by Howard Bender
The baseball season can't get here fast enough. It really didn't hit me that the season was starting so late until I finished 3 of my regularly scheduled fantasy drafts only to realize that we're still a week away from Opening Day. Astounding...and a bit upsetting too. But given theses circumstances, I'm sure that there are plenty of you out there that still have their draft ahead of them. So with that, I'm going to share with you a few nuggets of info from my drafts that may help you with yours. To start, I'll give you the style of draft for each league. That way you can adjust to what you think is relevant for you.
Two of my leagues do what is called a "blind bid draft". It's a type of auction where you have a $260 salary cap but rather than a standard free-for-all auction, you submit a bid sheet with players requested and their bids. Players are awarded to teams with the highest bid. If you do not win the player, the money gets transferred to subsequent rounds until you fill out your full roster which consistes of 25 players (2 at each position with 6 OF and 9 P). Both leagues have 15 teams and are mixed keeper leagues with a standard 5x5 roto format. Ownership is strong.
My next league is a standard head to head points league. It's only 10 teams, mixed, and the rosters are very basic -- 1 at each position with 2 utility players, 3 OF and 8 P. It's more of an introductory league that my nephew is using to hone his skills and teach some of his friends how to play. He asked me to joing to help with the league's competitiveness. It was a standard snake draft where I ended up with the 8th overall pick.
The last league that I'm in is an experts league on BenchwarmersBaseball.net. It is my first year doing it and its style is like non ethat I have played before. For you old baseball heads out there, it's fairly similar to the old Robot Baseball of the 80's. You can have up to 40 men on your roster (which includes a 10 player minor league bench) and you start a lineup as you would a normal baseball team. You have a nine man batting order where scoring is weighted based on lineup position -- i.e. stolen bases are worth more if your leadoff guy gets them than the guy in the 7 hole. Same with HR and RBI from your 3-4-5 guys rather than your 8-9-1.
The stats are taken from actual games (there's a 5 game gap, but I won't get into why just yet) just like regular fantasy leagues, but each game (it's played head to head) in the Benchwarmers league corresponds to an actual game in MLB. For example, Benchwarmer game #5 consists of stats from your players from their respective team's game #10. If Hanley Ramirez steals 5 bases in the Marlins 10th game of the season, those stats come to your team for you 5th game in Benchwarmers.
The pitching works in a similar fashion, in that it is as close to a simulated game as can be for fantasy. You have your lineup of starters, middle relievers, and closers. If your starter goes 6 innings, then those stats go to you, but your middle relief then starts accumulating stats for you for 2 innings and then your closer for one. It's a fairly complicated system (the rule book was 65 pages long), but if you want to check it out, here's the link to the rules.
In any event, the draft is done using a blind auction. However, unlike my other leagues, players are assigned salaries based on their 2008 performance. You've got a cap, so you can't just accrue a team of superstars. The high-priced guys are really high-priced.
So there are the four leagues that I am in right now. Three of them are done drafting while one is in the process right now -- round 1 of the blind bid is complete. So now it's time to share a few things I've noticed over the last few weeks that may help you out in your drafts.
1. If you are in a league with strong ownership, there are no sleepers or hidden gems. With the amount of information out there, strong owners know what's going down on the street. Think you were pretty slick scouting Jason Motte? Guess again. Every web site has been on this guy like white on rice...for weeks. Even the most basic sites like Yahoo! or ESPN.com (along with their crappy rankings) still out the players that were once a big secret.
2. Cliff Lee is getting no respect. Amazing what a bad year can do to you even when it's sandwiched between an 18 win season and a Cy Young Award winning year. I tried to deal him in the offseason of my primary league (one of the top 2 described) and had no takers. All I kept hearing was that there's no way he's going to repeat. Of course not! Idiots! But if he has decent ratios and wins me 15 or 16 games, isn't that worth something? Apparently not. On a hunch, I threw a $1 bid on him in the blind draft and won him! The moral of the story is to check with your fellow owners. Guage their interest in certain players and use their likes and dislikes to your advantage.
3. Suddenly, closers are all the rage. In both keeper leagues, people have talked incessantly for atleast 5 years now about how closers have no value. "They're a one category player," is all I hear. I, on the other hand, feel that they are valuable and you can check last week's column to verify. Well, I guess people finally started listening to me, because I couldn't sniff a closer in any league. In my blind bids, I was trumped by some fairly substantial money from other teams. In the snake draft, Joe Nathan went in the 3rd round and the run started in the 5th. And in Benchwarmers, I couldn't even grab Carlos Villanueva in our third draft session. Fortunately, there's still a few teams out there with jobs up in the air (hello Seattle, I'm listening), but if you want to make sure you grab a top flight closer, use your money in th eauctions and don't ignore the run when it happens.
4. Quality players slip through the cracks. This is more appropos for leagues with the blind draft system. Too many times, when owners are feeling the constraints of a salary cap, several highly ranked players get passed over. The rationale for most is that "Hey, someone's going to throw big money on this guy, so why waste a bid." Well, when enough people say that, things like Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell (2 non-protects in one of my keeper leagues) going for a combined $4 happen. Don't be afraid to take some risks. After all, it's only a buck or two.
5. A strong spring can really drive the price up. It's amazing how many people tell you that spring numbers don't mean dinky-doo, but then turn around and overbid on guys whose March performances outshine their career totals. Wilson Betemit's 6 HR this spring are nice, but last I looked, Josh Fields still had the job. Yet there was Betemit's name with a double digit bid. Yeesh! Now sure, some guys that are up and comers really could pan out, but just how high a reach do you need for Adam Jones and Ryan Spilborghs?
For more helpful tips for your draft prep, along with other player rankings, position tiers, and to see how I did in my drafts, check out what's going on over at RotoBuzz.com.
Good luck to you all and I'll see you in the money this year!
Howard Bender is a freelance fantasy sports writer and champion in both roto and head to head leagues. For questions, thoughts, or comments, you can email him at Howard.Rotobuzz@yahoo.com