The Art of the Draft
Bruce Bundy

There are so many factors involved that the art form is a study in itself.  With MLB
players becoming less and less dimensional, the role of the SOM general manager is
becoming more and more important.  Personality, wit, and knowledge are the tools of
drafting, considered by many to be the most fun aspect of playing SOM.  Here are some
brief observations on a very large study:

1) KNOW YOUR ENEMY.  The first thing a manager has to do is to size up his scenario.   STAR Tourneys provide the great 12 player scratch draft.  I'm in a 23 yr old keeper league. Salaries and contracts appeal to some league organizers.  There are just so many ways to dictate the environment foreshadowing the draft itself.  None of these scenarios matter if you know your enemy.  The better you know the rules, know the rituals, tactics, and tendencies of your opponents, the better prepared  THE WINNER will be to administer his plan to choose the most top tier players.  So, it becomes imperative in STAR Tourneys to SHOW UP EARLY and talk to the early managers.  By even simple baseball conversation, you may get a better lead into some of the opponents' schemes - you may even get a name or two.  By establishing information-gathering tactics, you will be able to better anticipate your opponent's choices, which will help put your tactics ahead of theirs in acquiring the most premiere talent possible.

2) GARBAGE IN - GARBAGE OUT. A thoughtfully prepared drafting plan will mean your enemies will be waving goodbye to their plans and not you.  Draft styles change like fashions. Know the knowledge base of your given drafting arena.  The differences between scratch leagues and keeper leagues are pronounced.  There are dissertations for the many scenarios, so I will deal with the "STAR 12 player scratch draft concept" from here on for this example, but there are still many tactics here anyone can use.

The "Apples & Oranges" of hitters/pitchers can play havoc on any draft.  Be on top of both aspects.  Respect the old "standards" for drafting.  A good old draft prioritization
"standard" may be in this order:
SS
SP
CF
C
3B
2B
LRF
1B
RP

The old "standards" are just that, however - standards.  For example, this year there is a
large amount of premiere RFs, Cs and 1Bs, not many 2Bs, 3Bs, Cs. There is a healthy amount of pitching, but only Pedro & Brown are elite.  So it is imperative to come prepared with a healthy knowledge base in your head.  Having a close friend or two to share thoughts and help prepare is great synergy for this important part of the plan.  What I do for myself is create 3 levels for every position, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers.  I use my spreadsheet ratings:

Please check Bruce's 2001 Pitcher and Hitter Spreadsheets article for this download!!
 

Use the ranking column.  My rankings take into account the SOM characteristics, so I
usually feel comfortable I have already beaten the 1 guy out of 10 who uses the "baseball
card" approach to the draft.   I sort all the fielders by position, all the starters, and
all the relievers.  I look at the numbers for each position.  If you follow down at any
given position, you will find a small group in the higher numbers (ranked over 70),
another tier of great players (60-69), and a large group of good players (50-59).  Each
group doesn't necessarily follow the numbers as much as they follow the theme.  This year shows:

1B = 6 top tier, 9 2nd tier
2B = 2 (Kent & Alfonzo) top tier, 8 lower 2nd tier
3B = 0 top tier, 6 2nd tier
  C = 1 top tier (IRod), 5 2nd Tier
CF = 7 top tier, 3 very low 2nd tier
LRF=21 top tier, 16 2nd tier
SS =4 top tier, 0 2nd tier, 12 3rd tier
SP = 3 top tier (Pedro, Brown, & Zito), 7 2nd tier
RP = 10 top tier, 14 2nd tier

So, the standard has now changed (as it usually does every year).  I
read this year's "standard" as

SP
SS
2B
C
CF
3B
RP
1B
LRF

This type of approach can help you see what is in store for the you and the other people
involved.  You can further elaborate by measuring the gaps to determine the more valued
commodity.

This draft, for example, Pedro is so dominant, he is an easy 1st pick of any draft.  IRod
is also so dominant, as are Kent/Alfonzo.  But from this study what is basically clear is
that there are a large amount of OFs and RPs, then 24 top tier players at SP, SS, 2B, C,
CF, and 1B.  OK.

Now the game begins.  How to get the most top players!  You MUST get 2!  You want 3! You'd LOVE 4!  In STAR, they use the serpentine (1-12, then 12-1) method of draft.  Your
position will predesignate your ability to get a 3rd and 4th top tier.    Whether drafting
first or last, drafting top tier players will do 2 things - improve your team, debilitate
your opponents.  Every non-top tier pick by an opponent moves you up 1, and your goal is to move up 12 in 3 rounds.  Your opponents do the rest.

A  couple of "tricks of the trade" can help facilitate your ladder to domination.  Any
knowledge of what an opponent is going to take, at any position in the draft, can help
you - use a pencil, and as the draft begins, work on constantly mock draft the whole
draft - guessing who will go where.  This is a skill that once developed, will be a huge
asset for the future.  Use common logic - when there is only one top tier left of 5 and
it's your pick, it's time to heavily reconsider another player.

Use "Addition by Subtraction" - this method is for the advanced drafter - and is a
devastating drafting tactic on opponents. Check and highlight the multi-position top tier
players.  Once established at a position, plan on "stealing" a top tier from one position
to another position EXAMPLE:  Drafting 6th, you draft Alfonzo first, your turn again and Kent isn't gone - NAB HIM and play Kent at 1B!  You have now a top tier at 1B (diluting 1B) and have drastically reduced the top tier 2B position,crashing someone else's dream of getting Kent at 2B!  This also throws some skilled drafters out of sync, which is yet another nice tactic.  Always steal an opponent's direction of pick - if you know he is leaving a position open, you should leave that position open this round and draft that position ahead of him the next round.

Talking during drafts is sometimes frowned upon, but it is useful gamesmanship.  Anythingthat can distract an enemy from a train of thought during a pick may leave a top tier player and is fair game (please be tasteful though - humor/yes, head rubs/no).
 IMPORTANT - Lose all favoritism!  Forget your favorite player if you can!  If trading is
allowed, you will be able to parlay a successful draft into having both, so draft
favorites only if they are on the same tier. In STAR, once your positions are filled or
top tiers are taken, crescendo these tactics throughout the rest of the draft.  If you
walk into the draft with this kind of approach to knowledge, you can feel confident as you
probably have defeated 6 of your 11 opponents already!  Good Luck!

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