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The deeper your league, the more important it is to gain a slight edge over your opponents whenever possible. Nobody “dominates” a competitive draft.

Presumably you have compiled a list. Most RotoBaller readers know who’s injured. Everyone has sleepers, some of us a hunch or two. Yet even with dedicated preparation, a successful live draft also requires flexibility.

Here are some of the factors I consider.

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The Small Stuff that Completes a Robust Draft Strategy

Tiers

We’re in the platinum age of young shortstops. A generation ago, the golden age was A-Rod, Nomar and Jeter. Back then, I used to target the fourth-best SS; Miguel Tejada was comparable to the Big Three but far superior to anyone else.

Now it’s Manny Machado, Corey Seager and Carlos Correa in the top tier, closely followed by Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story. In the RB Tiered Rankings, Jonathan Villar is included in that second tier. I have him in my third group, barely ahead of Jean Segura. For me, it’s a big dropoff to Aledmys Diaz.

If any of the top six fall into my lap, great. But if not, as soon as Story and Lindor are gone, I’ll bump Villar and Segura up in my queue. The same tactics apply for other positions, with one exception.

Catcher is woefully thin. My plan is to let others overpay for the four best (Buster Posey, Gary Sanchez, Kyle Schwarber and Jonathan Lucroy) then consider — but not reach for — Willson Contreras in the middle rounds. Most likely, I’ll punt the position. Last night in a 20-team Yahoo draft, I was quite content with Francisco Cervelli at pick #416, late in the 21st round.

Shifting

MLB strategy keeps evolving, thanks to statistical analysis and the willingness of managers like Joe Maddon to embrace new information from his “geeks.”

Defensive shifting is at an all-time high and not going away. It has a positive affect on pitchers’ WHIP and ERA, while limiting the AVG of dead-pull hitters. A Chris Davis type will provide HR and RBI, but at what cost? I’m not suggesting you avoid every one-dimensional slugger, just don’t end up with too many. There are HR and RBI to be compiled elsewhere, from players who don’t ruin a category.

Bullpen

Over decades as a baseball junkie (yes, I saw Stan Musial play) nothing has changed more than bullpens. As the focus on pitch counts for starters grew, so did the need for quality relievers. Power arms are being shifted to the ‘pen much earlier in their careers. Even the closer mindset (always “dumb” to anyone who understands advanced stats) is beginning to erode.

When Cleveland traded for Andrew Miller, manager Terry Francona maximized that weapon by using the big lefty in high-leverage situations. The term “setup man” used to imply less value than “closer,” but there’s a gradual change back to “ace reliever” in the Goose Gossage/Sparky Lyle tradition.

Weaker teams copy successful ones, though many skippers remain inflexible. Knowing their tendencies can help you shop for bargains.

Eighth-inning specialists with solid peripherals, like Kyle Barraclough of the Marlins, are not only closers-in-waiting, there’s the possibility that his 14.00 K/9 rate in 2016 will lead to more innings this season. Last night, Texas closer Sam Dyson was picked 80 spots ahead of Matt Bush, who will pitch in tie games, grabbing a few W to go with an excellent ERA, WHIP and K rate.

Platoons & Batting Order

In 16-team and especially 20-team formats, once the 600-PA studs are off the board, target the LH bats with platoon jobs. For a Jarrod Dyson, roughly 400 PA at the top of a loaded lineup will be of higher quality than most “everyday” players who hit seventh or eighth.

In ultra-deep leagues, don’t forget RH platoon bats. Lefty-masher is a position now on smart ballclubs. The Indians acquired Brandon Guyer, the Dodgers added Franklin Gutierrez, Seattle targeted Danny Valencia. They may get only 200 PA, but are especially useful in Roto and can be profitable in DFS.

If you aren’t familiar with RosterResource, it’s well worth checking out their current depth charts, probable batting order, platoons and minor leaguers to watch for every team. The pages are a bit slow to load for non-subscribers but I’ve yet to find better lists.

Super-2’s

Again, depending on your roster size and depth of the league, playing a man short for two months then having a budding star for the final four months (and H2H playoffs) is preferred to using a .700 OPS guy all season. Teams gain an extra year of control by sending the likes of Yoan Moncada back for “seasoning” in the minors until the first week of June.

Lower-profile young players with upside include Lewis Brinson (MIL) and Jose De Leon (TAM) who have already been assigned to Triple-A. Highly prized by their organizations, they should be worth waiting for.

Summary

While trades, free agent pickups and luck are all factors over a long fantasy season, nothing is more important than a good draft.

Be prepared. Find the balance between trusting your list and improvising. Hope that some of your opponents get weary and careless in the end game, because that’s where championships are won.

 

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