March 10, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 83  

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Fantasy baseball draft tips: go big or go home

On the DL
David Lee

Sports Editor

In the movie This Is Spinal Tap, there are many memorable quotes. To paraphrase one standout: “There’s a fine line between brilliance and stupidity.” That nugget of wisdom is well-applied towards the growing hobby of fantasy baseball.

With opening day less than a month away, it’s likely your draft will be happening very soon. Thus, in the spirit of glasnost, I present the following draft tips. Vets, please take note: these tips are geared towards first-time players.

As any fantasy veteran will tell you, the early rounds are the easy part. Pick the best player available and shape your team into an offensive powerhouse or pitching and speed dynamo. The only thing you should avoid is picking players near to your heart or super-hyped players.

Last year, a competitor in a public league picked Hideki Matsui with the third overall pick. The chat section of the draft interface went wild and the guy tried to defend himself with wild predictions of 50 homers and a .350 average, which Matsui didn’t come close to. My competitor’s ineptitude meant that A-Rod fell into my lap, since the first two players had picked Albert Pujols and Todd Helton respectively.

Which reminds me: if you’re lucky enough to have the first pick, make no mistake — you need to pick A-Rod. Though the debate has heated up in recent years, nobody holds a candle to the Yankees’ new third basemen. That being said, you can still pick Pujols or Mark Prior and not look like a complete idiot. But with quality players being scarce at shortstop (and even more scarce at third base, which A-Rod will soon qualify for), A-Rod is the natural choice. Pujols qualifies at first base and outfield, two positions that can be filled by other players, and quality arms exist beyond Prior.

As your draft moves on past the seventh or eighth round, don’t keep picking the highest-ranked player available. Doing that will only guarantee you a mid-range finish. If you want to compete for the league title, you’re going to have to take some risks, including taking players coming back from injury or statistically “off” years.

The middle rounds are where you need to focus on getting your “sleeper” picks. Sleepers are players the unprepared have low expectations for. If you’ve done your research, though, you’ll know the latest on positional battles within a team and emerging rookie talents.

Finally, as you enter the last few rounds of your draft, fill out your squad and get some backup for injury-prone players. If you really want to take a flyer on an uber-sleeper, this is the time.

Above all else, try to have fun. If money’s on the line, this can be difficult, but regardless of financial obligations you should take the time to make the occasional post in your league forum or actually get out to a ball park and watch a real baseball game. In the end, fantasy baseball is just that, and no matter how good or bad your team is, there will be few real-world repercussions.

So to all those new to fantasy baseball, welcome aboard. Always remember: using your head in your draft can be the difference between creating a true fantasy squad or just another wet-dream team.



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