In fantasy sports, positional runs are like brain freezes. There’s nothing you can do to stop it once it starts, and the only way to survive it is to simply ride it out.
Yet getting caught up in such tomfoolery can be quite easy. The pressure to be a part of “the in crowd” suddenly outweighs the importance of sticking by your well thought out (and in my case, laminated) cheat sheet.
Fortunately, falling victim to the position run can be avoided by following three easy rules.
This Isn’t High School Anymore
The main lesson here: Just because all the cool kids are doing it doesn’t mean you have to. And you know what? Position runs aren’t even cool! They merely play on your fears and give the illusion that if you don’t join in, there will be nothing left when it’s over.
Like a tornado that destroys everything in its path, it’s your job to see through the wreckage, and realize that most of the damage is repairable.
Think of mom’s classic rhetorical question “if everybody jumped off a bridge, does that mean you would too?”
The answer, clearly, is no.
Be yourself. Stick to your guns. There is no worse feeling than entering a draft with a solid gameplan, only to partake in a position run midway through, and subsequently alter your entire strategy, leaving an unrecognizable final product far from what you originally envisioned.
Just because some owners think it’s “cool” to draft Dan Haren, Justin Verlander, or Johan Santana (combined ERA 3.24) in the fourth round, don’t let them influence you to take an SP earlier than planned.
Feel confident knowing that Josh Beckett, Tommy Hanson, and Yovani Gallardo (combined ERA 3.36) can be had four rounds later, which in reality means the joke’s on them.
There’s More Where That Came From
Position runs are usually fairly obvious to pick up on, and there even tends to be that one guy in most draft rooms who likes to state the obvious, and screams out “position run!” as if to say “hurry up and get one while you still can, this offer won’t last all day.”
Despite this forewarning, the mere idea of missing out on a run is enough to make most mortals break into a cold sweat. Follow that with a frightening visual of three or four of your prized sleepers at a certain position, say, catcher, quickly fly off the board, and a quick trigger may result in someone like Miguel Olivo being drafted in the 10th round.
The key here is not to panic. If Geovany Soto, Russell Martin, and Miguel Montero pass you by in round 10, you can still get the same value from Chris Iannetta, Ryan Doumit, or Carlos Ruiz four or five rounds later.
This becomes even more relevant for those less-scarce positions like first base. Just missed out on Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, and Justin Morneau in the third round? No sweat.
Stack up on power bats at other positions in the meantime, and know that 25 HR power from Adam LaRoche, a .320 average and 20 HRs from James Loney, or multi-positional power from Jorge Cantu will be readily available in the later rounds when everyone else’s 1B is already set.
Saves Are For Suckers
The granddaddy of all positional runs, the much-maligned “closer run,” is easily the most dangerous in fantasy baseball, but also the hardest to avoid. Why?
Because people think they need saves.
They crave them like the insane parents who camp outside a Toys ‘R Us on Black Friday crave the hottest new toy for their son or daughter. But what happens when every parent in the town wants the same toy for their child, and it begins to fly off the shelves? You take one. You conform.
Sometimes stepping over other people (or in this case, more valuable draft picks) to get it.
In 12-team leagues, this typically happens between rounds eight through 12. Many mock drafts have the same 10 closers (Andrew Bailey, David Aardsma, Joakim Soria, Brian Fuentes, Ryan Franklin, Billy Wagner, Francisco Cordero, Huston Street, and Carlos Marmol) all being snatched up in that four-round window.
Personally, I prefer to punt saves altogether in the draft, mainly because of this little tidbit of knowledge courtesy of Ron Shandler’s 2010 Baseball Forecaster:
“Over the past 10 years, about 40% of relievers drafted for saves failed to hold the role for an entire season.”
This means two things to me.
a) At least 12 (30 x .40) MLB teams will end the season with a different closer than they began the season with.
b) There will be more than enough saves in free agency.
For argument’s sake, let’s say you’re not like me and choose to draft a closer, but don’t want to foolishly fall victim to the closer run? Keep tabs on spring training positional battles (i.e. Brandon Lyon versus Matt Lindstrom for the Astros’ closer role), and take calculated risks in the later rounds on draft day.