After some five months of writing about players, today, I thought a strategy piece would be a nice change of pace especially with draft day on the horizon. Whether you have been obsessing for months or crammed over the last few weeks, draft day is finally around the corner. At various times throughout our positional preview podcasts, I spoke about the concept of “know your room” when discussing ADP and its usefulness. I am a firm believer that it is equally important to know who you are drafting with as it is to know who to draft. When you know your leaguemates’ tendencies, it becomes easier to craft an outline of how your draft will go, identify where you can get value and ensure that you get the players that you truly desire.
One example of how to know the room is identifying biases to certain teams. Of course, this is fantasy sports 101 to an extent, but typical fantasy baseball players will want a player or players from their favorite team. In an auction format, you can take advantage of that owner’s biases by nominating players from that team early in the draft. In a snake draft, you can probably count on a player from that owner’s favorite team going earlier than the player’s ADP would indicate.
Of course, this could extend beyond favorite teams to specific players or player types. For instance, the owner, who drafted A.J. Pollock and Matt Harvey last year, may have sworn them off forever after their injuries sank his season. Depending on where you are drafting, this knowledge may allow you to wait on those players since you know that owner will not be a buyer. It could also be a situation where the owner does not like (or is unwilling to pay up for) a certain type of player. As a personal example, I would never pay up for a speed-only asset like Billy Hamilton so if you are eyeing Hamilton, you know I am not a threat to take him.
These are tidbits that you can unearth simply through baseball conversations. Of course, there is some level of risk that there is misdirection at play, but most of the time, the person trying to misdirect is outsmarting themselves. Ultimately, people are going to pay what they are going to pay for a given player regardless of whether you know it or not. Plus, if someone is outright lying to you, are you going to discuss anything pre-draft with them ever again? Doubtful.
You can also discover a lot by generally talking strategy, rather than individual players. Other owners might be more reserved about individual players, but be fine with talking the state of a position or how their team is likely to look. For example, if an owner is concerned about the scarcity of stolen bases that tells you that they are likely to take a high-end speed asset early. If an owner is unconcerned about stolen bases, then you know that they will either be diving in later on a player like Travis Jankowski or simply punting the category.
However, conversation is still just a starting point that could be filled with mixed signals and misdirection. I recommend that you not stop with putting conversational feelers out, but spend a couple of hours digging a little deeper and specifically into historical draft data. In my opinion, historical draft data is a tremendous, but completely underutilized weapon for any fantasy owner. By examining where certain players and positions have gone in the past, you will get an infinitely more useful guide to how your particular draft will go than by examining simple ADP. This will tell you where a relief pitcher run is likely to occur, how players dealing with injuries are treated (I.E. Ian Desmond, Jason Kipnis, David Dahl) and if a player does not experience much year-to-year fluctuation in results, where he will go in your particular draft (I.E. Dexter Fowler).
This information is particularly useful if you are using tiered rankings. Let’s say, for instance, you want one of your starting pitchers ranked 10 through 18 and see very little difference between that group. Examining the historical data, you see that the 10th SP has normally been taken in or around the 5th round while the 18th does not go until round 8. This tells you that there is a good chance that you can get a starting pitcher you like in rounds 7 or 8 and use rounds 5 and 6 to supplement other positions.
It can also help you identify factoids about your other owners that maybe they were unwilling to disclose. For instance, if an owner has drafted Eric Hosmer in three consecutive drafts, that owner may be more likely to reach up and grab Hsomer again at an increased price. Another example, if a particular owner took Nomar Mazara last year and Byron Buxton the year before, that owner is probably going to be an aggressive suitor for Yoan Moncada this year. If there is a certain pick in your mock drafts, where you are struggling and do not like the selection of players, then there might be an owner in the league, who has made two or three draft day trades in past years, and that’s who you look to take the pick off your hands.
In addition to teaching you about your leaguemates’ tendencies, you might also discover one of your own drafting weaknesses. Perhaps you are falling into the same traps and runs year-after-year and do not realize it. Looking at the historical draft data, you will be able to identify those sort of trends and correct them on draft day.
By knowing your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, you can exploit them for an advantage on draft day and that is not something that can learned through any mock draft.