Preparing For Your Fantasy Draft: Part VI
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
Positional Nuances Hitting
This section is going to focus on a few items of information that may or may not be of relevance in your decision making process for the draft. These are things that I have considered along the way and rules I abide by. As an official disclaimer, I am not a medical doctor, sabermetric genius, or Tom Verducci. However, I am a complete fantasy baseball dork and I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. A lot of the information I am going to provide for you are things that I have learned along my journey. Had I invented this stuff I would probably be getting paid to write for a major sports outlet.
Be Prepared For Injuries To Strike
Injuries will kill your fantasy season. I cannot stress that enough. We touched on it briefly in Draft Prep - Part I. I will expand upon that belief in this section. Let's start with a quick summary on players and what to look out for in terms of injury.
Remember this before you draft your team. If an injury occurs in July to a player that is on your squad the only thing you can really do is swear and pray. Preseason injuries are things to look out for and/or avoid altogether. Batters with wrist/hand/forearm issues are likely to see their power sapped even if they avoid the DL. Burners with leg issues aren't going to run as often even if they're on the field. Not all injuries are created equally, but you can bet your fantasy ass that problems like this will rear their heads at least once during the season.
In my mind, this is something that is common sense. You always have to keep in mind that there is someone similar at all positions on the field that will be there for you either earlier or later in the draft order than a player who seems to be at risk. Take the sure healthy production over the injured gamble, even if you think it’s just a nagging injury. Even in the preseason, teams lie for leverage in the market. If the Angels know that Albert Pujols is done for the year in early February (sorry Anaheim Angels fans of Los Angeles), they are better suited keeping that information on a need to know basis until they can replace him.
Where you run into issues are with guys that are hurt or suspended going into the season. As we don't intend to jinx anyone, let’s use Ryan Braun as an example. We all know that Braun is facing an impending 50 game suspension coming into the year. Despite the fact that he will only play in 110 games, he will still produce when he returns to the team. You have to determine how to configure your team for the time in which he is riding your bench. Not only do you have to worry about that, but you also need to worry about when he's worth drafting.
If you are not like me - I'll just immediately put him on my Do Not Draft list - there is a fairly simple way to calculate his production. Take his numbers from last season, divide them by 150 (his games played total last year) and multiply them by 110. This is not an exact science, and there are more factors involved than some quick dirty math in your head. The point is that you can logically group him in with your other rankings and see what round he falls in based on your projection for him in 110 games. This quick calculation will merely tell you where you should logically take him to be worthy of a draft selection in your league. Again, this is normally something I do not think about - it’s a hassle. If you think you can beat the market with him, though, calculate away.
Positions More Likely To Be At Risk
Delving a bit further into the topic, there are some considerations you should take based on a player's position. While many consider players that play up the middle to be the most valuable, the majority of injuries tend to happen there. Catchers, Shortstops, Center Fielders, and Second Basemen all tend to be major injury risks. Have you ever wondered why those positions are generally thinner in fantasy? They don't only take a pretty significant athletic skill-set to play, but these positions can be extremely demanding on the body.
None are nearly as demanding as Catcher, which is why I advise you wait on that rather than spending a high pick on one of the elite players at the position. Just ask anybody who spent a high pick on Buster Posey last season. You can certainly get great production if you spend big on a Catcher, but you can also end up with a DL slot occupied for a good majority of the season. If you decide to take a Catcher with a premium pick, I would advise that you look to at AL Catchers who can DH, or a catcher who splits time at first.
Shortstop and Second Base are also similar in that they are the most demanding positions to play outside of catcher. Turning double plays and continually diving around the infield is not the safest occupation in baseball, but middle infielders are generally going to be healthier than catchers as a whole. The risk factor isn't carved in stone, as there are some very durable SS and 2B in the league. You generally see a reflection of the physical demands in their plate production, though. As with the recommendation at the top of the piece, make sure you are not drafting someone who is hurt and realize that taking a player returning from injury is risky.
Centerfield is the last and least likely to give you issues. This really only applies if you are in a league that breaks out your positions into LF, RF, and CF rather than just having OF spots. Center Field is the most demanding position in the outfield. Any ball that is hit to either field, or somewhere in the middle, requires them to move on any ball put into play. They are either trying to make a play or backing up the LF and RF depending on where the ball is put into play. Obviously we have all seen collisions in the OF, but there is also the final danger and generally the source of most CF despair. That is the fourth outfielder, aka, the wall. The wall is always good for a wrist injury, shoulder, or rib injury. Again, this is not something you can plan for. However it can come in handy when you are torn between two players.
If you are a chick - or you just dig the long ball - always remember to be very wary of where someone is batting in the order. Leadoff hitters are extremely valuable in both real life and fantasy. However, if you are counting on them for power production and RBIs, you are better served drafting someone who hits in the middle of the order. Of course there are always exceptions to the rules, but a quick look at two players will quickly show you the difference in the two batting orders.
Ellsbury lead off all year. While his 32 HR (and 105 RBI, for that matter) certainly gave fantasy owners everything they were hoping for and more, he couldn't match Kemp's overall production. Why? Kemp hit third all year. That meant that instead of having to hope for the eighth and ninth place hitters to reach base and give him someone to drive in, Kemp had the leadoff and number two hitters in front of him. While Ellsbury doesn't have the extreme (NL) disadvantage of a pitcher batting in the ninth hole, there's generally a reason that the guys who bat eighth and ninth bat so low in the order. It's because they aren't as good as the guys batting higher in the order.
We'll be back Monday with a look at some of the positional nuances that you'll find with pitchers.