Welcome to the final Tout Table of the 2022 season. On behalf of all the Touts, thanks for your patronage. Don’t worry, with a regular off season ahead, we’ll be back with content before you know it. In the meantime, we asked:
Aside from work responsibilities, what do you have planned for 2023 draft prep?
Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): Not a thing! My strength as a player/drafter is contrarianism. I see what you all are doing, and then I develop a plan to counter the most popular approaches. Sometime around January, I’ll reengage with draft planning. I’ll mostly write fiction between now and then. It’s actually important that I don’t do anything more than basic player analysis early in the offseason or else I’m apt to get anchored to inefficient plans.
Eric Cross (Fantrax, @EricCross04): I’m going to be doing a lot of reflecting over the next month or two, seeing where my strengths and weaknesses were in 2022 and how I can improve areas of weakness for next season. Also going to be doing more player analysis to try a form a comprehensive plan on deeper sleepers for Best Balls, Draft & Holds, etc.
Ray Murphy (BaseballHQ, @RayHQ): With all the rules changes/strategy implications, I’m going to actively be looking for some places where I can stake out a contrarian opinion. There are a ton of smart people in this industry, but I do feel like there is a bit of a crowd-herding element in play, where a direction gets set and a lot of people follow said direction. As the game continues to change, I’m going to seek some places where I think the crowd is maybe not following the right path, and look to take advantage. (And I wrote this before reading Brad’s response above!)
Ian Kahn (The Athletic, @IanKahn4): In so many ways, the preparation for the draft is my favorite part of playing the game. My plan is to take a week off after the last game of the regular season, and then start to dive in on the players. First look will be at the guys who underperformed. Is it a Josh Donaldson end of the road, or a Garrett Whitlock… get back on that horse. Either way, preparation is everything.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): I’m not at all happy with my finishes over the past few seasons. so I am going to (publicly) dissect my drafts and in-season management as well as the teams winning the leagues in which I didn’t, hopefully narrowing down what I am doing most wrong.
Chris Blessing (Baseball HQ, @C_Blessing): I’m back to the drawing board already. My last two seasons of drafts have featured my worst finishes, outside 1 big keeper finish. My rosters have seemingly been at a disadvantage moving into the first month of the season. My success has been the identification of sleepers outside the Top 250. My weakness has been filling my rosters from the 3rd to 10th round with subpar performers. My goal is to concentrate, sometime in December once my off-season writing work is done, on correcting my drafting failures.
Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): The goal in every draft is to find the places/stats/positions etc. that are undervalued. Brad and Ray (may have) called it “contrarian” opinions/approaches above, but simply – it is finding where the value lies. If your entire league pushes up elite closers, you may find 2nd tier closers the more accretive investment, etc. The trick is to study the current market well, do your best predict where the market will be, and then compare that to where you personally value players to seek out pockets of value (I sometimes refer to them as “hotspots”). The first thing I will do is to review what worked in 2022, why, and whether it will continue in 2023. Second, I plan to work on the 2023 ATC Projections which provides the projected future value base. Lastly, is to overlay the projected players values on top of the market view to find the optimal 2023 strategy.
Nick Pollack (Pitcher List, @PitcherList): Reviewing each team’s options and possibly fill-ins for their fifth rotation spots through the year – being aware of all options can make for some sneaky picks late in drafts. On top of that, reviewing video on lesser-known arms and assessing ceiling/floor well – is this guy destined to be a 4.50 ERA arm or was that sub 4.00 ERA real?
Rudy Gamble (Razzball, @RudyGamble): I typically take a 3 month sabbatical / mental break from baseball and start anew in January. I am considering starting earlier to try and take advantage of market inequity in Draft & Hold leagues in November/December. When 2023 hits, I will do my standard draft prep (building projections, determining draft paths) and spend more time trying to identifying the landmines that can sink a draft (looking at you Jose Berrios!)
