Draft Manifesto (part 2)by Michael Lerra
January 23, 2009
In the first part of my Draft Manifesto, I went over a few quick strategies that I try to keep in mind during a draft. I took some flak about my stance on catchers, namely, that the top-shelf ones are often drafted too high in my opinion. But the resulting discussion was enlightening and caused my stance to soften a bit. In any case, here's a continuation of that piece.
7) Don't take a starter until the 8th or 9th round unless you have a very good reason. Wins fluctuate wildly from year to year, but for some reason preseason rankings always seem to assume 18-, 19-, 20-, and 21-game winners are going to repeat that the following year. Odds are overwhelming that they won't. In addition, there's always guys who get called up midseason (Cole Hamels), turned to starters midseason (Francisco Liriano), or who demonstrate a true talent improvement during the season (Cliff Lee) that you can capitalize on. In most 12-person leagues, most players simply pick up starters based on Wins and ERA to that point in the year. By looking at stats like FIP and even simple ones like K/9 and BB/9, you can make better decisions than your opponents on who to pick up, who to trade, and who to trade for. Hitters are far more consistent from year to year, and I think the relatively unsophisticated fantasy owners still have a good sense about the true talent of hitters.
8) Avoid hitters who have had wrist injuries. If you ask 10 people what the most important part of the body is when swinging a baseball bat, you'll get 10 different answers. But one of them will be the wrist, and wrist injuries just seem to take the longest for players to recover from.
9) After the 9th or 10th round, give precedence to any certain-closers that remain. When someone needs saves, they'll often overpay for them. Closers make the best trade bait mid-season.
10) Power hitters make the second-best trade bait. For some reason, Juan Pierre is draftable in the 6th round, but almost entirely untradeable mid-season. Likewise with Wily Taveras—always drafted in a reasonable position in the draft, but impossible to trade. Players are far more likely to give up on steals and focus on the power stats than they are to make a mid-season trade to solidify steals. In the draft, err on the side of too much power over too much speed.
11) Know the value of the Mark DeRosas. Players most often get six games per week, and days off either Mondays and Thursdays. So a bench hitter is really only looking at one game per week that he could fill in over regulars. Derosa played 149 games last year, so 149/162 or 92% of the time, and was qualified at 1B, 2B, 3B, and OF. On any given Monday or Thursday that he was playing, odds were you had a 1B, 2B, 3B, or OF whose team had the day off. The fantasy season is typically 22 games long, so in assessing his value as a bench guy, we want to look at 92% of his production per 22 games. This comes out to a .285 BA, 13 Runs, 3 HR, 11 RBI, and 1 SB. Obviously not a ton of production, but enough to swing a few games during a head-to-head season, or a few spots in a Roto league. Of course, the tradeoff is the benefit of those numbers, versus an extra SP or middle reliever that provides some value as well. I think one bench utility player like DeRosa is a must, even in leagues where opponents are maximizing their bench slots for starters—if you're dedicated, you can even boost that production a bit more by subbing him in for regulars when the park or opposing pitcher makes it an even more favorable game for him.
I once again welcome comments that anyone wishes to share. I'm not saying I'm correct about all of these assertions—they are almost entirely anecdotal—but they're my best guess at ways to go towards an optimum draft experience.
Mike is located in Cambridge, MA, working in the search engine marketing field, and waiting for fantasy baseball to get as big as poker so he can "go pro". Feedback on all pieces is welcome and appreciated!
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