I'm just going to be honest – and those of you that have the pleasure of knowing The Oracle know that he always is honest – this is going to be a somewhat rambling post in some respects. Normally I'm very structured with my approach. I hit on positions or list players alphabetically. None of that is happening today. I'm going to meander, ramble if you will, through a variety of thoughts dealing with fantasy baseball drafting. Yes, I did refer to myself in the third person at the top of this piece. According to the woman I'm dating I'm very arrogant. Is referring to myself in the third person arrogant? I prefer to think of myself as simply an interesting fellow with a healthy does of self confidence. Tit-for-tat I guess. Back to fantasy baseball drafting...
HOW TO PLAN OUT YOUR DRAFT
People ask me all the time things like:
When do I take my first catcher?
When do I take my first starting pitcher?
When do I take my first reliever?
My answer is, invariably an obnoxiously, how do I know? Why do I risk offending so many people with my curt response? Because it's true. Why? Some thoughts.
I have no idea, none, how anyone in your league is going to value players. If there are five people in your league that think drafting a starting pitcher twice in their first three picks is a move they have to make then starting hurlers are at a premium. What do you do? Do you wait it out and pile up offense while they incorrectly worry only about arms, or, do you realize starters are flying off the board so you have to jump into the mix right now so you don't get shut out of the top arms? I don't know how you are going to handle just such a scenario.
What if your league has no one take a starting pitcher in the first two rounds. Even though you didn't plan on taking pitching early, can you pass up on Justin Verlander if he is still sitting there when your turn comes up 32nd overall?
What is an ace? Some people might say – Stephen Strasburg is an ace but Cliff Lee isn't. Perception or truth? Last season The two hurlers had the exact same ERA (3.16). Lee had a better WHIP (1.11 to 1.15). Lee also posted those ratios over 51.2 more innings making his numbers way more impactful to your teams overall totals – i.e., even though the ratios were so close last season Lee's effort was much more important because he threw 25 percent more innings. Lee also had 10 more strikeouts (207 to 197). Lee has also thrown an average of 222 innings each of the past five years. Stephen Strasburg has never thrown 160 innings in his life. Is one an 'ace?' Are both 'aces.' In my mind I'd rather take Lee than Strasburg in 2103. Given the fact that I can wait a couple of rounds after Strasburg goes to take Lee, why would I take an SP in the first couple of rounds?
That comparison brings up player evaluation, a key point here. I have NO clue how people look at players. Let's focus specifically on Strasburg. According to ADP numbers from the NFBC Strasburg is the first pitcher going off the board right now with the 14th overall selection (Verlander is going off with the 15th pick). Personally, I wouldn't take Strasburg 14th overall even if you paid for my entry into the league cause I just don't believe a guy who has never thrown 160 innings, and one who has been as babied as Strasburg has been, is worth that. He has to prove it to me. So let's say you have Strasburg ranked 11th overall. The NFBC has him ranked 14th overall. Lets say Jim has him ranked 22nd and I have him ranked 31st. We have four reasoned people who just evaluate pitchers and/or Strasburg differently. Who is right? Well, we'll have to play the games to find out, but my point is this – in my mind I think people don't always evaluate players properly. As a result, I often find “my guys” falling farther in drafts than they should because others reach to take hurlers. I truly believe that if my first three starters are Max Scherzer, James Shields and Tim Lincecum that I have a chance to win this year (see my FSTA Squad). Maybe you look at that and think I'm crazy. In my mind, after hundreds of hours of thought and study this offseason, I think I'm right. So for me the need to get an “ace” is totally overblown. I'll sit back and still get the starters I need to win as I pile on the offensive contributors. A difference of opinion on player values can totally change the way players are ranked and drafted, remember that.
How do you view relievers? As I recently pointed out in the Value of Relief Pitching, you can find an immense amount of production from relievers that are taken late in the fantasy game. Moreover, those late drafted, highly skilled middle relievers could end up being a closer by the end of the season. Have you already forgotten what happened last year when literally 2/3 of closers lost their job by seasons end?
