The straight draft format involves different strategic scenarios than an auction draft. While auction draft players have the enviable position of being able to bid on each player, straight drafters are forced to re-evaluate their strategy after each player is selected. Success in a straight draft requires a manager to be highly organized and extremely flexible. It is always important to go into any draft with a firm understanding of your strategy and how certain 'picks' can affect it. Below are some of the strategies and methods of preparation to help you plan for victory.
Draft Day organizational recommendations
One of the keys to a smart draft is knowing which positions your opponents have left to fill. It is useful to prepare a side-by-side roster chart (perhaps in spreadsheet format) to keep track of each of their picks and provide a quick glance reference. This chart will aid you in determining where the managers in front of you may likely go with their next pick. In a straight draft, managers typically tend to fill out a player at each position (except for outfield and pitcher) before they start doubling up at positions that require multiple players. If there are five available third basemen all with comparable talent, and there are only four teams left who need a third baseman, you can go with another pick and delay the third baseman pick until later.
Set category goals and keep track of your progress throughout the draft. You cannot expect to win each category, but finishing third in every category should be enough to help you claim victory. You can generally use the third-place numbers from your previous year's final standings as your target. Use your projections to keep a running total of your team's statistics so that you can monitor your team's strengths and weaknesses and make your next picks accordingly.
Divide your draft lists by position and then subdivide them even further to create tiers of players with comparable talent. You should never get too attached to the idea of having any single player on your team. This psychological pitfall can cause mass confusion if the manager directly ahead of you picks that player. Use your tiers to gauge the depth left at a position. If you are shooting for a second baseman and the last second baseman in a given tier gets drafted a few picks earlier, then it may be best to look to another position and wait on the second basemen since there will likely be a comparable pool of talent in a subsequent tier.
Common fantasy strategies
The LIMA Plan is one draft day strategy that is suited well for straight drafts. The high skills pitchers sought after in this scenario are most often ignored until the last third of the draft. Begin by drafting offense and intersperse enough quality closers in the first third of the draft to get you near the top in saves. Continue stacking your offense until it is complete and fill out your pitching staff with the high skills guys at the end of the draft.
Punting a category can be quite easy in a straight draft. Most of the managers are spending so much time trying to track the selections and make their own decisions, they'll rarely notice if it's Round 10 and you haven't drafted a closer. Beware of this strategy, though, as it can backfire. If you are organized using the roster charts mentioned above, you would notice if more than one manager seems to be punting a category. If you and three other people are punting saves then there are going to be quite a few closers left towards the end of the draft and those will become bargains for the other guys at the table. Never leave a bargain on the table. You may have to change your plan and take a closer if the conditions warrant.
The straight draft's answer to the Labadini Plan ($251 on batting, $9 on pitching) is the All Offense Plan. Few, if any managers, have the stomach to draft 14 consecutive batters without taking a pitcher - nonetheless, it can be done and it can reward you handsomely.
As discussed above, most managers tend to draft evenly and fill out a player at each position before doubling up. Armed with this information, you can use your tiered draft lists to stack an offense with all of your first 14 picks, being sure to cover the scarce positions early. When the other guys are picking their second and third starting pitchers you will be filling your 5th outfielder hole with a very productive player. In the end of the draft when the other managers are scrambling to fill their offense, you will be compiling a pitching staff of high skills players who will not hurt you in ERA or WHIP.
When the season gets started you will see just how potent your offense is and then trade for saves or a top tier starter. If your league is a keeper league this is an especially beneficial plan. All of the offensive players you draft early will solidify your team for the future.
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