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Last-minute draft strategies and tips

Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen, left, and Neil Walker

Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen, left, and Neil Walker wait to hit before a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox in Bradenton, Fla. (March 19, 2011) Credit: AP

This weekend is a big one for fantasy baseball drafts with the season less than a week away. Here are some last minute tips to achieve success in your draft.

1. Know the scoring system and rules

It sounds basic and elementary, but you’ll be surprised how many people fail to look. There are a plethora of scoring systems that can change the value of a player. Most leagues are a typical 5x5 roto league, but points systems have become increasingly popular. In those formats, strikeouts are usually penalized -1 and walks get a point. An example of a player who gets a boost in that format is Billy Butler. There’s no signs of a power boost coming with a 47 percent groundball rate the last two seasons. In a points league, he’s better because he hits a lot of doubles, draws walks, and doesn’t strike out much. Young players with a huge disparity in strikeouts and walks get overvalued in these leagues.

2. Be flexible and adapt

So many people try to plan out the perfect draft and try to map out who’s going to be available in each round. Remember every draft is different. Average Draft Positions (ADP) mean nothing. I did the Sirius XM Experts draft on Thursday, and for each round I had a few players in mind as my pick approached. I had the 10th pick overall in a 14-team league and in the third round I really wanted Andrew McCutchen. He went three picks before I was on the clock, but I didn’t panic. I had another option in mind and selected Adam Dunn. I usually go into a draft with no plan of taking an elite starter, but when Josh Johnson fell to me in round 7, it was too good of a value to pass up. In an auction, sometimes money is spent quickly and other times many owners sit back on their money. Just be prepared. Every draft is different and you can’t be rigid. Have a plan, but if it goes awry make sure you are prepared.

3. Build offense early and wait on pitching

It’s more difficult to find a 30-homer player on the waiver wire than a decent pitcher. It’s best to build offense early on with players that can help across the board. An offensive player can help in all five categories. A starting pitcher can only help in four at max (assuming saves is the fifth category). Wins are out of a pitcher’s control and are more of a risk for injury. Just look at some of the pitchers who had great years in 2010. Ubaldo Jimenez was taken around round 7 or 8. Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Mat Latos, Trevor Cahill, Clay Buchholz, Max Scherzer, Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Colby Lewis and Gio Gonzalez are just some example of players taken in the middle to late rounds or acquired off the waiver wire. Pitching is very deep. I waited for round seven in the Sirius XM draft and took Josh Johnson in Round 7, Tommy Hanson in Round 8, and Max Scherzer in Round 10. I didn’t expect to get the first two pitchers that late.

4. Don’t reach on relievers

There is so much fluctuation in the position as 29 players had 20 or more saves last season. Players will emerge from nowhere, such as John Axford last season. In a snake draft, you can still get three good relievers even if you wait until Round 10 or 11. In an auction league, it’s not worth paying a lot. Would you rather have a $25 player that can help in four offensive categories, a starting pitcher that can contribute in four, or a closer who can only have a major impact on one category? Remember, you don’t need to win every category. You can get a cheaper closer and still be competitive in saves.

5. Don’t be afraid to reach on a player you like

Sometimes people adhere to ADPs too much. I had the second pick overall in an 18-team head-to-head points league. I took Albert Pujols in the first, Dustin Pedroia in the second, and Andrew McCutchen in the third at 38th overall. Many people were surprised, but keep in mind there was no way he would come back to me, and in this format with his solid K/BB ratio and hitting third which will increase his RBIs, it was a solid move. Love his upside and don’t think it’s a reach in that spot. In the same draft, I took Edwin Encarnacion earlier than his ADP because I think he can hit 30 home runs.

6. Pay attention to stats

Some people have a cheat sheet and take the highest player left. That's a mistake. You need to draft based on needs after the first few rounds. If you have a lot of power and lack speed, taking Michael Stanton isn't a good choice. If you have a lot of speed and lack power, Denard Span doesn't fit the need of your team.

Here are some players I like with an ADP of 40 or more, according to

Andrew McCutchen
Adam Dunn
Ian Kinsler
Jason Heyward
Cole Hamels
Jacoby Ellsbury
Yovani Gallardo
Tommy Hanson
Jay Bruce
Hunter Pence
Francisco Liriano
Chad Bilingsley
Chris Young
Aramis Ramirez
Max Scherzer
Shaun Marcum
Colby Lewis
Miguel Montero
Wandy Rodriguez
Brandon Morrow
Matt Wieters
Pablo Sandoval
Ricky Romero
Michael Stanton
Drew Stubbs
Gavin Floyd
Denard Span
Jonathan Broxton
Aaron Hill
Gio Gonzalez
Ricky Nolasco
James Shields
Josh Beckett
Hiroki Kuroda
Jordan Zimmermann
Adam Jones
Jorge De La Rosa
Ted Lilly
Gordon Beckham
Matt Thornton
Ike Davis
Joe Nathan
Jonathan Niese
Jose Tabata
Brian Matusz
Ty Wigginton
Ian Kennedy
Scott Baker
Dexter Fowler
Angel Pagan
Jhoulys Chacin
Joel Hanrahan
Derrek Lee
Craig Kimbrel
Rajai Davis
Logan Morrison
Ryan Raburn
Edinson Volquez
Coco Crisp
Chris Iannetta
Neil Walker
Sean Rodriguez
Tim Stauffer
Edwin Encarnacion
James McDonald
Seth Smith
Leo Nunez
Bud Norris
J.J. Hardy
Mike Morse
Nate McLouth
Kila Ka’aihue
Danny Espinosa
Homer Bailey
Alex Gordon
Jed Lowrie
Matt Joyce

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