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Preparing For Your Fantasy Baseball Draft: Part I

Published February 9, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, we'll be running a series to help you prepare for your upcoming fantasy baseball draft. This particular series will be more focused on the methods behind your draft preparation than specific players, but we'll use a few examples as well.

Part I: Overview
Part II: Knowing Your Enemies
Part III: Draft Prep - Part I
Part IV: Draft Prep - Part II
Part V: Keepers, Trades, and Prospects
Part VI: Positional Nuances - Hitting
Part VII: Positonal Nuances - Pitching


My annual fantasy baseball draft is always one of my five favorite events of the year. I would say that I'm more than borderline obsessive compulsive with my league. I'd go so far as to say I could probably be diagnosed and put on medication. That’s just me being honest in how I feel about the draft. For me it is work that is meditation for my soul. A simple highlight for me could be reading through random material and realizing Jason Kubel is now an Arizona Diamondback. That may sound simplistic, but it makes my day.

While I realize that not everyone is into that sort of information, what I hope to provide you with is a series of stories that will prepare you for your upcoming fantasy baseball draft. There are so many variations not only of league types alone, but also in terms of competitive nature, monetary gain, and just flat-out bragging rights. I hope that you can utilize just a piece of the information that I provide regardless of where you fall in that spectrum.

For me, fantasy baseball gives me time that I spend with eleven close friends and family. It is a random text message in the middle of May poking fun of another friend because of Adam Dunn’s and Dan Uggla’s combined batting average; It is a family get together where the women talk about shopping, children, and The Biggest Loser while the men are huddled up talking about other men and argue the virtues of defense over offensive production at the Shortstop position.

I will provide you with an overview of how any of you can prepare for your league. All the categories may not apply or be an advantage for you personally, but a good majority will help you. I will not lace my writings with clever numbers or back up my theories with significant support in the form of a graduate level thesis. While all of this is compelling and has its place in the baseball world, we are merely preparing for a draft; We're not trying to steal Bill Simmons’ job. I have read Moneyball and enjoyed it, but getting over fixations and crutches is part of the process in being competitive in your league. Now is not the time to argue the virtue of the metric, because it already exists. We have to expose the metric and start sorting through the options.

In this series I am going to logically flow through the manner in which you can prepare for your league. Think of the exercise as boot camp for your league. Keep the information that applies to you and dispose of that which you find to be mundane or already have filed away in your brain. I have played in almost every type of league imaginable. If you have any questions, please do not be afraid to email me or ask in the comments section.

In most cases there are things that will be spoken about in generalities. As with all generalities, there are certainly always exceptions to the rules. As a broad topic with lots of ground to cover, this is going to be the best approach to convey what I have learned over the years.

League Type and Settings

You might read some of this that seems implied and think. “Of course I know what my league types and settings are.” In competitive leagues you have to be unless you want to look like a rookie league team against Clayton Kershaw. However, it never fails that inevitably in almost every league there is someone who shows up to the party without beer. Don’t be the person who claims they didn’t know that walks were added as a category. At this point we are merely speaking as a base level. The categories are as fundamental as building a shelf with parts. If you are missing pieces, you just have a pile of fake wood.

Another important reason to pay close attention to this is because it will clearly define the scope of your research:

  • Does the league have a crazy innings limit on your weekly IP or a lot of SP roster slots? You might want to go deeper in ranking your SP.
  • Are Saves the only category that you need to build your bullpen around or does the league use Holds as well? Prepare to determine who the valuable set up men are in the league - which you should really do whether you use Holds or not - if Holds are a category.
  • Is there a Corner Infielder spot, a Middle Infielder spot, or do you have Outfielders broken down by position? Get ready to determine positional depth. Also remember that this is inversely proportional so if those are not included, it narrowly defines your scope and preparation.
  • Another simple but practical question to ask is how is the league weighed? Are the categories swayed more as an emphasis on hitting or pitching?  Adjust your focus accordingly.

Head to Head Leagues

With all the categories that are available, there are many traps. If there are too many categories it can become almost impossible to prepare. If you are in a league where the commissioner is using every category possible, be sure to write them all down so you can help organize your brain to sort through the madness. It’s not as difficult to prepare for as it seems.

One of the things most commonly overlooked in Head to Head leagues is the playoffs. For those of you not aware, there is a huge emphasis on playoffs in fantasy football - the majority of them are Head to Head. As fantasy baseball tends to lean more towards Rotisserie Leagues, fantasy owners who are used to Roto often tend to look more at the big picture than looking ahead to the most crucial weeks of the Head to Head season. This is something we'll look more closely at in my pieces on Positional Nuances as well as Strategy.

