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By TIM McLEOD

For most of us, another fantasy baseball season has already begun. Of course, for some of us it simply never ends.

The countless hours of research commence as we begin to assemble our best laid plans for the 2008 season. We rank, re-rank, start listing all those deep sleepers and scour our favourite sites for all the latest scoops that might give us that “edge” we are all looking for.

Do you realize that in a standard 12-team league, you are looking at pouring all those hours of hard work into approximately 20 minutes of actual player selections on draft day?

The annual draft is the vehicle that leads us into another season and is without a doubt the key to a successful season. You won’t win your league championship at the draft, but you can sure lose it. A large portion of your baseball season hinges on less than one half hour of very crucial decision making.

Over the years, one of the biggest problems I’ve been privy to is not in the ranking or in the research, but the actual mechanics of the draft itself. If you want to be successful, not only is the ability to analyze important, but also the actual mechanics of the draft vehicle itself. To this end, I’m a huge proponent of the practice or mock draft.

A typical 12-team draft with the standard 23 positions and a six-player team bench, might take all of three hours to complete and then you have the next six months to deal with the repercussions. Why, after spending countless hours researching, would you want to stumble through the draft when the opportunities are there to prevent that from occurring?

Work on the actual process of queuing up players and spotting those trends and unique situations that tend to arise during a draft. When that first run on third base occurs, how do you react? See what the world is up to before it passes you by.

We all formulate plans and strategies and the opportunity to actually see how they unravel before you sit down for your league draft is a most invaluable tool. It is much easier to test them and familiarize yourself with the draft mechanics before that first draft, compared to when you’re scrambling to find that sleeper in the 12th round with 20 seconds left on the clock.

I have spent many live drafts practicing the strategies that Roto players today can have access to in a matter of hours. Take advantage of those opportunities to make yourself into a complete and well-rounded player.

Commencing January 27 at 8 p.m. EST, and every Sunday evening for the following five weeks, I’d like to invite all our readers to a Mock Draft over at mockdraftcentral.com. The format will be a 15-team mixed 5×5 league, and it will be set up as RotoRob’s Regulars. Come on over and practice, share some thoughts and ideas, and become that top notch drafter, a skill that will lead you onto victory for the 2008 season.

Like what you see? Come visit our fantasy sports analysis blog ( http://www.RotoRob.com ) for daily content. Recent posts include an article describing the experiences one of our writers had with his press pass ; the 2007 RotoRob Football Awards  ; and the most recent installment of  Ice Chips, our weekly fantasy hockey column, this week looking at the Ryan Smyth injury.


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