Every successful fantasy owner has an internal set of tiebreakers and rules of thumb, even if they're never spelled out. Here's my set-up, what pushes me to and fro as I'm in the war room making decisions in my leagues.
• When in doubt, take the National League pitcher. Nothing overly complicated here, it's nicer to face a pitcher than a DH any day of the week. NL clubs also bunt and play for one run a lot more often, and NL hurlers are less likely to get blasted for a giant run count – they'll probably be pinch-hit for and out of the game before too much damage occurs. Give me Javier Vazquez over John Lester. Give me Adam Wainwright over Kevin Slowey.
• When in doubt, take the pitcher from the winning team. Yes, wins can be a maddening stat and yes, it's often a mistake to chase them. You want to bet on the pitcher's skills, first and foremost. But if you're stuck between two similar commodities, tie yourself to a team expected to contend. I'll take my chances on the New York or Boston arm; let me know how it goes with the Baltimore kid.
• Try to avoid anyone in a bad batting slot, especially NL guys. Hitting sixth, seventh or eighth in the pitcher's league is just about a death sentence. It's especially important to know where every NL middle infielder is slated to bat (since most of those guys won't be considered for the middle of the lineup); there's a big difference between hitting second and hitting eighth.
• The more buzz a player has, the less likely I want him. It's a simple value call; I don't want to pay the trendy tax. That's one reason why I almost never have hot rookies on my roster in a redraft league; I can't justify the sticker price.
• In position battles, consider the gridlock. When you're handicapping the closer-in-waiting pool and trying to find some hidden saves, the guy with the simplest path to the ninth inning often becomes the player you want. Nothing kills save speculation value quicker than a cast of thousands.
• Don't pay the freight on a career year. Anyone just off the season of their life is unlikely to be on my radar the following year - I don't want to deal with their new tax bracket. (Exception to the rule: If your opponents don't appear willing to believe in the surprise season, you have my permission to re-consider the player. Carlos Pena was in this position last year; Cliff Lee might apply now.)
• Know your neighborhood. While it's certainly important to have a feel for what direction the league is flowing as a whole, the actions, habits and needs of the owners in your segment of the draft are even more important. Make sure you're spending plenty of time considering where they are at, and what they're likely to do with their next few selections.
• Avoid categorical liability. I like to assemble a team where just about everyone runs at least a little bit, and batting average liability doesn't play in my circle; I don't want to roster anyone who has a legitimate chance to hit .250 or less. I'm not taking Ryan Howard in Round 1 and I'm not taking Pat Burrell in Round 10.
• One respected opinion. I've never understood why some owners lug pounds of materials with them to the draft, books, magazines, scouting bibles, etc. This isn't the bar exam, and your prep work should have been done already. All you need on the big day is a cheat sheet you can count on and one respected resource a book, a magazine, a website, a person, it doesn't matter) to consult if you need a second opinion.
That's enough from my notebook today; over to you, Yahoo! Nation.