10 unorthodox tips to win your fantasy draft

"Don't overspend." "Don't reach." "Stick to your projections."

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10 unorthodox tips to win your fantasy draft

Snake Draft Tip – Reach

You draft a team. Ideally, each player performs at or above the level at which he was purchased, but sports are obviously an inexact science. While everyone else at the table is taking the safe route of, “Adrian Beltre is a consensus third or fourth-round pick, so that’s where I’m going,” don’t fall victim. If you aren’t sold on Beltre – that is, unequivocally convinced that he is worth not only your confidence, but a starting roster spot on your squad – skip ahead. In a few weeks, you may be contemplating what to do with Beltre if you never loved the pick in the first place. You won’t feel that way if you’re high on Nolan Arenado this year.

The belief is that one player’s floor or ceiling should be compared to another, thus defining their draft position. But there is a reason why the later rounds of a fantasy baseball draft are critical – they provide the most opportunities to make up lost ground. If David Wright can be obtained with a later draft pick, suddenly his upside offsets Arenado’s potential downfall.

In addition, your belief in a player holds merit. You drafting Arenado earlier than the rest of the league ensures that no one else benefits from his success, and that you are committed and locked-in to a specific player at a specific price. After all, you paid a premium. You set the value.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Auction Draft Tip - Determine 2-3 players for which you would overpay.

It is often encouraged that you bring a price sheet to an auction and stick to it, religiously. The goal is to ensure that you don’t wildly pay above the market price for too many players, only to run out of money right away. Spending too much money too quickly is the most common mistake made in an auction, but the easiest way to lose a fantasy season is to allow a good player to pass you by because you were too rigid with your rules.

Between competitive nature and the lack of a true market value tied to everyone’s budget, the beginning of an auction draft is typically wild. Almost everyone goes over their projected price in the first few picks, and the prospect of landing Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and Andrew McCutchen is so tantalizing that it is nearly impossible to not bid on all three.

Inevitably, unless you are extremely disciplined, you will over-spend somewhere. Inherently, the belief that one should remain ‘disciplined’ infers that the typically good behavior of enacting discipline will be rewarded with equally good results. It is only when discipline is applied properly that it deserves praise. Indeed, you should not throw money around, but you should be ready and willing to wisely over-spend.

The undisciplined owner is poor within a few picks. The overly disciplined owner has too much money leftover at the end of the draft. To fall in between, you need to trust that you will always end up in the same place if you plan ahead.

Consider the math. If you are the ‘disciplined owner’ who never spends as has money left over, you must have let a few solid players pass you by because their price was inflated. If you could look back, you would have thrown a few more dollars to upgrade from Ian Kennedy to Gerrit Cole. But, no one can control how much money you have in the later rounds except you and your spending habits. If you prepared to spend wisely throughout, you can literally afford to break that for a few select names.

Let the other owners stop bidding on Felix Hernandez at a certain number. Buy him at a premium, believe that you can still find bargains later, and reap the rewards of an ace pitcher afterwards, when price paid likely won’t matter.

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

General Tip – Offset early risk with undervalued commodities later.

The common thread among ‘reaching’ in a snake draft and over-paying in an auction is that both rely on your ability to build a team around your aggressive moves.

Revisiting the example of 2014’s Cory Kluber, he may have performed like a top-ten fantasy pitcher, but he certainly wasn’t drafted as one at the time. Because of his performance relative to his draft position, he was a major contributor for any fantasy team.

Conversely, a player performing at a mid-draft pick level is acceptable if he was, indeed, selected in the middle of the draft. If an early pick was used on Chris Davis, his output, however respectable his final numbers, was still far below the price paid.

Even with the understanding that when a player is drafted is arguably more important than if he was drafted at all, the common belief is that input and output are directly related. For one player, compared against himself, this is actually false. Comparing third-round Cory Kluber to tenth-round Cory Kluber has no bearing on his final numbers. His value to your team is, therefore, only tied to the what you do with your remaining picks. Herein lies the tipping point as to whether or not your early risks will pay off.

The ‘safe’ advice, as we have come to know it, is to take more proven commodities early, and aim for risky upside later. Understanding that we want to separate ourselves from the conventional thinking, we aim to do the exact opposite. Granted, your first two picks in a snake draft cannot be missed – so much so that it might be worth passing on any injury-risk, regardless of his ceiling – but the rest of the draft is fair game.

