Unless you've done all the research yourself, you probably at least to a degree are basing your fantasy draft off of some sort of guide -- be it a magazine or download. That's not a bad thing. Most of us don't do this for a living. But just having a fantasy guide isn't really enough. It's all about understanding what the fantasy guide does, what its limitations are and how you can maximize the information that your fantasy guide gives you.
After all in fantasy sports there rarely is such a thing as too much information. The owner who keeps the most abreast of the news is the one who always seems to manage grab that new guy who's closing in some town, who picks up the impact rookie a week before he's on anyone else's radar, and always seems to find players worth having off the waiver wire when everyone else is scrambling.
So if you read the magazine and pay attention to the news you should be in a pretty good place, right? Well to a degree yes. But if all you do is read the magazine and keep your ears open, you'll be fine during the season, but you might be cheating yourself going into the draft.
Taking that information and putting it into some sort of more useful form takes an understanding of the limitations of a fantasy guide really are. While much of this information applies to draft leagues only, quite a bit will still apply to serpentine drafts.
1) Every fantasy guide is just a set of guesses, albeit educated ones learned from many years of playing fantasy baseball. That's the biggest truth about fantasy guides. We make projections based on what a player has done in the past if they have enough of a track record, we maybe add a bit or take off a bit from those projections depending on factors like age, home park, where we think a player might be hitting in the lineup and how many at bats we think they'll see during a season. All of those things can change, but established players with a decent track record will almost always be ranked higher, and given higher projected dollar values than most players without that established record of performance.
When we don't have that past performance to lean on, we often look at a player and compare him to someone similar from the past to make a guess as to what he'll do. Sometimes those guesses are dead on -- as anyone who drafted players like Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard or more recently Evan Longoria, following their spectacular rookie seasons can attest.
But for every single Longoria, there are guys who fall flat on their faces and grossly underperform projections in their sophomore or even junior year -- like the Kung Fu Panda and Ben Zobrist did for many owners last year. Every year you'll find a crop of these guys who are projected to outperform a great season and fail to do so. Because of that their value tends to swing wildly for a few years until we finally can figure out just what they can do.
2) The second thing everyone should know about fantasy guides - player values shift not just over the course of a season, but based upon the number of owners playing in any given league. In an auction league that's easy to see. In an eight-owner league there are only $2080 fantasy dollars (based on a standard $260 auction) floating out there for a limited pool of players; in a 10-owner league that number jumps to $2600; in a 12-owner league it jumps to $3220; and in a 20-owner league it jumps to $5200 available dollars -- all bidding on a player pool that remains exactly the same size.
Thus a $31 dollar price projection for player X might very well be right in a 10-owner league, but in a 14-owner league the real value might well be $36, while in an eight-player league paying $27 might be overspending.
Making sure your guide is balanced (correct number of owners) for your league, at least roughly so, can be very important -- and it can be a huge advantage for you in any league were there are more than 10 owners, and some if not most are using price projections based on a different size league.
3) The third thing you should know about fantasy guides -- and their associated dollar value projections -- is that they dilute greatly the more players come off the board. In fact in a 10- player league by the time the 30th player is off the board the values are essentially absurd.
That's because the economics of the fantasy draft cannot actually support the dollar values for an entire auction. Here's why:
According to one well known and respected fantasy guide, the top 10 first basemen (mixed league) are worth $335, the top 10 AL outfielders $283 and the top 10 NL outfielders $294. Thus in a 10-player league where the entire team budget is $2600 these 30 players have already commanded $912 -- or over a third of the overall budget for the entire league.
Thus in the middle to late rounds, when you hear someone mention that the nominated player up for auction at that moment has a book value of $24, don't be silly enough to believe it. His value WAS $24 if he'd been one of the first 50 or so players off the board, but in the late rounds he might not even be worth $5.
If you can remember these three things and take them with you into your draft, or better yet integrate them into your fantasy planning, you'll find yourself with a bit more of an edge when draft day rolls around.
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