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Preparing For Your Fantasy Baseball Draft: Part II

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Published February 13, 2012

Over the course of the next week, 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

Anyone who has played in a fantasy league of any kind has seen it before. Heck, we've probably all been guilty of some kind of draft bias ourselves. You'll have the fanboys (or girls) who take a player from their favorite team five rounds earlier than they should go in any draft. You'll have the prospect hoarder who will take a player in AA because he thinks he's a breakout candidate. You'll have that one person in your league who instantly turns "sleepers" into massive overdrafts because they're so obsessed with finding the next breakout star. What we're going to teach you today is how to not only recognize those owners before your draft takes place, but to take advantage of their biases.

Understanding Your Enemy

This is one of my favorite things about fantasy baseball. It isn't just something that can be applicable throughout the season, but it's also something that gives you a fun way to get to know your opponents. This involves a preparation in tactics and can ultimately help to determine your rankings and strategy during the draft. It’s important to have an idea of what to expect because in a lot of cases while you prepare, you need to know that your strategy is realistic and sustainable. These tactics can afford you the ability to make decisions before you are presented with a problem.

Note the Homers

The most common tell is something we have all seen before. All you have to do is look at what a fantasy owner names their team to get an idea of where allegiances stand.  This can generally be determined by their geographical location. On a few odd occasions, you may even see a manager who displays their team name with a tattoo on their forehead.

This may be very obvious to most of you, but you have to use this to your advantage. Here are some examples to bear in mind:

  • If you are doing your research and you really like Robinson Cano at the end of the first round but there's a guy named Bronx Bomber picking before you, you might want to have a few backup plans in mind and rank them accordingly.
  • Be aware of the homer managers in your league so you know what you would pay for players on their favorite teams without reaching. Fantasy Baseball is like the stock market.  You're better off buying low than buying high.  Don't pick Chase Utley three rounds higher than he should go just because you see a Phillies homer ready to pounce on him.

If you have contracted Homer Disease yourself, just stay away from your favorite team. Fantasy baseball is about sex, not love.  When you are in love, it is tough to differentiate your personal biases from actual data.  Your brain becomes corrupt before Cleopatra suddenly decides to sell you out.  Personally, I just stay away from my favorite team, and it's worked quite well for me.  It also makes it significantly easier to watch your team on a daily basis during the summer without developing an unhealthy hatred for a player on your favorite team who isn't living up to your expectations.

Prospect Hoarders or Prospect Whores

There always seems to be the fantasy manager who has lost all ability to appreciate realized professional star quality players. They are enamored with the thoughts of looking brilliant in the face of the “experts” and grabbing that guy who will be the next big superstar. While those players certainly do exist, it happens far less frequently than some fantasy owners seem to realize. These young players are often liabilities to your team at one point or another, which we'll expand upon a bit later in the week in the positional breakdown.

Really the point of this section is two-fold. Do not be the manager that overpays for the young guns. One or two are OK, but don't build your team around them. However, if you are in a league with a bunch of fake prospect mavens, certainly figure out which players stand a legitimate chance of dancing. Those geniuses will eat them up and give you steady MLB realized potential that will remain at the ball after midnight. Meanwhile, the prospect will more than likely need time to adjust to the major leagues. If you don’t believe me, check out the awards voting from last season.

The only rookie to earn an MVP vote last season was Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was certainly a draftable player last season, as he was the favorite to hold down the closer's role in Atlanta in the preseason. However, he certainly wasn't among the most hyped prospects entering play last season. Who would those guys be?

