discussed earlier) and draft accordingly for the next 1/4 of the draft. Finally, for the last 1/2 of your draft, assess which positions are becoming scarce in talent and fill out your roster. Spending your first few picks on thin-hitting catchers and shortstops in the name of scarcity is a recipe for disaster; this plan will prevent that and help you draft a well-rounded team.
10. Auctions OK we are including one auction rule. Fantasy GMs should go into an auction with their rankings and the absolute top dollar values for each player and refuse to go over that amount. Call it Total Control Drafting or just good sense, but that’s the luxury of the auction format; you don’t have to choose between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. If those are the players you want to target, you just have to be willing to pay for them. Take part in at least a few mock auctions before the season begins and gauge the market value for players you want to target before you go in. Doing so, you’ll recognize which players are overvalued and which are bargains, and be able to create your refined target lists accordingly.
It’s a good idea to take it a step further too, creating a virtual budget of about how much money you’re willing to spend on each position based on the market value at each position. Last year’s mixed league budget looked like this: C1 $23, C2 $5, 1B $9, 2B $14, SS $33, 3B $16, CI $8, MI $7, OF1 $25, OF2 $15, OF3 $10, OF4 $5, OF5 $1, SP1 $20, SP2 $15, SP3 $10, SP4 $10, SP5 $5, SP6 $1, RP1 $10, RP2 $5, RP3 $1, UT 1-6 $2/each. $260 Total.
Plans can be strayed from when necessary, of course, (paying almost $10 more for a closer, for example), but it’s best to stick with the structure of this plan based on market value. The values might not be similar this year, (although they might), but the point is that it helps to have a sense of market value (in addition to projected value) to reference while you’re flying through an auction.
When it comes down to it, its not how much information you have on hand during a draft or auction, but how well you’ve organized that information that counts. Bring lots of well-researched, easily-referenced lists like those suggested here so you can relax and enjoy what every fantasy GM knows is the best day of the year, by far.