I'm by no means the greatest fantasy baseball expert out there, but I've been doing it 8 years and I've gone from a near cellar dwellar to first place in my league.... Here are some things I’ve learned.
rule #1.... They're are always exceptions to every rule. Example: Vladimir Guerrero has no business being a hitting stud with his huge strike zone, but he is anyway. Most of the time, free swingers don't become great players unless they learn to lay off junk.
Rule #2 - start or join an ongoing league that has keepers. A league where everybody is friends is best, because it makes trash talking more fun. Plus, this way, even if you're tanking and have no chance of winning, you can still stay interested because you can think long term. It also helps you learn the other player’s weaknesses. Say you’ve got a Yankee’s fan in the league who’ll overpay to get Yankee players. That’s how I traded for Pujols last year… Gave up A-Rod straight up.
Rule #3 – Never trade keeper studs unless you’re getting an equivalent or better stud in the deal, see above (A-Rod for Pujols)
Rule #4... Time is short, don't obsess over rookies until they've played at least half a season in the show. Most stud players develop into studs over time while playing in the majors. There are exceptions, but the talent differential between the minors and the show is so great, that monitoring minor leaguers is generally a waste of time compared to looking for young talent that's already in the show and is showing improvement.
Rule #5... Look for young guys in the show that are starting to break out. The Chase Utley and ALex Rios of the world are good examples of this. They started out as platoon guys and played so well they become full time starters.
Rule #6.... To find emerging hitters, look for an uptick in walks. This means they're developing a good eye and not swinging at crap. When they stop swinging at crap, they get better pitches to hit.
Rule #7… To find emerging pitchers, two stats point to emerging studs, increased K per innings, and decreasing walks per inning.
Rule #8… Know your league’s scoring categories and weigh players value in accordance to those categories… Most rankings lists are based on standard 5X5, but if you’re league isn’t 5X5, take that into account. For instance, if you’re in a 6X6 league like mine that has avg. and obp as categories, keep in mind that most rankings list aren’t taking into account obp. This can mean an average player like a David Eckstein is a little more valuable than he appears because he has a high obp.
Rule #9… Having dominant starting pitchers is a key to winning long term. Half of your score is from pitching, and around 2/3rds of those innings pitched are going to be racked up by your top five starters, this is opposed to hitting categories, where it’s equally divided between all 10 players…
Rule #10 – Think long term. If you’re out of the race, focus your attention on increasing the quality of your keepers and on emerging young players. Be willing to trade aging studs to teams vying for the top spot in return for young keepers. Likewise, don’t trade a stud just because his team sucks. For instance, I’ve got Carlos Zambrano and Miggy Cabrera as keepers. There good now, but they’ll be really good when they are on good teams.
Rule #11 – When possible. avoid players with a history of injuries, it’s the surest indicator of future injuries.
Rule #12… Not all injuries are created equal. Impact injuries aren’t an indication of future injuries, they can happen to anybody. Hamstrings, tears, wear and tear injuries that require surgery are usually a bad sign for the future.
Rule #13…. You can’t dominate every scoring category. Winners usually do extremely well in some categories and about average in the rest, and maybe poorly in one category. What I mean is, balance is good, and don’t panic and buy high just because you’re weak in saves or steals or whatever.
Rule #14…. Don’t forget the value of platoon guys… I generally devote one outfield or utility slot to a two player platoon, usually two lefty platoon hitters… This year, I’m platooning my utility slot between Dave Brown and Kenny Lofton, two guys I drafted with my last two picks. Individually, they’re stats don’t look impressive, but when you look at them combined, they’re like one player who hits over 300, scores a lot of runs and gets a lot of steals.
Rule #15…. Don’t get too enamored by the long ball. It’s important, but things like avg. obp and steals still count.
Rule #16… be patient with veteran studs who are cold, and be wary of rookies that are on fire…. Generally, the veterans return to form and hot rookies cool off.
Rule #16…. Pitchers who’s two best pitches are the fastball and changeup are generally less of an injury risk than guys who depend on wicked breaking stuff.
Rule #17…. Pitchers with wicked breaking stuff are long-term injury risks. Think Gagne and Kerry Wood. Wicked breaking stuff isn’t always bad if it’s a slider that comes from their velocity or their release point, but pitchers who get it by whipping their arms abnormally hard are usually going to need a Tommy John in a year or two…. Again, there are exceptions, I’ve been saying Pedro Martinez’s arm is going to explode for the last ten years.