  • Eric Hosmer - It would be unfair to say he was anything short of terrific last season. Still, his 19 HR, 66 Runs, and 78 RBI certainly weren't above league averages for 1b in standard leagues.
  • Mike Moustakas - Does his potential tell us he could be one of the best 3b in the game some time soon? Sure. Was he last year? .263/.309/.367 with 5 HR, 26 Runs, and 30 RBI. You tell me....
  • Brandon Belt - Was Belt's failure to step into fantasy prominence all on him? No... He wasn't the guy who kept writing Aubrey Huff's name into the lineup card in spite of his .246/.306/.370 line. Still, it's not exactly like Belt (.225/.306/.412) did much to force Bruce Bochy's hand either.
  • Dustin Ackley - Phenomenal once he came up, but that wasn't until mid-June.
  • Desmond Jennings - Red hot once he got called up, which wasn't until late July.
  • Brett Lawrie - Absolutely outstanding, but gave fantasy owners just two months of production as he didn't get the call until August 6.
  • Jeremy Hellickson - Surface ratios looked nice. His strikeout to walk ratio was atrocious, though.
  • Jesus Montero - Earned a September cup of coffee.

I could be missing a name or two here. There was certainly a lot of hype about Michael Pineda making the big league roster as Spring Training was nearing an end, and he lived up to it. Let's compare that list to the rookie of the year voting......

  • Craig Kimbrel - Had some hype around him, but the presence of Jonny Venters didn't make him one of the most clear-cut breakout rookies out there
  • Hellickson - Covered above
  • Mark Trumbo - Was expected to be a fill in for one or two months until Kendrys Morales got healthy (good luck with that) who had a shot to stick around
  • Freddie Freeman - There was some hype, but his power was questionable at a premium power position
  • Vance Worley - Huh?
  • Josh Collmenter - Seriously?
  • Wilson Ramos & Danny Espinosa - I'm sure Jim was all over those guys as both a Nats fan and a guy who tends to grab a lot of young players, but I don't think many had them pegged as guys who would fare well in the Rookie of the Year voting.
  • Ivan Nova - Weren't the Yankees trying to find anybody they could to push him out of the rotation?

In no way am I saying that rookies who are getting some hype should be completely ignored; I'm just saying that all good things come in moderation. Keep your approach balanced and attack those who are using a more narrow viewpoint in their player evaluation. The players on the top list were more than likely drafted. Also, please keep in mind that at the bottom of the voting you start getting into players that were valuable in NL/AL only formats or in deeper leagues. Then there are also hyped players that didn’t even get a vote at all. Dominic Brown would be another great example from last year. The Phillies OF was drafted in many leagues and had a relatively high trade value before failing in his platooning role, ultimately hurting many fantasy teams. Figure out hyped player’s perceived value and then watch for the internet Scout in your league.

Trading

Trading is another nuance you need to familiarize yourself with.  If you're in a league you've played in before (be it a keeper or an annual re-draft league), you should have a general idea of how active the trade market is going to be in your league.

Some leagues require an act of Congress to get a trade processed.  Remember you are not at a national political convention.  You do not need to gather votes, stand on your soap box, and change the culture of society.  It is a fantasy baseball league and if they do not trade, you need to understand that.  In a leauge like this, you're better off not loading up on players at scarce positions like closer in hopes that you can trade them away to fill other areas of need on your roster.  More often than not, you will end up struggling to find someone ready to overpay for one and eventually drop one of your closers only to see the team with the highest waiver priority get him for free.  Do not load up on anything.  Prepare to draft a balanced team and fill every position for the long haul.

If trading is as rampant as 1670 New Amsterdam, you can certainly look for deficiencies and load up later in the draft by taking the best available player in certain rounds. I would not recommend going off balance too much, but taking a handful of players with the idea of trading them to fill areas of need later is certainly acceptable and realistic.

This is where knowing your homers and prospect hoarders is also helpful.  For example, if you happened to be lucky enough to draft Curtis Granderson last year, Bronx Bombers would have been apt to possibly trade you their first or second round pick for Grandmaster Flash. That is the obvious extreme on return, but the point is that if you can help improve your team at another position, it’s worth the risk.

In our next issue, we'll shift the focus from knowing how to take advantage of your league's rules and your leaguemates' biases to some of the things that you should actually focus on to prepare yourself for the draft.

Thomas Hess

About , West Coast Correspondent

Seattle, WA

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