Here’s my annual “Five-Minute Guide to Faking Your Way Through a Fantasy Baseball Draft,” a piece that was largely inspired by the fake book, Performing Heart Surgery For Dummies.
Now, I’m not saying performing heart surgery and crafting a successful 25-round draft are similar occupations, requiring the same skill set.
However, if given the task of explaining “rudimentary heart surgery” or the “art of fantasy drafting” to my 90-something grandma (or 30-something wife), they’d probably have a better grasp of clearing blocked arteries than why Mark Trumbo has 1B/OF eligibility — even though Albert Pujols occupies first base, full-time, for the Angels.
12 Simple Draft Rules To Live By
1. Select at least one corner infielder in the first three picks.
2. Avoid being at the tail end of a same-position draft run — after Round 2.
3. Avoid taking more than three starting pitchers in the first eight rounds of 12-team drafts.
4. Give major consideration to an outfielder every three picks.
5. When in doubt with starting pitchers, target strikeouts and WHIP.
6. When in doubt with closers, target saves and ERA.
7. Avoid drafting catchers before Round 4. The rationale: For 12-team leagues which require only one starting backstop, it makes little sense to reach for assets at this position … unless they’ll be regular considerations for the 1B or 1B/3B slots (like Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Victor Martinez and Mike Napoli).
8. With the special-case exceptions of Craig Kimbrel and/or Aroldis Chapman (back in the Reds’ bullpen), avoid taking a closer in the first seven rounds. Many unsung stars can be found in the middle rounds.
9. Do not obsess over other owners’ drafts. The only ones who truly matter are those drafting one slot away from you — on both sides.
10. It’s OK to reach for your favorite prospective star — after Round 16.
11. Don’t be afraid to handcuff a closer with his No. 1 setup man.
12. If you wait for speed at the end of the draft, it may come with a good-to-very good batting average. On the flip side, if you wait for power at the end of the draft, it’ll most likely accompany a painfully low batting average.
Semi-Obvious Tip of the Day
When live-drafting on the Web, it’s comforting to know the mainstream sites have already done the legwork, in terms of aligning each talent with their prospective draft slot or value.
So when you’re on the clock with seconds to spare, it’s important to realize that Matthew Berry, Brad Evans, Eric Karabell, Scott White, Eric Mack or Jeff Erickson did not conceive their own preseason rankings as some kind of Jedi mind trick. And when you draft on FOXSports.com … our team of experts will happily carry ownersthrough 25 exhaustive rounds of preparation.
If Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki has a No. 18 pre-draft ranking, he’s a comfortable lock for Round 2 (especially as the premier shortstop). And if Blue Jays masher Edwin Encarnacion has a No. 26 value, he’ll likely be one of the first to disappear from Round 3. The same thinking applies to subsequent rounds — just be leery of injured players who haven’t been downgraded on the mainstream sites.
This is the reason why no one should ever use “autopick” for a non-absentee draft.
Speaking of ADP, here are my favorite 40 sleepers to pursue after the 180th pick — at least the ones with five or less years of major league service time:
1. OF Domonic Brown, Phillies 2. SS Alcides Escobar, Royals 3. SP Brett Anderson, Athletics 4. SP Matt Harvey, Mets 5. SP Julio Teheran, Braves 6. RP Addison Reed, White Sox 7. SS Josh Rutledge, Rockies 8. SP Jarrod Parker, Athletics 9. SP Jeremy Hellickson, Rays 10. RP Bruce Rondon, Tigers 11. 2B/3B Jedd Gyorko, Padres 12. OF Lorenzo Cain, Royals 13. SS Andrelton Simmons, Braves 14. SP Chris Tillman, Orioles 15. 1B Brandon Belt, Giants 16. SS Jean Segura, Brewers 17. RP Ernesto Frieri, Angels 18. 3B Manny Machado, Orioles 19. OF Billy Hamilton, Reds 20. SP Marco Estrada, Brewers 21. OF Wil Myers, Royals 22. OF Justin Ruggiano, Marlins 23. OF Drew Stubbs, Indians 24. 1B Yonder Alonso, Padres 25. SP Alex Cobb, Rays 26. SP Bud Norris, Astros 27. C Jesus Montero, Mariners 28. SP Rick Porcello, Tigers 29. OF Starling Marte, Pirates 30. OF Aaron Hicks, Twins 31. SP Derek Holland, Rangers 32. SP Shelby Miller, Cardinals 33. 2B/3B Chris Nelson, Rockies 34. SP Trevor Bauer, Indians 35. SP Dylan Bundy, Orioles 36. SP Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers 37. SP Vance Worley, Twins 38. 1B/3B Jordan Pacheco, Rockies 39. C Travis D’Arnaud, Mets 40. OF Kyle Blanks, Padres
Minimum Expectations for Starting Pitchers
WHIP: 1.27 (the 1.40-plus guys are absolute killers) Strikeouts: 163 Ratios: K/BB (2.5-to-1), K/9 (8.7) ERA: 4.03 (don’t let 4.10-plus pitchers off the hook) Wins: 13 (I’m the least militant about this one — pitchers have middling control over wins)
Choose Your Own Draft Adventure: Starting Pitchers
The golden rule: I don’t care how you prioritize the values of starting pitching on draft day. Just make sure to grab at least four (preferably five) of these assets before the dust settles.
