Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We still haven't played the first spring training game, but your fantasy baseball draft isn't far away. To help you we have gathered five things you should know before you make your first pick.
1) Don't pay too much attention to spring training. Except for injuries, there is nothing to be learned when your pitcher goes up against the Florida Southern lineup or a soon-to-be-sent-to-AA hitter.
Example - Kansas City Royals spring training "star," Luis Mendoza was 4-0 with a 0.47 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 19 1/3 IP, but was a non-factor for fantasy owners going 8-10 with an ugly 4.23 ERA and 1.42 WHIP during the regular season.
Likewise, three players led the majors with seven spring training homers. One of them was the "immortal" first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates - Matt Hague. He went homerless in 30 games and was optioned to Indianapolis in July after just 70 at-bats.
2) Don't look for Wins, look for Ks and good WHIP because pitchers don't control wins ... teams do. Look for guys who are difficult to hit - that's the guy you want in your rotation.
Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw led the NL in ERA (2.53) and WHIP (1.023), but only won 14 games last season. Don't be afraid to pick the 2011 NL Cy Young winner ahead of guys who collected more wins in 2012.
Similarly, if you only looked at wins, you would never choose Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, who has not earned more than 14 wins in any of the last three seasons yet has offered fantasy owners superior numbers.
3) Your next pick isn't the proverbial "best player available," it's the one with the greatest difference between the player you draft and the next ranked player at his position.
Using Yahoo's current preseason rankings, if you have the fourth pick in the draft you will be choosing between Yankees' second baseman Robinson Cano or Dodgers' outfielder Matt Kemp.
The decision on who to draft is not determined by which player is better. It is the answer to the question, "Is the difference between Cano and the next second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, more than the difference between Kemp and the best remaining outfielder, which in Yahoo rankings would be Andrew McCutchen?
4) The difference between the second-best catcher and the 12th-best catcher isn't enough to make me reach for a pick just to complete my starting lineup. If you can't get Buster Posey then you might as well wait until much later in the draft. Again, according to Yahoo, you can get Brian McCann (26 HR, 67 RBI), Mike Napoli (24 HR, 56 RBI), Jonathan Lucroy (.320, 12 HR, 58 RBI) or A.J. Pierzynski (.278, 27 HR, 77 RBI) in the 11th round or later.
Besides, they all tire in the second half anyway.
5) A closer on the worst team in baseball will still get you a high volume of saves opportunities.
The major league average for save opportunities last season was 59.9 and even the seven worst teams in baseball, who all failed to win 70 games, still averaged 56.4 save opportunities.