Here are in my opinion some important things to consider while doing a draft for fantasy baseball. By the way, I HATE drafting J.D. Drew. Here are my strategies:
1. Don't pay for saves: I'll say it until I am dead. But look, the season hasn't even started and we've already seen Kerry Wood named the new closer for the Cubs after most folks thought Carlos Marmol would (and frankly should, but that's another tirade) get the gig. Saves will always come into the league. Get the guys at the end or get them cheap and spend money on stuff that's important.
2. Scare positions: This year, it's outfield. You heard me. In a standard mixed league, you'll need to draft 50 outfielders. (5 outfielders x 10 teams). Look at these outfield ratings from ESPN. There's a decent amount of question marks. Does No. 34 Andruw Jones hit better than .230 this season? Does No. 39 Ken Griffey Jr. have one more year left in him? Can they rank J.D. Drew lower? Please? Don't wait on outfielders.
3. You can wait on catchers: Last year, 20 catchers had double-digit home runs and 19 catchers had at least 50 RBIs.
4. Shortstop is also deep this year: If you don't get a Reyes-, Hanley-, Rollins- or Jeter-type stud, there's very solid production to be found in the Tulowitzki, Cabrera, Renteria world. Now, you can just root for David Eckstein because he's scrappy, not because you got stuck with him.
5. Play with numbers, not names: Seems obvious, but consider these two player stats from 2007: Player A: 24 HR, 78 RBIs, 33 SB, .277 average. Player B: 24 HR, 81 RBIs, 23 SB, .295 average. Player A is Grady Sizemore. He's currently going 17th overall, in the second round. Player B is Corey Hart, currently going 72nd overall, in the eighth round. Now Grady did have 30 or so more runs scored than Hart, but he also had 120 more at-bats.
6. Know your league's rules: Inside and out. Is it one game, 10 games or 20 games for a player to be eligible at a new position? Do you use a free-agent acquisition budget (FAAB) or is it waivers? Is it first-come, first-serve or waiver priority? When is your trade deadline? Can you use a DL? Being able to throw guys on the DL without losing a roster spot means the eventual owner of J.D. Drew is not as screwed as other Drew owners. It also means you can take more chances on high-risk, high-reward, injury-prone guys. No DL or limited slots means you have to be more conservative. Every rule makes a huge difference. Read them and then read them again.
7. Speed is more plentiful: There were 42 players who had 20 steals or more last season, so it is not nearly as scarce as it was earlier this decade. So you don't have to go big bucks for Reyes, but know that you need to leave your draft with bags. In fact, for the first time ever, I'm not going to target a big pure speed guy like Reyes or Crawford. There are so many guys that do everything that you can build a very competitive team in steals by grabbing a bunch of guys who will steal 10 to 15. There were 92 players last season who had double-digit steals.
8. If you find yourself getting bullied out of a position, don't panic: Say you've got pick No. 11 in a 12-team league and you find yourself on the short end of a second-base run. Instead of reaching for a guy like Mark Grudzielanek just to have someone, grab another closer, even if you already have two. Or a stud shortstop. Give yourself something to trade for a guy.
9. Starting pitching is thin in the AL: Lackey, Escobar and Beckett are already banged up. Santana and Haren are in the NL. Questions abound from last season: Sabathia's 256 innings pitched (including the playoffs), Bedard's injury, Halladay's declining strikeouts, Matsuzaka's second-half ERA, Liriano's ability to return from Tommy John surgery. Wait on pitching in the AL: It's all risky this season.
10. You can't win your league in the first round, but you can lose it: Be risk averse early, take the gambles late. It's like a night in Vegas. Early on, you go to the hot spots, the great restaurants and clubs where you know you'll have a good time. But toward the end of the night, just before you go home, maybe you take a flier or two. "Hey, way-hotter-girl-than-I-have-ever-dated-in-my-life, wanna grab a drink?" It probably doesn't happen, but when a Carlos Pena pans out? Smiles all around.