Practice makes perfect. It’s time to get intimate with the 2024 fantasy baseball inventory. In other words, it’s Mock Drafting Szn!

As part of my preparation for this piece, I asked my Twitter, I mean my X followers where they go to mock draft. I did this knowing most of my followers eschew mock drafting for lower stakes “real drafts” to help prepare for their impending high stakes leagues. I have dabbled in that arena, and a decent cross-section of my followers are avid high stakes players.

Best Ball leagues have also become a popular proxy for mock drafting, especially if the prime purpose is getting to know the player pool.

Something my high stakes followers fail to comprehend is for every one person playing fantasy baseball for profit, there are thousands playing for mostly fun (and perhaps a little profit).

Sure, mock drafting has shortcomings. Participants leave early and go on auto. Some try out wacky strategies. So what! Other than simply having fun drafting, if you go in with a plan, and understand future drafts aren’t always going to mimic a mock, you can make mock drafting your own laboratory. Each mock is an experiment.

For what it’s worth, Fantasy Pros was the overwhelming choice to do mock drafts, with a few shout outs for Fantrax.

Here are some suggestions to make mock drafting a useful experience.

If possible, try to join a mock draft with a format and rules resembling those of the league for which you are trying to prepare, ideally on the same site of your league. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but there are customizable mock draft hosting sites.

If you know your draft spot, try to mock from the same spot, but don’t assume the picks will be the same as a mock or two. Of course, the key in any draft is going with the flow, taking what the room gives you. Still, it helps to get a feel for when runs may occur.

If you don’t know your order, mock from as many positions as possible. Again, each draft takes on its own personality, but experiencing different scenarios from different spots will get you ready to react quickly when you’re on the clock when it counts.

Force yourself out of your comfort zone. Everyone has their favorites to break out. Of course, when the draft matters, you want to roster many of “your guys”. While you’ll want to assemble a team or two the way you would in the real thing, fading your favorites accomplishes a couple of important things. First, you’re going to get sniped, so by not drafting the players, you’re pushed to look at alternatives. The more time you spend doing this in mocks, the less flustered you’ll be when the person before you drafts the player you wanted. The other reason for eschewing your favorites is you observe where others will draft him since not every format has a reliable ADP to use as a guide.

Another means of getting out of your comfort zone is changing up your pet strategy. If you wait on closers, try taking one early. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the team build, keeping in mind it may not be the same in future drafts. If you routinely draft an elite closer, then don’t. Wait and judge if you like the overall roster better. The same idea can be applied to catchers; change your usual approach.

One of my favorite tactics in a mock is building my starting pitching in a few different ways. Too many approach pitching with the mindset, “I’m not taking a pitcher until the Xth round.” Or sometimes, “I want X starters in the first Y rounds”.

My mantra is, “Draft the pitcher, not the round.” This will be a topic of a future article, but in brief, I organize the starting pitchers in tiers and map out how many pitchers I want from each tier. I don’t care when the room is drafting pitching. It could be earlier or later than my rankings. When my targeted tier is being drafted, I jump in and get what I need from each group. I’ll have multiple pathways drawn up. In a real draft, the trick is deciding which option will be optimal for that particular flow of picks. By mocking using the different pathways, I have gained experience with each process. Again, what transpired in this mock may not repeat later, but the more times you experience different scenarios, the better prepared you’ll be for your actual league(s).

This is another topic that will be broached down the line, but in rotisserie-scoring, don’t worry about meeting predetermined category targets. If there are 10 people in a draft, all 10 will “win the draft” by their numbers. Picks are biased to their rankings. Trying to win the draft is counterproductive to winning the league. Don’t force a high stolen base guy with no power onto your roster just to have your team finish higher in the mock standings. Choose the most productive players. You have over 26 weeks to manage the categories. By adhering to this philosophy in mocks, you’ll be more comfortable with it when the clock is ticking for real.

Here are some suggestions for how to review and analyze a mock, or even a real draft or auction. The industry leagues are about to embark on their drafting season, with several of the drafts covered by SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. The first is the Mixed LABR Draft (League of Alternative Baseball Reality), followed by a couple of Tout Wars drafts. For auction aficionados, the LABR auction will be the first weekend in March while the Tout Wars auctions will be St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Be it a draft or auction, don’t focus on individual draft spots or prices. Look at things in terms of groups or tiers. How much does it cost for an elite closer? When are the elite closers drafted? Ask the same question for the different starting pitcher tiers.

Look for the breaks in the positional tiers. Color-coded draft boards are best for this. Shortstop is a position where this may occur. Look for the spot where there is a long gap between when players at a position are drafted. The point of the draft may not be the same every time, but the players in each tier are usually similar. If there is a position or two with a big drop while others have a consistent inventory available throughout the draft, a tie could go to the position with the decline since there will be options at the other spot down the line.

Identify the different strategies used by the drafters and gauge the results. Is there a team build you like the most? If possible, do a mock with that strategy. Maybe you’ll like the results more than your normal approach.

With due respect to my high stakes brethren, mock drafts are not a categorical waste of time. Other than the fact some of us simply enjoy drafting, if mocks are treated as a laboratory, they are a great way to prepare for real leagues.

Todd Zola is an award-winning fantasy baseball writer and 2020 inductee into the Fantasy Sports Writers Hall of Fame. He's the content provider for the 2024 Fantasy Baseball Index Draft Kit, available now. To purchase, click HERE.