Joc Pederson, Kris Bryant, Masahiro Tanaka are all considered ‘high risk, high reward’ players. Great! Fantasy leagues aren’t won by those who performed at their baseline level; they are fueled by the ‘home run picks’ that connected. Take your ‘sleepers’ before everyone else does, and watch the tide shift. Unsurprisingly, players left behind that have proven track records – even if they have clearly slipped, lately – will still be available.

Suddenly, your roster is filled with the top level of sleepers – some of them will pan out- and your risk is mitigated by veterans that could prove disposable. Why grab Mark Trumbo at his ‘average value’ and hope to land a Khris Davis or Rougned Odor late when you can lead with Pederson and Mookie Betts, offsetting them with Carlos Beltran and Aramis Ramirez?

(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Auction Tip – The only number that matters is the price you can afford to pay for each remaining spot on your roster.

Unlike a snake draft, each roster will not necessarily have the same amount of players at a given time. Because of this, you may be closing in on the maximum roster size faster than anticipated. This is fine, as long as you aren’t completely broke with more spots to fill.

To avoid this common pitfall, always run a quick calculation of how much money you can, on average, spend for each remaining player. For example, if you have $60 in your remaining budget, and need ten players, you can spend an average of $6 per player. Knowing this information will allow you to quickly consider the ramifications of bidding on a given player on the board. Furthermore, for every player you buy under your average, the average price you can spend going forward increases.

For an extra level of enforcement, do a quick scan of which team has the most money remaining and compare his or her roster size to yours. Use this to your advantage each time you enter a bidding war, and ensure your opponent isn’t getting any bargains. After all, he or she has money to spend, and will either end up with a player at a higher price than desired, or you will get the bargain.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Draft Tip – Pay close attention to the draft sheet, but make your own decisions. 

Read the room while drafting. Notice which owners are comfortable jumping ahead and ‘reaching’ for players – this should be you, if you’re following our advice. Notice which owners appear to be selecting the best players available. Notice the order players get drafted.

Be one step ahead.

If the person drafting after you has shown a propensity to go heavy into sleepers, beat him to it. If he tends to follow the standard cheat sheets verbatim, draft with confidence that any player farther down the list than his eyes would scroll will still be available for your next pick.

(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

General Tip – Draft or buy trade pieces.

We are humans. As such, we are subject to emotion. Studies in ‘loss aversion’ have proven that we tend to inflate the value of commodities we own as soon as we gain possession. It hurts to lose out on an opportunity, let alone watch someone else benefit.

Driven by this, we tend to overprice our players in the trade market. It’s easy enough to ask someone to remove personal opinions on a player when evaluating a potential trade; it’s an entirely different task to act on it.

What if, instead, we hated the player? Removing an innate desire to protect the piece we have, we are not only selling it, but actively seeking a buyer. Now, the price becomes much more affordable and can be turned into something of real value to your team.

Never forfeit a pick in a draft. If you can’t find a player you want, find one that someone else will.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Auction Tip – Force someone else’s hand whenever possible.

Do enough fantasy auctions, and you will surely hear the term ‘price enforcing.’ Generally speaking, this is the action of bidding on players in an effort to raise their price. Knowing that savvy opponents will attempt this on you – as explained earlier – always be willing to let a player go to a different team if you don’t love him at his price.

Rosters at an auction draft are always imbalanced in numbers. One of the pitfalls of ‘price enforcing’ is that you may quickly eat up valuable roster space, rendering your extra money useless. Bargains are nice, but they may not be necessary.

Instead of worrying too much about other owners’ finances, focus on their shrinking roster size. As each owner gets down to his last few available spots, he or she may be more selective about whom they draft. If the opportunity arises, don’t ‘price enforce’ for the sake of costing the other owner money – if you play this right, money won’t matter – but instead, ‘roster enforce.’

Simply, if the highest bidder is running out of space on his or her team, let the player go there. Suddenly, you’re the one reaping the rewards of leftover players, despite possibly having less money than your counterparts.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Draft Tip - Start the run.

