The Code of Sholty: Drafting Guidelines for Victory

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Anyone who watches the hit TV show Dexter should know he follows a very particular set of rules when killing someone. These rules are called The Code Of Harry. This code, given to him by his father, are guidelines that Dexter follows very strictly while committing his murders throughout the series:


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1. Don’t kill innocent people.
2. Never get caught!
3. Always take time to make sure you have the right person with conclusive evidence.

I also follow a very particular set of guidelines when rating and drafting players. I guess you could call it

Much like Dexter, I follow many guidelines that my father has shared with me. Just I don't kill people with my guidelines, I win fantasy baseball leagues instead.

At the ripe age of 25, Alex Gordon could still tap into his potential and give us a great fantasy season. If the Royals believe in Gordon, why shouldn't we?

1. Always keep an open mind

How many times has someone been considered a “breakout candidate” only to disappoint fantasy owners? Some players go through this process multiple times. Most of the time these players are hyped up so much that people almost believe these rising stars are in fact celestial beings in the sky.

There are other players who have produced in amazing ways in years past but have one bad year. That year ends up being the year you decide to draft him. Tough luck eh?

Regardless of what the player did to get on your bad side, there is always a reason for a poor performance. Given a chance, players can find their potential. You just can’t hold a grudge against someone because they burned you in the past.

2. Draft dependable early, draft potential later.

Sometimes in a top 50 list you’ll find a guy who has amazing fantasy potential but he can’t seem to stay healthy for 150+ games. Other times you’ll find a guy with amazing, yet unproven, upside in the top 50.

Drafting an injury prone player is the cardinal sin of fantasy sports in my opinion. These players will produce for you while in the lineup, but their injuries can ravage your roster. If your league only allows weekly changes, sometimes a guy can get hurt Monday and hurt your stats for the rest of the week. They’ll also take precious bench spots while hurt, forcing you to drop other players to pickup a backup.

As for guys with unproven upside in the top 50 rounds, why take a major risk on drafting that player when you can have similar production in a proven player? A good example of this is Justin Upton’s value this year. I’ve seen him ranked in the first round in some lists. Why draft him there when you can get a guy like Matt Holiday 10 picks later? Upton has had one great season while Holliday has been a fantasy beast for multiple years in a row. Don’t take me wrong here though, I’d draft Upton, just not in the first couple rounds :)

While you draft productive and reliable players in the first rounds of a draft, target young guys with high upside later in your draft. A guy like Manny Ramirez might have carried your team in the past, but he’s unlikely to have a career this year. Why not draft Andre Ethier instead, who might not have even hit his peak yet?

You can't go wrong drafting Brad Penny in the 20th round. He is going to have a fresh new start in STL and if he doesn't pan out, you can just drop him.

3. In the final rounds of a draft, there are no risky picks.

As the draft comes to and end, a lot of the players start to look unappealing in the player pool. After round 20, most of the players can be fit into one or more of these categories:

1. Players who have just never lived up to the hype
2. Relatively unknown players who could produce given the chance
3. Guys who have been hurt too much in the past few years
4. Old farts who are on the decline.

The thing about drafting in the last few rounds is that there is no risk involved. You already have your starters planned out, and the late rounders can always be dropped early if they don’t pan out. The late rounders you should be targeting are high-reward players like Francisco Liriano, Alex Gordon, Neftali Feliz and Stephen Drew. You should be staying far away from picks like Mike Cameron, Magglio Ordonez, Todd Helton and JD Drew.

4. Like clothing brands and certain technologies, players will eventually become old and irrelevant.

Did you know Raul Ibanez was playing his first year in the majors when we were all playing our newly released red Game Boys?

When you go outside today, how many people do you see playing their original, old-school Game Boys? They just aren’t as fun to play as newer handheld devices like the PSP, right? While a Game Boy might give you that nostalgic feeling, the fact is that a PSP is superior technology because it is newer.

Don’t put too much stock into players who are long in the tooth. One day, like many Xbox 360 have seen, they will just poop out on you and stop working right. As a kid I remember playing “Hot Potato” with friends. Eventually, someone holding the “potato” is going to lose. A good way to avoid losing is to not play “Hot Potato” at all, and just don’t draft old guys who are bound for a decline.

5. If a professional baseball team trusts in a player, chances are you should too.

A few weeks before the baseball season starts, baseball clubs will set their batting order into stone. A professional sporting franchise definitely knows best when it comes to their own team. If you see someone slotted in to hit 1st in a team’s batting order, that means he’s going to probably get on base a lot and steal some bases. If you see someone slotted in at 3rd or 4th, expect a lot of RBIs and HRs. Last year Nelson Cruz was low on people’s radars, but Texas slotted him in at the four-hole early in the season. Texas knew he’d be a great hitter last year, before the season even started. Use these hints a team throws at you to your advantage.

If you are like me, you won't be able to live without Gordon Beckham on your fantasy roster. Why wait until his projected 12th round when you know he's going to be more valuable than that? Get him in the 10th round.

6. Don’t be afraid to reach for a player you can’t live without

This rule in my code might be the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned in fantasy sports. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought “I’ll hold off one more round before drafting so-and-so” and then seeing so-and-so swiped right off the board. It’s an even worse feeling when that player fulfills your predictions and blows the fantasy world out of the water with amazing stats. Save yourself a lot of trouble and make a list of every big sleeper on your radar, find their average draft position and then boost them two rounds on your list. While reaching for a player might make people laugh at you, it guarantees you get your picks. When you win your league with your sleepers, you’ll be the one laughing.

7. Keep one “designated base-stealer” on your team for roto leagues.

As you know, there are so many players out there who can get you 30+ stolen bases. A lot of them can’t get you solid RBI numbers and most of them can’t hit for power. Similar to the AL’s DH spot, the designated base-stealer is plugged into your lineup for the purpose of one thing: stealing bases. A guy like Nyjer Morgan or Michael Bourn fits this profile very well. They probably aren’t necessary to play on a week-to-week basis because they won’t hit for power, but it’s nice to have them when you need to keep up in SB in your league. Trust me, make sure you have a DBS on your team, but don’t overdo it with more than one. You’ll thank me later.

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I’m glad I could impart my rules of fantasy baseball drafting. I hope you can take these guidelines and draft the perfect fantasy baseball team this year. Comment below to let me know what you think!

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