How To Build Your Very First Fantasy Team

This past season, I invited my 15-year-old nephew to play in a 10-team, head-to-head league that had an opening. I wasn’t at all concerned with his age. My nephew is an avid sports fan and has played fantasy football for several years. But he had never played fantasy baseball before. I wanted him to at least enjoy it so, before the draft got underway, I passed along a few beginner’s tips so he could get started.

These are in no particular order and they’re certainly not foolproof. Your mileage may vary.

    ·          Don’t take too many players from one team. If you load up on too many Red Sox players, for example, then you’ll be short-handed on their nights off. Spread your team out a little. Pick from both leagues. You’ll have more teams to follow and more variety in your lineup. 
  • ·         Don’t take too many players from your favorite team either. If you like the Yankees, that’s one thing. But if you stack up on Bronx Bombers, you’ll be twice as miserable when they hit a 6-game losing streak because your fantasy team will take that exact same dive right along with them.
  • ·         Avoid star names without star numbers. Derek Jeter’s best fantasy days are behind him. You may have a 6-foot Fathead of Jeter glued to your bedroom wall but Troy Tulowitzki will rock your lineup.
  • ·         Catcher is the weakest position by far. There’s McCann, Martinez, Posey, Mauer (if healthy) and then it’s jabeep city. If you don’t get a good C quickly, then punt and pick up scraps in the late rounds.
  • ·         2B and SS aren’t the strongest positions either. After you get past Tulo, Cano, Pedroia and a motivated Hanley Ramirez, the rest of the MI pool is interchangeable.
  • ·         1B is loaded. Don’t worry if you can’t get Albert Pujols. Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Ryan Howard or Prince Fielder will not disappoint you.
  • ·         So is OF. Kemp, Braun, CarGo, Bautista, Ethier, Holliday, Hamilton, McCutchen, Stanton, Ellsbury, Pence, Bruce … The list just goes on and on. Relax. In an 10-team league, you’ll get at least one stud in your OF.
  • ·         There are more SP’s in real starting rotations than there are slots to fill in a 10-team league. If you want an ace like Halladay, King Felix, CC, Kershaw or Cliff Lee, then strike quickly. Otherwise, wait and backfill. Spend your picks on sure things.
  • ·         Which brings us to RP’s. Closer is the most unreliable position in all of fantasy. There are very few sure things outside of maybe The Sandman and Heath Bell. Again, if you want a stud closer, nab one quick. Otherwise, stay cool. Thirty (30) save closers often appear out of nowhere. See “Madson, Ryan”.
  • ·         Above all, if you don’t get the name you want, go back and get the numbers you need.  If I gave you these two (2) players to pick from, who would you choose? {Note: Actual 2011 stats.}

o   31 HR, 73 R, 95 RBI, .360 OBP, 2 SB

o   32 HR, 84 R, 97 RBI, .341 OBP, 8 SB

You can’t pick, can you?  Okay, one of them is Jay Bruce. Now who do you like? Still don’t know? Okay, the other one is Mike Morse. See, it doesn’t matter. Names don’t win, numbers do.

  • ·         Young prospects are so tempting but they’re so risky. They’re just too inconsistent. One or two phenoms is nice. Anymore and you’ll probably tear your hair out.
  • ·         On the other hand, long-term veterans are who they are. They’re not really going to change much. Occasionally, someone will have a comeback year but, in general, there is no Fountain of Youth. Numbers on the decline tend to stay on the decline. Veterans like Raul Ibanez or Chipper Jones are dependable but rarely ever spectacular. You need balance between young and old. Vets give you a baseline. Phenoms give you surprises. Both kinds.
  • ·         Don’t panic. It’s a long season. If Albert Pujols starts off slowly, don’t dump him. He will hit. Wait about two months before you make any serious moves. Give your guys a chance to show what their seasons will look like.
  • ·         Trades are tricky. Don’t try to compare fantasy trades to real trades. Real baseball trades involve team chemistry, long-term planning and often contract dollars. Fantasy trades are about stats. There’s no way the Yankees would ever trade Alex Rodriguez for Peter Bourjos but if you’re top heavy on power stats and light on steals, that kind of trade makes perfect sense in fantasy.

So that’s it. Just a few quick hints on how to start from scratch if you’ve never played fantasy baseball before.

When our league’s draft started, my nephew won the draw and got the first overall pick. He took Pujols. I didn’t have to teach him that.