Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Preparing for the 2006 Fantasy Season (Part Three) - Building a Quality Farm System

posted by Jon Williams
Not every fantasy league utilizes a farm system but I do believe that any player in a keeper league will benefit from reading this article. This article will give you my views on how to build a fantasy farm system and the benefits of doing it in various ways. You might be surprised how the hype a player receives can effect a players value in his league regardless of his actual performance. A quality farm system can either provide you with the players necessary to create a fantasy league dynasty or give you the bait to annually trade for the pieces that will shoot you up the standings. READ ALL OF THE ARTICLE BELOW

Cameron Maybin
Cameron Maybin has the potential to be not just the best prospect on the Tigers but entering the 2007 season he may be the best prospect in the American League assuming that players like Delmon Young, Brandon Wood and Alex Gordon graduate to their respective major league teams.

Building A Quality Fantasy Baseball Farm System

When it comes to minor leaguers fantasy league owners often fall into one of two camps. In Camp One we have the owner obsessed with
rookies and young players. This owner is usually so determined to own his favorite ROY candidates and top prospects that he'll often sacrifice winning. He does this by paying far too much for young and inexperienced players in the auction and by refusing to part with his favorite players even when that player might buy him a championship. I have absolutely no problems with this type of player they are often among the most knowledgeable baseball fans in your leagues. The owners in Camp Two are often the polar opposite. These guys will almost never roster a rookie or inexperienced player. When they are forced to make picks for their farm system they often do so with Baseball America's Top 100 prospects issue open in fron t of them. They may even cross off selected players directly on the pages.They pay little attention to their farm systems and will often part with their farm system picks and whatever minor leaguers they happen to roster with little regard as to their value. I have no problem with these owners either. This type of owner often finishes in the money and usually walk away from the auction with the best teams. I don't think I have to tell you that the best owners in fantasy leagues are in neither camp.


How Does a Strong Fantasy Farm System Help?


A strong farm system will help you win. If built correctly your farm system will provide your team with a steady source of emerging fantasy baseball stars and a constant supply of cheap players that can be moved in trades for expensive players or players with a more certain value. In a tough keeper league a strong farm system can be the difference between finishing in the money and actually winning it. We've all been (or we all hope to be) in that situation wherein we can taste a championship and all we need is a few more steals or saves. The problem is every player on your active roster with enough value to bring a closer or stolen base artist is also essential to your championship drive. Its that Delmon Young, BJ Upton or Felix Hernandez that will bring you the player you so desperately need. Or maybe those first three guys are too valuable to your roster of keepers next year maybe you can combine a lesser player on your active roster with a minor leaguer like Brian Anderson or Dustin Pedroia. Then imagine after the season when you're trying to put together a group of keepers that will allow you to compete. Maybe some owner in your league doesn't believe in the value of Jason Giambi or fears a steroid suspension. You could be all over that if you have depth in your farm system. Would Jason Bartlett and Ian Kinsler make your final cut of keepers? Maybe you can trade your extra depth to improve even further. You might not believe how easy it is to sell another owner on a $5 minor leaguer due to start at shortstop who might steal twenty bases. A strong farm system can make your already strong roster unstoppable.


The First Step is to Know the Rules of Your League


The rules in every league are different. In some leagues minor leaguers are all $10. In other leagues they may be $5. Still other leagues may use tiers with a first round pick costing $10 a second round player $5 and a third round player just $3. Before you can come up with the best strategy for your league you have to know the rules inside and out. How many minor leaguers can you have on your roster? As many as you like? What are the rules about activating minor leaguers? Do you have to activate a minor leaguer as soon as he's activated by his major league team? Can you hold him in your farm system the entire season without starting the clock on him? Some leagues let you carry an active minor leaguer for the whole season for free but make you declare him as one of your keepers if he makes the 25-man roster on opening day. Another rule to look into is which players qualify to be drafted. Can you pick a college player or a player from Japan or high school? Is anyone in the minor leagues eligible or must they still qualify as rookies? Can you activate a player from the minors as a shortstop even if they've previously played twenty games in the majors as a DH? If you can tailor your draft picks to fit your unique league rules you'll have an even greater chance of success.


Selecting the Right Players



When selecting your players in addittion to having a complete knowledge of your league rules there are several decisions and evaluations you must make:

