|Fantasy Strategy: Basic Draft Planning Part II|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 28, 2008
In part IÂ 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 weâ€™ll take the motto â€śBe Preparedâ€ť 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)Â 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.Â Some of the best systems are very simple they include:
Plans should not be too rigid but they should serve as a guideline for your draft to help you keep track of players. Sometimes itâ€™ll amaze you as to who falls through the cracks and gets forgotten. Iâ€™ve salvaged players like Jose Guillen, Reggie Sanders and even a young rookie named Chase Utley from some of these lists in recent years.Â
2) Know your league factors. Every draft guide has dollar values but just what do they really mean?Â Â
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 doesnâ€™t conform to YOUR GUIDEâ€™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.Â Itâ€™s usually in the first few pages, often in the stuff most readers skip right over.Â
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)Â
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.Â
3) Use draft tools - they help you make the best plan possible.Â What tools are most useful in deciding how to rank players?
4) Balance - Balance your team - never punt a category but donâ€™t assume that everyone needs to contribute equally - sometimes unbalanced teams are at an advantage. A perfect example might be to get two guys whoâ€™ll hit 40-50 home runs and one guy whoâ€™ll get 5 plus 50 steals as opposed to three guys whoâ€™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.Â
5) Plan to fill your positions wisely - no point in having three great first basemen if you canâ€™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.Â
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 donâ€™t ever want to punt a category.Â
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 â€śeliteâ€ť at that moment all will go in higher rounds or at a slight premium.Â But thatâ€™s not to say that they are that much better in terms of the single category than the Joe Borowskiâ€™s (45 saves with a 5.07 ERA last year) in terms of saves alone.Â 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 didnâ€™t make the playoffs)Â
7) Rookies: Everyone likes rookies. Weâ€™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 itâ€™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.Â
8) Know last yearâ€™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 youâ€™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.Â
9) You wonâ€™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 donâ€™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), youâ€™ll have to trade and tweak your team if you want to win.Â
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 donâ€™t have an interest in is always a good step. Nominate from that list regularly on your team (Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds anyone?). Thatâ€™ll force your opposition to use their resources on players that you donâ€™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.