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Draft Preparation
March 22, 2003

With everyone's fantasy drafts right around the corner, you've probably already bought your favorite magazine or searched your favorite websites for every list and cheatsheet imaginable.  The Commish can't fault those lists, but we would like to offer some additional hints to help you win it all this year.

Combining projections from and, we compared their projections with last year's average statistics at each fantasy position.  Assuming you are playing in a 5 X 5 league, the following tips should help you whether you are in an auction or draft league.  The statistics we were most concerned with is how many categories a player will perform at better than 20% of the average for his position, and the overall rank against the average player at his position.  For a more detailed analysis of a similar process to this one, check out

Most of the results were expected, but there were a few surprises.  Here are some highlights you can take with you to your draft, along with your cheatsheets and overall rankings lists:

Worry about the closers later
Closers don't fit well into the model because saves are a majority of their importance due to their lack of innings pitched.  Therefore, if you're going to take a closer early, go with the quality closer on a team that figures to win a lot of games (Rivera, Smoltz, Percival, Gagne, etc.).

No surprises early
Our analysis indicates what you might expect - ARod, Soriano, Guerrero, Johnson, Martinez, and Schilling are the head of the class, so make sure you draft one if you have a pick in the top 6.

Catcher - Piazza, IRod, and ?
Ivan Rodriguez is a 5 category star (5 categories better than 20% above average), while Piazza is only a 3 category star, BUT Piazza's overwhelming stats in HR and RBI make him just as valuable.  If you don't get either of these 2 catchers, don't waste a high pick or big draft dollars on anyone else.

First Base - Helton and some surprises
Helton is a 5 category star and is head and shoulders above the rest.  After that, Bagwell actually ranks as high as Giambi because of his SB potential (and Giambi's lack of SBs).  The other 3 category stars are Pujols (eligible at 1B, 3B, & OF in many leagues), Thome, and Delgado, but Dunn and Sweeney have better overall rankings than Delgado because of the SB differential.  After this group, there's a lot of 1 category guys, so don't pick anyone else too early if it means passing on a player at a weaker position.  The difference between an Aubrey Huff and a Rafael Palmeiro is minimal.

Second Base - Soriano and the rest of the pack
Alfonso Soriano is a 4 category star here and is ranked 76% above average at 2B.  Well below him are the rest.  Durham is a 3 category guy, followed by Kent, Bret Boone, and Vidro.  Alomar falls all the way to 7th in these rankings as his career begins to wind down.  You'd be better off with Luis Castillo and his high SB total (and respectable BA) than Alomar at this point.

Third Base - 3 tiers
There are 3 tiers here.  First, there's Glaus, Rolen, Pujols (all 4 category stars), and Chavez (2 cat.).  Then, there's Aaron Boone and Hinske.  Then there's everyone else.  If Pujols had ANY wheels, he'd be an easy #1, but Glaus excels in all categories except BA and has reached double digit steal totals the past 3 years.  If you don't get any of these 6 third basemen, wait until the late rounds and pick up someone like Bellhorn or Lowell.

Shortstop - The "Big Four" and little more
Garciaparra is this group's only 4 category star, but ARod far outranks everyone in overall percentage (80% above average).  I rank them ARod, Jeter, Tejada, and Garciaparra.  Nomar is well balanced (hence the 4 category ranking), but the other 3 perform at least one skill at 90% better than the average shortstop.  After the big four, Eckstein does 2 things well (scores runs and steals bases), Rollins, Renteria, Cabrera, Furcal, and Womack will put up decent SB totals without killing your team.  If you need power at this position, go with Aaron Boone or Jose Hernandez.  The rest of the bunch don't have as much upside.

Outfield - Vlad is King
Vladimir Guerrero rules this position as a 5 category star and a 78% above average rankings.  After that, it's:  Beltran, Abreu, Bonds, M. Ramirez, Green, Sosa, Wilson, Ordonez, and Giles.  The next 20 or so probably mirror your cheatsheets, so here are a few hints for the middle rounds based on our rankings:
- Klesko doesn't do anything great, but many things well, and should be chosen before the likes of L. Gonzalez, Burrell, C. Jones, and Floyd.  When those others are already chosen and Klesko remains, take him and know you got a good deal (and he can play 1B).
- Don't go for guys like Cameron, Pierre, D. Roberts, and Sanchez unless you really need steals or you have a power hitting infielder.  These guys can really hurt your other four hitting categories and shouldn't be ranked too high strictly because of their steals.
- Players to avoid drafting too early just because of the name:  Griffey (he will do NOTHING above average for an OFer except hit HRs), Lofton, Finley, Burnitz, Salmon, Drew, and Cruz Jr.  They're not bad, but will probably be drafted (or overpriced) higher than they should.
- G. Anderson is ranked right up with Walker, Sheffield, and B. Williams, and you can probably get him at a cheaper price (or in a later round).

Starting Pitchers - Clement over Clemens and other surprises
Randy Johnson is number 1 (3 category star).  P. Martinez and Schilling are identically ranked versus the average, but Schilling provides more Ks while Pedro provides more balance, so it depends on your needs.  After that it's Zito, Oswalt, Morris, Mussina, Hudson, Miller, Lowe, Maddux, Mulder, Colon, and Prior.  A little further down, Matt Clement's rankings against the average are almost identical to Roger Clemens, so don't get caught up in the name - Clement will provide excellent fantasy numbers and will be cheaper than Clemens and should be a steal in the draft.  Thanks to his strikeouts, Nomo will still provide you without above average stats.  Some pitchers who will provide average stats, so don't bid or draft too high:  Pettitte, Glavine, Park, D. Wells, Sabathia, and F. Garcia.  You might find better deals and get similar results with:  Lawrence, Sheets, Piniero, Peavy, and Ramon Ortiz.  Don't be tempted by the following names just because of familiarity - they perform below average in every category and should not be drafted:  Rusch, Burkett, Mays, K. Rogers, Helling, Neagle, Bere, Estes, and Sele.

Obviously, there are hundreds of names I haven't mentioned, but that's what your cheatsheets are for.  I just wanted to point out a few names from each position that may be ranked a little higher or lower than the average fantasy player thinks.  Hopefully, this knowledge will be just enough to help you take your fantasy title this year.  Good luck!