How to Draft in Fantasy Baseball

Five Methods:Preparing for the DraftParticipating in a Straight DraftParticipating in a Keeper DraftParticipating in an Auction DraftParticipating in an Auto-Draft

Draft day is usually one of the most entertaining times of the fantasy baseball season. Whether it is done online, via computer picks, or in person, every team owner comes into the draft with high hopes of being on top of the standings when the season comes to an end. The art of drafting is one of the most important skills a fantasy player can possess: a good draft can set you up for the remainder of the season, while a bad one can leave you out of contention for the first few months of the campaign.

Method 1
Preparing for the Draft

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    Do your pre-draft research. With the explosion of interest in fantasy baseball, all the information you need is easy to find. Dozens of fantasy sites each employ a team of experts who specifically cover fantasy baseball issues, including who is injured, who is primed for a big season and who is the best player at each position. Magazines cover all of these topics but are generally a poor investment since they tend to become outdated quickly. Instead, bookmark the sites you find most reliable, and visit them daily for the most up-to-date information.
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    Familiarize yourself with the rules and scoring system of your league. Fantasy baseball used to be fairly standard, but not any more. Between the use of unconventional statistical categories, a variety of scoring systems, and the prevalence of inning or game limits, it can be difficult to overlook a critical wrinkle that can have a significant impact on how you value the players you draft. Ask your league commissioner for the specifics regarding the scoring system, categories, and limits (if applicable).
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    Note the date, time, and location. You don’t want to be the one guy who forgets when or where the draft is being held and either show up late or miss it altogether. Online leagues will often send reminder emails the day before the draft is scheduled, but it is your responsibility to keep the draft specifics handy and ensure that you show up on time and ready to go.

Method 2
Participating in a Straight Draft

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    Make a list. Seasoned fantasy owners usually have a preferred method of ranking players. Some separate them into positions (catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, outfield, pitcher) and rank them in order from best to worst. Others create a master list beginning with the most valuable fantasy players, while some separate the players by proficiency in a specific category (home runs, strikeouts, etc.). The choice of ranking is up to you, but be sure to have some sort of system in place so you’ll be more organized when the draft begins.
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    Arrive in plenty of time. If you’re drafting online, your league will likely feature its own live draft room that you can reach via a link on the main page. Live draft rooms are usually created roughly 30 minutes before the start of the draft, so be sure to jump in as soon as you have the chance. This ensures you do not arrive late and risk losing the opportunity to make your first pick. If you draft live, make sure you arrive a few minutes before the scheduled start time to set up and take care of any last-minute research.
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    Make your first pick. If you are fortunate enough to have the first overall pick, you should have a very good idea of who you want to select by the time the draft begins. If you’re selecting in any other slot, be sure to monitor all players who have been selected ahead of your pick so you don’t take anyone who has already been chosen.
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    Watch out for trends and adjust accordingly. Baseball drafts often feature “position runs” in which fantasy owners opt to draft from the same position in the same round. This is especially common when selecting “closers,” a term referring to pitchers who come in to work the final inning of a game. It’s wise to ignore position runs—which often come about due to owner panic about position scarcity—and stick to your original plan. While closure come off the board, good players at other positions are available.

Method 3
Participating in a Keeper Draft

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    Decide which players you plan to keep. Keeper leagues allow fantasy owners to hang on to a predetermined number of players. Deciding on keepers is mostly about being able to forecast which players will be more valuable than the players you would draft in their place. If you believe Player A will outperform his draft slot, then you should keep him. If you think there’s a chance you can get a better player in his spot, toss him back.
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    Study other teams’ keeper lists. Not only will it help you avoid selecting a player in the draft that belongs to another team, but it will give you an idea of your opponents’ strengths going into the draft. This can help in the early rounds of the draft: if you notice that a player drafting ahead of you has kept several pitchers, it’s a safer bet that he or she will not pick another pitcher early. It isn’t always indicative of opposing strategy, but you can occasionally plan your early draft strategy around other teams’ keepers.
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    Conduct the draft. Remember that in the early rounds of a keeper draft, the goal should be to fill in your roster holes as quickly as possible. You already have a number of good players, so be mindful of your league’s scoring settings and make sure you bolster your roster in areas that weren’t addressed through your keepers.

