By Steven Gaede
Major League Baseball (MLB) is right around the corner and that means fantasy baseball is too. What is fantasy baseball, you ask? It is basically a team of virtual players that you draft based on real-life players. You get points based on their real-life performances, which then go toward your score for the week, which is then compared to your opponent’s score to determine the winner.
In the standard leagues on ESPN.com, the teams are composed of 25 players and 25 rounds of drafting; Yahoo is also a popular destination for fantasy baseball drafters. One thing that is different about fantasy baseball compared to MLB is that you play more players than the standard nine positions. In most leagues the positions on your roster will be: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 2B/SS, 1B/3B, five outfielders, a utility spot, nine pitchers, and three bench players.
The players are listed in order based on rank, prioritizing the players who were stellar last season while bumping down some who did not perform to their expectations. The whole process can seem overwhelming at first, but I am here to offer some tips to new players and veteran players looking to gain an edge in their draft(s) this year.
Your mom didn’t give you a horrible name, so don’t give your team one.
Don’t draft players so you can make a funny team name. By doing this you’re basically wasting two hours of your life to get a half-hearted laugh from all your friends, while they crush you in the weekly matchups. There are plenty of “punny” team names in fantasy baseball such as “The Angry Weavers” (Jered Weaver), “Kershawshank Redemption” (Clayton Kershaw) and “Your Mother’s Father Determines if Ubaldo” (Ubaldo Jimenez). But these all fall short to fantasy football’s “Hide Yo Beagle, Vick’s an Eagle” (Michael Vick), so save the play on words for fantasy football and aim at embarrassing your opponents in the head-to-head contests this spring.
Don’t pick your players based on a theme.
Try to avoid drafting players based on themes. Do not draft all Pittsburg Pirates because your favorite movie is “Pirates of the Caribbean;” that is a surefire way to look like an idiot. A fun way to draft, yet probably not a very smart way, would be to draft a team based on players’ names you cannot pronounce, such as the Colorado Rockies’ Bronson Kiheimahanaomauiakeo Sardinha, the Boston Red Sox’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia or the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Kila Ka’aihue. Also, a legitimate draft strategy would involve only picking players who have been accused or proven to have taken steroids.
Let’s take a look at Ryan Braun who has been linked to taking steroids. Averaging 107 runs, 192 hits, 32 homeruns and 110 RBIs over the past four seasons, Braun has earned his No. 1 rank in the pre-season but at what cost? The risk with Braun is that if any evidence of him taking steroids is uncovered, a 50-game suspension will be placed on the all-star, leaving you wishing you spent your first round pick on someone who was a bit more clean-cut.
Who’s your favorite?
Don’t play favorites with whom you draft. Being a LA Dodgers fan, playing favorites in my case would be drafting primarily Dodger players and avoiding players from rival teams such as the San Francisco Giants or Philadelphia Phillies. Luckily for me, there are not a lot of Giants worth drafting.
Don’t be afraid to drop and add players. In other words, don’t fall in love. Much like a high school relationship, your pick of the season probably won’t accompany you into the following year. Also, by adding and dropping players you will be at a huge advantage, because most of your opponents will rarely set their lineups after the draft. Just remember to un-friend them from Facebook after you drop them.
Avoid drafting low-ranked players early on.
Don’t draft out of your league. This is a MLB draft, not a minor league one. While Bakersfield Blaze player Billy Hamilton set the minor league record for steals in a year last season at 155, it is hard to say how that will translate into the majors. With that said, draft players who are currently in the majors. You cannot foresee how much playing time someone like Hamilton is going to get in the big leagues this year. If you do choose to draft an upcoming star, wait until the later rounds so you can place him on your bench for the time being.
*Warning: Do your homework before drafting minor leaguers. In 2010, fellow sports writer Nathan Sanchez drafted Buster Posey and Jason Heyward, winning his league. Sanchez put a lot of time in researching these players and finding out what their organizations needs were.
A win is a win.
Take advantage of your friends on draft day. Do whatever you have to do to win your league (within reason, and the law). Whether it is turning off your roommate’s alarm clock, Saran wrapping a friend to a bed or simply taking somebody’s keys, you need to gain an edge at every possible corner. Coincidentally, my draft with friends lands on Saint Patrick’s Day so I will not have to go out of my way to make sure they are going to underperform in the drafting portion, on account of them all being inebriated from a day of drinking.
So those are some tips from me, take ‘em or leave ‘em. Every draft is different so don’t panic if you don’t get a certain player and stay positive and intuitive throughout the season. And for those Giants fans out there, before you draft Tim Lincecum, remember there are better alternatives, like drafting a Little Leaguer or a hitting tee.