Sometimes you're looking for specific ranks and insight, focusing on a player or a stat or a situation. Other times, the advice is more general, a compass to keep you headed in the right direction.
Today, we hand you a compass. Consider this your inner GPS as you navigate those final Yahoo drafts of the 2014 fantasy baseball season. Here are 10 draft-day do's and don'ts (five in each direction) for your consideration.
Do: Know your league settings inside and out
I know this sounds painfully obvious to many of you. Of course you know the rules. This isn't your first rodeo. (Do people really go to rodeos? Looks like a dreadful way to spend an afternoon.)
That said, I've never been in a league where at least one person didn't need a clarification on draft day – and many times I've seen someone screw up his or her team because that person didn't grasp a key nuance to that particular league. It's perfectly understandable when you think about it – we're all busy in our lives and many of us play in multiple leagues – but I don't want to see it happen to you.
[Baseball 2014 from Yahoo Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]
Every Yahoo league has a "scoring and settings" tab at the top right of the page. Learn it, know it, live it. The stat categories will be your first focus, but the roster structure is just as important. Are you using one catcher or two? How many bench spots are in play? What about DL spots? And take note that we're also offering "NA" as a designation this year (up to commissioner discretion); don't be caught by surprise. You might have a free-of-charge waiting room for that hot prospect who's currently in the minors.
Be up to speed with other playability settings, too. Is there a cap on innings or games played? How many pickups are you allowed during the year? These settings will play a role in how you formulate your draft strategy.
Do: Keep refreshing your queue
Organization is a key to success in many arenas, and it's absolutely critical in the war room. In any Yahoo draft or auction, I'm constantly sliding players over to the right-hand side of the page, aligning them in my queue and keeping them fresh in my mind. This area is your player workshop.
The primary objective is to have notable players (or low-ranked gems, the buried treasure) in view and in mind as you go through the proceedings. But there's a secondary gain to the assembly: should you get knocked offline in the middle of the draft, the software will draw picks from your arranged queue (if you have one). Sure, it's not ideal – but it's certainly preferable to an autodraft selection. Keep sorting, keep filling, keep ranking and re-ranking.
Do: Stay as current as possible
One mandatory assignment before any fantasy draft is a broad sweep of the current roto happenings. You need to know who's up and who's out, who's in a good batting slot and who's buried, who's winning a key position battle, who's still got a working elbow, etc.
Along those lines, you probably should embrace Twitter (if you haven't already). Basically any roto scribe or beat writer worth a damn is contributing to Twitter these days, and it's by far the best source for immediate news. And even if you don't want to get overly involved with following a host of people, you can always search Twitter for the player news you like. While the best detailed analysis is still found on less-restrictive mediums, Twitter is a useful tool sharp fantasy players take advantage of.
Do: Keep up with your neighborhood
Opinions vary when it comes to tracking all of your opponents on the big day. Some old pros swear by it, while others insist you don't have to micromanage things to that level. There are reasonable arguments on both sides.
That established, I do think it's wise to, at minimum, track the owners who pick around you – the neighborhood, so to speak. Often times this knowledge will help you make a key decision.
Say you're up with a late fifth-round pick and torn between a third baseman and a second baseman. Two teams will pick twice before you come back to your sixth-round pick. The roster construction of those opponents might steer you to your optimum choice – if they've both addressed the hot corner already but haven't touched second base yet, the keystone pick is probably the way to go. This type of cut-and-dried example won't show up that often, but every little advantage helps.
Do: Own your final decisions
Simple rule – listen to every intelligent opinion and source you can, but make sure you're the guy making the final decisions. Two basic themes here: it's more fun to win with your opinions, and if you go down with the ship, at least you went down swinging with your own choices.
Don't: Tie yourselfup with an inflexible draft plan
To be clear, planning is a good thing. Mock drafts are good. You want to map things out ahead of time – but the key is to sketch in pencil, not permanently mark with ink.
Every draft is going to have ebb and flow to it, surprises and unforeseen circumstances. The flexible owner is willing to change course when opportunities present themselves. Use every bit of information you can.
This principle is often ignored in auction leagues, sometimes with disastrous results. You want to be thinking about a price range with players, not a hard and specific value – and that range might change significantly as the process goes along. Ever see someone sitting in an auction endgame with a boatload of cash and no one to spend it on? That's stubbornness and inflexibility at play. Don't be that guy.
Don't: Get caught unprepared for a pick
Nothing's more frustrating than having your target player snatched up right in front of you. You've done everything but stitch the name on the jersey, and now you need a Plan B. (How could the Fleder Mice do that to you?)
It's easy to get distracted when it's not your pick. I get it. Draft day is supposed to be fun, social. There's a chat room for a reason. But it's important to utilize your time even when the draft is nowhere near your pick. Keep re-evaluating the pools (player-wise, stat-wise), keep recalibrating the landscape, keep asking yourself what you'll do if your queue all of a sudden gets raided (it's going to happen, sooner or later). No matter who's on the clock, you should constantly be thinking dynamically and analytically. Use all of your time wisely.
Don't: Forget to consider position eligibility
We keep coming back to flexibility as a theme, and with that in mind I love rostering a couple of players who qualify at multiple positions. Slumps, injuries, schedule quirks – they'll take a toll on all of us, sooner or later. If you have a few Swiss Army Knives in the drawer, you'll have more options, more Get Out Of Jail Free cards.
Here are a few hitters who hold three positions of eligibility in Yahoo leagues: Ben Zobrist, Martin Prado, Jurickson Profar (currently hurt), Kelly Johnson. A number of players carry two positions, and players will add positions during the year. I'm not saying you should take a player only based on this criteria, but it's a handy way to break a tie. A skeleton key goes a long way.
Don't forget pitchers in this area – in some formats (especially head-to-head pools), that's a nifty thing to have. Waving at you, Alex Wood.
Don't: Bring a lot of resources to the draft
This tip is specifically aimed for anyone drafting offline. Some owners show up to the room like they're preparing for the bar exam – overloaded with books, magazines and references. That stuff is wonderful before the draft, when you're in study and collection mode. But when the big day comes, you want to travel light. At that point, either you're prepared or you're not.
See if you can pare your cheat sheet to one user-friendly page. Draft day isn't a time for detailed research, it's a day to apply the research you've already done. A laptop is useful for any last-second cross-checking you need to do, but try to limit those moves. You need to be alert in other ways.
Don't: Fall in love with your post-draft team
Every fresh season is strange in its own way, and your goal is to figure out the new campaign before your competitors do. Your big-name players and big-ticket items deserve patience and a leash, of course, but it's wise to be proactive with the back end of your roster. You want to find this year's Jean Segura before they do. Donators wait around for proof, afraid to take a chance; winners see plausible upside and make their move.
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