When April rolls around, you can either choose to view it as “that stressful month when the taxes are due” or as “that blissful month when America’s pastime officially gets underway.” For some math-inclined individuals, it may be a tough decision, having to choose between faxes and taxes, or walks and balks. Then again, if you’re like some people, you focus on more important things, like fantasy baseball.
Drafting a fantasy baseball team is completely different than drafting a fantasy basketball team. For one, there are almost two times as many players in Major League Baseball than the National Basketball Association, meaning that if you actually want to win your league, you have to spend even more sleepless hours beside the drawing board researching players. Also, in basketball, you have to worry about the coach possibly ruining your fantasy season by continually sitting your star during crunch time in the fourth quarter. In baseball, the managers are generally content to lean against the dugout rail in their glossy, spot-free uniforms for the entire game without making any drastic lineup changes – with the exception of the occasional pitching change. Since baseball season’s 162-game schedule leaves a greater amount of time for you to make a mistake over the course of the fantasy season, I consider it most urgent to give you a heads-up on what not to do during your fantasy baseball draft.
If a player is coming off a season-long injury from the prior season and has been rehabbing the entire off-season in preparation for a return to the field, avoid him at all costs. If the words “torn labrum,” “torn rotator cuff,” or “Tommy John surgery” have been linked to a player you are thinking about selecting anytime in the past year, a Sammy Sosa bicep-sized red flag shoulder go off in your head. A perfect example for this season is Pedro Martinez. When he’s at his absolute best, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pitcher out there more dominant. However, Martinez is entering this season recovering from the previously mentioned and dreaded torn rotator cuff. So, he’s off limits.
If you actually want to win the league title, you’ll avoid the “Best Player Available Approach” and won’t let yourself fall into the trap of picking the player with purely the best numbers out of everyone left in the draft pool. For example, if you’ve selected three outfielders, a pitcher and a first baseman with your first five picks, the last thing you want to do is select another outfielder. I realize that the best player available might be an outfielder who belted 29 home runs and drove in 90 runs last year, but stacking your team with outfielders is only going to leave you with a weak starting infield and a bleak fantasy league future. If you’re selecting prospective bench players instead of filling in all of your starting lineup gaps, like Tom Hanks said in “Apollo 13”, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”
Don’t overvalue a player just because he plays on your favorite team. I’ve found that this is one of the tougher rules to follow, and it’s always easier said than done. It’s easy to talk yourself into a player falling under this category by using the rationale that if he has a career year, it’s twice as magnificent for you because your favorite team benefits, and more importantly – depending upon how serious you take fantasy league sports – your fantasy baseball team benefits.
Finally, I’ve said it once and I’ll continue to say it until someone can prove to me that walking into a fantasy league draft without any research can actually benefit you: Don’t forget to prepare for the draft. If you don’t feel like doing your homework, I’m sure you can gain exclusive access to a one-way coach ticket headed straight for your fantasy league’s basement. Who knows, you may actually begin to enjoy it down there, because without heading into the draft with a solid game plan, you’re going to be there for a long time.