FB301 – Drafting Theory and Strategy

05/20/2007 3:57 PM - 

FantasyBaseball.com University Series
Contributed By: Kimbal Binder

Preparation:

It is an absolute prerequisite to be prepared for your draft (FB204-Fantasy Draft Preparation) in advance.  You will have made lists of the top ballplayers in total and also separate lists for each position (2B, RP, etc).  The length of the lists depends on the size of your league.  Hopefully you have remembered things like “location (ballpark), location (league), location (place in batting order or rotation)”, injuries, age and experience factors and career tendencies when making your lists.  Wise drafters consult more than one source when compiling their lists.  Fantasybaseball.com will have great rankings, but you should still compare them to at least two other sources and consider for yourself the reasons for variations in the rankings.

Offline or Chatroom drafts will call for you to have your lists of players printed out and handy as you begin the actual draft.  Online drafts will usually allow for you to input your pre-rankings.  Never depend on the default rankings listed on the site.  Footballers who did so this last summer found themselves stuck with players like Ricky Williams or Anquan Boldin as high draft choices so beware. 

Theories:

There are many approaches to drafting and here are a few to consider:

Specialist Drafting – The idea is to draft players who are big producers in a category in order to dominate a few categories (much more common in H2H than roto, obviously).  A specialist drafter would look to get a Podsednick and a Crawford to win steals.  He would look to get guys like Pujols and Ichiro and Loretta to win hits and/or batting average.   He would seek Adam Dunn and Manny Ramirez to win home runs.  Obviously you can’t get all of those guys in your draft but the general idea is to draft with just 2-3 categories in mind and not worry too much about the others.  Specialist drafters take the first half of the draft to get their dominators in line and then try to fill in another category or so in the bottom half of the draft.

Category Punting – This is another H2H strategy.  It is the flipside of Specialist drafting.  In this scenario you select a category in both the pitching and hitting sides to utterly ignore.  You go for homers and RBI and steals and totally ignore batting average.  You select pitchers who can win and have good ratios and strikeouts and forget about saves entirely.  This is a very popular way of drafting players.  You may not dominate three selected categories like a specialist drafter would have in mind, but you will have several that you are very likely to win and two-three that are almost certainly losers.

Hoarding – A similar plan is for a drafter to try to corner the market in one or two positions or categories.  If you have 3 of the top 5 base stealers you hope to make an advantageous trade later on in exchange for one of them.  If you have 3 of the top 8 shortstops you think you may be able to really sock it to the guy who wound up with David Eckstein.  In this scenario you are dependent upon your ability to take advantage of other owners.

Flooding A Side – In this scenario, the drafter looks to lock up one side (pitching versus hitting) by concentrating all of his early picks on nothing but everyday players or nothing but pitching.  Leagues have been won by guys who dominated everyone in the pitching categories and picked up enough talent on the hitting side to win a category or two consistently.  This works far better in H2H than in roto.

Balanced Drafting – Balance drafters look for guys like Bobby Abreu who will contribute greatly in many categories rather than try to load up on one or two categories or sides.  The idea is to identify players who give you crooked numbers in a variety of categories and hoping that the sum of their efforts will come out ahead in the end. 

Strategy:

To paraphrase Kenny Rogers, in a draft every position is a winner and every position is a loser.  Don’t be disappointed if you find yourself picking 9th in a 12 man league.  You’ll get 2 of the first 16 players that way.  The guy picking first won’t pick again until 24th comes around.  I highly recommend going for the best players available in the beginning of the draft and don’t gamble with the top spots.  As the draft goes along, you may see that your best bet is to concentrate on a couple of categories or to ignore a couple of categories.  Being flexible and adjusting to the way the draft goes will pay off.  Here are some specific tips…

Pitchers – Be very, very sure of a pitcher you draft in the first round or two.  Think of all the fantasy owners who grabbed Mark Prior early last year!  If your right fielder gets a sore arm, the manager moves him to left.  If your pitcher gets a sore arm, he might be shut down for the year.  When in doubt, get the everyday player first.  Avoid the urge to take a reliever early.  It is inevitable that a couple of good closers will emerge that go undrafted at the season’s beginning.

Catchers – I disagree with those who treat catchers as the ugly stepchildren of fantasy.  The disparity in performance between the top catchers and the rest of the crowd is larger than you find in other positions.  Only 11 catchers made it to 450 at bats last year and only 6 drove in at least 80 runs.  Choose your top 7-8 catchers available and be sure to snag one of them.  American league catchers are preferable (they can DH occasionally) and a guy like LoDuca or Piazza who may play often at first is worth careful consideration.

Multiple positions -When in doubt, take the guy who can play 2 or more positions.  It is amazing how lineup flexibility will help you through little injuries and scheduling oddities.  Nomar Garciaparra should go a little higher because he will be eligible in 2-3 spots.  Later in your draft it is important to grab someone like Alex Cintron who qualifies at 2B, 3B and SS.  Though players of this ilk are not highly sought after on draft day, thier flexibility allows them to have more value to your team than there numbers would give you if they only played at one spot.

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