Fantasy Baseball: 10 Ways to Start Preparing for Next Year

Dan KuklaCorrespondent IIISeptember 6, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 10 Ways to Start Preparing for Next Year

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    Only a few fantasy baseball managers in rotisserie leagues can still compete for a league championship. The playoff fun is just beginning in head-to-head leagues, but at least half of those teams are eliminated as well.

    Don't completely check out of the baseball world as you rush off to play fantasy football. Important preparation for next year can already begin.

    Here are 10 ways to gain an advantage over your competition for 2013 right now.

1. Pay Attention to September Call-Ups

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    Successfully picking sleepers late in your draft sets you on the early path to a championship.

    One of the best ways to spot next year's sleepers is to watch them play now. Many teams keep their best prospects protected in the minor leagues all season until rosters expand in September. Now those players begin making their MLB debuts, offering a chance to scout potential breakout stars.

    A one-month audition won't tell you everything you need to know about a player. Oftentimes it can be downright deceiving.

    At the very least, however, this is the time to get familiar with any additions to the player pool. Keeping tabs on hot rookies now will give you more complete knowledge of next year's draft stock while you competition scrambles to learn all the new names.

    Here are a few players give special attention: Shelby Miller (RHP, St. Louis Cardinals); Wil Myers (OF, Kansas City Royals); Jedd Gyorko (3B, San Diego Padres); Oscar Taveras (OF, St. Louis Cardinals); Jonathan Singleton (1B, Houston Astros); Danny Hultzen (LHP, Seattle Mariners); Jake Odorizzi (RHP, Kansas City Royals); Kolten Wong (2B, St. Louis Cardinals); and Trevor Bauer (RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks).

2. Pay Attention to Hot Finishes

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    Prospects aren't the only players to watch in September.

    Every year ends with a pool of players finishing significantly better than they started. Sometimes this is merely a hot streak that just happens to come at the end of a season. Other times, however, it's an indication of something much more meaningful.

    Look into the hot finishes and try to find out why they are happening. Did the player make an adjustment? Is he finally healthy after playing injured most of the season? If something has changed, you need to make note of this for next year.

    Draft guides typically only show you a player's overall numbers from recent seasons. Knowing where those numbers don't tell the entire story will help you identify value.

    Here are a few players heating up to watch during the game's final month: David Murphy (OF, Texas Rangers); Carlos Gomez (OF, Milwaukee Brewers); Aaron Hill (2B, Arizona Diamondbacks); Garrett Jones (1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates); Todd Frazier (1B/3B/OF, Cincinnati Reds); Jon Jay (OF, St. Louis Cardinals); and Norichika Aoki (OF, Milwaukee Brewers).

3. Pay Attention to Slumping Stars

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    Dan Uggla is no longer a regular starter at second base for the Atlanta Braves.

    Most fantasy baseball managers are well aware of his devastating slump, but anyone checking out for football may not realize just how far it has gone.

    His second-half slash line (.181/.315/.329) is a complete disaster. Losing playing time will eat into his counting numbers, the only thing that kept him remotely roster worthy.

    There are a few takeaways from situations like this. It obviously hurts Uggla's value in 2013. He will plummet in drafts next year. You need to know the risks involved before making a value play.

    His benching also creates opportunity for Martin Prado. Monitor him just as closely as Uggla.

    Monitor other September slumps, as well.

4. Pay Attention to Injuries

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    Injuries can significantly alter a player's value.

    Anyone that draws the dreaded "injury risk" label will fall in drafts next year. This is where savvy fantasy managers can profit.

    Identify the difference between players that are truly injury prone and players that were just unlucky.

    Brett Anderson is a perfect example of the latter. He may receive the Adam Wainwright treatment in drafts next year after Tommy John surgery, but that will be a mistake. Anderson already looks plenty strong while allowing only two total runs in his first three starts since his return.

    Watch players coming back from injury to get an early read on how their 2013 value will be affected.

5. Pay Attention to Players on New Teams

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    Switching teams brings a degree of uncertainty into a player's fantasy value. Switching leagues only increases that uncertainty.

    The dust is still settling from an active trade deadline. Monitor how traded players perform in their new surroundings.

    Adrian Gonzalez is the most intriguing player to watch. He makes the switch back to the National League, back to the West Coast and back to a spacious ball park.

    For reasons that still seem to be in doubt, Gonzalez saw his power numbers decline in Boston even though quirky Fenway Park was seen as an upgrade over cavernous PETCO Park. He seemed to prefer bouncing doubles off the Green Monster instead of taking aim at the short fence in left field.

    We get the benefit of watching how Gonzalez hits at Dodger Stadium before assigning his draft value next season. Take notes—on him and everyone else playing in a new park.

6. Pay Attention to Your League Leaders

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    It doesn't matter if your fantasy team is waiting around for the playoffs to start, taking a rotisserie victory lap, trying to make one final push or completely eliminated.

    You all have homework.

    Take note of what it takes to win your league, whether that's you or someone else.

    • Did they dominate a few categories or stay balanced in all of them?
    • Which categories did they dominate?
    • Did they emphasize offense or pitching, infielders or outfielders, starters or relievers?
    • Did they stream pitchers or use a set rotation?
    • Did they build their team through the draft or the waiver wire?
    • Did they win with proven studs or breakout stars?

    These are the questions you should be asking. The answers should frame your strategy for next season. There are many ways to win a league, but using a strategy proven to work is always a good way to go.

7. Pay Attention to Your Category Benchmarks

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    Here's your second homework assignment.

    Take note of what it takes to win each category in your league. This is not as important in head-to-head leagues, but it still helps as a reference. It is absolutely crucial in rotisserie leagues.

    You need to know what you need to win before you start drafting. How many home runs do you need to draft? How many steals? What's the winning number for every category?

    Keep these benchmarks written down so you have them for next year's draft. You can then use statistical projections to track your team with every pick and know what types of players you need to draft next.

8. Make a Cheat Sheet

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    It's never too early to make a cheat sheet.

    Ranking every single player is probably overkill right now, but making notes of this year's impressions will be valuable next draft season.

    What studs do you covet most? Who are your sleepers? Who are your busts? Where is the best value?

    It's a simple exercise that gives you a head start when you pick things back up in the spring.

9. Write Everything Down (or Type It Out)

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    Pen and paper works just as well as a keyboard. It doesn't matter what medium you prefer, as long as you make a physical list that can easily be found in a few months.

    All the notes you made from the first eight slides need to literally be filed away in something other than just your brain. You will remember some of your September observations in the spring, but not all of them. Don't waste your research time and effort by not writing it down or typing it out.

    Physical notes you make now will pay huge dividends later.

10. Watch Games

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    If you do nothing else this September and October, at least watch some actual baseball.

    There is no substitute for live scouting. Seeing a player perform can tell you so much more than any box score or game log.

    One of the easiest ways to scout fantasy players on TV or at the ball park is to observe how each player makes a hit or out. An 0-4 performance doesn't look as bad when you realize every ball put in play was hit hard. A two-run single isn't quite as impressive when you see it float between three fielders.

    Stats only tell you so much. The best way to evaluate talent is to watch it.

    And don't forget the most important thing: watching baseball and playing fantasy is fun! Don't let bad results ruin the last two months of the season.