As we draw near to pitchers and catchers, it is probably a good time to begin a discussion of draft preparation. There are a variety of draft preparation topics to discuss, and, hopefully, Mike and I will be able to hit on one of them.
The topic I will discuss today is perhaps the most basic and most common sense element of draft preparation - know your league. Even if you are joining a brand new league, this instruction applies to you. Learning about the players in your league, and storing that information, will give you a tactical advantage from pre-auction trades through end of the year FAAB bids.
Every player has a style (much like a poker player or a chess player) and demonstrates certain tendencies. For example, I have played in leagues with guys who: generally category dump steals or saves; tend to keep players at value on freeze lists; take fliers on young guys over drafting the steady yet boring veteran; etc. and so on. Learning and knowing these tendencies is an excellent draft preparation tool.
Why is this important pre-auction? First, it gives you an advantage in pre-auctions trades. For example, my own tendency is to move non-profit players for value elsewhere (Jose Lopez springs to mind). If I know there is a player or players who like to fill the middle infield, even with guys at value or a few dollars over value, then I know I have a potential trade partner. If I know that there is a guy in love with picks, and his farm system is lean, I have a potential trade partner. Done well, you can get value for players you may not have kept and picks you may not have used, or for which you would have received lesser value.
Second, this knowledge helps develop some draft strategy via potential freeze lists. I start my preparation for the draft now by trying to identify each team's freeze list well in advance of the freeze date. It is an excellent exercise, and I highly recommend it, rather than waiting until rosters are frozen. This gives you a jump on the players that will be kept, the players that will be thrown back, and the amount of money chasing the available players in the draft (allowing you to calculate your inflation bids accordingly - an inflation primer is another discussion for another time).
Third, the knowledge you gain will be useful during the draft. Knowing what types of players your opponents like, when your opponents like to bid, whether your opponents are price enforcers, etc., is a valuable tool in organizing your list of players to call for auction. If you know a team has no closers, but the owner has had a history of two closers for years, and you need to clear some money out of the room, you know the time is then to throw that closer out there.
How do you learn these tendencies. The answer is almost too simplistic - talk to your opponents! Don't rely solely on e-mail. Don't bury yourself in your papers at the draft. Talk, talk, talk. Observe bidding habits, observe freeze habits, watch trading habits. All of this information will give you a good advantage over other players.