Unorthodox Draft Strategies and the Minor Leaguers

By R. Gregory Scalf

Preparing for the draft has changed over the years. In the late eighties a player that had done pre-season research had a distinct advantage over his peers. The information was hard to get, and usually not up to date, but still more than his opponents usually had. Today we are virtually inundated with information, often only a few minutes old. It is not unusual today for a person to do no homework for the draft and to "printout" or read draft day information off the net or other various media outlets only hours or a couple days before the draft.

Everyone is offering advice for draft day as well. Many of the major publications have sections in their magazine devoted to draft day strategy. You also know that all your opponents have read the same "expert" draft day advice by the piles of publications in the draft room. Same as the ones you bought. As preparing for the draft has changed, so has the knowledge of fantasy team owners on draft day, thanks to all the aforementioned info. In today's game, virtually all the owners know what they are doing and have had access to "draft day tips." How do you get an edge on draft day if everyone knows the "basic" strategies?

I believe you need to do the unexpected. The following tips are some unorthodox strategies for draft day. The first thing you read in these columns is "don't take players early because there is too much money available early and players will be overpriced."

Unorthodox Strategies

Unorthodox strategy number one: Take a couple players early in the draft, possibly throwing out their name yourself. Why? There are a couple of reasons. The main reason is based on the fact that most people will pass on players early simply because of the advice from the "experts." This could provide the chance for a bargain right off the bat because people are backing off. A better reason is simple - expansion. With the number of new faces in the majors this year, there will be many players without a history. I say you pay the top dollar early and get the players you need early, and let the other owners worry about hoping guys comes through. This may be especially true in pitching this year.

Pitching leads us to strategy number two. In the late rounds of the draft select a pitcher (or two) on the disabled list. If you are worried about having to take the late round pitchers, this will give you a chance to see which ones are doing well. Most leagues allow for a two week period before a transactions must be made on a DL'd player. This two weeks would give you time to scout the free agent pool for "safer" picks. Every year pitchers do not get drafted, but have excellent seasons. This approach can help you ease some fears of picking pitchers in an expansion year.

Strategy number three eludes to when throwing out names at the draft. Remember that early part of the draft I mentioned before? Well, I am going back to it. When throwing out names of players you do not want early in the draft, throw them out at a high price. This will help ensure that your opponents do pay more for those early players. Throw out Ken Griffey for ten dollars and he goes around the draft room as everybody ups the bid by a dollar or two. After one time around the room, teams will start dropping out of the bidding. Almost everyone will bid at least once. Then the serious bidding begins for Griffey. By starting at ten, he is at twenty by the time he goes around the room. Start the bidding at 30 or higher. This time after going around the room once he is in the forties before teams start dropping out and the serious bidding begins, driving his price into the fifties.

The final advice is the same that started the column. Do not be predictable. If you have a pattern, like certain type of players, etc. Don't let your opponents think they know you. Do something to throw them off and make them think about what you are up to. It doesn't have to be a major gamble, just something to keep your opponents guessing.

The minor league phase

Speaking of guessing, the minor league phase of a fantasy draft is usually just that, guessing. I have a few rules for the minor league draft, and they are unorthodox as well. Never select pitchers with minor league picks. They never earn the ten units assigned to them.

Only select players with stolen base and power potential. I generally never use my minor leaguers because I trade them for established talent to help me during the stretch drive. So I want players that have a huge upside. Even if I have to go down to single A to get them. At trade time you can mention they stole 80 bases in Lynchburg and will get a bunch in the majors some day. There are always exceptions to the rule, but the bottom line is that a rookie is unknown and a veteran is known. I will trade the unknown quantity for the known most of the time.

If you do not like to trade your picks, then take players that have a chance to play in the majors at positions you are weak at. Two, one dollar catchers? Take a chance on one being called up from AAA. The bottom line is rookies get hyped on their potential and few live up to it.

R. Gregory Scalf is a former division I baseball player and associate scout for the Kansas City Royals. He currently is the webmaster at Fantasy Baseball Central and the assistant webmaster at John Mosey's Fantasy Baseball Home Page.

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