Home MLBFantasy baseball Fantasy drafts as perfect preparation for the season ahead

Fantasy drafts as perfect preparation for the season ahead

by Matt Smith

As expertly recapped by Mark, we had our BaseballGB Fantasy League draft on Saturday night.

It’s going to be my only draft of the year as I’m not a obsessive fantasy baseball player. Whilst others often have many teams, that approach generally just means I lose track of which players I’ve got on which teams and I start making mistakes (leaving starting pitchers on the bench on the wrong day, not replacing injured players promptly etc), which saps my enjoyment of taking part.

One team, possibly two, is enough to give me my fantasy baseball fix.

One thing I have learned over the years is that preparing for, and taking part in, fantasy baseball drafts is a great way to check how up-to-date your baseball knowledge is.

The first depressing inevitability of the normally joyous Spring Training period is that it comes with the sting of a batch of players who have their seasons either finished or seriously curtailed by injury before it has even begun. The Toronto Blue Jays’  Marcus Stroman and New York Mets’ Zach Wheeler and two of the more notable young players who will spend 2015 rehabbing from Tommy John elbow surgery rather than showcasing their talent on the field.

More minor injuries are also a factor to take into consideration from a fantasy perspective, not least because they can slip under the radar if not impacting a player or your ‘real’ team and can sometimes turn into more significant issues than first assessed.

My second round selection was the Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon. He offers a good solid mix of production across the board, but I was mindful of checking progress on his knee injury before clicking the ‘Draft’ button next to his name. It might be a selection that comes back to bite me, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

Checking through the fantasy player rankings also helps in remembering where players have ended up. So many transactions take place over the off-season that you can get to a mock draft and find that a player has changed teams without you realising.

That can have a direct influence on the fantasy baseball drafting process. A pitcher’s wins, saves or holds (if your league counts those too) are affected by the team they are on, both in terms of the quality of the team and in terms of the other players on that team that your potential draft target will be competing with (i.e. a potential source of saves may not get those opportunities if another relief pitcher has been added without you knowing it).

One of my late-round bench picks was Michael Morse who I selected to add a bit more power to my team. His move to the Miami Marlins over the offseason should see him starting regularly at first base and hitting behind Giancarlo Stanton (who was my first round selection), so hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities for him to drive some runs in.

The final factor to consider, or not, is Spring Training performance. Eye-catching stats, either good or bad, can be difficult to ignore, but you need to look at the context too in terms of whether there’s something real at play there (a change in hitting approach leading to better results, a potential injury affecting a pitcher’s delivery etc) or if it’s just a case of some good or bad luck in a small number of exhibition games.

The Oakland A’s Sonny Gray had a nightmare in his last Spring Training outing, getting hit hard by the Chicago White Sox whilst allowing 6 runs in 2.2 innings. I selected him regardless. I’d like to think that’s the rational part of me dismissing one meaningless Spring Training game, yet I suspect the A’s fan in me also wants to believe it was a case of bad luck too.

If there’s one thing that shows up my lack of true fantasy baseball dedication it’s the way that I let real life allegiances and bias affect the way I draft (some players I can’t bring myself to draft, not wanting to celebrate in their success). However, I like to think that’s part of what makes the fantasy baseball draft process a key part of preparing for the season ahead.

My hope and optimism for a good year for the A’s trumps everything else. Whether that proves to be misplaced or not will be decided over the next seven months and it’s a voyage of discovery I can’t wait to begin.

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