After all the planning you’ve done before draft day and all the hours you’ve spent sweating over fantasy guides and plotting your strategy, what it all comes down to is executing the plan. Battle plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy unless you prepare to deal with the contingencies in advance.
1) Be prepared. Have your plan and tools ready – this should include your overall draft outline. Bring your guide, homemade sheets, draft software or a combination of the three: Each has their advantages.
Pros- Neat, usually well laid out
Cons - Not customizable, someone in the same room probably is using the same guide
Pros: The newcomer to the arena is still in its infancy and I don’t know enough about the software out there to know which one would be best to load into your laptops and take to a draft. In theory they should be a big help with stats, keeping accurate track of who was taken and the pick or price of the pick.
Cons: Expensive, require a computer, need to learn the program, oh and the couple I’ve tried had a tendency to crash.
Pros: Customized by you to your own tastes and draft preferences.
Cons: Takes time and effort to make.
2) Know your opponents - Knowing who is a homer, who tends to overpay, who has an unnatural attachment to some players, who knows the hot prospects, and who’s good at picking sleepers can all come in handy and you can play off that knowledge in the same way a good poker player might when he can read his opponents in a card game. - Misinformation/deception - In poker you get to bluff, but in fantasy baseball you have some ability to trade misinformation on which you are going to draft and how highly you value someone - especially if the cheapo across from you keeps borrowing your copy of some fantasy guide, which you’ve highlighted and taken notes in. That’s a rarity but it does happen. More likely you’ll have a few minutes to gossip, talk shop or trash before or during the draft. This is part of almost every live draft when you do it in person. In auction style drafts it’s a great technique.
3) Don’t be afraid to use a crutch when you need to - that’s what guides are for, if someone calls a player you don’t know about or need to refresh your mind about, pull out that guide or ask the room who the guy is/what he did last season. If your group lies about things like this it’s time to find a new group.
4) Draft to win/draft to trade - The odds of you picking a winning team on draft day without ever having to make a move are just about nil. Once the season goes you are going to have to make moves - both in terms of free agents and most likely in terms of trading. Once your team is pretty much set, or the talent level has started dropping off dramatically it’s time to take whatever flyers on sleepers or rookies that you are going to.
Sleepers/prospects - good rule of thumb is to be Mr. Cheap when it comes to these guys. Few sleepers turn into stars and fewer prospects mature all that quick. Don’t pay big dollars for potential unless the field is really barren of talent and you don’t want to count on someone like a Scott Hatteburg.
Keepers - the same thing that I said about sleepers and prospects applies here except in the most sophisticated of keeper leagues where there are budgets for keepers/prospects or special drafts for them. Unless you have a league where you build a team over several seasons it’s probably best to focus on the now.
5) Different draft types need different strategies. Auctions are the most complex, totally computer picked the easiest, and serpentine somewhere in the middle. Don’t be surprised if you find one you are better at than others.
Here are some general tips.
Auto picking: Almost every league has some sort of auto pick function. In many leagues everyone picks this way as opposed to a live draft. When a whole league is auto picking everything is about your strategy in setting your picking order and it tends not to be too much of a liability. However if you miss your live draft and have to let the computer pick for you then you tend to lose a lot - since you are unable to react to things going on during the draft. If you need to do it don’t skimp on time spent preparing your draft order list.
Serpentine: When in doubt, take the best player - especially if time is running out on your pick time. He might not fit your team but you can always trade for what you want as long as you have good talent to trade.
Auction: Use your list of bait players to get your opposition to use up their money. Feel free to help drive up prices in the auction for these guys - just be smart enough to know that you can get saddled with these players if you bid too vigorously. That makes it smart to nominate guys that you don’t want - but can live with while everyone has money to spend.
Nominating hometown guys while everyone is still flush tends to take an inordinate amount of money off the table. In my favorite league (I’m in New York) A-Rod went for $64 in the first around of the table and was one of about 8 Yankees to go in the first two rounds and took several hundred dollars, far more than the real value of the players, off the table quickly.
Good luck! And be sure to let us know how your draft goes!
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