Part 2: The Draft - Preparation and Execution
1. Participate in Mock Drafts and Mock Auctions - The single best way to prepare for a draft is to participate in mock drafts. I live by mock drafts and no matter how much you know about players, mock drafts show you hints as to when you could realistically expect a player to be taken in a draft. Mock Draft Central provides the best software, it's free to register and participate but if you are gung-ho about this, you'll invest the few bucks it costs to do unlimited mocks. Are you playing in a 12 team league this year? Do 12 team mock drafts! After you do two or three drafts, you start to see trends. You'll see when a closer run usually starts. You'll see how quickly shortstops fly off the board. You'll see the quality third baseman that continue to last past the 15th round. You'll get an idea as to when players are normally picked, as I mentioned above. I know that Johan Santana will rarely make it into the 3rd round in 2009, so if you want him, you might have to take him with your second round pick. If you know that and you plan to build your staff around Santana, you can plan accordingly. When the draft gets here, you make your first pick, steal Santana in the second and then you dish out a plan from there.
Same goes for auctions. You can read the magazines and websites all you want but most of them don't really give you true values. Many of them base their values off stats. So you'll find when you get into an auction, many of the top players go for much more or much less than the magazines/websites indicated. This is because most people bid on players based on emotion and "heat of the moment" bidding. Many have a set price they are willing to spend on certain players and many times, it's much higher than the average magazine/website value. Those values also don't factor in bidding wars between two or three owners on any one player. Also, many of the values you see from most "experts" are values based on crunched stats and not real auction prices. You will soon be able to read and print real auction values based on what people are actually paying in real leagues I participate in here soon. A quality auction website is Fantasy Auctioneer.
One other crazy way to get information on players is with sports betting. I'm not saying to go and blow your paycheck but reading up on the spreads can sometimes provide useful "out of the box" information.
2. Draft Tools - Scour the Internet for free Draft Tools. Draft tools are sets of rankings and analysis provided by a fantasy sports expert/analyst or an experienced and respected fantasy baseball manager(s). Usually you can print them out without having to waste too much paper. The Fantasy Man and Fantasy Baseball Express will get you started. Here is what we did in 2008. Check the link list in the right side bar of this blog for some other recommended sites.
3. The Draft - Usually, most people don't have time to do the research so they grab a fantasy baseball magazine and try to "wing" it at the draft. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The magazines provide fantastic information, rankings, and stats. I always have a magazine at the draft with me mainly for the stats and sometimes I like to compare their rankings to my own. The magazine I trust most is Fantasy Sports Magazine . It's a sentimental pick. I have been buying this magazine for years! I am also featured as one of the experts in their expert mock draft. Other than the mag, I might have a printable fantasy guide from a favorite website that I can write on, cross out players choosen , and to keep track of my team. Check out The Fantasy Man's 2009 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide.
4. Keep Emotions in Check - Every fantasy manager has a favorite team and a few favorite players. Although every team has solid players in real life, not every team has more than one or two solid fantasy players (i.e. Pittsburgh Pirates - Nate McLouth & Ryan Doumit in 2009). You have to find a way to keep your emotions in check and separate real life baseball from fantasy baseball. For example, my favorite player is Derek Jeter. I was 16 years old in his rookie year and I can tell you that in every fantasy draft, I want to pick Jeter early to make sure I get him simply because he's my favorite. Problem is, Jeter is a good fantasy player but only when chosen in the right circumstances (i.e. the 6th round of a roto draft or for about $20 in an auction). You don't want to overpay for your favorite players unless they are top-tiered fantasy talent. Since I am a Yankee fan, I'll always jump on A-Rod at the top, but everyone else has a better place and time, even Joba Chamberlain. What makes fantasy baseball fun is to be able to cheer for your players, but if you pick all the players from your favorite team, it'll be unlikely that you could win your league. Now, I'm not saying you can't pick your favorite players, but you need to do some homework and figure out when is the best time to draft/bid for your favorite players in order to get the most value out of them.
5. Drafting Players on the Same Team - If you ask me now, I'd say in an active offensive roster of 10-13 starting hitters, you don't want to have more than 3 players from the same team. An example would be the Phillies and drafting Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Shane Victorino. If you add Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth or Jimmy Rollins to that mix and the Phillies go on a losing streak, your team is pretty much sunk. Same goes for your active pitching staff. I like to stick with 2 of the best starters (if my draft falls that way) and if I wanted a third from the same team, then maybe as my 9th pitcher or as a bench guy for emergencies would be okay. Except for keeper leagues, it's unlikely that you'd be able to draft 3 star fantasy players on the same team anyway, but yes, it will affect your overall outcome as the season rolls along.
6. Don't "Punt" a Category - If you are a beginner fantasy player, punting categories is a no-no. Always make sure that every position and every category is represented in ALL 5x5 leagues. Why would you want to start your season with a hole in your roster? Why start the season with a category that is not accumulating points? Some experienced players might be able to devise a plan that works and punt a category in drafts, but they have to get super lucky with the other players they choose. Winning a league while punting a category is possible and has happened before, but the odds are extremely low. In most 5x5 leagues, Saves is the category that's most often punted. If you play in leagues that are 7x7 or more, then punting a category is not as much a problem since there are many categories that can pick up the slack. The thought here is this.... If you don't draft any closers, then during the season you won't accumulate saves and points for saves. If you were the unlucky one to get hit with a major injury or two to your star player(s) or you made a few bad choices in the draft with underperforming players, then your team is sunk. On the other end of that, if you drafted say two closers who turned out to be fantastic, and you still suffered those injuries and under-performance, you could trade those closers to upgrade elsewhere. I guess the same could be said the other way, but it's much harder to obtain good closers via trade during the season than it is to actually trade them away!
Part 3 of 3 will emphasize more on In-Season Team Management Strategies....
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