What/who should you be following this Spring?

As you prepare for your drafts and auctions, what should you be doing to prepare? There is no one size fits all answer. There are  keeper leagues, head to head leagues, roto leagues, auctions, drafts and more.

Those that do their homework almost always finish among the leaders. There is one major variable, injuries. There is nothing that can be done in advance of a critical injury to your star player. What you can do is know who is coming off injury and who is injury prone. If you are considering a veteran, check his games played historically. Does he consistently miss a certain number of games each season? Or is he coming off of an aberration. Pitchers must be watched closely. Is he coming off any sort of arm surgery? Were there an abnormally high number of appearances or innings? Adam Wainwright is a perfect example. Wainwright was arguably the top pitcher in the National League over the past two seasons. However heavy work load and a high percentage of breaking pitches has sent him to the operating table.

Another factor to follow, who is in a contract year? Who is out to prove something with a one year deal? Obviously this applies mainly to veterans. Lets take a look at some names that are playing for their next deal.  Lance Berkman, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins are some of the elite infielders that have alot of cash on the line. In the outfield, Carlos Beltran, Josh Willingham, Nick Swisher and Grady Sizemore’s performances will be in direct correlation with their next mega deal. Pitcher’s to keep an eye on this Spring include Mark Buerhle, Chris Carpenter, Rich Harden, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Roy Oswalt and Brandon Webb.

Know who is where! There are many off season transactions in MLB and you must know how transactions have effected depth charts. A perfect example is Rafael Soriano. Soriano was a lights out closer for the Rays last season, but will now be setting up ole faithful Mariano Rivera in the Bronx. If you are in a keeper league, perhaps the job will become Soriano’s a year from now, but who know’s when Rivera will finally slow down.

Whether you are in an auction or a draft, scarcity is a constant. What positions are the deepest? If its a keeper league, are there any positions that are shallow due to keepers within your league? I have always tried to get one of the elite up the middle. A strong catcher and middle infielders. Some like the $1 or late draft pick strategy for backstops, but I try to land at least one of the best. Why? The difference between Joe Mauer and Alex Avila is huge, much more than between an elite corner/outfielder and a mid range guy you can get cheap.

What categories will you focus on? Is your league such that you can ignore a category and still compete? Again, this may be impacted by keepers in your league. Are you planning on getting involved in bidding or using a high draft pick for a closer? How about steals? Does your league also have runs scored? If so, this makes it less painful to acquire the speed merchants that will kill you with weak power numbers. The five category stars will cost you a bundle or a top pick, try another strategy by mining for extra steals from your corners, not usually a source for speed. Saves are also an area that saps resources. A good alternate strategy is to take a chance with a number of potential closers who come at a fraction of the cost of the 40+ save guys.

Just like those opening week phenoms, don’t get married to the Spring Training heroes. Often time a journeyman veteran or a prospect that is destined for the minors  is lights out in March. While this is important to know, don’t build your draft strategies around it. I am sure everyone remembers Marlins infielder Emilio Bonafacio and his huge opening week two seasons ago.

We will break down positions and categories as we near Opening Day. For now, be sure to follow fantasysp.com for the latest in analysis from the top writers across the country, including our own here at fantasysp.com.

Author: Tom Blaz

Tom is our featured columnist on FantasySP with more than 25 years of media experience in Radio and TV. You may know his work as a beat reporter for the Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland. He also reported LIVE from the Summer Olympics in Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta. He is an avid Auburn fan, and writes for The Recruiting Eagle, a website focusing on Auburn athletics.

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