Sunday, March 2, 2008

Basic Draft Strategies

Although no one wins a league on draft day, it is possible to lose one. Drafting is one of the most important aspects of fantasy sports, so important that fantasy players spend countless hours preparing for draft day. Since we have covered the basic types of drafts, let’s take a look at a few draft strategies for the typical 5x5 rotisserie baseball league. Here are the most popular draft strategies, in no particular order:

Position Scarcity: Drafting the best players possible in the early rounds in positions with few star quality players. Examples of position scarcity this year include catchers, and out field. Once you fill these positions with few star players, you would then look for the best value picks, while always keeping position scarcity in mind concerning the remaining players available to be drafted. Positions like third base, first base and starting pitchers would be chosen later in the draft because there is a much larger pool of quality players at these positions this year.

The Balanced Team: Drafting a team to be as balanced as it can be in all batting and pitching scoring categories. The idea is not to win any single scoring category, but to place in the top four in all of the scoring categories. Therefore, you draft as many players as possible who score well in four or five of the scoring categories. You also need to blend in pitchers, although your mix should include slightly more batters than pitchers, but not many more. For this strategy to be successful, you must stick to it through the first 10-12 rounds, then it is crucial to fill any holes where you may be weak in a scoring category, although you should shy away from players who only score good in one or two categories.

Best Player Available: Draft the highest ranked players available without concern over position. While you may have the best overall talent after the draft, you may be deficient at a few positions If you have too many players in one position and not another, then you simply trade for what you need. This strategy is one of the simplest in terms of preparation if you just rely on the expert rankings. In my opinion, if you use this system why bother to show up at all, you should just let the computer auto draft for you. The biggest variation on this strategy is to come up with your own rankings, which can make it one of the most time consuming plans out there.

Controlling Offense: Draft only hitting through the first 10 rounds, focusing in the first five rounds on 4 and 5 tool players. For rounds 6 through 10, pick the best batters in a given category, like steals or home runs, where you are the weakest. Once you fill out the offensive positions, you then draft the best available pitchers concentrating on pitchers that have the best combination of ERA, Ks, WHIP and saves. By the 11th round, you probably won’t find many solid starting pitchers, but you should be able to draft enough to show up in the pitching categories.

If pitching is scarce, you could modify this strategy to secure the top starters in a given year. In the book Fantasyland, Sam Walker employed this tactic and called it REMA. The only problem is that pitchers are notoriously fragile players, prone to injuries. If you cannot get enough offense to be in the top 5, one injury could ruin your team.

Punting a Category: With this strategy, you intentionally ignore one of the scoring categories, concentrating instead on the others. For hitters, stolen bases are often punted. Since the guys who usually get the highest number of SBs often do poorly in other categories, having them in your line up limits production in other categories. For pitchers, saves is most often punted. In all honesty, I don’t recommend you start the draft using this strategy, but if you find part way though the draft that you have few producers in one category, you can use it to your advantage by concentrating your remaining picks to strengthen the scoring categories you want to score high in.

Specialist Drafting: The opposite of Punting, here you draft players who are the best producer in a single category in order to dominate a few categories, and then move on to another player who dominates a different category until you have players covering all categories in your league. This is much more common and useful in Head to Head leagues than roto, since you can rarely draft the best single category guys. With just that in mind, for this strategy to be successful, you must limit your domination to 2-3 categories and not worry too much about the others.

Conclusion: There are more strategies which fantasy players employ at their draft than this, and even combination approaches, but they all boiled down these simple approaches. When it comes to fantasy sports (regardless of the type), everyone incorporated their favorite draft strategy into their Drafting plan. Whichever strategy you decide to employ, keep in my no strategy is fool proof. How a draft strategy is implemented, executed and the "expertise" of the other team owners also affect how successful a draft strategy will be. What is most important is that you come into the draft with a plan of execution.

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