Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
"You play to win the game," said former NFL head coach Herman Edwards at a long ago news conference. He was right - otherwise why do we keep score?
You scour the box scores and check the fantasy standings every day because you, too, play the game to win. I know you do, because it's the reason you came to this site and this fantasy piece entitled "Winning Fantasy Baseball Strategies."
Before the Draft
The No. 1 thing I can tell you is to do your homework. Everyone has a bead on what Albert Pujols and Troy Tulowitzki can do. However, if you come into this year's MLB draft and don't know the names Yu Darvish, Brett Lawrie, Zack Cozart, Devin Mesoraco and Bryce Harper, you have not come prepared to win your fantasy league.
Test out your theories on how the draft will go by playing in an online mock draft. This will give you insight into how the rest of the world rates players. The knowledge gleaned here will give you a better idea of when to draft a player. You may be able to get a player in a round later than you first expected or it may be necessary to draft your sleeper a round sooner than you would optimally like based on his perceived value by other fantasy owners.
Runs scored is an underrated category. It's been seen time and again that winning fantasy teams win runs scored. When you are scoring runs, it means you are getting on base, which likely helps batting average, slugging percentage or OPS depending upon which category your league uses. Make a plan to win this category.
At the Draft
Be flexible. The draft will never go exactly as you planned it out. Don't panic. That's why you did your homework - to allow you to change your strategy on the fly.
Do all the reading, make all the lists you want, but don't bring too much material to the draft. Rifling through millions of pages can disorient and confuse you. I prefer to come to the table with a maximum of two sheets of paper with my rankings of all available players.
Don't look for Wins, look for Ks and good WHIP (pitchers don't control wins - teams do). Look for pitchers who are difficult to hit - that's who you want in your rotation.
Don't always draft the "best player available." The pick is the one with the greatest difference between the player you draft and the next ranked player at his position.
Example: Assuming that the top three at each position have already been taken, while No. 4 TSN first baseman Joey Votto should have better numbers than No. 4 shortstop Jose Reyes, I would take Reyes before Votto because the difference between Reyes and No. 5 shortstop Starlin Castro should be more than the difference between Votto and No. 5 first baseman Mark Teixeira
After the Draft
Make note of who was bidding strongly on the players you bought or who groaned when you made a selection. Were they just bidding you up or did they have genuine interest? This will come in handy when it's time to trade a player.
Evaluate every opponent's draft performance, noting their team's strengths and weaknesses. Do the same to your team. When you find a team that has strength where you have weakness and weakness where you have strength, you have just found a trading partner. It's never too soon to approach him just to break the ice and prepare for a trade offer down the road.
Find a reliable place to get your updated information of who's hot, who's cooled off, who is playing injured and who is almost ready to come back from the disabled list. The Sports Network will be happy to supply you with all this information and more (shameless plug).