It’s late, one of the best times of the year. There’s great basketball on TV, major leaguers are enjoying hitting off minor league arms who aren’t in game shape yet, and you should be preparing for your fantasy baseball draft.
You are preparing right, and I don’t mean tearing a cheatsheet out of a magazine you bought at your local newsstand either. You will be a better fantasy player if you develop a plan to go with whatever cheatsheet you want to use. And, by the way, that cheatsheet was printed closer to the turn of the new year than the arrival of pitchers and catchers to.
A lot has changed. Don’t worry the Chinstrap Ninjas are here to help. Where do you start? What do you take with you?
Following is a list of 7 things you must do before walking into your draft:
1. Know your league rules
There is not one thing more important than knowing the rules. Is it a dynasty league? Keeper league? How many second basemen do you need to play? If you play in a league that starts three first basemen and only one pitcher, not a single cheatsheet on the market is going to be made for you. Also, if your league manager has replaced batting average with intentional walks, you’re going to have to do a lot more research to compile a cheatsheet. Typical — I think boring — leagues use home runs, RBIs, runs, stolen bases and average for hitters and ERA, WHIP, wins, strikeouts and saves for pitchers. Make sure to note any variations and keep that in mind for the next two steps.
2. You research, you research your butt off
Just read. You don’t have to spend hours a day, but go to a respected Web site, like www.chinstrapninjas.com — our team previews are a couple quick hits about the more mention-worthy layers on major league rosters — or any of the other more well-known sports outlets out there. Read up, see what people are saying. Has someone busted onto the spring training scene and earned a roster spot. Maybe that talented young player hasn’t won his spot yet and was banished to the minors (Wieters!) for a little while. You need to know as much as you possibly can before moving on to the next step.
Find an updated online cheatsheet that you like. You will not agree with every ranking on any list, but what you need is a good base point. Make sure your list has the player’s full name, team, position, dollar values if you’re in an auction league and, if at all possible, average draft position. Having offensive and pitching stats on your list is optional, but it can be helpful when you’re searching for a cheap multi-category guy toward the end of your draft. If you can copy and paste the list into a spreadsheet, great. You’ll want to slide players you like up and down the list based on the knowledge you’ve gathered in step 2, like I did for Chinstrap Ninjas’ rankings. If you can’t manually move the players get some highlighters and be sure to mark players — either mark the ones you think are too high or too low, or highlight the ones you want to target so they don’t get lost.
4. Do some more research
Yep, you’re not done with this step. And I can’t stress enough how important this is. In fact, continue reading right up until draft day… Then keep going throughout the season. Again, taking an hour a week to read about what’s going on in baseball beyond your own fantasy roster will pay dividend on adds/drops, trades and hot/cold streaks.
5. Supplement your research with mock drafts
If possible, use ESPN’s free mock draft system. It is excellent and drafts are over quick. Watch where certain players go, and where certain players are available. With this knowledge in hand, you can figure out which players on your cheatsheet you can wait for, and which ones you might have to reach for. For example, if you have to play three catchers, but notice that two guys you want to target last until the final round, you know you can wait.
6. Mock draft knowledge and extra research in hand, tweak your cheatsheet
This should be done at least once after completion of your cheatsheet, and the most beneficial time for the final tweak would be right after checking the latest injury updates (yes, more research) the day before the draft.
7. Draft day is here, what do I do?
First rule: Gather drafting materials. Here is what I usually take:
- Updated cheatsheet
- Three pens (two of different colors, and a spare for that guy who always forgets to bring his own)
- A notebook, or a couple sheets of empty notebook paper to keep track of the picks/auction. Take twice as much as you think you’ll need, someone will forget this too.
- A roster tracker — a sheet that will be used to track all players drafted and on which team. Each team will need to pick a certain number of players at each position, tracking who picks who can be beneficial when it comes to draft scarcity. If there are 3 shortstops left that you want and you’re the only player without a starting shortstop, you can probably go with a different position and wait a pick or two for SS.
- A fantasy magazine — your choice, just make sure it has a listing of players with stats and maybe a prospects listing in it. Your cheatsheet is your lifeline, but use the magazine to break a tie or double-check your facts.
- *Depending on your kind of draft, you may also need: a calculator for auction leagues, a list of future prospects for deep keeper/dynasty leagues, etc.
Rule two: Gather snacks and drinks. Maybe these items will be provided by the league, but don’t show up empty handed or with nothing to share. If you end up being the only guy to bring something, you’ll be the hero of the draft.
Rule three: Arrive a half-hour early. Even if you have to do it in your car, review your cheatsheet, look over a couple player profiles and get yourself into fantasy baseball mode. I don’t know about you, but my mind wanders while I drive, arriving a little early allows me to get my brain into game-shape. Also, the last thing you want to be is late. There will be some nervous picks anyway, don’t make them more hectic by walking in as player No. 1 is picked.
That’s it for now, but Sunday morning I’ll post some in-draft rules that I use to optimize every pick.