DIY fantasy draft: Tips for creating hitter projections

Follow these 5 steps to build a do-it-yourself list and make better decisions when on the clock

DIY fantasy draft: Tips for creating hitter projections

The majority of fantasy baseball owners are content to head into their drafts with projections and rankings from popular websites. Those who want to take that route can have a terrific draft experience, and they would be wise to access the MLB.com Player Preview prior to draft day. But for owners who want to truly understand their player pool, there is no substitute for creating personal stat projections for the coming season. This is an incredibly valuable process, as it will give the owner a deeper understanding of why each player falls into a certain spot on the rankings sheet. Starting a projections file can be an intimidating process, but owners can create a sensible set of projections by following a few simple steps.

Pitcher-projection tips are available here.

Step 1 -- At-bats

In order to collect counting stats, players need to be in the big league lineup. Here are some factors to consider when making an at-bat projection for each player.

• How many at-bats has the player collected in recent seasons?
• Does the player have splits vs. lefties or righties that could lead to a decrease in playing time?
• Did the player's team make any roster changes that could affect his playing time?
• Has the player been especially injury-prone or durable?
• Is the player expected to switch to a drastically different spot in the batting order?
• Did the player experience a notable change in his walk rate?
• Is the player expected to fill a different role on a new team?

Step 2 -- Home runs

Home run totals have dipped in recent years, which has caused fantasy owners to chase power like never before. Here are some factors to consider when making a home run projection.

• How many home runs has the player hit in recent seasons?
• Based on the previously determined at-bat projections, is the player expected to have more or fewer chances to hit home runs?
• Does the player's age indicate that his power could be in a growth or decline phase?
• Has the player posted an atypical homer-to-fly-ball rate in recent seasons?
• Has the player shown a recent trend for hitting more fly balls?
• How homer-friendly is the player's home ballpark?

Step 3 -- Batting average

Fantasy owners have a tendency to focus on counting stats, but the batting-average category is a valuable one because it is very hard to manipulate during the season. Here are some factors to consider when making a batting-average projection.

• What was the player's batting average across the past few seasons?
• Has the player recently displayed an increase or decrease in contact rate, walk rate or strikeout rate?
• Did the player post an abnormal BABIP (batting average on balls in play) last season?
• Did the player recently display a change in the way he regularly puts the ball into play (fly balls, line drives, ground balls)?
• How hitter-friendly is the player's home park?

Step 4 -- Stolen bases

Fantasy squads collect fewer steals than any other counting stat, which makes speedy players valuable. Here are some factors to consider when making a stolen-base projection.

• How many bases has the player swiped in recent seasons?
• Based on the previously determined at-bat and batting-average projections, is the player expected to have more or fewer chances to steal bases in the coming season?
• Does the player's age indicate that his speed could be in decline?
• Did the player's team switch to a manager with a different base-stealing philosophy?
• Does the player's recent stolen-base success rate suggest that he could have the green light to run more or less often in the coming season?
• Is the player expected to switch to a drastically different spot in the batting order?

Step 5 -- RBIs and runs

The final step is to project RBIs and runs, as they will be the culmination of the player's individual performance and his team's performance. Here are some factors to consider.

• How many RBIs and runs has the player produced in recent seasons?
• Based on the previously determined at-bat, home run and batting-average projections, is the player expected to be involved with more or fewer runs in the coming season?
• Is the player expected to switch to a drastically different spot in the batting order?
• Is the player's surrounding lineup (especially those who are close to the player in the batting order) expected to be significantly better or worse than last season?

By moving through the above criteria with each player, a fantasy owner will gain a deeper understanding of the value of each potential team member. Owners who have detailed knowledge of the player pool will be more relaxed on draft day, and they will be able to make better decisions when they are on the clock. Creating personalized player projections is a sizable task, but those who start the process early will find it to be an enjoyable venture that is well worth the extra time.

Fred Zinkie is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.