Friday, February 22, 2008

Spring Training and the Mild Insanity of the Fantasy Baseball Fan

The 6 weeks from the middle of February through the end of March make up an exciting time for the baseball fan and player alike. Everyone's got a shot (yes, even Kansas City), everybody's got reason to be hopeful, and it's not all about the Red Sox and Yankees...yet. You get to hear about all the little position battles throughout the league between the grizzled veterans and the cocky youngsters. You learn the names of some of your team's young up-and-coming hurlers who are getting a shot at the bullpen (but will probably start in triple-A), and you get to look at some statistics that mean absolutely nothing, but will get you reaching for the stars.

Yep, it's great to be a baseball fan during spring training...well, unless you're into fantasy baseball. For a fantasy baseball fan, spring training makes you feel like Santa Claus, marking your lists with "nices" and "naughties." And every day brings a new story about that guy you were watching, or a guy you didn't realize you should be watching. It's hell. You can read a hundred things a day every day from February 15th through March 30th and still not know half of the ups and downs from the baseball exhibition season.

So here's my recommendation: Don't. Listen, the stuff that happens in spring training tends to have only a minimal impact on fantasy baseball. 95% of all starting lineup spots are already set, as well as 80% of starting rotations. And really, do you think you should be that concerned about who the Reds' fifth starter is going to be? Is that the guy you want on your fantasy team? Keeper leagues obviously rely a little more on these battles, as they will sometimes involve stud prospects, but if he's truly a stud prospect, he'll get to the majors eventually anyways. And come on, keeper leagues are more serious on all levels, so you should be used to this kind of stuff.

The one exception, of course, is each team's closer situation. Every year there are a few bullpens whose hierarchy remains undetermined until midway through spring training or later. Remember? Jonathan Papelbon was supposed to be in the rotation last year. But that information can change daily anyways. Your best bet is to check out all the closer battles during the days leading up to your draft and head into your draft with the most current data you can get your hands on. They're mostly a crapshoot anyways (think Joel Pineiro from last year), but as long as you don't use an early pick on someone in a questionable situation, you won't come away looking like a fool. That, of course, is the value of the high end guys (Putz, Papelbon, Nathan, K-Rod); you can draft them with the confidence that they won't get shelved in spring training.

But if you can afford it, if you can delay your fantasy baseball research just a little while, you really should. It's a great time of year to be a fan of baseball. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go update Josh Fogg on my list. He just signed with the Reds, and will be competing for that 5th starter spot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good words.

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