Rotisserie Leagues

Be certain that you know your categorical heroes. Your Michael Bourn types are very important in Roto. It could be argued that they are more important in Roto than in Head to Head leagues because you are punished more severely for ignoring specific categories. However, this can also portend to be a trap as well. Overvaluation occurs more often in Roto Leagues for players with a more limited skill set; You absolutely need to know their value on draft day.

Innings limits can also sneak up on you here because, depending on allocation, this will severely affect your strategy. If your innings are capped on the lower side, you should look to get draft pitchers more quickly than in a situation where you have tons of innings at your disposal because everyone will have to bottom fill.

Auction Leagues

I have been in Auction leagues that played as both Head to Head and Roto style. I like to call these “Lawyer Leagues”. The absolute most important item to read in these leagues are inevitably the rules. Auction Leagues are not my preference because I don’t want my season to feel like a courtroom. I’d much rather let the season play itself out. However, some people love this type of league, and this style is all they have ever known. Anything less to them is not worth a fraction of the time it takes to manage an Auction league team.

From my experience, keep files on record for presentation to the courts here. Know your Keeper classifications, salaries, and have all kinds of league information at your disposal. More or less, you would like to be the most organized in this league and keep good records depending on the laws and by laws of your league.

Go into the auction with established budgets for both hitting and pitching. Have established values at the ready so that you know how high you're willing to go on players. Always have a player or two that you're not interested in early on in the draft to try and drain some of the cash available from other owners. It's usually important to spend big on a few players, but always make sure you have some cash available for the second half of the auction... Quite a few players end up going cheaper than they should as cash starts to dry up. Most importantly, always be ready to adapt your budget and established dollar values based on how the auction is progressing. If you have to go an extra $3 over what you wanted to spend on, say, you're fifth ranked Shortstop but you see a huge gap between your #5 ranked guy and your #6 ranked guy, it may be wise to spend it there rather than buying your #6 guy for a couple of bucks less.

Keeper Leagues

With regards to the three leagues defined above, Keeper Leagues can be implemented in all three fairly easily. Be sure you know the rules - specifically regarding keepers - in this type of league as well.

  • Different leagues allot for a different amount of keepers.  If your league allows owners to keep ten players each, it allows you to take some more chances on young players with upside than a league where teams keep three players each.  This will also affect the available talent in the re-draft portion of your league (in leagues that aren't "dynasty leagues" or full keepers).
  • Some leagues have stipulations about keeping a player a certain amount of years.Even in leagues that allow you to keep a deep pool of players, grabbing prospects or rookies may not be as valuable if you can only keep them for two years instead of (hypothetically) their whole career.  This comes into play not only in the draft, but also when acquiring - or trading away - players during the season.
  • Some leagues will allow you to keep a player at a certain dollar value (auctions) or draft round (drafts).  Value plays a large part here.  If you're deciding between Carlos Gonzalez in the first round and Curtis Granderson in the sixth round, the way you need to look at their values is: Gonzalez + Sixth Round Pick vs. Granderson + First Round pick
  • Other leagues will have a set number of keepers and automatically select them in the first "X" number of rounds.  In other words, if you're keeping Jason Heyward, Miguel Cabrera, and Adrian Gonzalez, they'll go in the first three rounds of the draft.  While Cabrera and Gonzalez figure to go in the first couple of rounds, Heyward would be likely to be drafted a bit later.  While you may love his potential and think he could be worthy of a third rounder, chances are that you can let him go (keeping another play with more perceived immediate value) and draft him a round or two into the re-draft portion of the league.

We'll be back on Saturday with Part Two of this series to take a look into how you can take advantage of your fellow owners' preferences and biases.

Thomas Hess

About , West Coast Correspondent

Seattle, WA

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  1. Jim Meyerriecks

    Jim Meyerriecks       St. Louis, Missouri Reply 2/9/12
    12:51 pm

    Great stuff Tom. I particularly love the part about focusing on your league settings. It reminds me of a league I played in last season that didn't include (specific) RP spots (I think it was 5 SP and 3 P spots if I'm remembering it right), but included losses, holds, and saves as categories. The thought occurred to me to try and work around it by targeting relievers with SP eligibility late rather than throw much of a focus on starting pitching... in other words, load up on offense. While I didn't win the league (came in third), I think the flaw was more in regards to some of the offensive players that I picked not quite living up to expectations (or, more importantly, staying healthy... My top five picks missed a combined 256 games). To be honest, that league (and the strategy) may be worth a full companion piece, so maybe I'll have some fun looking back at where I went wrong.

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