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Though it makes it sound more like a Broadway show than a baseball game, we are less than a week away from Opening Night. That’s right. Sunday night the Rangers and Astros square off for the first official MLB game of the 2013 season. Excited? I know I am. But what makes it even better is that Sunday night is the first official set of stats recorded for the 2013 fantasy baseball season and after a long and arduous offseason filled with countless hours of draft prep work, it’s all about to start paying off. But before we get ahead of ourselves, there are still some who have yet to draft and are looking for a few last-minute nuggets of information. Well, with big decisions coming down here in the final week of spring training, I am always happy to oblige.
As always, the most important aspect of your fantasy baseball draft prep is staying on top of all the latest news. There’s nothing worse than walking into your draft and grabbing a guy only to have that annoying league know-it-all chime in with news form two days ago saying that the guy you just drafted is banged up. But it’s more than just looking at injury updates. You need to take all of the information given and make certain assessments of how this latest news will impact the rest of the fantasy baseball world. Virtually every bit of information you get has a ripple effect and it’s important to look at how far the news carries. So here are a few of the latest headlines from spring training and what kind of fantasy baseball impact we can expect.
With your draft looming and barely three weeks to go before the season opens, studying up on all of the open position battles is key to your draft prep. Obviously you want the best at every position, but since you know that’s a pipe dream, unless of course you’re in a league of idiots, you have to know where to tighten up your budget. But if you are following the spring action and know who is likely to win a job outright, perhaps you can come in with a late, sneaky pick and still manage a quality pick at a particular position. Here’s a look at some of the bigger position battles we’re seeing this spring. Some should be settled sooner than others while you might see one or two linger into the season. But here’s a look and my take…
I’ll admit it. Sometimes my excitement over the fact that spring training has begun and we’re watching games on TV can cloud my judgment. I’m just so happy to have the season back that even a light-hitting shortstop batting .320 over a dozen spring at-bats gets me all charged up and I have fleeting thoughts of drafting him for a late-round buck in my mixed-league auction. But as draft day nears, cooler heads prevail and I stop watching with my heart and start listening to that all-too-sensible voice in my head that keeps telling me that unbridled enthusiasm can destroy a fantasy team in a heartbeat. Though fantasy baseball is technically a game, there’s little fun to be found in it if you draft like an idiot. Objectivity is the key to evaluating spring stats and looking at them any other way is a one-way ticket to last place.
One of the things you’ll hear from virtually every fantasy pundit is that a successful draft is based on how much value you get out of each one of your picks. The first few rounds are obviously dedicated to the studs, the players on whom your foundation is built. You’re picking from the best of the best and each selection, unless you make a total bonehead move or the player suffers a debilitating injury, should produce high end value for you.
How many times during a fantasy baseball draft, real or mock, have you heard the phrase, “I wouldn’t normally take a starting pitcher this early, but I just couldn’t pass up the value here”? Too many? I’m sure. It’s about as cliché as a player telling the media that he’s in the best shape of his life on the first day of spring training. The only difference is, the guy who just drafted Clayton Kershaw in the third round was, sort of, telling the truth.
As we gear up for our fantasy baseball drafts, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the growth that we’ve seen in the fantasy sports business and what the impact is on drafts from year to year. More specifically, I’m talking about the immense coverage and the disappearance of sleepers, an annual favorite of nearly every fantasy owner. In the past, the fantasy baseball magazines and the few web sites that were out there would have their lists of players who were considered far from mainstream but expected to perform at a much higher level. It was fine back then as the circulation wasn’t what it is today and those of us who actually did the research on our own and unearthed these hidden gems actually saw it as a chance to gain an alternate opinion on these lesser known players. But with the crazy amount of coverage there is today, these sleeper lists have turned the unknown commodities into the trendiest picks of your draft and the players are losing their overall return value because every Neanderthal who can point and click is now taking them far too early in drafts. And because of that, those of us who go that extra mile in the research and draft prep need to start fighting back. We’re not going to be able to stop the hordes of writers from outing our sleepers, but what we can do is change our strategy and use our competition’s herd mentality against them.
As we head into the final two scoring periods of the season, fantasy baseball owners have some tough decisions to make. Do you stick with those that got you here or do you try to infuse some new blood into your team and play the hot bat regardless of what type of overall player they may be. Do you continue to start Brandon Phillips who is batting just .191 over his last 50 at-bats or do you switch it up to the red-hot Logan Forsythe who is batting .404 with two home runs, eight RBI and two stolen bases over the last two weeks? It’s not always the recommended choice, but in some cases, it just might behoove you to make an alteration or two.
If you’re still surfing the web here looking for fantasy baseball advice, then you’re probably in the midst of a dogfight with the rest of your league’s contenders and jockeying for position in the standings. Every at-bat, every start, and every relief appearance could mean the difference between winning your league (or at least finishing in a money spot) and falling to sixth place, a usual landing spot for the frustrated and disgruntled at this time of year. So what you have to do now is start thinking short-term. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised as to how many people still think in terms of a full-season right now. You don’t care what a player’s year-to-date stats look like and you don’t care how well-balanced a player they are. You need to start looking at the standings and figuring out where you can attain points with the most ease. If only five stolen bases separate you from the team three spots ahead of you, then you need a stolen base guy to grab those points. It doesn’t matter what else he brings to the table. Who cares? Just as long as he’s stealing bases. It’s the same for power, saves, strikeouts, whatever. You need to find guys specific to your needs.
So roto leagues are coming down to the wire and head to head leagues are smack dab in the middle of their playoffs. This is it. September is here and that marathon you started back in April has come down to a final sprint here in the last month of what has been a grueling, yet hard-fought, season. Some leagues still allow waiver pick-ups, so you want to make sure that you’re staying on top of the latest news and September call-ups while others just require daily/weekly maintenance on your roster. Hopefully you’ve got the depth to deal with any late-season injuries. If you’re reading this and have the time left to make adjustments, perhaps there are a few notes you’ll find relevant and even a little helpful…