Fantasy Baseball: A Guide to Thriving in This Year's Draft

Steven SimonContributor IIFebruary 20, 2012

Spring training is about to begin and so that can only mean one thing: baseball fans everywhere are researching players and preparing for their fantasy draft. It’s a holy time in which almost all are scouting players from all 30 teams trying to figure out how to bounce back from last year’s embarrassment.

Every year it starts the same: an ‘owner’ does his/her research, drafts some players they think they got for a steal, brag about how amazing their team will be this year, and then end up frustrated when the team is in the cellar at the end of the season. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there!

My favorite style of draft, and probably the toughest style, is the auction. This is not only because it is more fun and interactive, but it also rewards the skilled and knowledgeable (as well as the lucky, unfortunately). An owner who has a complete understanding of the players’ strengths and weaknesses can not only thrive in building his own team, but also can create the downfall of another owner’s team. For example, you could miss out on the best player, but, if you bid him up too high, then the person who did buy him now has to buy cheap players to fill other positions.

The key to a good auction draft is two fold: to know when to go all-in and when to bow out as well as to know and to stay within the formation of your team. In other terms, the two keys are to know what statistics you can obtain cheaply and where you need to spend money to be competitive; in addition, though the team may not look like what you first envisioned, an owner needs to realize what his team is and play to those strengths. Otherwise, you run the risk of being average in all categories and finishing in the middle of the pack.

If I could only offer you one tip on how to build a more successful fantasy team this spring, it would be this: do not pay for the past, but rather pay for the future. More so in sports, baseball in particular, than any other business, terms and compensations are negotiated on past achievements rather than future projections. This leads to 30+ year olds getting lengthy contracts that end up being a terrible situation for the franchise just a few years in. Fantasy owners, too, are not exception to this; they too, and I used to be guilty of this as well, draft based on what a player did over the past few years instead of thinking about what production they are likely to get this year.

A few things to consider when analyzing a player’s future potential are: health, the team around him, ballpark with their skill set and trends in their statistics. For instance, a year ago I encouraged my readers to pass on Ryan Braun because his HR numbers across the board (meaning in many HR stats including Sabermetric numbers) were consistently declining over the past few years. Although Braun won the MVP and his power numbers shot up, it is almost a guarantee this was because he used PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs). Two years ago I encouraged my readers to get Josh Hamilton who, at that point was not on many people’s radar; we all know him and his talents now.

 If you are really dedicated to winning and want some more help with projections for the upcoming season, consider purchasing Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster (I am, nor have I ever been associated with this book) as it is an excellent, and simplified, presentation of basic and some sabermetric statistics, which all fans can understand and utilize.

The easiest way to win a fantasy league with an auction draft is to find the undervalued players. Don’t waste your time deciding between Miguel Cabrera or Albert Pujols; both are likely to be awesome. Instead find that $5-$10 outfielder that will give you OBP, runs, and stolen bases who you can draft on the cheap instead of having to pay for a more popular name. Remember, popular names doesn’t mean a good fantasy pick! And by finding the undervalued players, you are free to spend a bit more on the big name players everyone covets.

As I said, know what categories you can get more cheaply than others. For instance, if you play in a league with both saves and holds, then go for holds rather than saves. Closers are bigger names and will often incite higher bids, while great seven or eighth inning guys are just, if not more, effective than a closer. For a batter, consider going after OBP instead of average. This should also lead to runs as that player will be on base. This is often a cheaper option instead of pursuing players with a high batting average.

And don’t even get me started on how useless batting average is as a stat. Just think of it like this: if a player gets 125 hits over 500 at-bats he is a .250 hitter; he’s considered average to below average and a liability at the plate. But if he gets 25 more hits over the course of that season he is now a .300 hitter and is in the Hall of Fame. That means 25 more hits in a season, which is about one more hit per week, is the difference between a liability and a Hall of Famer.

Finally, I would also suggest nominating players you know you don’t want who you know will get bid up. Your hope here is to get the others owners in the league to use their money so they have to bid conservatively once the guys you want come up. Good luck to all my fantasy baseball owners out there!


If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment on this article or email me at I’m always happy to help a fellow fan out with their baseball drafting strategy. And be sure to check out my writer profile here on B/R as well as my website, for more of my articles. Also, you can follow me on Twitter: @baseballchatter