Seth Trachtman (NBC Sports Edge, @sethroto): I’ve developed a successful schedule of assessing all 30 farm systems, rating every player who made an MLB appearance the previous season, and preparing my projections for 2023 by Christmas. Then it’s time for some NFBC Draft Champions slow drafts to test and adjust my projections and rankings until spring training.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): I typically do a post-mortem of my teams and decision making (both draft and every FAAB period) before going to the First Pitch (Arizona Fall League) and try to get some takeaways and thoughts about next season strategy (zig where others zag–when possible, but not too much–I KNOW!) and also try to identify players that I think should have better results the following season for “reasons.” Then I wait for projection systems to do their thing and I compare the umpteen lists from Oct/Nov to those projection systems and make further lists. Then I create some draft paths, do some mocks (both drafts and auctions) and try to adjust as FAs sign and injuries occur and other “things” become known.
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): I write myself a letter about what worked in the season and didn’t, then I put it away with a Google calendar alert to open it up on January, to use when I start figuring out how I want to go in 2023. One thing for sure is going to be digging into minor-league guys this year. It looks like their value is going to go up because of CBA changes and the resulting willingness of teams to promote top performers earlier than they might have in previous seasons.
Greg Jewett (Fantasy Alarm, @gjewett9): Get back into my process, not buying into the mob mentality. My strength lies in in-season moves, so maximizing drafts will help accomplish my goals for next season. As many alluded to already, determining which players in the minors will receive pathways towards playing time, not platoon roles, along with discerning how stolen bases may tick up next season will be necessary. One week off, then back to the grind. Be well everyone.
Ryan Bloomfield (BaseballHQ, @RyanBHQ): It’s sooo tempting to dive right into 2023 prep that we (or judging from the other responses, maybe just I?) forget to look back on what went right/wrong in 2022. I’m guilty of skipping ahead—and perhaps contributing to the Baseball Forecaster every October is a symptom of this—so I’m writing down 5-10 things that I did wrong *with my process* in 2022 before allowing myself to do kind of 2023 player projections. I emphasize process because I’m not sure how valuable it is to dive into each draft picks or FAAB pick-up; it can lead to some unnecessary overreactions. Just focus on the general process and improve that as much as possible.
Justin Mason (Friends with Fantasy Benefits, Fangraphs, Fantasy Alarm, @JustinMasonFWFB): I have already begun my 2023 prep with ranks and working on my draft guide! I also have a new project in the works that I’m not ready to announce quite yet. The Sleeper and the Bust and FWFB will continue to record all year as well! No rest for the wicked!
Derek VanRiper (The Athletic, @DerekVanRiper): I’ve got nothing new on the schedule at the moment, but I have found that I am better prepared for everything later by going through a few more Draft and Hold leagues in November, December and January, so the plan is to add 2-3 more early leagues to continue down that path.
Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, The Process, @jeffwzimmerman): Writing at FanGraphs and updating The Process is more than full-time work.
Lenny Melnick (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @LennyMelnick): Doing DAILY BASEBALL Podcast EVERY Day Until Opening Day!
Scott Engel (Rotoballer, @scotteTheKing): Reading as many player profiles and projections from people I respect, many of them from Tout Wars. Once January hits, it is major prep time for me. I also talk to people inside MLB to see what they may be seeing and hearing
Shelly Verougstraete (Dynasty Guru, @ShellyV_643): I always say that I will take time away but I know my curiosity will get the best of me and I will find some FanGraphs blackhole to fall into. I also like to watch previous season games. I’ll take a starter or two and pick a few starts to watch to get a feel of their game.
