Fantasy Articles

In part I of this article we talked about the basics of fantasy baseball - what you look for in a player, how to identify ones who are more likely to meet or exceed expectations, picking players who fit your league, position scarcity, and passed a friendly reminder on to all of you not to rely on a single fantasy source - after all no one wins every year.

Today we’ll take the motto “Be Prepared” as the key to our fantasy success and look a little deeper at tools and directions which help you plan and come out ahead of the pack on draft day.

1) Plan your draft day lists. When you walk into your draft you want to have some sort of an edge. For most of us that boils down to having a system.  Some of the best systems are very simple they include:

  • Dream player lists - a list of the 3-5 guys you’d most want at a position. 
  • Overall player rankings - where you can run down the list and check who you ranked highest of the remaining players at any time. 
  • Position by position player rankings. 
  • Color coded charts dividing players into tiers (usually done position by position) so you can target guys in tier one first, guys in tier two second and so on. 

Plans should not be too rigid but they should serve as a guideline for your draft to help you keep track of players. Sometimes it’ll amaze you as to who falls through the cracks and gets forgotten. I’ve salvaged players like Jose Guillen, Reggie Sanders and even a young rookie named Chase Utley from some of these lists in recent years. 

2) Know your league factors. Every draft guide has dollar values but just what do they really mean?  

Dollar values are set according to a number of fantasy owners that are projected to play. Some guides assume 10 owners, some assume 12, some 14 and some assume 20 owners make up your league. So, if your league doesn’t conform to YOUR GUIDE’S PROJECTIONS then all the dollar values in auction based drafts will be skewed. ***Note*** Every fantasy guide should tell you how many teams they base their dollar values upon.  It’s usually in the first few pages, often in the stuff most readers skip right over. 

The following paragraphs a) and b) tell you how to compensate for differences in your league’s values and those in your guide. 

a) The more players in your league the more dollars there are chasing premium players and the fewer premium players there are to be split among the teams. That raises the prices on those players. (More auction money - all aimed at the same stars - thus in a 20 player league with a standard $260 payroll there are $5200 being spent to buy a finite number of better than average players players) 

b) The fewer players in your league the fewer dollars and teams to split the big names among. That means there is less competition and good players can be had at a discount to projected values. (Less auction money - all aimed at the same stars thus in an 8 team league using the standard $260 payroll you only have $2120 chasing the same number of players as in the 20 team league) 

This can be a tricky concept to grasp but it can be significant edge if you understand it and your opponents. In leagues with a lot of players, convincing them that going past the price in the guide is the dumbest mistake in the world - while you get guys at guide price or even a few dollars above it, which is really a discount relative to value. In leagues with few players, get your opponents to overpay - by paying guide price! Then when they are hurting for dollars you can steal the players you want. 

3) Use draft tools - they help you make the best plan possible.  What tools are most useful in deciding how to rank players?

  • Depth Charts - Tells who is the most likely starter at each position. 
  • Lineups! - Knowing who’s batting in the RBI slots can be huge unless your league doesn’t count RBIs.  Knowing who the table setters are will add to your run totals
  • Rotation Charts - Tells who the teams’ starters are.
  • Park Effects - Which parks will depress or elevate a player’s baseline stats?  -Manager Effects - which managers might rob players of value for example speedsters playing in Oakland, will get a lot fewer green lights. 
  • Opinions - player capsules, expert opinions and projections are all useful tools - but that’s all they are, they are not definitive. Every expert gets some wrong, some right and even nails a solid sleeper or two now and again. Don’t be afraid to trust your own hunches and feelings when it comes to players. 

4) Balance - Balance your team - never punt a category but don’t assume that everyone needs to contribute equally - sometimes unbalanced teams are at an advantage. A perfect example might be to get two guys who’ll hit 40-50 home runs and one guy who’ll get 5 plus 50 steals as opposed to three guys who’ll hit 25-30 dingers and steal 15 bases each. The numbers would work out to be 80-100 homers and 50 steals as opposed to 75-90 homers and 45 steals. 

5) Plan to fill your positions wisely - no point in having three great first basemen if you can’t play them all - especially if it means you ended up with a piss poor middle infielder because you took the third first baseman. After the elite players are off the board make sure you fill each position with the best player you can draft or buy at each position. 

6) Plan to take multiple category guys over all but the elite single category guys: Aside from perhaps a few elite 1-2 category guys like Juan Pierre, concentrate your efforts and or money on guys who can help you in multiple categories. So, bump closers and guys who just steal bases down a notch - but not too far since you don’t ever want to punt a category. 

Closers - you need them but the closer is the most precarious position in all of baseball. In your average season expect at least a 35% turnover at the closer role. So, guys who are considered “elite” at that moment all will go in higher rounds or at a slight premium.  But that’s not to say that they are that much better in terms of the single category than the Joe Borowski’s (45 saves with a 5.07 ERA last year) in terms of saves alone.  In fact even on bad teams most closers will manage to notch 30 saves (18 players did last season 13 who played on teams that didn’t make the playoffs) 

7) Rookies: Everyone likes rookies. We’re inclined to look for someone who might be the next superstar, especially in keeper leagues where you can lock the player away for a couple of seasons at discounted values. But it’s the rare rookie who has a great rookie year so hold off on them until you have built your core team unless you need them to shore up a really weak position. 

8) Know last year’s numbers if at all possible - Forewarned is forearmed. If you play with the same guys each year knowing the league totals for the past few seasons can tell you about how many points you’ll need to win your league or finish in the upper levels of it. They also give you a good guestimate as to how many points you need to wring out of each category to get to that level. 

9) You won’t get everyone you want and you are going to have to make some compromises. Make sure that your plans go deep enough that you don’t have to scramble too much to come out with a top rate team - and remember no winner is built that first day (though many losers are), you’ll have to trade and tweak your team if you want to win. 

10) Make a list of bait - in auction leagues having a list of players that other owners are likely to value - or even better overvalue - who you don’t have an interest in is always a good step. Nominate from that list regularly on your team (Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds anyone?). That’ll force your opposition to use their resources on players that you don’t want and hopefully leave them at a disadvantage when the bidding comes to players you want. Even in a non-auction league casual chatter might make an anxious opponent jump a round or two early.

Feel free to ask questions in our forums at MLBCenter.org, browse the fantasy index (there are many strategy articles there that can help you. I strongly recommend reading some of our old articles - Expert Opinion (skip the player notes on this one as they are for the 2004 season, but definitely read the bottom part), Draft Factors and Selecting Players)