Fantasy Fox: How To Ace Your Draft, Part II

As a child of the 1980s, I am very conscious of the dangers that accompany rushing sequels into movie theaters, in the immediate wake of its wildly popular predecessors.

For prime examples, look no further than Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983) and Porky’s 3: The Revenge (1985) … or Revenge Of the Nerds 2 from 1987. (Spoiler alert: Gilbert breaks his leg and can’t go to Spring Break with his fellow nerds, which is the exact same storyline of my own tortured life, circa 1994.)

But alas, I’m confident in today’s offering, “How To Ace Your Fantasy Draft, Part II” … since it was a pre-planned sequel to the successful venture from earlier, How To Ace Your Fantasy Draft, Part I.

This follow-up installment, which doesn’t include any unspeakably bad cameos from Dan Aykroyd (Caddyshack II) or Burt Reynolds (Smokey and the Bandit 3), highlights Seven Personnel Rules To Live By On Draft Day:

1. Select at least one corner infielder in the first three picks

As George Costanza might say, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, especially for the savvy owner who invokes a combination of outfielder/starting pitcher/middle infielder in the first three rounds.

Generally speaking, though, it’s beneficial to target one of the elite first basemen (Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Gonzalez and catcher-eligible Buster Posey) early on; and for the owners drafting low in Round 1/high in Round 2, the opportunity to corral Votto AND Prince/Pujols is something everyone should consider.

Yes, you’ll have to catch up on middle infielders or the outfield spots, but you won’t have to reach for one-dimensional, eminently flawed corner infielders later in the draft, either. It’s true peace of mind.

2. Avoid being at the tail end of a same-position draft run — after Round 2

This is how mock-draft preparation can help an owner establish certain lines of demarcation.

Take second basemen, for example. Robinson Cano is the No. 1 star at his position, by a country mile. The next group features dynamic, but potentially flawed assets like Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips and Ben Zobrist.

While I appreciate Zobrist’s remarkably consistent three-year averages of 17 homers, 80 RBI, 88 runs and 19 steals, plus his three-position eligibility (2B/SS/OF), he’s also heading into his age-32 campaign with the Rays. And frankly, I’d want a little more upside with my Round 6 pick.

So, if you get caught up in a run of three, four or five second basemen, and you’re on the clock … it’s probably wise to bypass thoughts of over-drafting Zobrist by a little bit.

I’m more comfortable with Zobrist heading up the next group of second base assets — Jose Altuve, Dan Uggla, Neil Walker, Danny Espinosa, Rickie Weeks and future stud Josh Rutledge (who should have 2B-eligibility by April 20).

The message here: Think value, value, value at every turn.

3. Never draft more than three starting pitchers in the first eight rounds of 12-teamers

This time-tested rule is borne out of the belief that elite hitters have more mid-season value than elite pitchers. On the same plane, it’s easier to mix-and-match good pitching after the draft — citing the deep pool of long relievers — than finding prominent hitters on waivers.

In that respect, owners should feel emboldened to draft at least six hitters in the first eight rounds, with the notable exception of Madison Bumgarner (my No. 10 starting pitcher) inexplicably tumbling to Round 7 or 8.

Bottom line: Stay focused on crafting a dynamic infield, deep outfield or a lethal stable of corner infielders with 27-homer power.

4. Give major consideration to an outfielder every three picks

This one’s for leagues which require five outfield starters.

This is not a requirement to select an outfielder every three choices. It’s merely an instructive order to consider one every three rounds, as a means of continually gauging the market.

It’s already been said countless times in the Fantasy Fox blog: Fantasy drafts are like snowflakes — no two are alike.

One day, Jacoby Ellsbury may be going in Round 8. The next … Round 5. It’s important to keep tabs on everyone at this vital position.

5. Avoid closers in the first six rounds

The only two exceptions here involve Craig Kimbrel (Braves) and Aroldis Chapman … that is, if the Reds are truly serious about moving him back to the closing role. And even then, I still have little motivation to “pay” for closers.

If you can get Joe Nathan (102nd overall), Mariano Rivera (104th), J.J. Putz (107th), Tom Wilhelmsen (111th), Greg Holland (123rd) or Jim Johnson (129th) in the vicinity of their prescribed Average Draft Position values, then take the plunge. (Johnson, lest we forget, posted a 2.49 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 51 saves last year.)

On the whole, though, closers are clustered assets whose numbers will appear noticeably similar by season’s end.

6. Don’t get obsessed with other owners’ rosters during a draft

On Tuesday night, I’ll be hosting a special fantasy draft, featuring ardent followers of the Fantasy Fox blog. As an unfortunate function of these drafts, it’s human nature for the other owners to pay extra-special attention to how I’m proceeding, as a resource for future bragging.

But here’s the deal: During drafts, I only focus on the guy/gal selecting in front of me, and behind. Ultimately, they’re the ones who will influence the makeup of my roster; and in snake drafts, we’ll have ample chances to sabotage one another every other round.

It’s a fascinating two-way street of vigilante justice.

7. It’s OK to reach for your favorite novice prospect … after Round 17

This is whimsically known as The Trout Paradigm, when I loudly implored prospective drafters last year: You will live to regret passing on Mike Trout after Round 17!

Generally, if you’re satisfied with a draft at Round 18 or so, and feel that a difference-making youngster (ages 23 and under) remains on the board, owners should be encouraged to reach for a specific asset.

Possible candidates include shortstop Andrelton Simmons in Round 19, third baseman Manny Machado (Round 20), shortstop Jean Segura (Round 22), 2B/3B Jedd Gyorko (Round 23), first baseman Brandon Belt (Round 24) and Billy Hamilton (Round 25), the Reds’ lightning-fast outfielder who stole 155 bases in Double-A ball last year.

Hamilton, who’s starting this season in the minors, is the ultimate game-changing flier pick, a guy who could singlehandedly carry owners to a “Steals” title — with only 90-plus MLB games under his belt (after Memorial Day).

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