Preparing For Your Fantasy Draft: Part V
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
Depending the time in your season when you determine your keepers is probably the biggest factor in the decision making process. Ideally, the keeper deadline will be as close to the draft as possible, so long as it affords you the time to prepare. When you determine your keepers, you absolutely have to make sure that you are selecting a player that would be drafted before the round you are keeping him in. For example, if you drafted Adam Dunn in the fourth round last year and he's going in the twentieth round this year, it makes little sense to keep him. If you drafted Curtis Granderson in the eleventh round last year and see he's going in the second round this year, he makes for a great keeper.
Make sure you use some of the tools we've mentioned like mock draft central to get an idea of where those players are being drafted. Also, please be aware that if you are in a league with a lot of potential keepers, be sure that you do not pigeon hole yourself by keeping all hitters or all pitchers. This holds especially true if you are in a league where trades are difficult to complete. Remember that if you have a question, you can always check out the forums, where users will assist if you are in a tough spot.
Trading can truly be an art form. Big multi-player deals aren't my forte. If there is more than one player involved on both sides of the trade, my eyes sometimes glaze over and I die a little bit inside. Other people enjoy it and get more joy out of trading than any other piece of the league, which is great. It’s supposed to be fun.
Throughout the year I am constantly asked what I think of this trade or that trade. While I certainly do not have anything profound to say on this subject, there's one thing I always like to emphasize. Remember that if you are trading top level talent - defined as a first or second rounder - you need to receive that in return. Some players - even top players such as Mark Teixeira - almost always seem to start the year slowly. Don't forget that many of the top tier players in fantasy baseball are almost as sure of a bet as you can get. Even if they start the year in a funk, they pretty much always manage to get their numbers. As with Keepers, do not forget to check out the Forums on FIC for trade advice.
Prospects can be relevant in all fantasy leagues, but I am going to confine this to a league in which you will draft prospects with some relative depth. In many cases, leagues will have a secondary draft - often during the season - for nothing but prospects. There are other scenarios where you'll want to focus on prospects as well. If prospects are playing a larger role in your league, it may mean that you are in an extremely deep league or a league that only uses NL or AL only settings. Regardless of your scenario, there are a couple of strategies you can employ when deciding where to even begin. You have to realize that this is an investment and you're likely to have to wait for a while before dividends pay off.
To begin, there are far more sites than ever before committed to delivering great coverage in the prospect area. In general, I would highly recommend determining how long your prospect maven has been in the game and writing about prospects. You do not want to rely on information from your local team message board because they can turn any future platoon player or middle reliever into the reincarnation of Barry Bonds and Nolan Ryan respectively. Fans tend to overrate their own team's prospects. If you are going to decide on someone to follow, I would recommend someone with a national presence.
A few good sites to keep in mind are - in no particular order -
- Baseball America
- Baseball Prospectus
- John Sickels
- The Hardball Times
- Diamond Futures
- Top Prospect Alert
- ESPN Insider
- MLB Prospects
If you search any of those, you will find a wealth of information... literally more than you know what to do with. Some of them are pay sites; Others are free. You can generally find all the rankings for free online without paying, but you are not getting any of the analysis associated with the composition of the lists. If the topic is of interest to you, I can personally tell you the pay sites are well worth the content. I can say this because I subscribe to a few and I actually <strong>do not</strong> participate in a prospect draft in any of my leagues. Yes... I just reaffirmed my inner geek, yet shrouded my credibility as a prospect drafter. While I do not participate in a prospect draft, I have previously, so you can breathe a heavy sigh of relief.
The two main questions I would ask myself were always the same.
- When the player comes up, will they get a legitimate shot at consistent playing time?
- Is there currently someone standing in their way?
The first question is really quite vague. All of these factors really depend on the development of the player. If he actually <em>earns</em> that roster spot, he's usually going to get it. It doesn't always hold true, but this question can often be answered based on the recent results of the team he is on. In most cases, teams that aren't performing well in the standings are better places to look for a prospect to get an opportunity. Why? There's less pressure on them to win, which means that if the prospect has an adjustment period, they're more likely to give him a chance to work through his issues at the major league level.
I hate to bring up Dominic Brown again, but he is a really good example of a player in a bad situation. The Phillies have too many other options to give him consistent ABs. They are going to continue fight for a playoff spot and not a higher pick. Any highly rated batting prospect will go through this on a good MLB club. One more favorable option is to have an AL player who might have the ability to hit in the DH slot. In many other cases, a trade from a top team to a team that doesn't figure to contend can be helpful as well. In both cases, we can look to Jesus Montero and compare his status to Dominic Brown. The Mariners - and Yankees, before him - have a DH spot where they can use Montero, which will help to keep him in the lineup. The M's also figure to be battling for third in the AL West, so Montero figures to be given every opportunity to stick in the big leagues this season.
Is there a player standing in the prospect's way? If the player is rated highly enough and you have some money to gamble with, ignore that. Jurickson Profar is a highly rated prospect in the Texas Ranger’s farm system. Yes, they have Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler manning the middle infield spots, but he will get playing time when he is ready. Texas will either deal Profar for a big haul or trade Andrus to make room for a talent like that.
Outside of that, you want to once again look towards the bottom half of the league and use the information from the Draft Strategy Part II piece that I wrote earlier. Teams that rank in the lower tier of the league that have favorable park factors are your next best targets. Bear in mind, a team’s <em>best</em> prospect isn't always the only - or even best, depending upon proximity to the majors - player worthy of drafting in your league to come up and make an impact. As a final note, make sure you know what level the prospect is at as well as their age. If they are ranked in any capacity, this will assist in telling you how close they are. This is something that is more involved and where the analytics of the professionals pay off if you decide to pay for information.
In summary, your biggest impact over the long haul will arrive via the top end of the rankings. When the top level of talent has diminished from your leagues draft, look to target players that are not trapped behind a major league all-star. This also comes with caution. Many times players will not stick at their current minor league position. Their defensive skill sets may be passable at the lower levels, but will not be at the major league level. Again, the experts are generally very keyed in on these things and your best source to tell you if someone like Jurickson Profar can actually stick at SS. After that, look for prospects that will have the chance to play on their team with favorable park factors. This is clearly not something that is an exact science and there is certainly a reason why people get paid to follow this subset of the sport.
We'll be back tomorrow with a look at some of the nuances you'll need to take into account regarding players at certain positions.