It bears repeating: You can’t necessarily win a fantasy pennant on good-to-great pitching alone. However, you’ll seldom, if ever, win a championship with No. 4 and No. 5 starters masked as front-liners in the fantasy rotation.
Tier 1: Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, David Price, Jered Weaver Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels
Gio Gonzalez, Cliff Lee, Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer, Matt Cain, Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto, R.A. Dickey
James Shields, Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke, CC Sabathia, Yu Darvish, Yovani Gallardo, Roy Halladay, Mat Latos, Kris Medlen, Matt Moore
C.J. Wilson, Jordan Zimmermann, Josh Johnson, Jeff Samardzija, Ian Kennedy, Brandon Morrow, Jake Peavy, Aroldis Chapman, Homer Bailey, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Niese
Jon Lester, Brett Anderson, Anibal Sanchez, Tim Lincecum, Matt Harrison, Mike Minor, Tommy Hanson, A.J. Burnett, Doug Fister, Ryan Vogelsong, Jeremy Hellickson, Dan Haren, Marco Estrada, Matt Harvey, Jarrod Parker, Ryan Dempster, Chris Tillman
Choose Your Own Draft Adventure: Outfielders
The golden rule: In leagues that require five starting outfielders, it’s imperative to have at least three of these talents.
After that, owners can focus on getting value at every turn, while also targeting isolated categories of potential excellence.
Tier 1: Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp
Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Adam Jones, Justin Upton, Bryce Harper, Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Rios
Jacoby Ellsbury, B.J. Upton, Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson, Alex Gordon, Mark Trumbo, Michael Bourn, Desmond Jennings, Melky Cabrera, Martin Prado, Shin-Soo Choo, Ben Zobrist, Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel
Nick Swisher, Dexter Fowler, Nelson Cruz, Allen Craig, Carlos Gomez, Hunter Pence, Josh Reddick, Chris Davis, Jayson Werth, Angel Pagan, Norichika Aoki, Andre Ethier, Alfonso Soriano, Torii Hunter, Corey Hart, Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson (broken forearm)
Prince Fielder: You can expect … 83 runs, .313 batting and 108 RBI Garrett Jones: You can expect … 68 runs and .317 on-base percentage Chris Davis: You can expect … 85 RBI Allen Craig: You can expect … 76 runs and .307 batting Eric Hosmer: You can expect … 14 homers, 60 RBI, 65 runs and .232 batting Adrian Gonzalez: You can expect … 18 homers, 75 runs and .299 batting Freddie Freeman: You can expect … 94 RBI and .259 batting Paul Goldschmidt: You can expect … 20 homers and 82 RBI Billy Butler: You can expect … 32 doubles, 72 runs and .373 on-base percentage Ike Davis: You can expect … 90 RBI, .227 average and .308 OBP
Robinson Cano: You can expect … 94 RBI Dustin Pedroia: You can expect … 15 homers, 81 runs and .290 batting Ian Kinsler: You can expect … 19 homers, 72 RBI and .326 on-base percentage Aaron Hill: You can expect … 26 homers and 14 steals Dan Uggla: You can expect … 19 homers, 78 RBI and .220 batting Neil Walker: You can expect … 7 steals, 14 homers, 69 RBI and 62 runs Rickie Weeks: You can expect … 21 homers, 63 RBI and .230 batting Brandon Phillips: You can expect … 77 RBI and .281 batting Jason Kipnis: You can expect … 14 homers, 22 doubles, 76 RBI and .257 batting
Miguel Cabrera: You can expect … 40 doubles and 109 runs (tough call on .330 batting) David Wright: You can expect … 21 homers, 15 steals and 81 walks Mike Moustakas: You can expect … 20 homers, 73 RBI, 69 runs and .242 batting Adrian Beltre: You can expect … 33 doubles Ryan Zimmerman: You can expect … 5 steals, 95 homers and .282 batting Pablo Sandoval: You can expect … 12 homers, 63 RBI, 59 runs and .283 batting Aramis Ramirez: You can expect … 27 homers Jordan Pacheco: You can expect … 5 homers, 7 steals, 51 runs, 54 RBI, .309 batting Brett Lawrie: You can expect … .273 batting and .324 on-base percentage
Jose Reyes: You can expect … 12 triples, 86 runs and .287 batting Starlin Castro: You can expect … 14 homers, 78 runs, 25 steals and .283 batting J.J. Hardy: You can expect … 22 homers, 68 RBI and .238 batting Ian Desmond: You can expect … 72 runs and 73 RBI Elvis Andrus: You can expect … 3 homers, 85 runs and 21 steals Jimmy Rollins: You can expect … 68 RBI, .250 batting and .315 on-base percentage Asdrubal Cabrera: You can expect … 9 steals, 16 homers, 68 RBI and 70 runs
One Last Piece of Advice
If you happen to get crushed on draft day by a phalanx of prepared owners, fear not. You’ll have the entire season to trade your way out of any March debacles.