Let get’s something straight. You won’t be buying Mike Trout for a dollar in next year’s draft. You won’t get him in the second round. Heck, you might not get him with the second pick overall.
Trout is one of the handful of guys who step up from the minors to make it big immediately. OK, in the case of Trout maybe huge is a better word, but early in the season he was nothing more than a gamble, a gamble with good minor league statistics but a middling MLB track record.
Owners who were smart enough to take a flyer on him have reaped huge dividends, and quite a few of them are sitting in top positions in their fantasy leagues. You might think that a few of those owners were lucky. You might even think a few had some foresight or were brilliant prognosticators as to what Mike Trout could become. (To be fair: not even the most insightful minor league scout saw this coming right away).
But what most of those owners really had in common was that they set their team up in such a way that they could take the gamble on a promising rookie.
You might call that lucky, but as Branch Ricky said, “Luck is the residue of design.”
Now you might be thinking just what the heck I’m doing writing about team design more than two-thirds of the way through the baseball season. But I’m doing it for a very good reason even though many of you have given up on the fantasy baseball season and are now thinking about fantasy football and hockey.
Designing a team and having a plan are the keys to winning in any fantasy sport and those of you already thinking about other sports -- or better yet who are thinking about fantasy baseball 2013 -- can take a look at what others in your leagues have done, as well as your own mistakes to make yourself a better fantasy player.
While luck is indeed a part of fantasy ball, you have to set yourself up to be lucky. What I mean by that is to make sure that when you build a team, you leave yourself the flexibility to gamble on promising rookies, bounce back candidates and players you think are capable of having breakout seasons.
Identifying those players takes time and research, and that’s true even if you trust in some of the best “experts” and fantasy draft kits. It’s the most important thing we do for any fantasy sport.
The second important thing to do is to plan your draft in such a way that your team has a strong core to provide base statistics that will keep you competitive even if some of your “projection” players don’t quite live up to expectations (though if you drafted Jason Bay as a key bounce back player you have only yourself to blame).
You also have to have the mentality of a winner. That might be the hardest factor to define and might be impossible to teach. Among the traits you’ll need for that are 1) the ability not to fall so in love with players that you won’t cut or trade them if the right situation comes along; 2) the ability to make hard decisions without drawing them out too long; and 3) an awareness not just of your opponents but of what is going on in baseball and in your league.
You do need “luck” in terms of dodging injuries and getting the most out of the guys you’ve picked to run with, but if you have an intelligent team design you should find yourself able to gamble on some speculative guys. Maybe you’ll even find the next Mike Trout on your waiver wire next year.