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4/7/2014 5:23 P.M. ET

Mini Fantasy Game brings daily excitement

Understanding long-term value can help yield prizes via free contest

The Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com from DraftKings is live, and the early turnout has been remarkable. You can read more about the one-day fantasy baseball contest right here, but the best way to learn is to jump right in, playing for free and winning prizes. One of the prizes available is a trip to the All-Star Game.

Last week, we discussed one of the most important aspects of DraftKings daily fantasy baseball -- the salary cap. As in any market that implements a cap on expenditures, the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com from DraftKings is all about identifying value. You need to not only uncover talented players who are likely to excel on a given day, but you need to find them at the right price. Mike Trout is a clear automatic start in season-long formats. But in the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com from DraftKings, not so much. It's all about how a player's expected production matches up with his salary -- the greater the cost, the less flexibility you'll have to add other talented players to your lineup.

But here's a little secret about predicting player performances from day to day: it's really hard. That doesn't mean you can't win, of course, because projecting stats is a challenge for everyone. It's difficult because even though baseball is quite predictable across the course of a full season, there's a whole lot of variance on the daily level.

One of the tricks for those playing in the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com from DraftKings is to avoid trying to predict wild swings in production -- primarily the result of variance -- and to emphasize long-term trends. Trout's nightly production will fluctuate dramatically throughout the year, but across the course of time, it will stabilize. On any given night, he's probably most likely to hit somewhere close to those "true" numbers.

If you filled out a March Madness bracket, you were faced with decisions that invoke an understanding of probability. You might have known that, because there are four games for each seed, at least one No. 13 seed was likely to take down a No. 4 seed. But if you're predicting games on the individual level, you'd never expect a No. 13 seed to beat a No. 4 seed. The most likely outcome is that the favorite will win.

Likewise, even though we know there will be games when Trout will get a hit every time he steps to the plate, we'd never predict that he would do that in an individual game. Matchups are, of course, critical to player success -- and we'll dive into those in another lesson. But it's important to remember that due to the variance inherent to the game over short periods of time, it's best to start with a foundation of long-term stats and adjust for the matchup, rather than vice versa.

Remember, the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com from DraftKings is free to play. The top-2 nightly winners of the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com from DraftKings will receive 30-day MLB.TV Premium subscriptions. And even if you don't win, you still win -- when you play the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com from DraftKings on any given day, you unlock free entries into three separate DraftKings contests: the MLB.com Regular Season Tickets Contest, the MLB.com All-Star Game Contest and the MLB.com World Series Contest.

Prizes range from two tickets to a regular-season Major League game of your choosing to two tickets, lodging and airfare to the 2014 World Series.

Jonathan Bales contributes DraftKings-related content to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.