Fantasy Baseball: Draft Strategy, Part 3 – Avoiding Common Mistakes
Welcome to the third and final edition of my pre-draft strategy series. I hope you find all of this information helpful as you prepare for your upcoming drafts. Remember that our Fantrax fantasy baseball game lobby has plenty of options, no matter your budget or any other preference you may have, we’ve got you covered. So come on in and see why so many people are making the switch. Here are some final thoughts I have that will hopefully help you secure the bag in 2019.
Adjust on the Fly
It is important to have your cheat sheets and player values at the ready. But you also have to be ready to adjust based on how the draft unfolds before you. No two drafts are exactly alike. Participating in mock drafts can help you test a certain strategy out, but you also must take them for what they are. Other owners are probably performing similar experiments and trying out different strategies as well. Trying to “plan out” just the first round of a draft (much less the entire thing) is an exercise in futility.
Once the real thing begins, you must be prepared to switch things up at a moment’s notice. You need to have contingencies in place to account for a variety of scenarios which are likely to occur. Hundreds of players are going to get picked. The player permutations are infinite. Players you target will get picked right before it’s your turn. Positional runs take place. People autodraft. (Ugh.) Simply put, stuff happens. Maintaining mental and emotional flexibility is the most important asset you can possess during a draft’s many ebbs and flows.
This is especially the case in a draft where you have a short period of time in between picks. You cannot afford to panic and when that timer starts ticking down. Instead of pigeon-holing yourself into a specific player in a given draft slot, your positional rankings and categorical values will come in handy and you will know exactly where to go with your next pick. This will help you avoid making a mistake, which is so important in fantasy baseball drafts. An early mistake in drafts is often magnified because there are so many positions to fill. It can become a snowball effect and lead to a roster filled with holes and question marks.
Take What the Draft Gives You
As I touched on in Part 2, we often get too fixated on ADP and falsely correlate that number to a player ranking system. If you do your own projections and have sound value formulas, you will see how players truly compare to one another and the impact they will have on your bottom line. However, many players, regardless of skill level, have trouble simply taking what the room gives them.
We often get so wound up and laser-focused on what our rosters have or what our rosters are lacking at any particular point in the draft that we make picks that do not maximize value because we are too worried about plugging holes that exist largely in our own heads. How many times have you been in the middle rounds and thought, “Man, I really need a closer here” or “I’ve got to find some stolen bases soon”? I mean, yes, those things would be nice to have if the fit is right. Drafting a balanced roster is still ideal, but don’t force it if it’s not there.
The truth is that somewhere between 10-20 relievers who are being drafted as closers are not going to finish the year as their current team’s designated closer. That is especially going to be the case as more teams experiment with using their best reliever in high-leverage situations, regardless of whether there is a save opportunity or not. Saves and steals will be always be readily available in the free agent pool. The same holds true for other positions and categories as well. Hell, I dropped Luis Castillo in June of last year. You’re welcome, guy in my league!
Embrace the Space
This is another core principle I try to adhere to in all sports and formats. When you are drafting your roster, please remember that you do not need to draft players in a particular order. And you certainly do not need to draft your “starters” before you draft your “bench”. There is no way to say with any real clarity or certainty which players will fill which roles in any given week. Fantasy owners who feel the need to fill each “starting slot” before addressing team needs and depth are setting themselves up for failure.
You can (and should when value presents itself) draft players who are likely to be your starters in the later rounds. Amed Rosario is a totally viable starting shortstop option who is going around pick 200. Starting outfielders will be picked well into the 200s, with many going even later. And catchers are such a dumpster fire that you can wait on them as well.
Over the course of the season, there are going to be a lot of players on your roster and in your starting lineup. The truth is that they are not all going to be top-tier players. And that’s completely fine and normal. Every team will have strengths and weaknesses. Some teams will have seemingly endless depth at certain positions and be incredibly thin at others. You do not have to “win” every position during the draft. You just have to pick the player that makes the most sense for your team at that particular time based on your values.
Here are a couple of additional things to consider as we embark on another magical season of baseball. Think of these as more general, post-draft suggestions.
It’s Your Team
Remember that at the end of the day, this is your team in your league. You have done the research and should feel confident in your knowledge and ability to outwit your opponents. Nobody knows more about your league and your circumstances than you do. You are the one clicking the “save” and “submit” buttons. More importantly, nobody else is paying for your team. You are. It’s smart to bounce ideas off people and try to gauge opinions on matchups, strategy and game theory from various members of the fantasy community. Groupthink can be a beautiful thing. But at the end of the day, you have to make the decisions and stand by them.
If you are seeking help on a tough decision and send out a tweet to your favorite analyst (or me) and he or she responds, thank them for taking the time to try to help you. Do not blast them if it fails to pan out. Nobody is trying to sabotage you or your fantasy team. Not the players and not the fantasy analysts. To steal a line from the great Christopher Walken in Wedding Crashers, “We have no way of knowing what lays ahead for us in the future. All we can do is use the information at hand to make the best decision possible.” That’s what every single fantasy player and analyst alike is doing prior to each decision. We all take the information available and form an opinion. The rest is out of our control. This is your deal. Own it.
Have Fun and Respect Your League
At its very foundation, playing fantasy baseball should be a fun and enjoyable experience. If you are playing in a local league against friends and family, fantasy is a great way to maintain communication with loved ones with whom you may not get to see on a consistent basis. And the bragging rights should make participating in such a league fun and exciting. If you are playing against more advanced players or in bigger money leagues, the competitive juices should fuel you to do your very best.
We all have responsibilities and things that take up our time, but at least make an effort to remain involved. Set your lineups. Make waiver claims or FAAB bids. Make trade offers, as long as they are logical for both sides. When a fantasy owner decides to just give up halfway through the season or fails to set his or her lineup each week, it really takes the air out of the balloon. It throws off the balance of the league and diminishes the fun for all involved. Don’t be the person who sucks the fun out of your league. Stay involved and enjoy the ride. You won’t regret it.