“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” — Sun Tzu
Rankings, cheat sheets, player projections, strategy articles, ADP numbers – they’re all fantastic tools to use when doing your prep work for your upcoming fantasy baseball draft. But something very few people recognize as vital to your success is your knowledge of your opponent. You can do all the number-crunching you want, but if you don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of those against whom you are drafting, you could be in for a long and frustrating day.
Wipe that smirk off your face. This is some serious sh*t, man.
“If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.” – Mike McDermott (Rounders)
Having a firm grasp of the player pool and using cleverly-calculated spreadsheets will only get you so far. Sure, you know which players are primed for a breakout and who the top "sleepers" are, but guess what…? So do a lot of people. That crazy Google machine all the kids are talking about these days is readily available to everyone and with the surplus of fantasy sites out there, few stones are left unturned. But if you know the inner-workings of the minds of those with whom you are competing, well then, the battle can be easily won no matter whose spreadsheet has the sexiest algorithm.
Think about it. If you’re in an auction and you know your brother-in-law just can’t be without David Dahl, then you bid his ass up. If you know that your entire league subscribes to the “always wait on starting pitching” philosophy, then steal a few aces early to solidify yourself. You need to know when to zig before they zag. A working knowledge of the subject matter is one thing. A working knowledge of your opponents is what gives you that edge you need to win.
Now while every league is different and all its players individuals, these are not "snowflakes" with whom we are dealing. Each person may have their own specific nuances, but fortunately, most fantasy owners can be easily stereotyped. Sure, it’s an evil word and maybe it makes me the a-hole for saying so, but let’s face it…we wouldn’t have stereotypes in this world if there wasn’t a high percentage of truth to them. It is not an exact science and you will still need to learn some of the intricacies, but for the most part you’ll be able to figure out under which heading each of your opponents lie. Some are strong, some are weak and some are merely there to entertain and make an annual donation. It is your job to figure out who fits where, but here is a jump on who’s who…
The Blowhard – This guy knows everything about everything and everyone. He knows every player, every stat, every projection and he’s not afraid to let you know it. In fact, he would probably explode if he wasn’t able to release all that hot air. It doesn’t matter if he likes your pick or not; he’s going to tell you why you’re wrong and how he would have taken someone else. If you take Clayton Kershaw with the second overall pick, he’s the first to chime in as to why he would have taken Mookie Betts. You’ll have to endure his ramblings all day long, but in the end, his hubris will be his undoing as he rigidly sticks to his "fool-proof strategy" and finds himself settling for players he was never targeting because he was too damn arrogant to realize that the rest of us aren’t as stupid as he thinks we are.
Mr. Breaking News -- It’s hard to say just how much research this guy has done, but you know he just spent the last week reading every player update on ESPN and Yahoo. If you draft a guy who stubbed his toe in the clubhouse the day before, he’s got the update for you. He knows every bump and every bruise. He knows who is off to hot start this spring and who isn’t. And best of all [insert sarcastic eye roll here], he’s here to tell you all about it. He won’t chime in as much as The Blowhard though because, more than likely, he doesn’t have as much of a working knowledge of the subject matter. He can tell you what’s happening right now but he can’t tell you what happened last year. That usually makes him an easy mark when it comes to trading and, while he’s probably crazy active on the waiver wire, his lack of true knowledge means he’s only fishing for names found in the headlines.
The Eager Beaver -- He’s been talking about this draft every day for the past month and can hardly contain his enthusiasm once you’re all together and ready to start. He’ll incessantly talk your ear off and try to pick your brain to see if you’re as excited about any of the same players. He loves baseball and you guys should totally take in a game or two whenever you can. In fact, the whole league should get tickets and we should all go together. The problem is that he’s more “hot out of the gate” than he is a hard worker so there is little concern for him during the season. That dam of a team he’s been building and fortifying throughout April will soon find itself riddled with holes and falling to pieces. Maybe he’s got a log and some mud you can grab from him later in the season, but for the most part, it’s nothing but a pile of driftwood floating in the current towards last place.
