I've tried as hard as I could to not start drafting fantasy baseball teams until a week before the season kicks off and I just couldn't hold out anymore. I've already done three mock drafts and drafted two real teams.
I spent a lot of time on different sites seeing where players were projected to go and I tried to look into 'fluke' seasons. For example, was Ben Zobrist a fluke last year? Yes, to some degree. I don't expect him to put up as good a batting average and I don't expect him to get nearly as many RBI's this year. He may still pop somewhere between 15-20 homers, but you aren't going to get the production from him that warrants taking him earlier than the 5th pick. There I think he is a nice sleeper and he could play a big role as a utility player for your team. (20 homers is pretty nice out of the 2B slot). Another type of fluke is the complete opposite. It's where a player like Pat Burrell, had a career worst year and I expect he and many other players similar to him, will rebound back to their career par numbers. I see him being a steal, sometimes even undrafted. He has a potent lineup around him and he will have plenty more opportunities to knock in RBI's. Playign in the dome of Tropicana he should be able to power the ball out with little wind resistence. Locally there has been plenty of talk of his re-commitment to working out.
Continuing on, I will say my strategy this year is to pick up speed and batting average early. These are the two categories that are most difficult to overcome. You can have one player that is leading the league in either of these categories, but if others on your team aren't hitting well or stealing bases, you might as well nto have anyone for these reasons at all. I like the idea, especially if you are in late position in a serpentine draft, to take Jacoby Elsbery and Ichiro Suzuki 1-2. This gives you a good foundation for your batting average (.325) and could bring you over 100 steals. Once you get these two off the board, there are few players left who will get you a package deal of steals AND other categories. Carl Crawford is a good choice to mix up with Elsbery or Sukuki too.
Now you have to focus on power and keeping that batting average up. If you have a strikeout penalty league you might want to avoid guys like Ryan Howard, Carlos Pena, or Pat Burrell. With your third pick you should be able to still locate Justin Morneau, Mark Texiera, and Adrian Gonzalez. These guys can give you the .300AVG -30HR- 100 RBI's you are looking for. If you want to wait a round Kendry Moralez should be there for your 4th pick. You can use that slot to take a 3B. The top two studs are Alex Rodriguez and Evan Longoria. I don't think David Wright deserves as much credit anymore and he doesn't provide enough of the power we are looking for. At 3B 30 HR's is ideal, but at first base we are looking for 35-40. mark reynolds, Kevin Youkilis, and Ryan Zimmerman. Those are about 7 names listed that you can use for power on your corner infields, rather deep if you can afford to wait a round and take a powerful 2B/SS.
Troy Tuluwitzki, Ian Kinsler, and Aaron Hill. Also, consider Rickie Weeks, who at the time he injured his wrist last year, was leading all middle infielders in home runs.
What you want to accomplish with your 3rd and 4th picks is get an unusual amount of power out of an unusual position. 2B/SS/3B.
As I said earlier, Zobrist may be a nice addition with the 5th pick, providing good pop from the 2B position, or you could lean towards solidifying your pitching staff. I've seen Johan Santana, Josh Beckett, Adam Wainwright, and Justin Verlander fall this far. I would even go as far as to say draft two pitchers in succession here. Dan Haren, Jon Lester, Chris Carpenter, Cole Hamels.
It's important that you try to maximize your picks. You don't want to be stuck drafting a guy late who doesn't offer more than one stat. ( Nice amount of home runs, but few RBI's, and terrible batting average). Or taking a guy with a Mendoza batting average, no pop in his bat, but he will steal some bases for you. The exception to this rule is when drafting Closers. All he really does for you is puts up saves. A lights out fireman like Mariano Rivera or K-Rod will bump up your K's, but only elite closers will produce "stellar starting pitching like strikeouts" on a weekly basis. It might be wise to take a closer as your third pitcher drafted. Take two more starters, and then seek a second closer.
The least important position here is catcher. Joe Mauer is the only legit option behind the plate. He will keep that batting average of yours up, those homer runs up, and your RBi's up. He is the most consistent catcher in The Bigs and he gets the most work (when not injured) than other rotating catchers in other places. If he is available around the middle of the draft, it's a good idea to try to nab him with the number one, and then continue as planned.
1. Batting Average
3. Power. (Home Runs, RBI)
7. K's (They will come with the wins and saves)
The reason I consider batting average and ERA to be so important is because if you are lacking these stats in your season, it is much more difficult to a player who will bump these averages up for you, without having to sacrifice something elsewhere. On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to lead the league in average and/or ERA, you can afford to add a batter like Carlos Pena who can give you great power from the corner infield spot, but will hit your batting average. Or you can take a chance on Ricky Nolasco, who can K 12 guys in a game, but will give up 4 or 5 runs as well.
If you just sit and draft players who you like because of big names, or familiar faces, you are in trouble. If you just take the best guy on the board each time, you will suffer at other positions, because you may have just drafted three straight first baseman. Just like in live action baseball, hitting the ball and limiting runs are the two keys in the foundation for winning baseball games.
I'd like to use a poker example to help me explain my idea; remember I said this strategy works best in late position and in a snake format draft. It's easier to pick a strategy when you can take two players close together. I say go for speed because at a later point in the draft, the power will already be off the board. Once the first 1B is gone, people will start jumping in to take Ryan Howard's 40-45 bombs, sacrificing average and taking on unnecessary strikeouts. Use your position in the draft to take what you can. If you have a top 3 pick in the draft, speed is not the only option.
With the top 3 pick you could knab Hanley Ramirez. Extremely valuable for his 5 tools, he can give you big numbers in all the prime offensive categories. Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols will get you AVG, HR, RBI's, and a few stolen bases. Once you draft one of these two players, you can stay in your power zone for your second pick, maybe completing your opposite corner infielder. Or you can just go back to the original strategy.
I'd love to hear anyone else's ideas or input.