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How To Prepare For A Fantasy Baseball Draft

As I mentioned in the Comment section of "NFL Notes", I am experiencing pangs of unpreparedness for my draft AL-only keeper league draft next Sunday.  To help assuage those feelings of anxiety, I am going to run down what I need to do to be ready.

1. Prepare preliminary keeper rosters for the twelve teams in the league with prospective keepers and salaries.  The protect lists are due Thursday at midnight, and the draft is Sunday at noon.  If I fail to address this point before those lists are submitted, then I will be taking valuable time away from the first thing that I must do on Friday morning - prepare lists of available draftees.

1a. Prepare a list with at least 24 minor league prospects.  Why 24? The minor league draft is two rounds long with twelve teams.  Typically, I'll run down each AL/NL team and list as many players as I see becoming viable fantasy contributors.  Prospects like the recently-acquired Tony Pena Jr does not make the list.

2. The day after the keepers are due, I prepare lists of the available hitters and pitchers at the draft.  These are typically sorted by postion eligibility.  I'll adjust the text size to fit the players on as few sheets as possible.  Usually, it will be two pages for the pitchers, and these will be sorted by IP.  The hitters typically take-up about the same numbers of pages and are sorted by ABs.  This gives me an idea of which players are likely to have the greatest effects on the standings.  The more IP or ABs, the greater the influence on the ratios - ERA, WHIP and AVG, and the greater the likely impact ont eh coutning categories - Ws, HR, RBI, SB.  

3. Once those are done, I will check my preliminary keeper rosters versus the actual players protected and update where necessary. There are always surprises.  So and so protected him or didn't protect that pitcher.  This other team signed this player or didn't sign that one.

4. Once that is done, I'll peruse the keeper lists to get a feel for what each team needs to address at the draft.  I never assume any team will punt a category.  If team A does not have a closer, then I assume he will target one.  If Team B has no starting pitchers, I assume he has at least one of the top ones on his priority list.  Because I have already prepared a preliminary keeper list for each team, I have done a lot of this strategic guesswork already.

5. With an idea of what each team will look to accomplish on draft day, I begin studying the available players to see where there is a particular area of depth, or lack thereof.  For example, this year's draft has one good catcher in it - Mike Piazza.  In all likelihood he will cross into the $20 range.  if I do not feel that to be a good price, I'll ignore catchers for most of the draft.  If he looks like he'll go for less than $20, I may try to land him.

6. Knowing what is available sends me back to the protect lists, and I check the tallies of how many roster spots at each position must be drafted.  Preliminary totals are done when I do the prelim keeper lists.  (Those preliminary keeper lists seem fairly important, huh?)  With two catcher slots, I know 24 catcher-eligibles must be taken.  By simply subtracting the number of catcher protected from 24, I know how deep I have to make my catchers list.  The same thing applies to the other roster slots.  By knowing that nine 1B are protected and the depth of 1B-eligibles available, I can guesstimate how the CR and DH slots may be filled.  It is only guesswork, but I don't want to think only three 1B are needed.  I have to consider the two additional spots that a 1B-only hitter can be placed.  3B is treated the same way.  For middle infielders, consider MI and DH possibilities.

7. With an idea of what is available and how other teams will address their needs, I begin  thinking about how the draft will go.  Where is the scarcity?  Where will there be exorbitant early bidding?  Where will the value picks occur? And so forth.  This mental exercise takes up most of the time after steps one through six are completed.

8. For the draft, I bring the rosters for each team - formatted to fit four teams on each of three pages.  Each one has the salaries of the protected players with each team's committed salary totaled.  The lists of available players is also ready.  There will also be a list of minor league players that I like, and I will have one fantasy baseball guide with me - preferably one that is strong enough to double as a writing surface.

9. Finally, I try to hold off on my first beer until I get to the draft.  I used to try to wait until the first break in the draft, but that wasn't as much fun.  And despite a very competitive nature when it comes to fantasy baseball, it is a game and one I do with friends so I allow myslef to enjoy everything Draft Day offers. I also used to scope out a prime spot to sit with a solid writing surface, but that priority was dropped in favor of easier access to the cooler.