What would you rather have: the second-best outfielder, but the fifth-best shortstop, second baseman, closer, and starting pitcher, or the tenth-best outfielder, but the best shortstop and third baseman? While some of these combinations may not be possible, there is a reality to position scarcity, and, when you only need to start one player at a given position, don’t be afraid to grab the first one before the run begins.

In the same vein, never get caught in a run. For the same reason that the drop-off from the second-best shortstop to the tenth-best shortstop is cavernous, the difference between the sixth and tenth-best shortstops is much smaller. Forget about a position if you aren’t part of the run. In fact, now is your chance to start the next one.

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

General Tip – Punt positions.

While some people go into a draft willingly giving up on saves or batting average, most don’t. Almost none give up on positions. Outfield and starting pitching requires multiple players in the active roster, so they can never be forgotten in a draft. But, if you were caught on the back-end of a position run, or find that you are constantly getting outbid, move on and don’t worry about filling the void. Continue to stockpile what you have, build upon your strength, and deal with finishing the roster later.

Consider how much changes over the course of Spring Training, let alone a Major League Baseball season. Worrying about when to draft a third baseman now that the bulk of the desired group has passed will cause you to miss the valuable plays ripe for the picking. Taking Garrett Richards instead of gambling on a low-level third baseman is a much wiser choice, and with the ongoing position battles at the hot corner, an opportunity will present itself. In the past week, alone, Kris Bryant went from a definite Minor Leaguer to start the season to possibly breaking camp with the Cubs, and the Dodgers may have three legitimate third base-eligible hitters with power.

In baseball, things change too quickly to try to chase what has already passed.

(Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

General Tip – Draft your team before you draft your team.

Research is necessary – if it wasn’t, a piece about unorthodox draft tips would be useless. For this reason, mock drafts and cheat sheets are always encouraged. But everything for which you could prepare is still dependent upon the action of others. After all, whether you participate in a snake draft or auction, the players are subject to a market environment.

With nothing guaranteed – that is, even the first overall pick has been debated – every plan needs some sort of safety net. This should be in the form of the team you have already drafted. Mentally.

Print out your roster positions and compare it side-by-side to your favorite draft list. Imagine you have the last pick in the first two rounds – not a snake draft, for this exercise, but either the 10th, 12th, 14th, etc. pick and the 20th, 24th, 28th, etc. pick the next time. Take two players that, mathematically, should be available when you draft.

Skip the next thirty players entirely. At this point, you should be well beyond the reaches of most other owners’ mentalities. Reach – as described earlier – for the remainder of your team. The same could be done for an auction by predetermining a few keystone players for which you would pay nearly anything, then filling in the roster with bargains of $5 or less. Chances are, these rosters contain specific strengths unique to what you value in a draft, and may actually be a better collection of talent than anything a mock draft could produce.

Chaos being ever-present at your draft or auction, some of these players will end up elsewhere, but the vast majority will be available if and when you need them. There is also an added benefit to this conservative approach – when the time comes to make a selection, you can always upgrade if a better option exists.

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Any set of tips regarding drafts – snake or auction – will include the standard guidelines. Whether selecting players one-by-one as if assembling a schoolyard dodgeball team or raising wooden paddles to up the bid on an available asset, the concepts used in most draft rooms follow the conservative approach. While this limits the opportunity for catastrophe, it also will likely result in a draft that largely resembles the rest of the league's.

We want to be above the league. If most people are following a specific set of rules – and if those rules could be identified – there are always opportunities to use this to our advantage. It is the same reason why we pay close attention to the 'obvious' football games, or shy away from some 'popular plays' in daily fantasy sports' lineups – we don't simply want to tread water with our predictions, we want to win the race.

Every move in a draft should be strategic, and it is amplified for auctions. Where snake drafts afford less opportunity for one owner to separate from the pack, auctions are hundreds of tiny opportunities spread out to form pieces of a greater whole. From when to nominate a player to how much should be offered to all-out bluffs, every action deserves complete attention. Yet, in a twist, it doesn't – even showing up late to an auction is considered a strategy, in itself, as it prevents early spending.

All of the typical strategies studied and employed for drafts and auctions are relatively sound, but their main strength is to simply prevent disaster. Here are the unorthodox methods to go all-or-nothing in your fantasy draft or auction and come out on top.

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