You've seen it happen before.
Some first-time owner in your fantasy league—let's call him Big Fan Stan—shows up on draft day and promptly picks about 11 players from the same team. Well, Big Fan Stan thinks this is idea is just swell.
"Hey, now I can root for my favorite team and my fantasy team...at the same time!" Big Fan Stan exclaims.
Afterwards, when you take a minute to peruse his roster and recall Big Fan Stan's other over-the-top outbursts, it all starts to make sense.
Among others, Big Fan Stan took Jose Altuve in Round 3 ("That's a legit pick right there!"), Chris Carter and Carlos Pena back-to-back in Rounds 8 and 9 ("Bank on it: 60 bombs combined!"), Brett Wallace in Round 12 ("The breakout is coming—this year!") and Brad Peacock with his final choice ("Rookie...of...the...YEAR!!!").
Poor Big Fan Stan, you realize, "his" team happens to be the Houston Astros.
The lesson? Don't be Big Fan Stan. Even if "your" team is the Los Angeles Angels, don't make draft picks with your heart by selecting players from your favorite team over better players from other clubs.
That's one frequent rookie draft day mistake. Here are some other common DON'Ts if you're a fantasy freshman like Big Fan Stan.
DON'T: Wait Until It's Your Pick to Know Your Pick
Believe it or not, fantasy drafts take time and concentration for two or three hours (or more). Early on, it's easy enough to look at your rankings and pluck a top player you like without giving it much thought. But as the draft progresses and available players dwindle, it's just as easy to lose track of things and get stuck with the clock counting down on your selection.
To avoid this, you should always have a running list, either written down or marked off or queued up, of a batch of players you're targeting with your next pick. Do this immediately after you make your choice, so you save time for when you need it—when the draft comes back to you.
DON'T: Take Pitchers Over Hitters, Especially Early
A common problem for a fantasy first-timer is knowing when and how to draft each position. While taking stud starting pitchers with your first few picks seems smart initially—pitching wins championships, you tell yourself—it quickly becomes evident that other owners are stocking up on offense and leaving the arms for later. This is because pitching is extremely deep, and above-average SPs, like Mat Latos, Josh Johnson and Jon Lester, will be available in the mid-to-late rounds. It's all about weighing the opportunity cost.
Instead, go after big bats with the majority of your first several selections. It's not the end of the world to pick a pitcher or three, just make sure they're starting pitchers (see below), and don't make a habit of it until after Round 10. When in doubt, go with the hitter.
DON'T: Pick Closers Early (or Often)
For the most part, closers contribute in only one category: saves. Sure, they help keep your ERA and WHIP low, too, but one very good starting pitcher who throws 200-plus innings essentially covers the equivalent of three top closers who throw 60-70 innings each.
Still, saves is a category, too, so you shouldn't overlook it. But rather than grabbing Craig Kimbrel, Jason Motte and Jonathan Papelbon, focus on other areas—you know, like hitters!—and stock up on two, three or four less-popular closers. Their ERAs might not sparkle, and their WHIPs might not twinkle, but their saves won't count any less.
DON'T: Ignore a Category
If you choose to ignore a category as part of a strategy (i.e., "punting"—or forgoing—saves to increase other categories), then that's different. (It's not advisable, generally speaking, although it can work.) But if you're new to this fantasy thingamabob, you should make sure that your roster is going to provide sufficient results in every one of the categories in your scoring format.
This is easy enough to fix, for the most part, as the draft evolves. Every few selections, do a quick roster rundown to see where you might be lacking in category production. Don't have that many players who will steal bases? Start shifting your focus toward speed-oriented types (a la Alex Rios, Shane Victorino or Alcides Escobar) or just take care of it in one fell swoop by grabbing, say, Everth Cabrera.
Here's another hint: It's easier to make up ground in the counting categories (HR, R, RBI, SB for hitters; and K, W, SV for pitchers) than it is in the rate categories (BA, ERA, WHIP).
DON'T: Fall Victim to a "Run"
This mistake still befalls even many a fantasy veteran. A "run" is when many players of the same position are drafted in a short burst or quick succession. This typically happens a few times throughout the draft, most often with catchers and closers, since those two positions usually don't start getting picked until about Round 5. Like in Econ 101, once the demands of the draft shift and the supply of other positions drop, a run becomes inevitable.
The best way to avoid a run is to start one. Or at least, get in early. If you see that Joe Mauer is still on the board in Round 6 and only one or two catchers have gone so far, go ahead and take the leap. Then watch as everyone else starts pouncing on other, worse backstops.
Have any other rookie slip-ups to share? Tweet at me: @JayCat11.
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