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How to Prepare for a Fantasy Baseball Draft in 60 Minutes

What to do if life's priorities have gotten in the way of preparation

By

Real life tends to limit our fake existence as the owner, team president, general manager, scouting director and head of marketing.

Maybe you have a young son or daughter who has you watching so much "Sesame Street" you know Abby and Zoe by name (don't ask). Maybe your significant other thinks the ideal way to spend a night off is watching a Nicholas Sparks movie (don't tell). Maybe your buddy insists on watching every minute of March Madness at a local establishment (do tell).

Whatever the reason, here's a five-step way to prepare for your fantasy baseball draft in one hour.

1. Research Average Draft Positions

ESPN, Yahoo and other sites allow you to see at which pick other owners are drafting every player.

  • If you're in an ESPN.com league, click on the players tab on your league's home page, then go to "research." Once you're there, look for "ADP." The "%OWN" tab is also useful. If one of your early draft targets isn't owned in the vast majority of the ESPN leagues, your lack of free time might have caused you to miss something.
  • If you're in a Yahoo league, click on the players tab on your league's homepage. In the "Sort By" area, click on "Research" under the stats header. Once you filter your search, you'll see "Avg Pick." If you're surprised to see Albert Pujols at the top of the list, you might want to take the year off.

2. Find a Reliable Cheat Sheet

Scott Kendrick's about.com rankings are comprehensive, and ESPN's draft kit is useful.

3. Target Your First Three Picks

You won't have time to get too in-depth, but if you're in a 10- or 12-team mixed league, you can at least have a pretty good idea of many of the top 30 or 36 players.

Once you do a little digging, ask yourself two questions:

  • At which point in the first round am I drafting? If it's first, you don't have a decision. If it's sixth or seventh, you have to decide if you would rather have a stud young outfielder (Matt Kemp?) or the best pitcher in the game (Tim Lincecum). Quickly break down the top 10 or top 12, and look for your best options.
  • What is my second- and third-round strategy? If you take a hitter early, how long can you afford to wait on a pitcher? If you're in a standard 5x5 category league, Zack Greinke and CC Sabathia are ideal late second-round picks. If you take hitters back-to-back at the start, you might be looking at a best-case scenario of Dan Haren in Round 3.

4. Remember These Three Keys

  • Don't follow the crowd: There will be a run on closers and starting pitchers. That could be an ideal time to select a hitter.
  • One category won't signal your demise: The stolen-base specialists can be huge assets in rotisserie-style leagues, but you don't have to reach for one. If you're too late, go in another direction. Players such as Carlos Lee -- who probably couldn't outrun you out of the theater showing the Nicholas Sparks movie -- won't help you in steals, but he will in home runs, RBI and batting average.
  • Spend your in-draft time wisely: While everyone else is making fun of Owner A's sixth-round selection of Todd Helton in the chat room, you can use another browser tab to look up the statistical history of the best available players. If there's a specific player you want and you're not sure if you can afford to wait a round to take him, look at the rosters of the owners who are near you in the order. If Owners B and C both have a starting catcher and you're hoping to draft Kurt Suzuki, you can probably take an outfielder before you get a backstop.

5. Know Who Is Injured

Don't be "that guy" or "that girl" who drafts a player three rounds too early, somehow unaware of an offseason knee surgery or a spring-training elbow ailment. Unless you want to be the guy or girl everyone makes fun of in the chat room.

To avoid giving the other owners Internet ammunition, go to your league's home page before the draft. ESPN has a "health status" link on its players tab, and Yahoo's alerts (the newest updates have a red asterisk-resembling symbol on top of the yellow news graphic) are also helpful.

The above tips aren't the most ideal method of having a successful draft, but they will help the time-challenged among us at least have a chance. We can't say the same for the guys who have to deal with the aftermath of falling asleep 15 minutes into "Dear John."

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