February 27, 2021

Fantasy Baseball: K.I.S.S Your Draft Hello

One of the most important things to do during a draft is to track your team, your opponents’ teams and the players taken and available. The ability to track quickly and effectively to give yourself an edge over your competitors begins with draft preparation. The best way to prepare is to K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple, Stupid. So, we’ll examine how you can simplify your draft and dominate the draft portion of your league year. As we walk through different strategies, I assume that you have some ranking system (dollar value, tiers, alphabetical list, etc.) of players for your league.

Overall strategy

The key to the K.I.S.S strategy is to eliminate players from your draft pool so that you do not have to study every single player at every single position who might be drafted. After shrinking the pool, you can concentrate your research on a smaller pool of players rather than a broad survey of the entire pool.  You can react more quickly to bargains and you are able to more easily execute your draft plan.

The first step is to eliminate players from your favorite team and its rival (if your team has one). It is difficult to be impartial about those teams which you root for and against. I generally do not have any Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees on any of my teams and it’s a quick first cut to shrink the pool.

Another strategy is to use the generic ranking list for the website which hosts your league to determine where players are under or overvalued compared to your ranking. This plan works well in leagues where the draft is held online (such as Yahoo! or ESPN). As the drafts near the middle to late rounds, your opponents are beginning to get weary and their own rankings list may be exhausted. As a result, they will rely more and more on the default rankings. Here, you can sneak in player who is likely four or five pages down the list on the default rankings. The best feeling in a draft is to select a player who you know will succeed and the rest of the room exclaims “Who?” Beyond the generic ranking, as you play with the same opponents year after year, you will know which tools, websites and strategies they use and can also exploit those as time goes on.

Auction draft

I prefer auction drafts to any other draft style. I find it the fairest option as every participant has a chance to draft any player. Moreover, auctions allow a great deal more planning and control of the draft if you are prepared. Indeed, you can turn an auction into a draft if you desire.

Tracking your roster, your rivals’ rosters, dollars spent and dollars remaining are the keys to a successful auction draft. In many auctions, this tracking is done for you (either in the online draft room or via poster boards for an in-person draft or some other method). However, it is useful to have this information at your finger tips. If you use a laptop at a draft, Excel is your friend.

I use a simple workbook with a tab for each team which tracks positions, dollars spent, dollars remaining, the number of players remaining to be drafted, the average dollar amount per player a team can spend and the maximum bid each team can make for one player. A good example of this type of spreadsheet was that used at the LABR drafts this year. It has the added feature of allowing you to filter by position to quickly show who has filled a certain position. If you do not use a laptop (and it is certainly not necessary), these calculations can still be done with pencil, paper and a calculator.

One tool I do not use is online mock auctions. I have not participated in an online mock auction which comes even remotely close to resembling the auctions in which I participate. The online mocks generally have owners spending $60 or more for star players and then the last few rounds become a “draft” of $1 players. This is not how an auction proceeds and by using mocks, you will not poorly prepared for your draft.

Snake draft

However, in snake drafts, I like to use mock drafts especially for the first few rounds.  The snake draft mocks are much more similar to how your draft will play out (especially in the early rounds when all members are still in the draft room and active). Participate in a few of these drafts, especially as your draft date nears as you will begin to get a feel for your first few picks. From there, you can more easily plan the rest of your roster.

Another tool to use to simplify your draft is the tier system. Most tier systems provide tiers by position. I find those useful to determine positional depth, but drafts do not occur by position. I like to prepare a list by tiers as the draft would happen. That is, tiers by round. In simplest form, take your ranking and cut it into rounds to match the number of teams in your league. Each tier will include 10 or 12 or 15 players. From this simple break, you can see who you expect will be available for you in each round. You can more easily plan out your draft by position in this way by seeing where positional scarcity comes into play.

Keeper league

What if you are in a keeper league? Does anything change? A keeper league allows you to control the draft to a greater degree. One simple trick involves whom to keep. If there are two or three players with similar values on your team, keep the player or players who shrink your preparation pool. For example, in a one catcher league, you have a catcher and pitcher who you value equally. In this scenario, keep the catcher because it eliminates the need to study catchers before the draft or consider catchers during the draft. In an auction this strategy can be even more valuable as you can offer catcher after catcher up for auction (assuming you have your DH or utility slot open) and watch your league mates spend their money while you look for bargains elsewhere.

In an auction league with keepers, you can go one step further and actually draft your team before the auction occurs. Once all keepers are submitted, my auction leagues generally have a week until the auction. I use this time to actually draft my team.  I will take my tracking spreadsheet and then plug in dollar values for the missing players. One dollar for a catcher, $50 (remember keeper league inflation!) for a pitcher until all of my money is spent. Then, I refer back to my rankings to see who fits into those slots.  I’ve simplified my draft even more as I now have a set of targets for each empty spot on my team.

Finally, I almost always assume I will select two or three one dollar players and may not even identify them. I know that my research will allow me to find those diamonds that no one else will see. And the reason I will find them? Take a look at the results from last year’s drafts? How many undrafted players earned a positive value? 10? 100? The number will depend on the depth of your league. Do you think you can identify two or three of them? I know I can and so can you.

Next week, I will take a look at other ways to shrink the draft pool including using injured players to your advantage and targeted research (with players to target) to help you find those $1 players.

Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.

About Chris Garosi

Chris Garosi is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He has played fantasy sports since paper, pencil and fax machines were key components in every league. He’s written about fantasy sports since 2012 for District Sports Page, TheFantasyFix.com, Scout Fantasy and RotoCurve. He’s even available to you via DraftValet. He has his MBA from The Smith School at the University of Maryland. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi

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