Top 10 things to know for your MLB Fantasy Draft

Starting pitcher Ricky Romero has improved his ERA and WHIP in each year with the Blue Jays. (Craig...

Starting pitcher Ricky Romero has improved his ERA and WHIP in each year with the Blue Jays. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency/Files)

STEVE SCHWARZ, SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA - Baseball players are all in Florida and Arizona getting prepared for the season and it's time for you and your fellow fantasy owners to get ready for the big day. No, not Opening Day -- Draft Day!

Below are 10 ideas to help you be better prepared than your competition.

1) A fantasy draft is like a battle -- all the pre-game planning you do is nice, but war is messy and I guarantee you things won't go as predicted, therefore being flexible is the No. 1 idea I want to convey to you.

2) Do all the reading, make all the lists you want, but don't bring too much material to the draft. Rifling through millions of pages can disorient and confuse you. I prefer to come to the table with a maximum of two sheets of paper with my rankings of all available players.

3) Do get involved in a mock draft prior to your most important draft. It helps you get a grasp of what other owners are thinking.

4) Everyone knows what Albert Pujols and Roy Halladay can do. Your draft will be won in the middle and late rounds by the owner who finds the most "diamonds in the rough."

5) Don't look for Wins, look for Ks and good WHIP (pitchers don't control wins -- teams do). Look for guys who are difficult to hit -- that's the guy you want in your rotation.

The most obvious recent example to demonstrate this was in 2010 when Seattle ace Felix Hernandez pitched his heart out and accumulated just 13 wins. "King Felix" threw a league-high 249 2/3 innings, struck out 232 batters and posted an ERA of 2.27 and a WHIP of 1.057. It wasn't his fault his "Punch and Judy" offence couldn't get him any runs. Hernandez ended up being a great contributor to three fantasy categories.

This year, a pitcher like Ricky Romero is going in the ninth round, but his 2010 numbers speak of a much better hurler than the 37th pitcher off the board. Romero has improved his ERA and WHIP in each year with the Blue Jays (2.92, 1.138 in 2011) therefore if he continues to get better he could be a top-10 pitcher for a bargain price.

6) Your next pick isn't the proverbial "best player available," it's the one with the greatest difference between the player you draft and the next ranked player at his position.

Example: Assuming that the top-three at each position have already been taken, while the No. 4 first baseman Joey Votto should have better numbers than the No. 4 shortstop Jose Reyes, I would take Reyes before Votto because the difference between Reyes and No. 5 shortstop (Starlin Castro) should be more than the difference between Votto and the No. 5 first baseman -- Mark Teixeira.

7) The difference between the sixth-best catcher and the 12th-best catcher isn't enough to make me reach for a pick just to complete my starting lineup -- sort of like NFL kickers. If you can't get Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Brian McCann, Buster Posey or Miguel Montero wait until late to select a backstop. Besides, they all tire in the second half anyway.

8) A closer on one of the worst teams in baseball will still get you 20-plus saves, so why pay for an elite closer early in the draft?

Example: Seattle won just 67 games last season, but closer Brandon League earned 37 saves. League was either a last-round selection or a free agent in most leagues. The Yankees' Mariano Rivera was a fifth-round pick and earned seven more saves.

9) Don't pay too much attention to spring training. Except for injuries, there is nothing you will learn when your pitcher goes up against the Florida Southern lineup or a soon-to-be-sent-to-AA hitter.

Example: The No. 4 overall hitter in spring training last season was one Erick Almonte an outfielder with Milwaukee who batted .416 with three homers, 13 RBI and an OPS of 1.074. Almonte batted .103 in 16 regular season games and didn't appear in a a game after April 25th.

10) Don't get emotional. You should have a maximum bid in mind for every player. If you have a favourite player and your fellow owners know it, they will make you pay too much for him. The object isn't to have a team with all the players you like, it's to win the game.


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