Fantasy baseball draft tips: Tier it up!

All 2009 Fantasy Articles | 2009 Position Rankings

You’re hunched over your desk, boring a hole into your cheat sheet. “Michael Young or Joey Votto?” You’re up in two picks. Make that one pick. Panic sets in. “Michael Young or Joey Votto?” You’re running out of time. Your eyes dart right to left between the two names. “Michael Young or Joey Votto?!” Time’s up; you need to make a choice. “MICHAEL YOUNG OR JOEY VOTTO?!” You burst into tears.

Okay, maybe you don’t actually cry…or maybe you do, I don’t know. Either way, you can potentially avoid this kind of draft day drama entirely if you spend a little more time preparing beforehand. Sure, you probably at least have one or two cheat sheets from your fantasy magazines or websites in front of you. Maybe you even took the time to put together your own cheat sheet. Unfortunately, that just means you’re looking at a jumbled mess of names organized by position. What does it all really mean?

To get a clearer picture of what kind of talent is still available during my drafts, I break each of my position rankings up into tiers. Typically the elite players at each position get their own tiers, followed by the guys I view as starter-quality, the fallback options and the leftovers. Depending on the depth at a particular position, there may also be a “star” tier in between the elites and starters, and maybe another serviceable tier between the starters and fallbacks, but you get the idea.

Michael YoungSo what’s the point? If the poor fictional sap in my example above had a tiered cheat sheet in front of him, he may have noticed that Young was the last guy in his starters tier at shortstop, whereas there were three quality first basemen still available after Votto. So he takes Young to fill his hole at short and then targets Votto or one of the other three first basemen with his next pick. Problem solved, decision made, embarrassing emotional breakdown avoided.

My goal each draft is to fill my roster with as many starter-quality (and above) players as possible, and having my rankings broken up into tiers makes it much easier to gauge what kind of depth I’m dealing with. You may be surprised by the amount stress this kind of information can eliminate from your draft. Should you take a third outfielder or your starting middle infielder? What do your tiers say? You’d like to get one more closer but can you afford to wait another round or two? A catcher or another starting pitcher? Michael Young or Joey Votto?! The answer is in the tiers.

This isn’t a revolutionary way to approach your draft – all sorts of owners use some kind of tiered system – but it is an extremely useful tool that can help you build a deep and productive roster heading into the season. What owner wouldn’t want that?

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