Sara Sanchez (bleedcubbieblue.com, @BCB_Sara): Like most people above, I’m going to do a pretty systemic review of my drafts and preseason rankings compared to actual outcomes to see where I hit and missed this season. Sometimes that is luck, or a fluke with injuries, but often times I find useful information I can apply to next season’s draft/prep. The most unpredictable variable for next season that I’m looking at are the rules changes coming down the pike and I’ll be playing around with different ways to take the data we have from the minors there and apply it to MLB. I’m also just really looking forward to attending First Pitch Arizona for the first time and getting my eyes on some of the top prospects in the Arizona Fall League while finally meeting so many of the Touts and other fantasy friends in person.
Bret Sayre (Baseball Prospectus, @BretSayreBP): My plan is usually the same each year. In October, enjoy the postseason and watch baseball completely free of worry (except when I’m watching the Mets, of course). From November to January, I focus on my dynasty leagues and prepping for those offseason drafts, since they generally happen earlier in the cycle. Then, in February, I take that dynasty research and start applying it towards the redraft leagues I’m in. I find that when I work backwards from the long-term to the short-term, I pick up on some smaller things that I might not otherwise.
Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotobuzzGuy): Nothing new on the MLB draft prep horizon. What I plan to do is find more coverage for football at Fantasy Alarm so I can actually dedicate more of my time to in-season MLB management. Yeesh!
Rob Leibowitz (Rotoheaven, @rob_leibowitz): Get in the spreadsheet weeds the sooner the better. The closer I am to the play pool, the more confidently I draft. This year embraced higher risk/reward a bit more than usual and I had my successes and failures, so analyze which of those worked out and why and which did not.
Jason Collette (Rotowire, @jasoncollette): Doing Win/Lesson reports across my leagues I have some leagues where I did extremely well offensively and others where I resembled the 1899 Cleveland Spiders despite a budgeted emphasis on hitting in every league this year. The new curveballs of the running game and its impact on both steals as well as pitchers who are notoriously slow to the plate and the overall impact to ratios needs extra attention this winter in working on projections and rankings.
Alan Harrison (The Fantasy Fix, @TheFantasyFix): Enjoying the postseason along with some college football is typically my first course of action. Once the World Series is over, I’ll typically start diving into the pitching data since that’s where I usually like spending the most time. Then I’ll follow by sorting through each category one at a time to learn as much as possible. Rinse and repeat for the hitters and that’s how my ’23 draft prep will start.
Ron Shandler (RonShandler.com, @RonShandler): Wait… what?? Draft prep is different from work responsibilities? You mean, I could have been having FUN? After 37 years, why didn’t anyone tell me that?
Tim Heaney (TheGameDay.com, @TeamHeaney): After being jealous of all my industry friends who’ll be at First Pitch Arizona and grinding through NFL and other work things, I’d like to return to creating my own player projections. Many fine minds in this roundtable are some of the best in the game at that endeavor, and I miss the firsthand knowledge that’s gained by applying formulas and assessing data output. It’s not an activity that one can just jump into, but establishing a process of statistical and game-theory analysis helps drafters set a rational baseline and approach to at least players that stump us.
Zach Steinhorn (CreativeSports2, @zachsteinhorn): I like to take some time off from the daily grind so aside from participating in a couple of mock drafts, I usually don’t start my prep until January. I’ll then begin to read as many articles and listen to as many podcasts as possible to get a general sense of how my industry mates value various players before fully developing my own opinions about those players. The contrarian approach that Brad mentioned can be very effective and I often follow it as well. There’s nothing wrong with agreeing with the consensus opinion but identifying the players who you consider to be undervalued should be your top priority.
Chris Clegg (Fantrax, @RotoClegg): Over the next few weeks I will be breaking down every league I was in and identifying what went right and what went wrong. Looking at the biggest weaknesses and strengths for each team and looking at where I can improve. My Tout Wars showing was far from impressive and I have already identified why the season was a disappointment. After really digging into each team, it will be time to look ahead to 2023 and begin working on player projections and rankings.
Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): One of my focuses will be to try and identify the next in line guy for franchises. Who will be the undrafted player who is called up in May and has an immediate impact on both his team and the fantasy season.