  • How long can you give any given player to develop? Every player is different. Some players shoot through the minors in less than a season and need never return. Another player might shoot through the minors and then struggle to stay in the majors. Still other players may take several years to advance to the major leagues. Your league rules may dictate how long you can give a player to rise to the majors. You also need to consider the state of your team and your keepable players. If you have a strong group of keepers and plenty of money to spend in the draft you might be able to wait on a few longer term minor leaguers. On the other hand you might have few keepers or little money to spend in that case you might want to draft guys that are likely to appear in the majors very soon. A player that is close to the majors is very valuable trade bait but can also give your team a mid-season shot in the arm.
  • What does your team need to compete this year? Do you have strong pitching keeps but few batters? If so you may want to grab hitters that are close to the majors. A strong farm system can help you fill needs as the season progresses. Imagine if you needed a hitter last year and had Ryan Howard or Jeff Francouer in your farm system. You could've added them to your team or traded one or both of them for Pujols in the last year of his contract or an expensive but effective Todd Helton, or both. Did you need a closer? Maybe you had Bobby Jenks or Derrek Turnbow in your system. Steals? Wily Tavares could have helped. Starters? Chien-Ming Wang or Chris Capuano might have helped. I guarantee you in any given season a minor leaguer comes up that can help your team with whatever you might need to compete. Maybe you have a solid roster and just want players that will be worth a bunch in a trade. Maybe you're rebuilding this year, you might want to consider stock-piling picks if your league allows you to keep as many minor leaguers as you wish.
  • What type of player does your league over value? Every league over values some type of player. It might be young players. It could be closers. It could be older veterans. I've even been in leagues where starting pitching was dramatically over valued. Picking the type of player your league is likely to over value could benefit you in more ways than one. You might have a far cheaper than usual version of that type of player or you might have some very desirable trade bait. Either way you win if you can add over valued players.
  • What positions are weak in your league or in the majors in general? If there are no third basemen in your auction perhaps you should draft a third baseman close to the majors. Rather than pay top dollar for a Kevin Youkilis or Troy Glaus draft Alex Gordon or Andy Marte. If you think stolen bases will be hard to come by in your NL-only league perhaps its time to draft Marcus Saunders. The catching in the NL looks pretty pathetic this year it might be time to grab George Kottaras or Neil Walker.

How to Find the Right Players Before Everyone Else


First you need to decide how much time and money you're willing to invest in this. If you're in multiple high stakes leagues paying for subscriptions to great sites like Scout.com and Baseballamerica.com may be more than worth it. Neither site is that expensive when you consider just how much information you get access to on a daily basis. Scout.com is a great site. They have a site for every team in every major sport run by guys who do nothing but follow that team and evaluate its prospects. In addittion they provide scouting reports on college and high school players. Scout.com is a little more expensive but you also have the option of subscribing for a month at a time for about $8. A month might be enough time to get a glimpse at all the major league sites and pick out some very good players. If you can afford it every fan of baseball should subscribe to Baseball America. Just in case you don't know Baseball America is the only real magazine that covers exclusively baseball year round. They report on every aspect of the sport but they have a heavy emphasis on the minors and amatuer competitions which is exactly what you want to know about. It costs about $60 for a year long web-only subscription. It is worth it but I also understand those who don't want to pay that much to study up for their fantasy leagues. Getting both sites would probably cost you $140 a year but worth every penny. Don't ignore these sites because of the cost as both also provide the occassional free article that are always worth reading.

Being the great guy that I am I will also provide a far cheaper alternative plan. While signing up for the two sites above will get you very very far if you're willing to work harder I can save you a lot of dough and get you a similar quality of information. The high stakes guys with lots of time may want to combine both plans which is the way I wish everyone could do it but it just isn't realistic for a lot of us.

Step One - Add the following sites to your bookmarks or favorites and check them everyday year round:

  • www.minorleagueball.com - John Sickels runs this site and he knows the minor leagues as well as anyone. The people that comment on his various articles also tend to know their stuff and provide lots of relevant information.
  • www.warmoctobernights.com - This blog run by Matt Jacovina provides the same sort of top ten prospect reports that Baseball America and other sites offer but its all free. Hell, there aren't even any ads to distract or annoy you. He truly knows his stuff and will often hip you to prospects that others are sleeping on.
  • www.baseballanalysts.com - This site is similar to Baseball Prospectus (another great site worth paying to read) but without the air of superiority that can sometimes grate on the nerves. They provide regular articles on baseball, sabermetrics and prospects. They acknowledge the fantasy crowd as some of their most frequent fans and provide nice content in that context.
  • www.rotojunkie.com - This site is awesome for several reasons. Anyone who plays fantasy should be checking into their forums on a daily basis as they have some of the smartest players and many acknowledged experts posting their thoughts on various players, strategy and baseball news. To top it all off Jason Collette is the site's minor league authority and provides many articles on players and teams that will help you immensely in preparing for your fantasy drafts.
Between all these sites you aren't likely to miss much that happens in the world of prospects. I do suggest you spend a little money. Invest in the Baseball America Prospect Book. This book provides all the top tens that you'll find on the site plus the next twenty prospects for each team. The book is available from just about every bookseller for about $20 and if you look real hard to sites like amazon.com you can find some really good deals. But don't stop here. If you really want to be the best you need to do some work on your own. When you find prospects that sound interesting on various sites go to www.thebaseballcube.com and look at their complete stats yourself. Everyone has their favorite criterion for judging the future of prospects. If you do the work I've assigned you you'll develop a method that works for you in no time (I'll provide you with my own special method in a future article - I've gotta keep you coming back for more).

Peace.

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