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Fantasy Baseball: Ten tips to a successful draft: #5 and #6
by: Jamey Codding
Pg 2 of 2

Tip #6: Don't believe all the hype, Part II

Just as stockpiling your roster with unproven rookies can instantly damage your championship hopes on draft day, loading up on breakout and comeback candidates can also put your team in a deep hole early on. You know the guys I'm talking about -- they're either washed up veterans who seem poised to revisit some of their past success (Craig Biggio or Mo Vaughn), "tools" players who, after years of putting up mediocre numbers, may finally deliver on all their "unlimited" potential (Adrian Beltre or Jerry Hairston, Jr.), injury-prone players who would post All-Star stats if only they could play a full season (Juan Gonzalez or Ken Griffey, Jr.), or promising youngsters who are finally getting the chance to play everyday (Erubiel Durazo or Jeremy Giambi).

Every year you read about them, and every year you think about how great it would be to supply your roster with superstars in the early rounds before closing out the draft by stealing the next Raul Ibanez, Junior Spivey or Derek Lowe. The only problem, though, is that, just like with rookies, drafting the right comeback and breakout candidates is a tough chore, and even though you dream about coming out of your draft with the 2003 versions of Roy Halladay and Torii Hunter, you could just as easily wind up with the 2003 versions of Brad Penny and Daryle Ward.

I'm the first to admit that I love taking chances. I enjoy being aggressive on draft day but not at the expense of my title hopes. After all, swiping a .300/35/110 hitter in the 18th round could very well send you to a league championship, but wasting your last five picks on four chumps and one mediocre player could ruin your season.

So remember, the foundation of any championship-caliber team is built in the opening rounds on players who give you top fantasy production on an annual basis. You want to know what you're getting out of your first five or 10 picks so that you can accurately gauge your team's strengths and weaknesses later in the draft. But if you take some unnecessary chances on a few potential breakout players early on, your success is dependent on them actually having that breakout season. You don't want your pennant hopes riding on a hunch, do you? Instead, hoard as many sure bets as possible early on, and then later complement those players with a couple sleepers.

But my warning about rookie overload also applies here -- don't try to grab every last one of your breakout candidates on draft day because you're going to get burned. Some guys may have one down year after a string of several stellar campaigns, making them prime sleeper picks at bargain prices. But for other guys, that one down year may be the start of a career downtrend. Put too many of those players on your roster and you're in for a rough season. Again, be conservative and selective when making these decisions.

And don't be blinded by potential. When you're debating between someone who's won at least 14 games a year since 1997 and someone who, if he has a great year, may win 16, take the more consistent performer. Chances are the guy who could win 16 games in a career year will end up winning about 10-12 games while your more consistent pitcher continued his trend.

Everybody loves pinpointing those sleepers, but you're never going to be right on every last one of your breakout and comeback hunches. Check out some preview magazines from last year and see just how badly the so-called "experts" misfired in 2002. Your goal, though, is to distinguish between the true sleepers and the sucker bets, and again draft conservatively when it's time to play a hunch. You're not going to uncover all the late-round steals, but if you do your homework all you need to succeed are one or two bargains in the homestretch of your draft.

If you've got some fantasy baseball questions you'd like answered or if you just want to comment on this column, drop me an e-mail at

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