Preparing for the draft

Posted on 24 March 2012 by Mark Sherrard

If you’re like me, draft day is one of the most exciting and at the same time unnerving days of the year. You never feel like you are fully prepared and, like a college final exam, try to cram as much knowledge into your brain as possible. Here are some tips that I have found helpful in preparing for the draft which may help take some of the worry out of the process.

Stay up-to-date on the latest news
It is always important to stay on top of the latest news. Whether its a season-ending injury or a last minute trade, don’t be the guy who throws out a player’s name in the draft who is in the other league or hurt. I always make sure that I check out the latest news the night before the draft as well as the morning of the draft (if I have time).

Make a list and check it twice
Whether you are preparing for a straight draft or auction, it is important to have a draft list.

For a straight draft, this should be a ranking of the pool of players from 1 to 300 (or however deep your league goes into the player pool). There are various websites that put together lists like this and they can be a good starting point. But you should make sure you adjust these lists for injuries, changes in role, trades, etc.

You should also put together a list of players ranked by position, which helps you figure out when talent at a specific position is getting scarce and its time for you to draft that position. You don’t want to be stuck with a hole at any position.

For an auction league, you should have a list of available players sorted by highest value to lowest value. However, I have found that the best tool for an auction league is a listing by position, sorted by highest to lowest value. From there, you can identify “tiers” of players (i.e. $30-40, $20-30, $10-20, $1-10) and see where the depth of each position lies.

For example, if there is only one third baseman who falls in the $30-40 range, but 5 third baseman in the $20-30 range, then you would want to target the group in the $20-30 range, as the $30-40 player will probably be overbid due to scarcity. By targeting the 5 players in the $20-30 range, you can probably get one for at or below value, as the other owners will likely drop out of the bidding knowing that there are others available. However, don’t wait until the last player in that group is left or you will have to overbid to get him.

Mock Drafts and Mock Auctions
Another useful tool when preparing for the draft is to check out the various Mock Draft and Mock Auctions sites. One such site is mockdraftcentral.com. Also, fatasy sports sites, such as cbssports.com, have their own mock drafts that you can join and participate in.

These sites are useful in that they can give you an early indication as to which players might be over or undervalued. By comparing the Average Draft Position to your draft list or the Average Auction Value to your auction values, you can find potential bargains for your upcoming draft.

Depth Charts
Another important and sometimes overlooked tool is the depth chart. There are various websites that have depth charts for each team, including Rotoworld, CBSsports and Rototimes. Depth charts are important, especially in deep leagues, as it gives you insight into who the backups are in case of injury.

However, even with all these sites available, I find it more useful to put together my own depth chart. The main difference between my depth chart and theirs is that mine includes each players’ contract status (how long they are signed for or under team control) and minor leaguers who could replace them.

This last two points are important, for two reasons. First, if a player is in the last year of his contract with his team, there is a possibility that he could be traded in July, if that team is out of contention. This could mean a change in roll (for example, a closer who is traded to a team that already has a closer and therefore becomes the setup man) or a loss of stats (if you are in a NL or AL only league that doesn’t count stats from players traded to the other league). Second, if that player has been traded, it usually means that the team trading him is going to give the prospect a chance at that position and you want to be the team that has that prospect on its reserve roster.

Prospect Lists
Seems like everyone and their brother has a prospect list. I recently discovered a website that provides links to all the prospects lists on the web (Fantasy Rundown), which has proved invaluable to my draft preparation. I take the lists from the various sites and compile a composite list of prospects, which can be found at MLB Composite Index, that I use for my league’s reserve draft.

If you are in a keeper league or dynasty league, you already know the importance of scouting minor leaguers to find the next big star. Many times minor leaguers can be the difference between a successful season or a disappointing one. For example, one team in my league went into the 2010 draft with Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg and Michael Stanton, the consensus top 3 prospects at that time, on his reserve roster. He finished second (and would have won if Strasburg had not gotten hurt).

One thing to keep in mind though is that it is not just talent, but also opportunity that plays a role here. A player like Yonder Alonso of the Reds has plenty of talent, but spent last year at AAA, as he was stuck behind Joey Vott. He had to be traded to San Diego to finally get his opportunity. If you’re choosing between two minor leaguers ranked about the same, select the player who has the better opportunity for playing time (here’s where that depth chart comes in handy).

On the other hand, don’t get too caught up on the opportunity aspect that you pass on a high ranked prospect for a lower one with better opportunity. If a player is good enough, the team will make room for him.

Overall
There are a lot of good resources on the web to help you prepare for your draft. Hopefully the tips above will help give you an edge over the competition and allow you to dominate your draft.

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