A quick Google search for Fantasy Baseball Rankings returns 21 million results. There is one from Yahoo! and FantasyPros, ESPN, Rotoworld, even one from the good folks here at Crackerjacks. Everyone has one and there are draft rankings everywhere. So how do you decided which one is best for you, and what do you do with it?
You need to understand that Draft Rankings is that they are not one-size-fits all. Each list is composed by some combination of either last year’s fantasy performance, pre-season projections for 2013, and the authors gut-feeling about particular players. Generally all these factors got thrown into a pot, mixed around, and then the author will rank the players accordingly. These lists are usually comprised with a standard 5×5 league in mind, so if your league has different or additional scoring categories, you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
Also, keep in mind, especially if you are using the draft ranking provided by the host of your fantasy league, that all of your competitors have easy access to the exact same list, so if you are a slave to the pre-draft rankings you will be predictable and the savvier GMs in your league will use that to your detriment.
So what can you do? Make your own list.
Find a couple of rankings that you feel strongly about and merge them together, making adjustments where needed to adapt the rankings to your specific league conditions. Roster restrictions, scoring categories, league types and draft types will all affect the value of players going into your draft. If your league lumps all three outfield positions into one position, then there are suddenly three-times as many outfielders in the draft pool than there are players in any other position (besides pitchers). In those types of leagues, catchers, shortstops and second basement become more valuable because teams generally only have one regular player at each of those positions, so positional scarcity becomes an issue. In that case, you would want to give middle infielders a bump up in your draft rankings.
Similarly, if your league uses On-Base Percentage (OBP) instead of batting average (Avg) as a scoring category, suddenly guys like Josh Willingham become more valuable as the .366 OBP he sported last year was well above league average, while his batting average, .260, was below average.
Once you’ve finished ranking and shuffling players on your list, I would recommend that you then make one more list. This list will have all of the players broken down into position groups and ranked within that group. That way you have an idea, as the draft goes on, how many of the top players in those areas are still available, and you will be able to quickly spot any runs on a particular position that could quickly damage your ability to have a quality producer.
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you might want to enhance your position player lists by grouping the players into tiers. I will generally put players into three tiers; Elite, All-Star, Everybody Else. The idea here is that the value you gain from a player in a specific tier is not drastically different from any other player in that tier.
Maybe you have two outfielders in your elite category (Ryan Braun and Mike Trout), but then you have six more players listed as All-Stars (Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton and Carlos Gonzalez). There are certainly other talented outfielders, but as you get deeper into the draft, you will need to be focused on building a well balanced team, so a players particular skillset will become more valuable than where they show up on your ranking sheet, and they will generally be at least one level below the elite and all-star players you have already identified.
So get out there, have fun with some pre-draft Fantasy Rankings, go wild and rank all 750 players you think might make opening day rosters, just make sure the list you use is your own.