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Fantasy Baseball: Ten tips to a successful draft: #7 and #8
by: Jamey Codding
Pg 1 of 2

Opening Day is Sunday, March 30, meaning it's time to get ready for your fantasy baseball drafts. Hopefully, Jamey Codding's 10 draft-day tips will help kick-start your preparation.

Tip #7: Avoid the run mentality

If you've participated in live drafts before, you've probably seen it. It starts out slow, representing just an apparently innocent coincidence. But then you notice a trend forming, and you begin to wonder if this is it, if this is the moment that all your preparation goes out the window. You're scared. You're sweating. Your name will be called soon and you realize that you're not ready to make a choice. There goes another one, and another one…. You start to panic now, and just before your turn rolls around you mercifully pass out.

Okay, so maybe I'm being a little melodramatic, but when you see a positional or categorical run forming in your fantasy baseball drafts, things can get a little hectic. If you're not prepared for it, a run really can throw your entire plan out of whack, forcing you to select a player much earlier than you would have under normal circumstances. How can you avoid such an occurrence? First, you've got to know how to spot a run, and then you've got to choose between remaining loyal to your pre-draft strategy or making a sacrifice for the possible benefit of your team.

What is a run? Well, a run can take a couple different forms, but in essence it involves the same commodity being selected in several successive or nearby picks. That commodity can be a particular category or a particular position that's often difficult to find either later in the draft or during the season in free agency. Therefore, typical runs are usually centered on steals, closers, middle infielders and even catchers, with speed and saves being the two most frequent objects of affection. 

Runs generally occur once the elite hitters and starting pitchers have been selected because that's when owners tend to focus more on specific needs as opposed to simply stockpiling the best available players. You may see a couple guys take solid closers like Mike Williams and Jorge Julio in the middle rounds, prompting five of the next seven owners to also snag a closer, fearing they'll "miss out." The problem is, while Williams and Julio were both good choices at that point in the draft, some of your leaguemates will succumb to that run mentality by reaching for guys like Braden Looper, Mike DeJean and Antonio Alfonseca far earlier than they should have. Do you honestly think Antonio Alfonseca has as much fantasy value as Mike Williams? Of course not, but when owners start to panic, they make some really boneheaded moves.

There are ways to avoid being that bonehead on draft day. First, as I've suggested in previous tips, you must have comprehensive positional rankings laid out in front of you for easy access. At some point before your draft, you've also got to break those rankings up into several tiers, telling yourself that, "These are who I consider to be elite closers, these are the good ones who shouldn't have a problem hanging on to their jobs, these are average closers who may struggle a bit, and these are last-ditch, desperation guys." Do that for every category and try to get at least one guy at each position who falls under your "good" classification and higher.

How does that help you when a run is breathing down your neck? Simple: You'll be able to see exactly how many quality guys -- whether the run is on closers, base stealers, middle infielders or another commodity -- are still available when your turn rolls around. If you're in the middle of a run on shortstops but there are still four or five guys from your list that you'd be comfortable with, then you should be able to ignore the trend for now by choosing a better overall player, confident that one of your higher-ranked shortstops will still be available in a round or two. But if all the elite shortstops are taken and only one more from your "good" list is still available, you may have to deviate from your draft strategy to make sure you don't get shut out. In certain cases, jumping the gun on a player is okay if you honestly feel like your team will suffer with a lesser player, and making that split-second decision can often be the difference between fielding an All-Star shortstop and having a season-long black hole on your roster.

Some people will tell you to stick to your rankings no matter how many runs you see throughout your draft, and while I agree with that advice to a certain extent I also believe there are appropriate times to leap-frog one player over another. Still, don't let that run mentality completely take over on draft day -- if you've done your homework you should be able to stick to your strategy with confidence while other owners pass up All Stars for mediocre closers.

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