Drafting a Fantasy Baseball team is an art form. Just like a painter has his brush, every fantasy enthusiast has his strategy. I am a self-proclaimed “Save stat Picasso”, my strategy may look ramshackle at first, but by the end of the season it is truly a work of art. There are many strategy’s one can muster up in order to dominate a ten category fantasy league. Keying in on Saves, Strikeouts, Wins (for Pitchers) and Home Runs, Runs and Runs Batted In (for Batters) is my forte. This is just one of many strategies where keying in on 6 out the 10 stat categories gives me a statistical advantage to win more categories over the course of the season, inevitable punching my ticket into the fantasy playoffs.
When drafting a fantasy baseball team however there are many things you must consider. Having a plan ahead of time is always key to a winning team. You must decide which categories you will be keying in on. Each player has a certain stat they excel at. In a standard Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball league there are five categories for batters and five for pitchers. Batters are given numerical values for Runs (R), Runs Batted In (RBI), Home Runs (HR), Steals (S), and Batting Average (BA). Pitchers are given numerical values for Wins (W), Strikeouts (K), Saves (S), Earned Run Average (ERA) and Walks /Hits per Inning (WHIP).With 22 players on a standard team there are many different strategies that can be explored.
Two different strategies for drafting hitters can be either angling towards steals, runs and batting average or picking players with higher home run, runs and RBI totals. Finding value in a draft is more important than choosing your strategy ahead of time. During the first five rounds you should make a run on infielders. This entails drafting a Shortstop (SS), Second Basemen (2B), First Basemen (1B), Third Basemen (3B) and Catcher (C) first. Doing so early on will help you find value at other positions after the fifth round. This also allows you to grab more talent from the shallow pool of infield players. The bevy of Pitchers and Outfielders heavily outweighs the risk of taking infielders in the first five rounds. After the fifth round is where draft strategy really comes into play. I don’t go into a draft with a set mindset on who I’m going to draft… Given I have my guys who I am impartial to (not proud of many; due to their lack of production Derek Jeter ). I instead go into a draft seeking value where I can find it. I always know there will be outfielders to choose from but I keep in mind which guy will help in steals or which guy will help hit home runs. For example if I choose to draft Jacoby Ellsbury, I will also look to draft guys with his particular skill set in order to boost my production in stats similar to his (i.e. Brett Gardner, Billy Hamilton etc.). This simple tweak in my draft will pay dividends later in the year because although drafts are highly speculative based on a player’s production, this simple but effective tweak gives me a higher probability of winning a category such as steals and runs with the aforementioned players.
With Pitchers the draft strategy is much simpler. I hate to give away my advantage like this but when you know something works, it’s hard not to brag. If you doubt this system I implore you to try it and tell me it’s not effective. What to do is quite rudimentary. When you see approximately three closers come off the draft board, you will make a run at drafting five closers in a row. This is only effective if you feel comfortable with your hitting first so be wise on when to start drafting closers. You don’t want to draft them to early because you will be giving up a lot of early round value on hitters. Starting pitchers for the most part can go completely undrafted as far as I’m concerned. During the year guys outperform there rank all the time and you can find plug and play starters on the waiver wire. Every year there are starting pitchers swimming in the free agent pool who end up becoming studs. This allows you to draft closers early on because closers are statistically more stable than starting pitchers. If you go into the season with five top end closers you will unquestionably dominant the saves category as well as contend in ERA and WHIP.
Depending on the value of the player this is how my selections would play out (contingent upon where I can find value):
(Key: C = Catcher, 1B = First Baseman, 2B = Second Baseman, 3B = Third Baseman, SS = Shortstop, OF = Outfielder, SP = Starting Pitcher)
Round 1) SS – 2B – 3B – 1B
Round 2) SS – 2B
Round 3) SS – 2B – 3B – 1B
Round 4) 3B – 1B – C
Round 5) 3B – 1B – C
-Being sure to draft my SS, 2B combo no later than the third round to get top tier talent
Round 6) OF
Round 7) OF or CL
Round 8) OF or SP or CL
-Making sure I find value at each pick, I might start taking closers as early as the 7th round if they start flying off the draft board. In the 8th round I might take a flier on a starting pitcher if I think a guy is going to heavily outperform his rank and he happens to fall that far in the draft.
Round 9) CL
Round 10) CL
Round 11) CL or OF
Round 12) CL or OF
Round 13) CL or OF
Round 14) CL or SP
-After the 14th round you are primarily filling out the rest of your roster with starting pitchers, this allows you to select from the rest of the draft field of starting pitchers for the remainder of the draft. This will help you find late round guys who could be boom or bust. Every year I hit on at least three of these late round guys and they end up on my roster all year. Last year one of these guys was Jose Fernandez who ended up vying for the CY Young award.
I wish you the best of luck in your draft and hopefully this simple but effective draft strategy will help blow away the competition! (Even if it is only your first year of playing)