Our Scott White has taken a list of general guidelines for Draft Day and organized it into a five-part series called the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts. With a little fine-tuning, you can incorporate these ideas into your own draft and have a clear plan to take down the competition.
Part IV: Let your opponents make the big decisions for you
I should probably let you in on a little secret.
Whenever people ask me questions about their Fantasy teams, I do my best to provide careful, thoughtful, sometimes long-winded answers. But for each of those questions, I could simply offer the same curt response that, in all reality, would be the most truthful:
I don't know.
I don't know, and I know I don't know. And of all the things I do know, the fact I don't know helps me to know the most.
Part I ... Tier up for the big day
Part II ... Avoid catchers and closers
Part III ... Don't chase Ws, draft Ks
Part IV ... Let them make the decisions
Part V ... Most of all, be flexible!
Just admit it: You know nothing about the upcoming baseball season. You certainly think some things. You probably wish some things. But you know no things.
And neither do I.
This is a painful admission, perhaps even an unnatural one. After all, Fantasy Baseball started as a way to prove which of you and your buddies knows the most -- well, that and to win some money.
But it's a necessary admission if you want to take the most cost-effective approach on Draft Day -- if you want to avoid waste and make sure you get the best value with every pick.
Really, that sort of casual surrender makes the most sense for a draft. Of all the ways you could construct your Fantasy Baseball team, a draft is the most passive. During it, you wait. You watch everyone else make their picks, and then on your turn, you react.
Notice I said react, not act, which would suggest aggression. You don't want to act. You don't want to stand out. You don't want to climb over people to make sure you land that one must-have player -- an approach that's both reckless and unnecessary. You want to mind your own business, quietly observe everyone else, and when something falls in your lap, you want to know what to do with it.
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In other words, you can't necessarily have your favorites, and when you don't get them, you have to understand you gave them up for the greater good. For example, I love Carlos Quentin and think he has the potential to become the next Lance Berkman, the player I've long considered my favorite to own in Fantasy. But I've participated in seven drafts so far and have yet to select Quentin in any. Coincidentally, I have yet to select Berkman either.
And did I walk away from those drafts miserable and dejected, wondering how I'd survive without the players I wanted most? Not at all. I couldn't have taken them when I would have had to take them because they just didn't make sense at that point. Too many equitable players remained at their positions, meaning by taking them that early, I would have been doing something aggressive. I would have been reaching, saying "I know these players will perform so well that I want to take them a round or two earlier than players just as good," and passing on a much more logical player in the process. So instead, I let someone else have them, and I moved on.
Of course, you have to know when something has fallen into your lap to know when to take advantage of it. That's where choices come in to play. In short, you don't want to have any. You want everyone else to have made their choices, to have reached for the players they wanted, their favorites, and left you with something just as good in the rounds that follow. Basically, you want to have your opponents make the decisions for you.
The key phrase there is just as good. Obviously, if you wait so long that your opponents take all the good players and leave you with something worse, you've done yourself more harm than good. But if you grant them the luxury of favoritism and don't mind scavenging the leftovers, you'll end up with the bargain players time and time again.
Sounds simple, right? In fact, you might argue I could have assigned this column a much more straightforward and familiar name: don't reach. Maybe, but "reaching" usually refers to something more overt, a blatant disregard for established value. Here, I want to focus on the subtle, to point out the logical fallacies in what most people would describe as acceptable Draft Day behavior.
|Our Scott White loves Carlos Quentin, but even he won't reach for him. (US Presswire)|
This approach might even sound counterintuitive to some, who wonder why you'd want to let everyone else have the best players while you settle for the worst. But you have to remember the fundamental premise: You want the last player in a tier, not the worst. Presumably, you made your own tiers, and you made them so that you feel equally comfortable with any of the players in the same tier. So by waiting to select the last player in a tier, you select the one with the lowest perceived value, not the lowest actual value.
Obviously, this approach works better if you have a middle pick in a standard snake draft. If you have a bookend pick and have to wait as many as 22 picks before you pick again, you might have to make some tough decisions just to avoid getting shut out at a position over and over again. But the overriding idea still applies: If four equitable players remain at one position and two at another, you should probably choose between the two at the thinner position.
The whole idea is to relieve yourself from the burden of prediction, to remove the element of luck from your season by building a roster that doesn't depend on it. Everyone likes to make bold predictions, and everyone will get some of theirs right. But even the best get no more than 50 or 60 percent right. Do you really want to bank on those odds from the beginning of your draft to the end? What about all those times you guess wrong? What chance do you give yourself of succeeding if you overpaid for half your team?
Fantasy Baseball is an unpredictable game, but instead of pinning your failures on luck and hoping it'll work in your favor one of these years, you can use that unpredictability against your opponents. You can let them wrestle with it, force them to decide which of two equitable players they like more, and then swoop in for the leftovers one or maybe even two rounds later. Free from the burden of prediction, you'll always ensure yourself the best deals.
Of course, with all this talk of how nobody really knows anything and how you can live without the players you like most, I don't want you to feel like you should settle for a projected bust. You might see enough red flags on a player that you know you wouldn't draft him even remotely close to where someone else would draft him. I can understand, and I wouldn't want you to take him if he makes you feel uncomfortable. Remember: Your tiers should measure your own level of comfort, so if you really dislike a player that much, you can control where you draft him by establishing your tiers accordingly, maybe even dropping him a tier or two lower than everyone else has him. After all, you don't want to end up with a roster full of players who scare you half to death.
I also don't want you to think you'll never get to target players you like. By the end of the draft, that's pretty much all you'll do. In the late rounds, when you have only so many more roster spots to fill, you want to take the guys you like the most. Shoot, the rest will probably end up on waivers, ready for you to grab them that 50 percent of the time you guess wrong.
But during the first three-fourths of a draft, when players all have predetermined value and clear points when they project to go off the board, you want to make sure you get value with every pick -- or at least as many as you can. You won't do it by grabbing and clawing for players you like just to make sure you get them, so stop trying to play know-it-all and just pick the players who make the most sense, the ones your opponents gift-wrapped for you by making all the tough decisions themselves.
Almost there. Tune in for Part V of the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts, which will challenge the previous four concepts with the one piece of advice that will forever prevent this game from becoming too easy: Be flexible.
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