Fantasy baseball advice is about to take a turn for the worse. Below is some personal advice, or more simply, easy suggestions to think about as you draft your 2013 fantasy baseball team. I don't pretend to know all the answers on how to win a fantasy baseball league and I won't be that guy that tells you that only one strategy works over another. You may take my advice and then proceed to finish in last place. I apologize in advance although that would be your fault, not mine ;). I'm also not going to WOW you with any quirky yet high level-esque super "expert" fantasy advice. This is more a dumbed-down common-sensed approach to fantasy baseball management. Probably more usable for beginners through intermediate players. I've found over the years that when I simplify my draft strategy, I get better results.
What I will tell you is from my 15 or so years of playing fantasy sports, I've accessed a fair amount of success without being a stat-head, number cruncher, whatever you want to call it. I'm more a "go-with-your-gut" type of player. Do the research, form your own opinions, get results. By research, I mean know the players, keep an eye on the news, study draft position, know where-when-how to draft for value. You won't see me here pushing BABIP, Luck%, and all these stat categories that make you want to stab yourself in the eye balls. Not saying there's anything wrong with that strategy, its just not for me.
My personal fantasy baseball strategy or philosophy follows three simple rules. My goal is to utilize effective, yet efficient ways to research and study players and draft position without trying to memorize percentages and stats that may or may not help in your league standings. My three strategies include:
Reading up on updated Player News - Go online to find local newspapers that cover the players' team extensively, search twitter for updated player news. This is especially important during Spring Training. I do this first, then read other fantasy blogs, magazines, etc., simply for more opinion but mostly for entertainment. This is it. Not much more too it. If you know your players mixed with some basic strategy, you will win fantasy leagues.
Do Mock Drafts - There's a ton of mock draft software out there these days. Do a few early (start by mid January at the latest) during the off season and see where managers are drafting players. Get a sense of where you might find value. Even if its against the computer, usually the draft software ranks players somewhat close to where everyone else ranks them. Remember, no one website has the perfect rankings, you should be creating your own rankings and just using all the content out there on the Internet simply as a guide.
Choose experience over unproven upside - This is where the "uncomplicated" part of the article title comes into play and the foundation for this piece. See below.
So why has fantasy baseball advice taken a turn for the worse? Because the third part of my strategy is so wide-open and probably has no factual reason why it works for me. This strategy also takes a bit of luck as does any fantasy baseball championship. I'm a guy who likes to get the best results by doing the least amount of work (more work meaning - memorizing and stressing over useless stats) as possible and as I mentioned above, I'm more a "gut" drafter based off opinion more then anything. I admit it, but, I'm doing my research and forming my own opinions. Here goes it....
My reliable yet uncomplicated winning strategy is drafting players, still with upside, that will potentially offer value off their draft position with more experience or service time over youth. Meaning, I like to draft players with a full 2-5 years experience over the promising rookie or second player. Some examples....
In the first Round of any (non keeper) draft in 2013, I will choose Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, Carlos Gonzalez, and even Jose Bautista over say a Mike Trout. Call me crazy knowing Trout had an amazing rookie season, but the risk of a sophomore slump (I know it appears unlikely), is just too high to let a steady elite player like Pujols or a Cano (considering position scarcity) slide to the next guy. Even Cabrera, after a Triple Crown season makes sense here despite an almost certain decline in overall stats in 2013 (probably only slightly). Real player inexperience kills fantasy championship hope. Just ask Eric Hosmer last year, Matt Moore, Dustin Ackley, Mat Gamel, Yonder Alonso, Delmon Young a few more years back. I can go on all day about over-hyped first or second year players, drafted way to high, only to produce much to low. My theory is that for every one Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, etc., there's a 5 or 6 Delmon Young's.
As an example, Matt Moore is a fine player, definite elite potential, but his over-hype in his rookie year produced average results. Managers were drafting Moore in rounds 7-10 in drafts last season. I had him pegged in say rounds 13-16 which is the type of value he ended up producing. Think of the SP you probably passed up in 2012 for a guy like Moore.... James Shields, C.J. Wilson, Adam Wainwright, Mat Latos, Jordan Zimmerman, Josh Johnson, Max Scherzer. These are a few I cherry picked from a mock draft done at SI.com in March 2012. I'm not saying that Moore was the wrong pick here, just saying a choice of an over-hyped player drafted probably 5 rounds too high didn't profit you anything. Look at Johnson and Wainwright, two elite SP's coming back from injury, drafted in the same range (R7-10) providing similar stats. Wainwright was a beast in the second half and Johnsons team was terrible but both provided decent value considering their elite potential and draft position. The big name passed up is James Shields who was chosen after Matt Moore in this case. Shields had a monster season with 223 K and a WHIP under 1.20. This is a prime example of a few years experience, service time with some upside, and less risk over the over-hyped rookie with elite potential. These guys simply need time to grow.
Don't even get me started on Eric Hosmer who was drafted in the 4th round of the referenced SI mock draft. Again, the hype extreme and every magazine and blog regurgitated the potential of the amazing Eric Hosmer in his second year. Hosmer turned out to be a dud when you could have drafted David Wright in this example. All in hindsight of course but Hosmer is a prime example of what I'm talking about.
Ahead in 2013:
Here are basically a few cases for 2013. These are just ideas and my own personal strategy. Take it as you please. Use it, don't use it, whatever, but here is how I'm thinking my draft and keeping it uncomplicated.....
Desmond Jennings over Starling Marte - You'll have to over pay for Marte while Jennings will likely slip past his draft position from 2012 or remain unchanged at the most. Jennings was over-hyped last year too, but now with a year and a half experience, he's 26, and possesses elite talent, I'd rather take a chance on a potential break out OR an experienced contributor over the over-hyped rookie. If you put Marte's 2012 numbers together over a full season, you can make a case that he would be fantasy elite. The skills are there, but I'm not paying for it this year.
Ike Davis over Anthony Rizzo - Rizzo is primed for a 30 HR season but only half a season under his belt which means he's primed for a bust as well. Rizzo will be hyped in 2013. I'd say Ike Davis is comparable here in the power department but with a couple more years experience. I like Rizzo and the power potential but I'd rather minimize the risk with Davis at a likely similar draft position. Paul Konerko on the experienced and less hyped side is another comparable player I'd take before jumping overboard with Rizzo.
Ichiro Suzuki over Leonys Martin - Martin will get some hype with Josh Hamilton in Texas out of the way but I'm still going experience over youth here. Martin has extreme talent and skills but I don't like buying a first model Ford if you know what I mean. I'd rather stick with Ichiro knowing what I'll get with a slight uptick in power playing in Yankee Stadium. Brett Gardner, Lorenzo Cain and even Ben Revere jump out at me before I take a chance on a hyped Martin.
So that's my basic and uncomplicated strategy. Looking at the players with a couple years under their belts along with the guys who get you there every year. Kill me on my simple strategy if you like. I'm not saying this will win you a championship in 2013 but I am saying it's helped me either win or place in the money the last few years in the different types of leagues I play in. This philosophy mixed with a little luck will get you there without going into stat overload and making you recent fantasy baseball before the season even starts! ;) Good luck in 2013! More simple and uncomplicated strategy to come....