Fantasy Fox: How To Ace Your Draft, Part I

It’s that time of year again, ladies and gents.

Time to specifically address our favorite generic tenets for dominating fantasy baseball drafts.

Throughout this blog, you have been flooded by lists and positional rankings, or Average Draft Position values and daily mock draft rituals. But it’s also fun to explore the psychological aspects of handling a draft opponent, one on one, long after the physical preparation has ended.

As a practical matter, fantasy drafts shouldn’t start anytime before March 21 (yesterday’s date). By waiting until then, GMs are largely granted protection from Grapefruit and/or Cactus league injuries to high-end draft picks (Hanley Ramirez, for example) or major paradigm shifts with pitchers (Aroldis Chapman). They’re also given a window of opportunity to nail down 25-round drafts before the Easter holiday.

Here are four crucial rules to follow:

1. Do your homework (duh!)

Fantasy championships seldom fall in the laps of absentee or indifferent owners. In fact, an April-October pennant is usually the culmination of hard work, roster discipline and excellent preparation in March.

Three components to that process include:

***Study at least four publications (outside of your daily commitment to the Fantasy Fox blog): Get a sense of what the experts are saying — and what they’re not saying about certain players. Find common ground among the pre-draft rankings and drafting trends.

***Continually monitor the Average Draft Position (ADP) rankings on various Web sites: Average draft assessments afford owners the chance to get the player they want at the value they need … without the awkwardness of reaching for a commodity’s services.

***Mock, mock, mock your way to building draft-day confidence: There’s no disputing the creed of your childhood piano instructor — practice makes perfect.

Let’s say your heart’s set on grabbing Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar (68 runs, 35 steals, .293 batting last year) in the early rounds — but after five or seven mock drafts, you’re stunned to learn he can easily (and inexplicably) be had anytime after Round 12.

Or three or four rounds after Elvis Andrus, a similarly skilled asset.

With this knowledge, you can now focus on heavily investing in power-hitting corner infielders and outfielders, one closer and four top-flight starting pitchers from Rounds 1-12, before invoking a Self High-Five for landing a burgeoning talent like Escobar … at fantasy’s scarcest position.

(In the FOX Sports experts’ draft the other day, Escobar fell into my lap at Round 14, 167th overall.)

2. Get to know your fellow owners

This process is incredibly simple: If you’re in a league with friends, just stick to a methodical pre-draft plan of talking trash (like psyching out the competition for players slotted in Rounds 2-5); and in the interest of a little investigative journalism, find out which players will be snagged in Round 1, pick-by-pick, just in case you’re looking to trade down in the draft.

Now for the fun part. If you’re in a Web-based league with strangers, buddy up to ’em a few minutes before the draft. Find out where they’re from (chances are they’ll reach for a player from their hometown team — it’s human nature) and/or subtly coerce them into bragging about the best draft pick or trade they’ve made in recent times.

The rationale: Fantasy owners tend to re-draft players who once led them to a title. You can use that loyalty as leverage for a draft-day trade (when applicable).

3. Come armed with cheat sheets (1-2 pages max)

With 45-60 seconds between picks, you likely won’t have enough time to peruse a whole notebook of pre-draft insights once the clock starts ticking.

Be organized.

Condense your notes.

Economize on time.

Rank players by specific numbers or color-coded schemes … and above all else, DO NOT send me a Tweet (@FOX_JayClemons) while on the clock. Please have the courtesy to hit me up prior to the selection.

4. Limit your alcohol intake during a live draft

Fantasy friends typically enjoy a few drinks at a local watering hole on draft night. The rule of thumb here: Always consume less alcohol than the owners selecting before AND after you in a snake draft.

You’ll thank me in the morning.

Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @FOX_JayClemons.