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 V: Be flexible
Don't listen to anything I just told you.
I mean it. It's bad news.
You might feel that way, anyway, after reading the subheading of this piece. Be flexible? What kind of generic, throwaway, goody-goody-gumdrops advice is that? It sounds almost self-defeating, like I designed this whole series to waste your time and destroy my credibility in one fell swoop.
But like all the other Draft Day Dos and Don'ts, it's rooted in logic.
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!
Rules -- perhaps you've come to think of the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts as such. In your mind, I've given you an exact process to follow indiscriminately -- do this, don't do that, always. Always always, in fact.
But the truth is you can't do anything 100 percent of the time.
The Dos and Don'ts exist to point out the inefficiencies of Draft Day and to help you take advantage of them. Each guideline -- notice I didn't say "rule" -- represents an inefficiency. Late-round closers often record as many saves as early-rounders -- inefficiency. Wins serve as the basis for drafting starting pitchers even though they remain more or less unpredictable -- inefficiency. Even though these inefficiencies have become readily identifiable, they exist only because your opponents continue to perpetuate them. Someone always drafts closers early. Someone always ranks Chien-Ming Wang ahead of Zack Greinke. That's the way it is and the way it has to be for the Dos and Don'ts to work. If every single person in the Fantasy Baseball universe followed them to a tee, they'd no longer apply.
Of course, I don't mean to suggest you should so quickly abandon them. In fact, I've only done you a disservice if I've made you think you play in a league so exceptional that they don't apply to you. They do, virtually always. But some time during your draft, depending on the overall personality of your league, you might feel the need to revise them ever so slightly.
For example, I've occasionally drafted a catcher in the early rounds. Yeah, I'll admit it. Why would I do something so hypocritical and blatantly irresponsible? Hey, sometimes the tiers forced my hand. Sometimes in my careful waiting for the perfect time to draft an elite shortstop or second baseman, I've gotten neither. It's never a happy day.
And as you hopefully know from compiling your own tiers, once you pass a certain point in the rankings, the dropoff at those two positions becomes so significant that you might as well wait until the end of the draft to fill them.
So if I already know I'll end up with a late-round shortstop and a late-round second baseman, should I still settle for a late-round catcher and enter the season with a glaring disadvantage at three positions? Not if I want to win.
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Hey, I have to make up all those lost points somewhere. Catcher makes the most sense, assuming I can still get one of the elite options.
In fact, I usually end up with an elite catcher in one or two drafts every year. I've made it something of a backup plan, you might say. But when I did it for the first time, do you think I'd even considered the possibility of walking out of that draft with an elite catcher? Of course not. I didn't draft catchers until the late rounds -- period.
Period? Try "comma" instead, because low and behold, when I went to set my roster, I had Russell Martin winking back at me.
And that's what it means to be flexible. You want to enter the draft with a plan you can hopefully follow to perfection, but you have to know how to think on your feet, adjust on the fly and roll with whatever the draft gives you, because sometimes it won't give you anything close to what you expect ... like an elite catcher, for instance.
So for as much good as a preset plan does to keep you sensible, organized and thorough on Draft Day, you can't become so dependent on it that you have no sense of direction without it. Think of how that situation could have gone differently if I didn't allow myself to glance at the catcher position. I would have flipped out, thrown up my arms in disgust, considered my draft a lost cause and, in that moment of hopelessness, pulled the trigger on Derek Jeter.
|Even if you typically wait on pitching, at some point you have to take CC if he falls in your lap. (Getty Images)|
But I remained calm. I didn't dwell over a lost cause. I assessed my alternatives, looked for a position where I could redeem my losses and -- even though it went against my core ideals -- rolled with it.
And all of the Dos and Don'ts have some bend to them. Each has an appropriate time for you to stray from it, even if that time rarely, if ever, comes. For example, at some point during the draft, if enough people passed on him for a long enough period of time, I'd take Jonathan Papelbon. I'd take Derek Lowe, too. I don't strike a big "X" through their names just because they don't fit into my plan. I don't expect to get them, but I have to constantly assess and reassess the field to see how they compare to the players I could draft instead.
That willingness to be flexible might just save me in the end.
But flexibility doesn't function as merely a safeguard, helping you adjust to the many misfortunes that might come your way on Draft Day. It can also help you advance your team, giving you something even better than you imagined. And if you don't know how to adjust for it, you might end up overlooking it.
For example, some of you might know from some of my other columns that I like to load up on hitting early and avoid pitching until the seventh or eighth round. Obviously, I understand I'll never end up with an elite starting pitcher using that approach, but I don't mind. It's not so much that I don't want one; I just know everyone will take them earlier than I'd want them.
So you can imagine my shock this offseason when, in one my drafts -- a 15-team league, no less -- CC Sabathia lasted until the fourth round.
I hadn't planned on taking a pitcher in the fourth round, but I hadn't planned on Sabathia lasting that long, making him easily the best value on the board at that point in the draft. So what did I do? Did I cave and take Sabathia, or did I ignore that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gift-wrapped in front of me just because it went against my goofy little plan?
Let's just say I didn't have to worry about pitching again until the 10th round.
Right choice. Even though I told myself all offseason I'd never, ever draft Sabathia, I drafted him. And I felt good about it.
It's a tricky word, that "never." It never means never ... well, except for just then.
I've even gone on record as saying I'll never keep a pitcher over a hitter, assuming I have a legitimate choice to make. But some people apparently overlook that little addendum and send me e-mails like this one:
Come on, people. Bend with me here. These Dos and Don'ts work when applied in conjunction with one another. You want to follow them always, yes, but not ... really always. To the point of usefulness, but not the point of recklessness.
So open your eyes. Go into the draft with a clear head and a plan flexible enough that every pick that goes off the board still means something to you.
And then do what you're told like good little boys and girls, because you'll never have reason to stray.
Except for those times you do.
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