Let me preface this by telling you that I absolutely love fantasy baseball. I’ve been in the same 14-team, 6×6 H2H mixed league for several years with a bunch of strong competitors. I’ve followed a few rules over the years and I’m currently in a 3rd, 5th, 2nd, 1st, and 1st run over the past five years. Check out my keys to a fun and successful fantasy baseball season below.
KEY NUMBER 1
Be prepared on draft day. Make sure your league is set with a bunch of reliable, competitive and colorful guys and or girls and set aside the WHOLE day to make sure you have time to get your eat and drink on. Nothing ruins the experience more than owners who arrive well after the scheduled start time or owners who have to leave mid-draft.
KEY NUMBER 2
Pay attention to your fellow owners throughout the season and remember back to previous seasons. Being able to exploit an owner who always acquires specific players or players from a particular team will give you an immediate advantage. Obviously, we want the league to stay competitive, so you’re not trying to rake him over the coals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come out ahead.
Smack talk is a vital part of this experience and few things compare to a well-timed crack about a bad trade or an obvious mistake on draft day. You can expect your fellow owners to follow suit, and any mistakes you’ve made, past or present, will immediately be brought to the forefront. Remember that you started the smack talk, so no matter how it plays out, you win!
KEY NUMBER 3
Do not be a slave to the mock drafts, or lists or books you’ve read or bought. Average Draft Position (ADP) can be a useful tool towards the end of the draft to identify value or research players you aren’t as familiar with, but there is no way that I’m letting it drive my strategy. I do quite a bit of research and tend to have a good read on several players at all positions. I tend to favor players with major upside and multi-positional eligibility, as well as pitchers with strong peripherals, even if their track record isn’t always great or the “experts” don’t seem to agree. I would much rather fill my roster with players that I think highly of, or would enjoy rooting for, than to follow someone else’s list or book.
As an example, I had the No. 1 overall pick last year, universally thought to be Albert Pujols, but because I knew I could get a quality first baseman a few round later, I drafted Evan Longoria from the very thin third base pool. I heard some ridicule and oohs and ahhs at the time and wasn’t exactly loving my choice most of the 1st half of the season while he slumped and pulled up lame, but Longoria was the top rated fantasy player from the All-Star break to end of season and carried me to the championship. A couple more examples from last season were Jacoby Ellsbury, whom I took in Round 4 instead of Round 7 or 8 as projected, and Ian Kennedy and Anibal Sanchez, whom I also grabbed several rounds earlier than expected. I believed in the research I’d done, and was rewarded accordingly.
Believe in your research, trust your gut, grab the player you want, even if it means you reached a little or had to overpay a little. If I’m going to lose, I’m going to lose with a team of players from which I projected big things. Nothing hurts more than following a list or book and seeing the player you had your eye on going to the owner two picks before you.
Here is a list of players that I’m willing to overpay for this year. Let’s call this “Players I like more than most.” Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.
CATCHER – Matt Wieters
Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to like at the position. Catcher is very weak after the big three of Santana, Napoli and McCann. The next best option is Matt Wieters, who I seem to like more than most. There is a huge dropoff after Wieters, and although most projections have him going in Round 8, I’ll be happy to grab him towards the end of Round 6 or very early Round 7. Projection: .292 AVG, 27 HRs, 87 RBIs, 80 runs, 2 SBs, .853 OPS.
Others I like more than most: none.
FIRST BASEMEN – Michael Cuddyer
Cuddyer has the multi-positional eligibility I love, and I think the move to Coors is being very undervalued. Currently being drafted in Rounds 8 or 9, I fully expect him to deliver value of a player picked a few rounds higher and will draft him accordingly. Projection: .289 AVG, 29 HRs, 96 RBIs, 90 runs, 11 SBs, .843 OPS.
Others I like more than most: Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez.
SECOND BASEMEN – Howie Kendrick
Kendrick is another player with multiple positions that I’ll gladly reach for. He’s currently being drafted somewhere in Round 10, and I fully expect him to end up as the 4th rated second sacker, which would be Round 4 territory. Projection: .307 AVG, 20 HRs, 78 RBIs, 93 runs, 16 SBs, .814 OPS.
Others I like more than most: Aaron Hill.
SHORTSTOPS – Marco Scutaro
Scutaro will be starting at second base this year, so he’ll be another player with dual position eligibility. Currently being drafted in Round 15, I fully expect Scutaro to love playing with Tulo, Cargo and Cuddyer and easily return Round 9 or 10 value on the investment. Projection: .296 AVG, 12 HRs, 63 RBIs, 80 runs, 7 SBs, .780 OPS.
Others I like more than most: Emilio Bonifacio.
THIRD BASEMEN – Martin Prado
I guess your sensing a theme here, but this is another player who is eligible at a couple spots. I project Prado, currently being drafted in Rounds 14-15, to bounce back in a big way this year and end up returning Round 10 value. He’s definitely on my radar on draft day. Projection: .305 AVG, 17 HRs, 78 RBIs, 98 runs, 6 SBs, .801 OPS.
Others I like more than most: Emilio Bonifacio and Michael Young.
OUTFIELDERS – Nelson Cruz
We’ve all seen what Nellie can do when healthy, but can he stay healthy? I think this is the year he finally puts it all together, and knowing I can get Top 10 value for a Round 4 cost seals the deal for me on draft day. Projection: .301 AVG, 38 HRs, 111 RBIs, 93 runs, 15 SBs, .923 OPS.
Others I like more than most: Peter Bourjos, Lucas Duda, and Cameron Maybin.
STARTING PITCHER – Jordan Zimmerman
Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, I expect a monster season from J-Zimm in 2012. Currently being drafted in Round 10, I project Zimmerman as a Top 10 pitcher this year and will gladly call his name a couple rounds early to make sure he ends up on my roster. Projection: 17 wins, 7 losses, 203 IPs, 218 Ks, 2.64 ERA, 1.05 WHIP.
Others I like more than most: Zack Greinke, Cory Luebke, Daniel Hudson and Jeremy Hellickson.
RELIEF PITCHERS – None
RP is too much of a crapshoot to tab anyone here, so just pick some and pray.
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