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Fantasy Baseball: How to Hit a Home Run in the First Round of Your Draft

Five ways to make sure you select the best available player in Round 1

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Does your fantasy baseball league draw names out of a hat to determine its draft order?

Do you reward your last-place teams from the year before by giving them the top picks the following year?

Do you let your host site -- ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, etc. -- randomly determine your draft order?

Do you call Tim McCarver and allow him to voice his opinion on what your league should and shouldn't do? (We're sure he'd love that.)

Regardless of your method, finding out at which spot you will be selecting in your fantasy baseball draft is one of the more exciting times of the season.

You might begin with the hope of getting Albert Pujols, but be left with the idea that you should select Roy Halladay or Felix Hernandez.

Whether you are selecting second or 12th in Round 1, there are five rules you should follow. (If you're picking first, there is one rule: Pick

Pujols. Ask questions later.)

1. Rank your top 10 or 12 players

If you're the type who ranks 200 or 300 players before you draft, this is easy. If you're the type who follows the experts' rankings, do yourself a quick favor: Make your own first-round rankings, depending on the size of your league, then let the experts guide you from there.

This is the one round in which you have a pretty good idea of whom you will be drafting. If you're first, you know you get Pujols. If you're second, you can choose between Hanley Ramirez and Carlos Gonzalez. If you're in the middle of the first round, you can narrow it down to the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Carl Crawford and Troy Tulowitzki.

With that said ...

2. Break down the numbers

If you're set on drafting the Rockies' Gonzalez early in the first round, you should know he was an average player on the road in 2010 (.289, eight homers, 41 RBI) and hit 26 of his 34 home runs at Coors Field.

If you're not convinced Crawford is worth a pick in the middle of Round 1, you should be aware that not only did he bat a combined .306 in 2009 and '10, he averaged 54 steals and 17 homers in that span. In 2010, he even hit for some power -- 19 homers and 90 RBI. He merits top-six consideration entering his first year in Boston.

You don't need to memorize all the stats, but should have the pros and cons of each first-round candidate. And once you know your first-round slot, you should be able to narrow your top pick to three or four possibilities.

3. Look ahead

As we said, the first round is the one time you have a concrete idea of three or four names from whom you will be selecting. Because of that, you need to consider the implications of your selection.

  • If you are sold on Crawford at No. 6 overall, you should be confident that passing on Tulowitzki is the right move, knowing there is a big drop between the top two shortstops in 2011 (Ramirez and Tulowitzki) and No. 3 (Jose Reyes).
  • If you select Halladay first, preferably in the No. 10 range, have a plan to beef up your hitting in Rounds 2 and 3.
  • If you select Gonzalez over Ramirez early in the first round, consider that you are passing on an elite shortstop and you could get stuck with the likes of Stephen Drew as an everyday infielder.

4. Know the weak positions

In 2011, second base is pretty strong, which gives you added incentive to take Halladay over Robinson Cano late in the first round.

Shortstop isn't strong, either, which increases the value of Ramirez and Tulowitzki. Same goes for third base, though we wouldn't take the top player at that position, Evan Longoria, until Round 2.

The outfield and starting pitching positions are almost always deep, allowing you to load up there in later rounds if you go with an infielder first.

5. The bottom line

Take the best player.

As long as you consider the implications of the pick and are confident Player X gives you the best chance for success, you should take him.

And if Tim McCarver tells you to take a catcher first, hang up.

2011 FANTASY BASEBALL RANKINGS: Catchers, First basemen, Second basemen, Shortstops, Third basemen, Designated hitters, Outfielders, Starting pitchers, Closers, Top 100 overall

MORE RANKINGS: Your guide to all of our 2011 fantasy baseball rankings, your guide to the top keepers in fantasy baseball

More fantasy baseball tips:

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  5. Fantasy Baseball Tips
  6. Fantasy Baseball -- How to Make the Best First-Round Pick in Fantasy Baseball

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