Tip #2: Avoid like Michael Jackson avoids reality
Everybody goes into their fantasy drafts or auctions with a list of who they want to have on their roster. Sure, ideally you'd love to select 80% or more of the guys on your list, but here's a clue:
Everyone else in your league has a list that looks an awful lot like yours. All of your leaguemates want Curt Schilling, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa,
Alfonso Soriano, Jason Giambi, Barry Zito and Randy Johnson. Trust me -- you'll be lucky to get
three or four of the players on your must-have list.
Of course, that all means that the middle rounds of your draft are extremely important.
It's no secret that
Vlad, Bonds and Manny Ramirez will help you win your league title, but it's who you take in the 10th round to complement your studs that
dictates just how competitive your team's going to be.
In my mind, it's just as important, however, to know who not to take in those middle rounds.
Let's say you came out of last year's draft with Ichiro, Juan Gonzalez, Cliff
Floyd, Paul LoDuca, Rich Aurilia, Moises Alou, Rondell White, Kevin Brown and
Tom Gordon. By 2001's standards, that's a pretty solid lineup. But I went out of
my way to avoid those eight players last season. Why?
Before a draft, I make a list of guys that I don't want any part of, whether because of injury problems, inconsistency or some other factors. Sure, if some of these guys pan out they may be in for monster seasons, but why should I take that chance? There are bound to be some other guys on the board when it's my turn to pick who are much safer gambles and also are more likely to put up bigger numbers. Let someone else assume the risk.
Take, for example, one of my drafts last season. With the third pick in the
fourth round, one owner selected Juan Gone and the next selected Kevin Brown.
Gonzalez delivered a monster performance for the Indians in 2001, hitting .325
with 35 homers and 140 RBI while Brown, limited by injuries the previous year,
still looked sensational in his 19 starts, going 10-4 with a 2.65 ERA and 104
strikeouts in 115.2 innings pitched. Yet, I had Gonzalez and Brown scratched off
my lists before the draft even started due to injury concerns and advancing age.
Brown in particular scared the crap out of me -- I'm not very fond of pitchers
with arm problems. Call me crazy.
Sure enough, both players failed to live up to draft-day expectations after
again succumbing to injury: Juan Gone hit .282 with only eight homers and 35 RBI
and Brown went 3-4 with a 4.81 ERA in just 10 starts. Meanwhile, guys like
Alfonso Soriano, Miguel Tejada (my fourth-round selection), Carlos Delgado,
Kerry Wood, Jim Thome and Barry Zito (my fifth-round choice) were all grabbed
within the next 10 picks. And to make matters worse, instead of snatching
someone like Mark Mulder, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Beltran or Jeff Kent (who were all
available) on his next
turn, the owner who previously chose Brown followed that gem up by calling
Alou's name. Not surprisingly, he finished seventh out of 10 teams.
There are dozens of other players who joined Gonzalez and Brown on my avoid list
last season and even more who will take up residency this year:
Javy Lopez, C -- injuries, age
Benito Santiago, C -- age
Sean Casey, 1B -- injuries, inconsistency
Eric Karros, 1B -- age, job security
Edgar Martinez, 1B -- age, production drop-off
Fred McGriff, 1B -- age, job security
Frank Thomas, 1B -- age, production drop-off
Mo Vaughn, 1B -- age, injuries
Mark Bellhorn, 2B -- bloated fantasy reputation
Craig Biggio, 2B -- age, bloated fantasy reputation, production drop-off
Eric Young, 2B -- one-dimensional
Aaron Boone, 3B -- injuries, bloated fantasy reputation
Shea Hillenbrand, 3B -- inconsistency, bloated fantasy reputation, job
Robin Ventura, 3B -- injuries, inconsistency, age
Rich Aurilia, SS -- bloated fantasy reputation, production drop-off
Nomar Garciaparra, SS -- injuries
Omar Vizquel, SS -- age, production drop-off, decline in surrounding lineup
Tony Womack, SS -- one-dimensional, bloated fantasy reputation, job
Moises Alou, OF -- age, injuries
Ellis Burks, OF -- age, injuries, decline in surrounding lineup
Juan Encarnacion, OF -- inconsistency, bloated fantasy reputation
Darrin Erstad, OF -- injuries, inconsistency, bloated fantasy reputation
Steve Finley, OF -- age, injuries
Juan Gonzalez, OF -- age, injuries
Ken Griffey Jr., OF -- injuries
Jacque Jones, OF -- inconsistency, bloated fantasy reputation
Raul Mondesi, OF -- inconsistency, bloated fantasy reputation
Tim Salmon, OF -- injuries, inconsistency
Ichiro Suzuki, OF -- injuries, bloated fantasy reputation
Larry Walker, OF -- age, injuries
Randy Winn, OF -- bloated fantasy reputation, change of scenery
Kevin Brown, SP -- injuries, age
Roger Clemens, SP -- age
Kaz Ishii, SP -- bloated fantasy rep, inconsistency
Derek Lowe, SP -- bloated fantasy rep
David Wells, SP -- age, inconsistency
Kevin Appier, SP -- inconsistency
Antonio Alfonseca, RP -- inconsistency
Matt Mantei, RP -- injuries
Jose Mesa, RP -- age, inconsistency
Mike Williams, RP -- bloated fantasy rep
Now, I know what you're thinking -- there are plenty of high-production players on this list, guys like
Nomar, Burks, Jacque Jones, Larry Walker and Mike Williams, among others. Certainly, there are people on this list that I don't necessarily
not want on my team; rather, guys like Derek Lowe and Williams are guys I
believe will be overvalued in fantasy drafts this year. I wouldn't mind having Walker or
Griffey on my team, but I also don't want to pay the high price they'll no doubt carry into fantasy drafts because, in my mind, the risk is too high. Ask people who used
a third-rounder on Griffey last season how well that investment worked out. And after a lost
2002 season, the threat of injury is even higher, overshadowing in my mind the reward factor. Certainly there's a chance
some of these guys will again put up monster numbers in 2003, but when you draft guys like that you expect them to be your studs, your fantasy workhorses. Thanks, but I'd rather have more reliable workhorses.
Then there are guys like Ventura and Womack, guys I would only consider at the
end of the draft as backups and bench fodder.
The above list is in no way complete, and your list would no doubt look a little different than mine, but you get the idea.
Focusing on the guys you want to select is the easy part. Identifying the guys you don't want takes time and discipline, but it could save you from a miserable season.
Just ask that guy who drafted Kevin Brown and Moises Alou last year.
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