The Verdict: don’t mock the mock

With pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training within the next week, the 2012 baseball season is upon us. This means your fantasy baseball league draft is coming up sooner than later.

Everyone has his or her own preferences and styles when it comes to preparing for a draft. There is certainly an unlimited amount of information, statistics, projections, analysis and commentary available about players and how they can be expected to perform. While that information is very useful and offers guidance for your draft day strategy, there are also other elements that should be considered when preparing for your draft.

Because you are likely drafting with other people, various human factors will come into play. There is always the chance someone will panic during a run at a particular position and take a player who could have been drafted several rounds later. Perhaps the team drafting before or after you has already filled a specific position which would allow you wait another pick before selecting the player you want. Maybe you have been in a league with the same people for years and know their tendencies.

All of these examples, and plenty of others, encompass an intangible skill set that includes intuition, memory, foresight, flexibility, and adaptability. These skills could be innate, but they can also be improved, and the best way to improve your drafting skills is to participate in a mock draft.

Over the past several years, mock drafting has become a vital part of any fantasy magazine or website’s analysis for the upcoming baseball season. Seeing trends develop and analyzing how position scarcity plays an integral role during a draft is as much a part of draft preparation as projecting players’ statistics.

Websites such as Mock Draft Central allow anyone to participate in as many mock drafts as they want. You can customize them to match your own league’s settings and privately invite people to join as well. Or, you can join a public mock draft with other people you do not know. Either way, you are simulating the draft day experience and learning about what you may be able to expect at your own draft.

Another statistic that has rapidly entered the mainstream over the past few years is the Average Draft Position (ADP). This is a numerical average of when a particular player is drafted and is calculated based on hundreds of mock drafts conducted during the offseason. By no means is it dispositive of what will happen in your actual draft, but you can generally gauge where players are being taken and strategize how patient you want to be.

As informative and helpful as mock drafts and ADPs are, they do not eliminate the need for you to be well-prepared and ready to improvise. It would be fair to say that there are always surprises and shocking selections during any fantasy draft. You cannot control or dictate what anyone else does, so you must always be ready to act swiftly and deviate from your plan if the necessity arises.

That is what mock drafts will help you do. You can actually practice your ability to think on your feet and react to an unforeseen circumstance. If you didn’t plan to draft a starting pitcher until the sixth round, but a run on starters has depleted the pool, then you may have to reconsider your strategy and adapt to the environment. Doing a mock draft can potentially simulate that situation and allow you to test your theories.

Some people may think mock drafts are a waste of time. However, anyone who takes fantasy baseball seriously and wants information and data that is not strictly empirical would benefit from seeing an expert mock draft board to really gauge how certain players are valued in comparison to others.

Normally, mock drafts are relegated to snake-style drafts because they are easier to administer and do not take as long. However, where a player is drafted in a snake draft is usually commensurate with what his auction value would be in comparison to others.

The draft is arguably the most important aspect of your fantasy baseball league. This is your opportunity to build the team you envision will give you the best chance to succeed. Normally, the team you draft will not be the team you end up with at the end of the season, but strategically drafting low-risk/high-reward players later on will give you the flexibility you need to parlay that value into a trade later on. Taking a chance on an injured player coming back could also have vastly different results depending on when you draft him.

That is why studying mock drafts and participating in them will help you get a better understanding of where certain players can be expected to go as opposed to just analyzing what statistics they are projected to accrue.

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Comments

  1. Jefferson said...

    I have this arguement with other owners in my league every year, which is an autodraft H2H, with very little ownership changeover.  Some of them do mock drafts every night for two months.  I don’t see the point- you are playing against the owners, not the players (or in poker- the cardholder and not the cards).  Owners have their own trends, quirks, habits and preferences for a draft;  what does doing a mock draft against a bunch of unknowns spread all of the country do for you?  If you are not doing ANY other draft preparation, then maybe doing mock drafts fills that void;  but if you are (as you should be) then mock drafts are redundant if not a waste of time.  I have even thought of doing “stealth mock drafts” just to purposefully make wild selections, causing devotees to then scurry to newly warped conclusions about players.

  2. Kevin said...

    I agree with Jefferson. Mock draft results provide value in bulk, as they show consensus thinking, but individual mock drafts provide very little insight, with the caveat of being valuable to a complete newcomer, or someone trying an auction for the first time ever, etc.

    It’s nice to “pay into the system” by participating in a MDC mock, but other than that, Michael’s argument here rings very shallow. I would greatly prefer he get back to the old format of controversial Commissioner decisions and leave the analysis to the other guys. People should do what they do best.

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