February 10, 1999
The Early Bird
It's never too early to start preparing for your rotisserie or fantasy
draft. OK, December is probably too early, but now is the perfect time to
get started. Pitchers and catchers haven't reported yet, but before you
know it, draft day will be upon you, and that day can be made less
stressful (and more fun) if you start your preparation early.
Here are a few suggestions on how to start your draft-day prep now.
Depending on how much time you have, you may not want to follow the entire
prescription, but you might want to do a little of everything to cover your
1. Study offseason transactions
You wouldn't believe how frequently owners bid on the wrong players on
draft day, such as players who have left the league, or worse yet, players
whose situations have changed for the worse during the offseason. Although
you may be up-to-date on the major moves, such as big-time free agent
signings and trades, plenty of minor deals that took place over the course
of the winter will or could have an impact on draft-day values. For
example, Ralph Milliard went from completely buried in the Mets' system to
having a ghost of a chance in the Reds' system. True, the presence of Mark
Lewis (now a Red if you caught that one) doesn't help Milliard's cause, but
we all know that Lewis is a grade-A stiff.
2. Identify position battles
Not every lineup, starting rotation, and bullpen is set in stone when spring
training opens. In fact, many teams won't decide on some starting positions
until the last few days of spring training; for example, in 1998 the Expos
didn't choose their starting second baseman until two days before Opening
Day. Knowing the participants in each battle and having some sense of which
player is the best option can help you put more accurate bid values on each
In addition, knowing the losers of the battle can be more important
than knowing the winners. Juan Acevedo, Chris Peters, and Omar Daal all lost
spring training battles of one sort or another, and all turned out to be
outstanding fantasy bargains last year.
3. Do your freeze lists, identify your needs, and project your competitors'
This should go without saying. If you're in a keeper league, you should
already know about 75% of your freeze list. Keep it fluid by writing a list
down now and re-evaluating it every week or so. With that list, write down
what you consider your three main weaknesses, and begin to contemplate how
to address them. If you're short on speed, you may just decide to punt the
category, or bid high on Rickey Henderson. Taking the time now to think
through the pros and cons of each approach will give you fewer headaches in
the final days before your draft.
Finally, those of you with lots of time on your hands should go through the
important exercise of projecting the freeze lists of your competitors. This
can give you a sense of what the player pool might look like, allowing you
to iterate through the process of evaluating your own needs in a more
informed manner. It's time-consuming and never 100% accurate, but it can
provide all sorts of insights into what your competitors are thinking as
they value their own players.
Keith Law is the Baseball Prospectus fantasy editor. Feel
free to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.