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Fantasy baseball: Your draft day fun bag

Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013 1:06 a.m. CDT

Effort gets rewarded. Even in fake baseball. In fact, I get by on it.

Similar to the way I’ve become a downright serviceable journalist, I approach fantasy sports with the tenacity of a cockroach.

A creature of habit, I pore over fantasy stuffs every morning over breakfast. I continue for the next hour as I digest before hitting the gym.

Work out. Lunch. Work. Sleep. Repeat.

Well, this year, my competition’s odds will markedly improve when the twins arrive this August. Last season, I saw first-hand what first-time parenthood can do to a fantasy stalwart, my buddy Bradley taking up residence in the cellar wire-to-wire as he and his wife anticipated their first child.

“Enjoying” a similarly disappointing season was my guy, Johnny “Rand” McNally. He’s been very outspoken about the spreadsheets he’s built and diligently updated every day.

Knowing reality fatherhood will supplant fantasy sports, I should have been following Deuce McNallister’s hyper-proactive lead. Instead, it was a typical prep: buy a magazine, read it the day before the draft and give Jobu a cigar and rum.

The Catch 22: While my in-season work ethic is exhausting, my draft prep always leaves something to be desired.

The result: I don’t know much, but I know I love Jason Heyward’s MVP prospects.

Here’s a veritable draft-day fun bag of other things I might or might not be right about.

Know your league: At the very minimum, I hope your draft-day prep involved familiarizing yourself with your league’s scoring. If OBP or OPS are hitting categories, give Adam Dunn a gold star. If just OBP and not OPS, that’s a tougher grading scale for a bopper who doesn’t draw walks. I’m looking at you, Dayan Viciedo.

If holds are a pitching category, Jonathon Broxton and Johnny Venters not only become relevant. They’re beasts. WHIP isn’t just for chariot races anymore. If it’s a category in your league, strike-throwers like Madison Bumgarner and Jordan Zimmerman see their value inflate. My beloved Yovani Gallardo, on the other hand...

Limber up. It’s time to get flexible: Playing off that last point, don’t outright neglect any categories. A lot of folks will tell you not to make saves a priority, considering the closer carousel that spun more consistently last season than ever before. But it’s OK to take a top-tier guy (Craig Kimbrel, Jonathon Papelbon, Jason Motte and Aroldis Chapman comprise my short list) in the first few rounds.

Drafts are living, breathing things – just like you, big guy! They’re dynamic. If you made up your mind that you’re taking Yadier Molina, but Buster Posey is still hanging around at pick No. 25, do the right thing. Take Posey and adjust. Wanted Starlin Castro, but Tulowitzki slid all the way down to you at No. 13? Don’t be silly. That’s too low for Tulo to be hanging around.

If you were pumped to take Diamondbacks top prospect Adam Eaton late, but your team is already chock full of speedsters, don’t force a square peg into a round hole. I like to keep a running tally of my team’s total projected stats to make sure I don’t overload in a category. Nerdy, you say? You’re already playing a fantasy game. Go full nerd with it.

Speaking of prospects: If you’re not in a keeper league, skip to Part D. Still here? Cool. Keeper leagues are where it’s at, adding a whole new layer of strategy and amplifying the sensation we fantasy nerds thrive on: feeling like you’re building a real franchise.

Don’t overdo it. It’s that simple. Even if it’s a dynasty league in which your whole roster carries over, putting too much stock in the future will doom your present.

If a first-time full-time player actually makes it through his rookie season without hitting the wall, wait until you see what opposing hitters or pitchers do to him in Year 2. Sophomore slumps most often aren’t because of the slumpee. It’s because baseball coaches are smart people, and everyone has a weakness. See: Heyward. During his second full season, pitchers ate him up inside like a spoonful of Drano. He’s rebounded nicely (he and his coaches are smart, too), but just know Year 2 is often treacherous.

For every Stephen Strasburg, there’s a Paul Wilson. For every Heyward, a Lastings Milledge. Can’t-miss prospects are like shutdown corners in football. They don’t really exist.

D) Go with the macrobrew: So, your buddy brought a six-pack from his private stock of high-gravity homebrews. Generous, right? Beware the Trojan beerhorse!

Yes, draft day is a fun day but, personally, my tenacity comes in handy on draft day. As other players’ focus wanes – and/or their BAC rises – I make my hay in the late rounds.

Drafting in the early rounds is easy. If you can properly complement the high-priced talent and consistently get value from the middle rounds to Mr. Irrelevant (no such thing), you’re going to be in good shape.

So I now offer advice I would consider insulting any other day of the year: Forget flavor. Have a Bud Light.

Disclaimer: Having given up alcohol for the pregnancy, I plan to unload all of my stock on my guests. Thank goodness they don’t read anything I write.

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