That's the main point to consider. The value of a reliever in the fantasy game is almost completely tied to his role. If a guy posts a 2.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 10.00 K/9 and gets no saves he ends up being drafted in the 24th round. If he posts those same numbers but racks up 30 saves he's drafted in the 11th round. Did they guys pitch any different? Of course not. It was merely because the second guy was working the 9th inning that his value so greatly eclipsed that of the other arm. So you have to decide, which guy do you want to be? Do you want to be the guy that targets roles and takes closers early, even if their skills aren't elite, or, do you want to be the guy that targets the elite skills later in drafts and hope that they eventually lead to that arm working the 9th inning? When I draft I'm more than happy to roster two lower end closer, I mean guys in like the 20's at the position for most, while adding a couple of huge arms from the middle reliever ranks. Since I'm comfortable doing that I don't push closers on others. If you are the guy that needs two top-15 closers to feel comfortable then you're going to ignore my advice anyway.
Does your league start two catchers? If so getting a top-10 is more important than if you start one. What if you are in a 10 team league with one catcher? If that was the case I'd probably wait until the 20's to take my catcher. What if the league is a two catcher, 15 team league? What if it's a 12 team AL-only league? What if it's an auction? Do you overpay to get one of the best or try to go bargain diving late in the draft?
Some general rules.
1 – Never be the first person to take a catcher, a closer or a starting pitcher.
2 – Don't worry so much about position scarcity at the top of the draft. You need production, not positions early. You can go ahead and take Brandon Phillips cause he's the last high level second baseman left but I'd rather take B.J. Upton because of the fact that his overall fantasy game has way more upside.
3 – Stop asking me for advice along the lines that I led off this section with. I'm not trying to be obstinate, I'm just being honest.
I have no idea who will be drafted when in your league.
I have no idea who you will be drafting in your league.
I have no idea if your league mates know what they are doing.
I have no idea if you know what you are doing.
Just because you take my advice in the 5th Round doesn't ensure that you will be following it in rounds 6-10. What I suggest you do in Round 5 is predicated on how I believe (A) the draft will play out and (B) how you will continue to compose your roster. If you go all maverick on me and start doing odd things in rounds 6-10 my advice to help you in Round 5 might end up being wrong in retrospect.
That brings up another point. This isn't fantasy football. In fantasy football I can tell you exactly what you need to do.
Don't take a quarterback in the first round.
Take two runners in your first three picks.
Take two receivers in your first four picks.
Never take a defense or kicker until your last two picks.
Those are easily followed rules that help you to structure your club. There are certainly other ways you can win in fantasy football, but if you follow the outline above you will always be in good shape. Things are totally difference in fantasy baseball. You can build a baseball team in a multitude of ways.
You can target pitching early.
You can target speed.
You can focus on relievers.
You can punt categories.
You can draft based on position scarcity.
Etc., etc., etc...
There simply isn't one way to do it. There is also these two facts that people often miss.
1 – Fantasy football is based on points. It doesn't matter what position you play, everyone is graded on the same points system. Fantasy baseball is based on categories (unless you are in a points league). You need different types of players for homers and steals, others for strikeouts and saves, etc. Baseball is a game with specialization while fantasy football isn't. Therefore, there are a myriad of different options you can employ to put your club together that just aren't available to you in the world of fantasy football.
2 – In a standard fantasy football league you have 10 starters : QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, Flex, K, Def. In fantasy baseball you start more than twice as many fellas, 23 in fact (14 hitters, nine pitchers). With all the extra players on a roster there is way more room for experimentation.
In the end have fun with it, don't obsesses over who you are going to take in the first round, and be willing to change things up once the draft starts cause it's certainly not going to go exactly as you think it will.
ADIOS TO AN ALL-TIME GREAT
Manny Ramirez signed to play in Taiwan. The 40 year old will earn $25,000 a month. ''I just think it is a great opportunity for me and the fans.'' The guy is a flake of immense proportions, but let me tell ya, the man could flat out hit. I think you can make a case that he is one of the 15 greatest right handed hitters the game has ever seen. He hit .312 for his career, has a .411 OBP (33rd ever), has a .585 SLG (9th ever), has a .996 OPS (9th ever), is 26th in total bases (4,826), 14th in homers (555) and 18th in RBIs (1,831). Just thought I would share.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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