Don't be the Fighting Lincecums: Draft Strategies for Zombies and Aliens Alike

As fantasy baseball season approaches, more and more people are getting ready for their drafts. Essentially, there are three types of drafters. The first is the “ooooh, this Sunday?!?!? drafter. He (or she, if you happen to have an alien claiming to be a girl that likes fantasy sports in your draft) is the most common genus we find on draft day. The second type of player you’ll find is the guy (or aforementioned alien) with a magazine and little else. “My magazine says Tim Lincecum is ranked ninth. I pick ninth. I’m taking Tim Lincecum! I’m changing my team name to the ‘Fighting Lincecum’s!'” This zombie of a player will look over your shoulder to see what your magazine says, but can not think independently. Finally, there is the prepared drafter who, pending no one lucks into Mark Reynolds in the 24th round (I’m bitter), will win the league. I’m here to make you into that player. If you prep and plan, you will prevail. Let’s get to it.

Step 1: Prep

The prep and plan step are similar, but definitely distinct and important independently.

Read as much fantasy analysis as you can.

Find different viewpoints. Sure, I love Ryan Franklin and think it is important to have a good closer (as per my first article, found on Venuing Voices, here), but other analysts (like Matthew Berry, for instance), think you shouldn’t look for saves and find them on the waiver wire. That’s just a different opinion. Find as many as possible and pick the ones you agree with (see: mine).

Read baseball news everywhere you see it.

Sure, I couldn’t care less that Jon Garland has a hurt shoulder. You know what I do care about, though? He’s going to be a starting pitcher for the Padres, a team with a notoriously great pitcher’s park. Always think about the “fantasy spin.”

Know what team a player is on and what ballpark he plays in.

This sounds ridiculous, but how many of you knew that Garland was on the Padres until that last section? (See, told you.) First, certain parks are better for hitters then for pitchers, and vice-versa. Yankee stadium played like my backyard last year, with balls flying out of right field. Well here’s how we take the “fantasy spin” on a stadium: Right field is where most of the home runs go in Yankee Stadium. A non-flame throwing pitcher will be hit hard by lefties to right field. In 6 more innings at home (about a start), Andy Pettitte allowed 8 more home runs, 13 more runs, 29 more hits, and 10 less doubles (wanna guess where those 10 doubles ended up? In the bleachers.) He allowed 1.26 HR/9 innings at home, compared to .57 on the road. His ERA was a 4.59 at home, compared to a 3.71 on the road. See, this is important.

Step 2: Plan

So you’ve done your research. You’ve prepped. Now we need to plan. Planning means being ready for your draft based on the information you’ve collected.

Know when you want to take a player, don’t change your mind.

If you LOVE Chone Figgins and want to take him in the 6th round (Average Draft Position: 73), do it! (Granted, I wouldn’t.) This is your team, not mine. Don’t take him in the 4th or 5th round because your afraid your not going to get him on draft day. These kind of decisions will kill you. Last year someone in my league loved Chris “Chili” Davis and took him in the 6th round despite liking him in the 10th (I swear, it wasn’t me). We know how that turned out (in short, he sucked). Even if you don’t get your player, don’t overdraft. Don’t be that guy.

Know your league and owners.

Are your rules unique? How many teams? Which positions? Know all of this. In one of my football leagues a while back, the commish made return yards worth 1 point per 10 yards. Dante Hall (in his breakout kick return season) was the best player in the league by far. The guy who drafted him won the league. A league with 5 outfielders will have outfielders ranked higher than a league with 3 (they’re scarcer). Common sense people.

If your in a league where trades are a rarity, don’t expect to be able to trade for talent you missed out on in the draft. Conversely, teams in leagues that have a lot of movement shouldn’t expect to keep their rosters intact. If your leaguemates pay attention to the waiver wire, don’t expect to be able to fill up that catcher spot you skipped on in the draft with free agents. Obviously, if people in your league don’t watch waivers intently or… wait for it… think about the “fantasy spin” of events, don’t be distraught if you don’t have a 2nd closer after the draft.

Make an “ideal draft”

Figure out where your picking, and look for players who should be there. For. The. Whole. Draft. Plan to pick players you like and have a backup or two. This is a fantastic and underrated strategy.

3rd Step: Prevail

Draft day. The culmination of all of your work. A few short pointers for the best (or the worst) day of your season.

Fill your roster.

Don’t expect to get a catcher or third baseman on the waiver wire. You will be trying to fill this position for the rest of the year. Do not be that guy who has to trade Ryan Zimmerman for Mike Napoli and a beer at the bar. Screw Mike Napoli. Even if it’s with one of your late picks, have a player penciled in for each position, and plan as such.

Keep track of the draft.

This is simple; have a computer or piece of paper out, and write down who gets picked and by who. If you need a second baseman and half of the league does too, you should expect a second baseman run. If you’re catcherless (and really, how can you be so catcherless?) but everyone else has one, take your time. A catcher will be there when you decide to take one.

Have some jokes ready.

This is supposed to be fun, right? Make sure you leave ample time to make fun of your friends/non-friend league members/impostor alien “girls.” It’ll lighten the mood and put your opponents on edge. When Clayton Kershaw gets picked, ask if “starts taken into the fifth inning” is a category. Call Asdrubal Cabrera “Ass Dribble Cabrera” (you giggled, admit it) when he’s taken. When someone picks Tim Lincecum (maybe with the 9th pick), apologize but regretfully inform the owner that he’s been eaten by CC Sabathia. Even if those weren’t funny, think of funny ones.

Most importantly, keep the bat on your shoulders.

-Backwards K

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