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Dr. Draft gives you his six keys to success in your upcoming fantasy baseball draft.

Hello friends! Once again, the beginning of the Major League Baseball season is upon us. In just a few short days, fantasy baseball enthusiasts everywhere will be spending their afternoons clicking the refresh button on the Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball website with the hopes of getting their leagues up and running for the 2012 season. As we lick our chops waiting for that moment to come, I, the expert draftologist, am here to enlighten everyone with expert tips that can put you in prime position to take home your fantasy league’s cash prize.

Now, you’re probably asking yourselves why. Why would the brilliant Dr. Draft give up the vital secrets that could ultimately lead to his fantasy baseball demise? Well friends, there is one reason. There are no guarantees. Last year, many of the league’s perennial all-stars, savvy veterans, and up-and-coming young stars served up lemons, leaving many of us with a bitter taste in our mouths (myself included). Just think of how awful your season would’ve been if you had drafted Hanley Ramirez, Adam Dunn, and Pedro Alvarez. You probably would’ve finished in last place (fyi- I had Ramirez and Dunn myself and consequently finished in last place.)

Hanley Ramirez’s 3 year average from 2008-2010 was a .318-26-83-106-31-.915 line. Last year, due to injury, he posted .243-10-45-55-20-.712 line. This was a tough pill to swallow for anyone who drafted Hanley. After an emergency appendectomy two weeks into the season, Adam Dunn was never able to get back on track. For those of you who drafted Dunn with the expectations of getting his usual 40 homers, you were also greatly disappointed. Pedro Alvarez came into last season with a ton of hype after busting out midway through the 2010 season. However, it didn’t take long for those who drafted him to drop him in favor of a better option at the hot corner.

Although anything can happen through the course of a 162 game season,  you can use my tips and strategies to give yourself a great shot at winning it all. I have here my six steps that I follow in order to stay competitive every season. Use them wisely my friends. With this knowledge you will have the ability to compete on a high level, on a yearly basis.

Step 1: Hitters, Hitters, and More Hitters

This 15th round pick picked up 13 wins, 191 Ks and had a 3.21 ERA… not bad.

Although it may seem like a great idea to stack up on pitchers early on in your draft, you’d be making a big mistake by doing so. The rule of thumb is to never, for any reason, draft a pitcher within the first five rounds (six, depending on who falls to you there). Last year I finished second in my league in E.R.A. (3.24) while using this strategy (top 3 in all pitching categories).  Let’s take a look at my final roster of SP, and when I drafted them:

Cole Hamels – 6th round
Dan Haren – 8th Round
Max Scherzer – 10th round
Shaun Marcum – 11th round
Madison Bumgarner – 15th round
Jeremy Hellickson – 17th round
Jorge De La Rosa – 21st round (dropped after his injury and picked up Edwin Jackson)
Javier Vasquez – 22nd round (dropped immediately after draft for Tim Stauffer)

Remember, all you need is two ace pitchers and some solid complimentary pitchers on your team to be competitive. Try to stack up on guys with above average K/9 ratios because you’ll want to give yourself a chance to win the K category every week (you may have the disadvantage of having less starters double dip than the team you are facing in any given week).

Step 2: Save Your Closers Til’ Late in the Game

Jobu’s Rum has already addressed this strategy in a previous article. You can find it here: The Science of Drafting Closers

Step 3: Veterans All The Way

What ruined Matt Kemp’s 2010? If his 2011 is any indication, all athletes keep away from Rihanna.

Every season there are a handful of veterans that have “off” years. Afterwards, there is a ton of speculation regarding these veterans and many people give up on them completely. Don’t be one of these people. If a player has a track record of putting up healthy numbers throughout his career, then you should draft him with confidence. Typically, these players have an bad year due to injury, but sometimes they don’t. What we tend to forget is that baseball players are humans just like us. They have personal lives that can negatively effect there performance on the diamond.

Matt Kemp is the most notable player given that he’s likely be the top overall choice in most drafts. Kemp’s 2011 season was undoubtedly one of the greatest in recent history. An up and coming star in 2010, Kemp went in the first round in many drafts. However, due to unstable relationship with pop star Rihanna, Kemp came up way short of expectations. Their relationship eventually came to end before the start of the 2011 season, and with his head now on straight, Kemp had an all-time stat line of .324-39-126-115-40-.985. His 2010 line was .249-28-89-82-19-.760.

Step 4: Know Your Opponents

Know who you’re drafting against, and you could end up with everyone you want.

Many of us have spent years in the same leagues, with the same friends, relatives, etc. With archives of previous seasons at your disposal you can take advantage of these records, and use them to trump the other members of your league during the draft. For instance, let’s say you know you have the 9th pick in the first round (leaving you with the 12th pick in the second round in a ten team league). Let’s say Justin Verlander and Jacoby Ellsbury are the highest players on your board. You would love to get both guys, but you’re unsure who to take first. Now, this could be a difficult decision if you don’t know the draft strategy of the person picking after you. Let’s say the person picking after of you is the infamous Dr. Draft. You know my rule of never picking a pitcher in the first five rounds. So now you know to take Ellsbury with the 9th pick because you know there is no way I would take a pitcher so early. This leaves you with the ability to draft both players you were targeting.

Step 5: Do Your Homework

Injury histories, like that of Justin Morneau (concussions) should not be ignored on draft day.

Inevitably, every spring training there will be a several key injuries to players that you would otherwise love to have on your team. Typically, there is a ton of misinformation and rumors that swirl around indicating that a player’s injury is less serious than was originally projected. If for any reason a player’s health is in question, STEER CLEAR. This is especially true for the earlier rounds. Keep in mind that although a player may be cleared by his physician to resume baseball activities, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is 100% healthy. Sometimes nagging injuries last the entire season, leaving the player unable to play to his full potential. You don’t want to end up taking a player who’s going to be hurt on and off for the majority of the season when you could have drafted someone who stays healthy and is productive.

Step 6: Don’t Give Up So Quickly

Those owners who held onto Dan Uggla got rewarded in a big way in the second half.

April is the trickiest month of the MLB season. There will always be a laundry list of great players that get off to slow starts (and bad players that get off to hot starts). My rule of thumb with this is never drop a proven player that you picked within the first eight rounds before June 1st. By “proven” I mean a player with at least two productive season behind him. However, if after June 1st a player is still underperforming, then feel free to cut him loose. Eventually, it comes to the point where you’ll be passing up too many potentially helpful players on the waiver wire, and the player  you drafted is costing you on a weekly basis.

In conclusion, there are numerous factors which can cause any major league player to have a bad season. The most you can do is research before your draft, with the hopes of getting as many guaranteed productive players as possible. The key of any draft is to get the backbone of your team. You will, without a doubt through the course of the season, have to scour the waiver wire to fill a void left by either an underperforming or injured player. Make sure to check the waiver wire often. Every year there are players who end up having career years. Sometimes these additions can ultimately make the difference between making the playoffs or ending your season early.

Again, there are no guarantees in fantasy baseball. These steps are only the groundwork for making your fantasy team competitive. Just remember, once you make the playoffs, anything can happen. Good luck this season!

Bumgarner image courtesy of:
Kemp image courtesy of: Splash News
Verlander image courtesy of: The Associated Press
Morneau image courtesy of:
Uggla image courtesy of: By Dale Zanine, US PRESSWIRE

About Dr. Draft

Dr. Draft once called a mental institution home. He escaped after 25 years and has been on a rampage ever since. You will heed his draft advice, or the consequences for your fantasy team could be deadly.

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