- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Kicking Rocks: Draft Characters

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
                                     The Waste Land — T.S. Eliot

Rebirth. A new beginning. Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. Life anew. A fresh start.

Today is the first of March. You’ve now had a little more than two weeks to fully emerge from the offseason cocoon of winter where you’ve been huddled up with your stat sheets,depth charts and lists of projections. Like a hunter stalking its prey, you’ve silently tracked each players’ movement from team to team, studying every nook and cranny of every roster. You’ve put together a foolproof strategy and the confidence with which you are brimming will not be shaken. You are ready. This is your year. You can smell it. You can taste it. Victory is yours.

But as prepared for Draft Day as you may be, there’s always a monkey wrench to be thrown into the well-oiled machine that is your draft prep; a wild card or two that attempts to derail your well-laid plans. It is your opposition. Obtaining all the knowledge of your subject matter is one thing, but as Sun Tzu states in The Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

Whether you are playing in the same home league you’ve played in for 20 years, a work league set up “just for fun,” or just some random league your neighbor invited you to join because they needed one more team, having the knowledge and understanding of who you are up against is just as important as knowing which vulture in the Angels’ bullpen is third in line for save opportunities. You need to know their strengths, their weaknesses, their preferences and their tendencies. You need to know whether they will stand tall and fight or crumble under the pressure; whether they will zig when you zag and whether they will bite when you try to start the closer run in Round Nine.

Now while every league is different and all it’s players individuals, these are not snowflakes with whom we are dealing. Each person may have their own specific nuances, but fortunately, most fantasy owners can be typecast within a certain group. It is not an exact science and you will still need to learn some of the intricacies, but for the most part you’ll be able to figure out under which heading each of your opponents lie. Some are strong, some are weak and some are merely there to entertain and make an annual donation. It is your job to figure out who fits where, but here is a jump on who’s who…

The Know-It-All — He is the easiest one to spot at the draft whether you are doing it in person or online with a chat window. He is usually the most vocal about each and every pick, offering his opinions on talent level, projections, and value. Sometimes he will laud you for a particular move, sometimes he will question your decision-making, but he will always…always…have something to say. His level of knowledge is high and during the season he is the most likely to treat everyone else like an idiot with early offers like Juan Pierre and Jose Veras for a slow-starting Giancarlo Stanton. He is an enemy to keep close.

Johnny GoodVibes — He is in this league strictly for the fun and the camaraderie. He’s probably married or has a longtime girlfriend and is just happy to be doing something with just the guys. He’ll be quite chatty throughout your draft discussing an array of topics ranging from the first game he went to with his dad to a restaurant recommendation downtown to the Miss Delaware email being passed around at work. His baseball knowledge is pretty good; enough to keep up with the idle chit-chat at the water cooler. But he is not a fantasy gamer. He knows the big names and the popular hypes found on Yahoo and ESPN. If anyone is going to reach for Josh Rutledge or Adam Eaton in the sixth round, it will be him.

The Owl — I don’t know if he’s just hard of hearing or just the most ill-prepared guy sitting in the draft room. Nearly every pick of a player outside of MLB’s top 100 is punctuated by a “Who?” from this guy. He is often the slowest to make his pick, frantically rifling through stacks of cheat sheets he printed out five minutes before the draft. He knows the basic starters but his knowledge lacks depth. Because of that, though, he can be a dangerous person in the draft room. Without knowing any better, he will swoop in and take that veteran you were hoping to steal late, not because of strategy, but because Adam LaRoche and Justin Morneau are much more familiar names than Eric Hosmer and Chris Davis.

Mr. Breaking News — If someone takes a player who has a hangnail, this guy will tell you about it. He’s spent the morning of the draft reading every update on RotoWorld posted within the past week and is always eager to show the league the extent of his knowledge. He knows every ding and every dent of every player in the news and he knows who has started off the spring hot and who hasn’t. He is competitive. He is pushy. And he is likely overcompensating for a lack of true fantasy knowledge as he is the one to reach too early for Corey Hart because he knows that he’s way ahead of schedule in his recovery. He probably drives a really big SUV and has a really small…..gas budget.

The Scout — Forget those dusty old veterans. Who needs ’em? This is a young man’s game and the talent pool is rich with youthful upside. By the end of the draft, you’ll be lucky to find a single player on his roster older than 25 years. Regardless of where he has to make his selections he will own Dylan Bundy, Billy Hamilton, Danny Hultzen and Wil Myers. He is obsessed with being the guy who discovers “the next big thing” on Draft Day and will constantly share stories of where he drafted Mike Trout last year and how many superstars he’s plucked for a dollar over the years. But while his knowledge is abundant his team will not be strong as the roster is riddled with players opening the year in the minors. Concern with him on Draft Day may not be too necessary but he’s easily the biggest waiver-wire hound in the group.

Silent But Deadly — This is probably your most dangerous opponent; quiet, stealthy and knowledgeable. He is both competitive and driven and will do everything in his power to remain inconspicuous. He’ll laugh when the group laughs but remain silent when any sort of debate arises. He doesn’t want you to know that he follows the game of baseball with an obsessive compulsion that borders on the insane and that he is vastly experienced in the ways of fantasy. If you were actually keeping track of the number of times someone received a “nice pick,” he would easily be in the lead. He doesn’t reach for players, his team is balanced and he knows how to go with the flow. He will also frustrate you to no end as he plucks every sleeper  you’ve been sitting on, right before you are about to grab him.

The Buffoon — Every draft has to have one. He is loud. He is brash. But he is also the guy who walked into the draft with a case and a half of double-barrel IPA with a 7.8-percent ABV. The other half-case is already nestled in his belly. He may have a solid working knowledge of baseball both real and fantasy but he is too drunk by the eighth round to make a well-thought out decision. He also probably left his fantasy magazine and cheat sheets at home and wants to borrow yours on a regular basis. He also doesn’t have a pen, so be the good Samaritan and bring some extra. Scrap paper too. Without getting too close to him, to the point of distraction and annoyance, you want to be this guy’s best friend. He’s like Taco from The League but without the luck and charm and he will always be the big fish you seek when you throw your trade bait into the water. Offer up Miguel Olivo and Austin Kearns and he’ll give you Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson just because the names match.

The season begins in exactly 30 days. It is time to prepare for battle. Best of luck to you all on Draft Day…unless, of course, you are playing against me.

**Special Note: For all the ladies out there reading, my apologies for the excessive use of the male pronoun. I do not mean to exclude you but for the sake of convenience, “he” is just a little less taxing than typing “he/she” every time. Thank you for your understanding and your participation in what is usually a big sausage-fest of a hobby. May you handily beat us all.