Draft Day Strategies

By Steve Goldman, staff writer

Getting psyched about your fantasy season? You mustcare about the quality of your team, otherwise you wouldn’t be visiting thiswebsite. Don’t wait until draft day to do all your work; in general, thefoundations for the best fantasy teams are laid BEFORE the draft. Below aresome tips that can help you. The specifics refer to fantasy leagues that usesystems that award points to each individual player, rather than to rotisserieleagues. However, you can use the general principles of these tips to apply toa rotisserie league as well:

Know the rules as far in advance as possible.

Ask your commissioner to give you a copy of therules. If that’s impossible, try to get him/her to give them to you verbally.If you know up front how the league operates, you can better prepare yourselffor the draft. And a commissioner who waits until draft day to explain therules is doing everyone a disservice, except him/herself.

There are leagues in which some major scoringchanges are voted upon on draft day. In general it is better to discouragethis, if at all possible. Such changes, depending on their magnitude, couldmean that many of the hours that you put in to prepare for the draft will gofor naught.

Evaluate the eligible players using yourleague’s scoring system.

One of the most common mistakes made by fantasyowners is to draft players based only on the ratings from a "cheatsheet." But those are only meant as a guide; no cheat sheet (includingours) will be valid for all leagues. There are thousands of different scoringsystems out there, and each one necessitates a different type of ranking. I’mnot saying to ignore the cheat sheets. By all means, use them- but only asguides.

For example, if your league credits for strikeouts butit penalizes for walks that will negate some of a pitcher’s value. As anotherexample, I was once in a league where a player received points for putouts andassists credited for the position at which the owner played him. Naturally thissystem increased the value of some players and decreased others. And it negatedmuch of the worth of players who normally spend significant time at multiplepositions.

The next step is to rank all of the eligibleplayers at each position using your league's scoring system and the prioryear’s statistics. There is ordinarily a great deal of correlation from year toyear in a player’s fantasy performance using a particular scoring system. Itwill generally take at least several hours to do the rankings, but the timespent is generally well worth it.

After you have done that, examine the list to seewhich players you think will improve this year, and who you think will decline.Consider factors such as the player’s age, his long-term history, a change inteams/ballparks, the effect that off-season player movement will have on theplayer, injuries, or anything else that might affect his performance and hisplaying time. Compile your own rankings at each position, based on how valuableyou think each player will be this year.

Generally you need not rank every eligible player.Determine how many players you should rank at each position by the size of yourleague and the makeup of your rosters. (Example: If you are in a 10-team leagueand each team carries exactly two shortstops, there is no need to rank morethan the top 20 men at that position.)

Draft day is not the time to do most of yourpreparation. That should be done in advance. That way you will be ready whenthe day comes, and you shouldn’t have to fret a lot over each draft choice asthey come up. Most of your work will have already been completed, and the onlything beyond your control will be what the other owners do.

Develop a plan.

Study the available players at each position. Don’tbe fooled into thinking that the player with the most projected points isnecessarily the one who should be drafted first.

Here is an example that should illustrate thispoint: Suppose you are in a 10-team league. After doing your research, you haveassigned projected point values of between 950 and 1,000 to the 20 outfieldersthat you rate the highest. Suppose ‘hitter x’ is #1 on this list, and he hasthe highest projected point total of any player you have rated at any position.

It might seem that ‘hitter x’ is the player youshould draft if you have the first pick. That might indeed be true, but notnecessarily. To illustrate, suppose further that Randy Johnson (in his prime) isyour top-rated starting pitcher, with a projected point total of 500, and thehurler you rate second projects out to just 400. Then Johnson would be a betterpick than ‘hitter x’. This is true because you could select Johnson and stillbe able to get an outfielder who projects to within 50 points of ‘hitter x’ valuewith a later pick. However if you choose ‘hitter x’, Johnson will likely begone by the time you make your next selection, and someone else will have apitcher who projects to be far better than any of his peers. Taking Johnsonwould give you that edge.

Be ready on draft day.

As I said, most of your work should be done by now.If you have prepared properly, you should be able to make your selectionswithout an overwhelming amount of thought, while some of the other owners willlikely struggle over most every pick.

However there are still decisions to consider.Mostly you will need to utilize the strategy referred to in the prior section.In other words, whenever it approaches your turn to select, take a look at thetop players available at each position, and look for the positions for whichthe best remaining player will soon experience a significant decrease in value.(For example, in the prior example, as soon as Randy Johnson is drafted, thebest remaining player at the starting pitcher position will incur a significantdecrease in value.)

In doing your analysis, note where you are in thedrafting order and how long it will be until you select again. Consider thelikelihood that certain players will "slide" to your next pick, givenwhat you know about the players, the other owners and their needs. (Just for anexample, an owner who selects a third baseman in the first round is veryunlikely to pick another third baseman in the second round.)

In general, nothing of any value comes without somework. To maximize your chances for a successful fantasy season, a good deal ofwork will be necessary. But if you love baseball as I do, the hours will go byquickly, because the work is also fun. And when you reap the rewards of successlater, you will be very glad that you put in the extra time.



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