Method 4
Participating in an Auction Draft

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    Research dollar values. Auction drafting is nothing like a standard one-pick-per-round arrangement, and your strategy must be completely different as well. Players in an auction draft aren’t selected, they’re bid on, and knowing the projected approximate value of as many players as possible is the best way to track whether you’re getting enough value for your fantasy dollar. Most reputable fantasy sites provide auction value information for free. Study the values and identify potential busts or bargains.
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    Come up with a flexible budget strategy. While standard drafts generally center around selecting the best player available when it’s your turn to pick, auction drafts are more complex due to the ability to land whichever player you want—if you’re willing to spend the fantasy dough. Here are some of the more popular auction strategies, each with its own built-in benefits and drawbacks (note that standard auction budgets are $260 for a 23-man roster):
    • The balanced team follows a standard formula in which team owners limit spending big on any one player, while devoting roughly 70 percent of the budget toward hitting and 30 percent toward pitching. It isn’t the most glamorous system, but it does ensure that the team owner ends up with a solid collection of players who accumulate stats in every category.
    • The “stars and scrubs” team sees the team owner shell out big for several established major-leaguers then spend the remainder of his budget on relative unknowns. While this enables the drafter to load his team with players he or she can almost certainly rely on, it leaves the rest of the roster lamentably thin—particularly if the lower-end players do not pan out.
    • The “LIMA” team, which stands for “Low Income Mound Aces,” is a strategy that funnels little money toward a team owner’s pitching staff. For a standard auction league, this means an owner is likely spending no more than $3 on any one pitcher. The upside here is obvious: having roughly $235 to spend on 14 hitters almost guarantees a phenomenal lineup with a great chance at securing top points in all offensive categories. But with such a thin stable of hurlers, the owner needs to get lucky—or make some slick moves or pickups—in order to not finish near the bottom on the pitching side.

      These strategies are only guidelines - it is your responsibility to come up with a plan you feel gives you the best chance to win.
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    Start the bidding. If you’re interested in a player, make sure you monitor the bidding. More aggressive players will try to bid up a player they want by a large margin ($5 or more at once) in order to show players they’re serious. You can try to bid up a player you don’t want in order to take some money out of a rival owner’s budget, but you run the risk of getting stuck with that player. When it’s your turn to nominate a player, a good tactic is to toss someone you don’t want, but who will likely draw a lot of bids. That can take a good chunk of money out of play.
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    Monitor your budget closely. One of the biggest mistakes a novice auction player commits is leaving money in his budget. Try not to be left with any money at the end because you can’t use it for anything once the draft is over. If you see that you’re a little richer than you expected to be as the draft winds down, don’t be afraid to spend an extra dollar or two on a player you want. It’s better to be poor than rich at the end of an auction draft.

Method 5
Participating in an Auto-Draft

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    Pre-rank your players. If you don’t, the auto-draft will default to the site’s ranking list. This can be problematic, since each site’s rankings are based on a number of factors that may or may not run in tandem with how you might rank the players. The only way you can ensure that the computer is making choices you approve is to go in and rank the entire list from top to bottom. It is time-consuming but well worth it.
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    Check your roster immediately following the draft. The sooner you can identify problem areas in your auto-drafted teams, the better chance you have of filling those holes with waiver or free-agent pickups. Those who wait too long will almost assuredly miss out on the top players that weren't drafted.


  • Read everything, but be cautious about what you do with the information. One site’s projections may differ greatly from another’s. Soak in all the data you can in the days leading up to your draft, but do not rely on a website to do the work for you. Make your own decisions with the info you have gathered, and trust your instincts.


  • Test a site’s draft software before the day of your online draft. If you have issues accessing the test site, try using a different browser or get in touch with the site’s administrators who are well-experienced in technical issues with draft rooms and should be able to help you get in. Leaving this step for the last minute could result in you missing part or all of your online draft.

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Categories: Baseball