As your draft day approaches, it's important, before targeting specific players, to first determine how to structure your team. Here are some ideas, especially for the head-to-head fantasy leaguer, that should be helpful:
a) Know your league rules…It's vital to get a feel for the statistical categories of the league you'll be competing in, before considering players for your roster. For instance, if you're in a league that doesn't give credit for walks or on-base percentage, then someone like Barry Bonds, the most feared hitter in baseball, will not be as dominant in Fantasyland.
b) Saves and steals…If you're new to fantasy baseball, you'll soon discover that two of the more difficult categories to improve upon during the course of the season are saves and stolen bases. Therefore, it's imperative to put a high priority on acquiring players that can help you lock up these categories in both the head-to-head or rotisserie format. There are always home run and RBI guys, as well as starting pitchers, floating around on the waiver wire. But closers and base thieves aren't as readily available in the free agent pool as the season wears on.
c) Take heed of the injury-prone player…What do players like Larry Walker, J.D. Drew and Nomar Garciaparra have in common? They're all prone to getting hurt. Taking a chance on players whose careers have been tagged by the "DL" label can be quite risky. Players who are in your lineup with day-in, day-out regularity (Miguel Tejada, Hideki Matsui and Ichiro, for example) will give you that added edge in production over your league opponents.
d) Location, location, location…So you're thinking that Dodgers 2B Jeff Kent would be a nice fit for your team. After all, he drove in over 100 runs for the Astros last season. But before you strongly entertain thoughts of giving him a fantasy home, consider where he now makes his major league home. The Dodgers haven't exactly been the offensive juggernaut in recent years. The lack of productive hitters in the lineup has been compounded by the fact that the team plays in notoriously pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. In addition, Kent is a .250 lifetime hitter in his new digs. Lineup and ballpark considerations should definitely carry some weight when you're filling out your depth chart. Another location aspect involves the player who switches from the American League to the National League, and vice versa. While most players eventually make an effective transition, there is usually an adjustment period, especially for the player who is making the league switch for the first time.
e) De-prioritize starting pitchers…This should be the last position to be concerned about as you're constructing your team. Quality starting pitchers always surface during the year (i.e. Jake Peavy, Chris Carpenter and Oliver Perez from last season). Looking to build your team around some marquee starting pitchers could prove disastrous, especially with the propensity for today's pitchers to suffer arm injuries. When your superstar "arm" goes down, you not only lose out on his stats, but you're also left wondering what "bat" you passed up on draft day to land that "can't miss" pitcher.
Next week we'll look more closely at preparing for your draft.