Those of us who are a little bit focused on our game are already thinking about drafts for next season. In a pure draft league 4x4 or 5x5 who should you take. Without a doubt four or five names jump off the page when you think first round. So how do you pick? what are the criteria which help you make those tough decisions?
In my mind there are a number of factors which should effect your choice. These factors are statistics, support, skill level, upside, position, age, injury history(or projection), playing time expected and most importantly plan.
Statistics: Fantasy ball is about statistics. The best guy on a dead end team may be only as good as the third best guy on a team in contention. Looking at a players past, may be a reasonable indicator as to what to expect from him, but look for trends or changes, like increasing or falling numbers over the past seasons. Try to think about why numbers might suddenly be hugely up or down (a injury which kept a player out for half the season? suddenly moving to a more favorable park? failing ability due to age? transition season? switching leagues? change in lineup support?). All of these factors can change the value of a player, causing him to be over- or under- rated.
Support: When you judge a player you must consider who and what will be supporting him. A player with wonderful support in a powerful lineup may be worth much more than one with nothing to back him up. i.e. The clean up hitter for Tampa Bay might not be worth as much as the number eight hitter for the New York Yankees.
Skill level: Pretty obvious. One player is not as good as any other. Some are much more talented. Judging talent is what the game is all about.
Upside: is a player at his peak, still getting better, or in the twilight of his career?
Position: What position does a player qualify at? Are their a lot of quality players at that position? is there someone similar that you could get at that position in a another round? The depth of a position matters. There are very few spectacular shortstops, second basemen and catchers, but tons of quality outfielders and 1st basemen. When evaluating positions look at the drop off in numbers between the top players at a position and the rest. Figure out if a quality player at that position might mean more to you than a better player at another position.
Age: An older player is more likely to break down, get injured or need more rest. A younger player may not have the consistency of an older player.
injury history or projections: Lets face it, these are tough but sometimes predictable. For example I predict Pedro will spend time on the DL in 2003. Still he is a top pitcher and when he does pitch he will probably be spectacular. Its also important to know what the injury history is, a player coming back from a injury could be a bust or could have recovered completely.
League Categories: This is the external factor that can really change what you are looking for. A league which plays with intentional walks can make a Barry Bonds hugely more valuable, while one that plays without SB makes players like Ichiro much less valuable. Knowing the categories your league values can entirely change factors in choosing a team. Leagues which play with oddball catagories also tend to make most player rating guides less useful.
Playing time expected: Is player x a everyday player or is he part of a platoon? Does he only start again righties? lefties?
Plan: Plan your draft and draft your plan. Without a question the most important aspect of any drafting is plan. In a team by team draft, done in rounds, knowing where you pick in the first and second round might open or limit your choices dramatically.
The most important factor however is balance. Figuring out what yours should be is a very personal one. Do you want to focus on pitching? or put a premium on speed? This is where knowing your categories and the levels you may have to attain to win come in handy.
In a auction draft setting maximums to spend on certain players is a huge key. Never overpay.
know who your bargans are likely to be.
know sleepers and prospects you want to gamble on.
Keep track of who is available in the draft.
Budget! Nothing sucks worse than filling 12-13 spots on your roster then realizing you have only a handful of dollars to fill your roster with.
Keep track of who is left Its amazing who slips through the cracks. Last year I got Lance Berkman in my very last spot because nobody else was using a list to recall who was still available (The fact I had $21 left to spend when no one else could afford to match that bid helped too).
Be flexible. Sometimes a player you really want is going for too much at auction, or is already gone when you get a chance to draft. Deal with it. Your draft should not fall apart based on this one player.
In keeper leagues, knowing salary restrictions is another factor.
Most importantly have fun! For many players, draft day is the highlight of the season, don’t rush it .
Hope this helps give a little perspective to the draft, and gives some guidance to those tryng to figure out where to start in planning your draft.