With football ending, it is now time to start getting ready for baseball. Before we get into the meat of which players to avoid and which players to draft, here are a couple quick tips to know when drafting.
Last Year’s Results Don’t Guarantee Anything This Year
Don’t be fooled by one year wonders. ERA’s, batting average, and home run totals can jump from season to season. The big question when looking at players is their track record. In some cases, guys do take big steps forward and will continue at this rate. Case in point is Joey Votto. Votto’s has always hit for a strong average and power, the only real question was when he would finally become an elite player. On the other end of the spectrum you have guys like Brady Anderson, who managed one season of brilliance. Can you say ROIDS? Leading up to Anderson’s career year nothing stood out that made people believe he would take this step forward. He then proved this was a fluke by not producing anything close after that. ROIDS!
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Don’t be sucked in by one glamorous season. I will note that sometimes the stats can be deceiving. The key is to do your research in knowing which players you should push up your draft board and which to avoid.
Finding your Peak
Many fantasy gurus recommend looking for players in contract years, which is a somewhat good strategy in the sense that most players enter free agency during their late 20′s. If you do basic anatomy research it will show that this is the time most people reach their athletic peak. In many cases this can explain why players can see a spike during this time. This also can be used in revere in finding players who are exiting their peak and most likely are about to start their decline. Once a player starts entering his 30′s, his swing can start to slow down or he might start to lose a couple of ticks off his fastball. This decline will obviously have an effect on his stats and what he brings to the table. Know your ages so you can find those players ready for a breakout year.
Avoid the Unnecessary Risks
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One thing that I am always shocked to see is players jumping off the board with injury problems. Why risk a player, who has managed to only play in 100 game these last 2 seasons when you can get a player you know will play 150 games? No player is worth risking if he can not even manage to get through half of the season. This also forces you to find a player in free agency, who would not be able to match the potential of players you could have drafted.
On the pitching aspect avoid pitchers who made major leaps in innings pitched. Whether it be rookies or pitchers who were in the playoffs, these extra innings can start to add up. The more wear and tear a pitcher puts on his arm over a course of season increases the odds that he will end up with some type of injury. Most pitchers who manage arm injuries usually develop them in seasons after career highs or abnormal jumps in innings pitched. The best way to avoid the injury bug is avoiding the players.
Know the depth at every position. Some positions such as first base have loads of talents, while other such as shortstop and second base are lacking. The key with this strategy is to know when you need to reach for a player at a position before the bottom drops off. Now don’t go drafting Alex Gonzalez at shortstop if Joey Votto is available. That’s stupid. The end all be all goal is to find your most productive team. If you manage to grab Albert Pujols with your 3rd pick and five rounds later Adam Dunn is still available you should have no problem grabbing him. But, know that eventually the only second baseman you’re going to be able to draft is Ryan Theriot and nobody wants that.
Don’t Overpay for Pitching
In fantasy baseball there is always one thing that is guaranteed to be available late and that is pitching. Pitchers manage to come out of nowhere and pitch like Cy Young, while Cy Young winners fade into dust. So don’t invest early picks on pitchers. Instead, take mid to late round flyers on guys. I usually try to stock my pitching staff with one starter who has been solid the past couple of seasons to be the rock of my staff. I then try to stock my staff with mid-level starters who have the potential to take a step forward. This is usually younger starters, who posted mediocre ERA’s or win totals, but put up solid strikeout/WHIP numbers. If you manage to grab enough of these type of starters you should manage to grab a few solid contributors. If the players do not manage to pan out you can not feel bad about cutting ties with them. You also can manage to find a couple of undrafted guys who can help you out. This also can flow into saves. After the top tier of closers it’s always iffy on whether he will end up maintaining his role the entire season. Why would you grab a closer, who is only guaranteed that position for the first month? Be wary of the closer position and it’s depth. Many times you can end up with two solid closers that went undrafted.
The final piece of advice I can give is to never get in the frame of mind that you have to have a player. If you do, nine times out of 10 you will end up overpaying for a player that will not match your expectations. Never force yourself into a position where a player will make your draft. At that point any chance of a productive season is out the door.
Next week we will look into a couple of sleeper picks that could take a real step forward for your teams.