The Five-Tool Player: Draft Day Do’s and Don’ts

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

Every year, some fantasy pundit will tell you some player is going to break out and be a lock to finish as a top-10 player and someone else will pitch like an ace but can be drafted like an SP3. How often are these experts right? Fantasy baseball is a multidimensional teeter-totter; the up’s and down’s are perpetual and endless. The only sure thing is that there are no sure things…

…Kind of. The one reality of fantasy baseball has nothing to do with any individual player, but your draft. The singular truth in our made-up game is this: you cannot win your league with your draft, but you can certainly lose your league with it. Today, we will cover draft day do’s and don’ts to ensure you are prepared for the most important part of fantasy baseball.

DO tier your players. It is so important to tier your players before entering your draft. To make a fantasy cheat sheet, start by grouping all the players in the player pool by position and sort each list from best to worst. Afterwards, you divide your positional player list into tiers, grouping similar values together. For example, with first basemen, I feel that the top ten guys are Pujols, Cabrera, Votto, A-Gon, Youk, Tex, Howard, Fielder, Dunn, and Morales. I will say that Tier 1 consists of Pujols and Miggy, Tier 2 has Votto, A-Gon, Youk, and Tex, and Tier 3 is Howard, Fielder, Dunn, and Morales. You may target a 1B from a certain tier, but if someone gets you want, like Adrian Gonzalez, is drafted, you know there are three other players who can get you similar stats. A tiered player list reduces stress during the draft. Remember, we are drafting numbers, not names. This list is a great visual tool to identify top player values as you progress through the draft, and becomes invaluable especially during those late candle-lit hours.

DO NOT draft drunk. Some, if not most, fantasy players perceive the draft as a social activity. They might partake in a brew or two and crack some jokes. But not you. You are a winner. You need to focus. Folks do not appreciate the data tracking that goes on in a draft. You must sort through the available players to put on your queue, keep track of your team’s needs, your opponents’ needs, and your list of super-sleepers. Distractions lead to overlooked studs and breakout sleepers on another manager’s team. Let the fifth or sixth place team manager fool around. Your beer will taste colder and sweeter after you raise that imaginary first place trophy.

DO highlight your sleepers. This will be a cinch if you draft with a tiered player list. After the first four or five rounds, every team is going to look the same because the top players will be picked up. The later rounds separate the contenders from the pretenders. If you feel like someone is going later than he should be, make note of it on your cheat sheet. Many amateur fantasy players in your league will look at Wandy Rodriguez and Max Scherzer and remember how awful they were to start last season. Ricky Nolasco has terrible stats, but peripherals and advanced metrics suggest he is much better than his numbers suggest. These guys will likely be passed over until later in the draft, much later than they deserve. If you did your homework, you will get these SP2s for SP3 or even SP4 prices. Imagine Way-Rod, Scherzer, and Nolasco with a stud SP1 like Josh Johnson, who is also going cheaply in drafts, and you have yourself a dominant pitching foundation.

DO NOT listen to the draft chat. Fantasy sabotage is an interesting tool that is not mentioned enough. People may leave comments in the chat box hyping up or talking down some players. Sometimes it is to brighten up the draft, but other times, these comments are intentional to distract league members from these players’ true values. Don’t listen when someone tells the room that he saw Kendry Morales limping to the bench after a spring training at-bat. It is highway thievery if you can get him in the sixth or seventh round. You’ve done your research. Trust your gut and let your hard work pay you back.

DO remember the point of fantasy baseball. Remember, at the end of the day, fantasy baseball, and fantasy sports in general, are supposed to be fun. I started playing in 2006, and I can’t emphasize enough how much fantasy baseball has gotten me more involved in the sport as a whole. Take each draft as a learning experience for your next one. Whether you think you did great or you could have done better, make sure you have a great time playing our great game.

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