The time has come to figure out what players have found a new home, what teams are shaping up to be quality contenders and who the hotshot rookies are. Just recently, I learned from my brother that the Mets are on the verge of signing Tim Redding. As he said when he broke the news to me, “Start printing the playoff tickets.” We had a good laugh, but then again, even a bad pitcher on a good team…
To keep from embarrassing yourself on draft day, now would be a good time to find out who retired in the off-season and who is already ruled out for the year. Don’t get caught calling Greg Maddux, Salomon Torres, Todd Jones or Chad Cordero or your gaff will be remembered and brought up by your unsympathetic league mates for years and years to come.
If you are a complete fantasy baseball lunatic (or nerd) like I am and you belong to several leagues, it is also time to ponder basic league specific strategy ideas. Between straight drafts, auctions, 4×4 scoring systems, 5×5 scoring systems, points leagues, leagues with daily transactions vs. leagues with weekly transactions, AL or NL only vs. both AL and NL player pools, keeper leagues, leagues with salary caps, etc., you really need to get mentally square way before the season starts. With a basic understanding of the architecture of the leagues you are competing in, the real pre-season fun can begin!
Keeper leagues should be dealt with first. You need to know who will be on those teams to begin with so you know what your strengths and weaknesses are. A good keeper league team builder should also target a fantasy stud to fill the most glaring weakness of the team. For instance, if you need home runs desperately, target Ryan Howard. If you need steals, look at Jacoby Ellsbury. If you are pretty balanced and need to bolster all categories, Grady Sizemore should be in the center of your bulls-eye. The same principles apply to pitching stats, but keep in mind that pitchers are harder to predict. Saves is perhaps the most predictable pitching category but even bad closers can post inflated saves numbers so don’t overvalue this category.
After all of these preliminary issues are dealt with, you can begin in earnest to scout players. The best way to approach it is to read a few fantasy baseball articles on Sportsline.com or any other reliable fantasy sports source. Doing so will get you up to speed on what the experts think and will get you pointed in the direction you need to head. From there, research the players you find interesting to determine their value to their current team and look for year to year trends to determine if they are likely to maintain, grow or slow their pace. You also need to scout all the players, not just the top guys. Oftentimes, leagues are won late in drafts or on the waiver wire! Always remember, fantasy baseball is more of an art than a science.