The Owl -- I don’t know if he’s hard of hearing or just the most ill-prepared guy sitting in the draft room. Nearly every pick of a player outside of MLB’s top 100 is punctuated by a “Who?” from this guy. He is often the slowest to make his pick as he frantically rifles through stacks of cheat sheets he printed out five minutes before the draft. He knows the basic starters but his knowledge lacks depth. Because of that, though, he can be a dangerous person in the draft room. Without knowing any better, he will swoop in and take that veteran you were hoping to steal late, not because of strategy, but because Matt Holliday and Jason Hammel are more recognizable names than Nomar Mazara and Jose Berrios.
The Miner – The joke at the table is that he is also considered The Pedophile because of his affectation for young boys. He’s so focused on “discovering” the next big thing that his approach is to throw it all up against a wall and see what sticks. You’ll recognize him early as he’s the one reaching for Anthony Benintendi in the sixth round and he continues to draft every hot, young, up-and-comer who is on every fantasy rookie list you’ve read this spring. In some cases, he’ll even dig deep enough to turn the whole room into The Owl. By the end of the draft, his roster is loaded with names like Dansby Swanson, Josh Bell, Jharel Cotton, Franklin Barreto and a slew of other hopefuls and unprovens. That’s great if it’s a keeper league and he’s playing for three years down the road, but he’s left himself with almost no legitimate proven talent and almost no chance to even remotely compete this year. Just be ready to attack your waiver wire when the site rolls over in the middle of the night, because The Miner is there waiting.
Ernest Hemingway – The old man in the sea just had his boat wash up on the shore of your draft room. Whether it’s because someone dropped out last-minute or you just needed someone to bring it up to an even 12 teams, someone in your league convinced you all to let his dad play. Usually, this person is recently retired and having difficulty coping with life outside the rat race. He needs to be kept busy and his wife just wants him out of her hair. But while he may seem harmless enough, he is also incredibly dangerous. With nothing else going on in his life, he will dedicate himself to his new hobby. He has subscribed to at least three or four of the top pay sites out there and spends most of his time reading updates and watching spring games from his barca-lounger. He knows his sh*t. He’ll distract you on draft day with stories of how he watched Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford win the World Series when he was a kid all the while he steals Jose Peraza and Byron Buxton right out from under your nose. Sneaky old bastard
Muddy Waters – Everyone needs a pity-party at some point in their life, but this guy is singing the blues throughout the entire draft. He opens with a whiney rendition of how injuries killed his whole season last year and then it seems like every round that passes, someone has stolen his pick. There are never any good first basemen left, he never takes a starter this early but he was forced to and somewhere around the 15th or 16th round he’ll bust out his best rendition of “Why I Hate My Team Right Now.” Unfortunately though, he’s very much like that kid in your school who cried about failing the test and somehow ended up with an A. He works the pity angle so well sometimes that unsuspecting trade partners don’t even realize it’s all an act.
Joe Cool – He’s smooth like buttah! He’s calm, collected and you never see him coming. He’ll starts off relatively unassuming and you may not pay him much mind as you all are getting together, but in truth, he’s the most dangerous guy in your draft room. He has a very deep working knowledge of the player pool, he has a slew of strategies in mind but never commits until the time is just right, and he is cagey with his conversation. He doesn’t want you to know how much he knows and he certainly isn’t going to talk about players he likes. He’ll go with the flow of the draft room and he won’t join in on any player debates. But somewhere in the middle of the draft, before you even have a chance to react, he’s got a team assembled that looks like Beyonce and makes yours look like...well...this lady. If you want to win your league, this is the house the road to the championship goes through.
Tommy Boy -- Every draft has to have one. He is loud. He is brash. But he is also the guy who walked into the draft with a case and a half of double-barrel IPA with a 7.8-percent ABV. The other half-case is already nestled in his belly. He may have a solid working knowledge of baseball both real and fantasy but he is too drunk by the eighth round to make a well-thought out decision. He also probably left his fantasy magazine and cheat sheets in the cab and wants to borrow yours on a regular basis. He also doesn’t have a pen, so be the good Samaritan and bring some extra. Scrap paper too. Without getting too close to him, to the point of distraction and annoyance, you want to be this guy’s best friend. He is simple, easily manipulated and he will always be the big fish you seek when you throw your trade bait into the water. Offer up A.J. Ramos and Carlos Beltran and he’ll give you A.J. Pollock and Carlos Correa just because the names match.
The season begins in exactly 44 days. It is time to prepare for battle. Best of luck to you all on Draft Day…unless, of course, you are playing against me.