This may be the single most important piece of fantasy advice I could give anyone: everything about your draft depends on the other owners – how they value players. Therefore, you should try to enter your draft with as much knowledge of how everyone else is thinking as possible.
How do you do that? Well, it depends on the league. Some of you are probably playing in leagues with people you’ve known for a long time. You know that your friend is huge Red Sox fan, and is probably going to overvalue Kevin Youkilis. You know that another friend absolutely hates the Red Sox, and would rather lose the league than have Josh Beckett on his team. Another person has a thing for no-name starters, and someone else always likes to punt saves.
The more information you have on your leaguemates’ tendencies, the better you will be able to draft. You’ll know that you’re probably not going to get Kevin Youkilis; you’ll know that one person is unlikely to steal any closers from you; you’ll know that the no-name starter you’ve had your eye on may get taken sooner than you think. All of this knowledge will help you get the most value from your draft.
But for most of you, you’ll be playing in a league with people you barely know or have never met. In these leagues, the best way to gauge what other people are thinking is to read up on fantasy baseball as much as you can. Imagine that everyone else is reading similar things as you – and forming their opinions based off of what they read. Everyone else is seeing the same list of “sleepers” and “busts,” and forming their opinions accordingly. Everyone else is reading mock drafts to see what players tend to be taken where, and they are making judgments about whom to take in what round.
Okay, now you know what everyone else is thinking. The key is then to find out how to exploit it. How does your own opinion differ from “conventional wisdom?” Do you agree about all of the potential sleepers or potential busts? Do you have a source for information – like, say, RotoGraphs – that you particularly trust? Do you have a source that you think many of your less statistically inclined leaguemates avoid? If so, use this information to find out how to extract maximum value from the “conventional wisdom.”
As with everything else in fantasy baseball, this is not a fool-proof plan. There is inevitably going to be an owner who doesn’t think along the same lines as conventional wisdom – perhaps there’s even a player or two who has read this article and is taking the same tact. However, the best way to gauge how other people value players is to see how they are being valued in general, and then adjust your own strategy accordingly.