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2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Head-to-Head Draft Strategy

head-to-head draft strategy
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Head-to-head draft strategy has changed drastically in some ways from roto-style leagues. Dominance is more paramount than consistency across all statistical categories.

If you turn Fantasy Baseball into a weekly game like Fantasy Football, your team needs to be able to be good-to-great consistently every week as opposed to having a well-balanced team that performs in all areas of the game.

This is where having a solid head-to-head draft strategy is crucial. You cannot just have a list of rankings and go down. There are too many other factors between league set-up and format to how your team’s production starts to come together.

So here is my 2018 Head-to-Head Draft Strategy. In general, I am tilting this strategy towards 5X5 category leagues.

Head-to-Head Draft Strategy

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Know Your League Rules and Set-Up

Obviously if you are reading this article about head-to-head draft strategy, then you must know that you are in a head-to-head league. For those that don’t know, Roto-leagues are where each of the statistical categories is calculated over the whole season. Normally these are the 5X5 of Runs, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Stolen Bases and Batting Average for hitters and Wins, Strikeouts, Saves, Earned Run Average and WHIP for pitchers.

In head-to-head leagues, you play against another person over the week and the winner is whoever does better in the most categories. Already there is a huge difference between many leagues right there: are you 1-0 after a week or 8-2? What I mean is does each category count as a win or loss or is it just the total tally of the week between the two teams.

There are also points’ leagues now as well. Each statistic has a point value assigned to it and whoever has the most points at the end of the week wins. I play in a league with this format and it is unreal how much different your strategy has to be.

What I am getting at is that knowing every aspect of your league rules and set-up is essential to any head-to-head draft strategy. Is there an innings limit? An innings minimum? Are you using OPS instead of batting average? Are you using quality starts instead of wins? Study these rules even more than your pre-draft research of players.

From here on out, I am going to be slanted more towards the 5X5 category set up. It is by far the most common format but this head-to-head draft strategy can be used for other types of leagues as well.

Get the Best Value

Now that you know your league, let’s get to the most crucial point that I can impart on you: get the best value at every pick. This is especially true for early on in drafts, because, say it with me now, “You cannot win your league in Round One but you can lose it.”

No matter what exact strategy that you want to utilize in your draft, take the best and safest value early on. The best example of this is to think of the craziest slide a top player can take. Imagine that you do not want to take a pitcher in the first few rounds. You have the first overall pick and take Mike Trout. Then on the 24/25 turn, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer are still there. Are you really going to pass on them?

Another point would be that you want to get your speed later in drafts. However, the morons in your league leave Altuve for you at Pick 10. Are you going to give up that value?

Get the best value. Period. Let the draft board come to you. Do not force a certain head-to-head draft strategy just because it was your plan going into the draft.

Then, once you have the foundation of your roster fleshed out, you can change the best value to the needs of your team. Because at that point, the best value is subjective to each person’s team.

Punting Categories

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This is as good of time as any to talk about something that gets utilized more and more: punting categories. If you are going to punt a category that means you are basically planning on losing that category every week.

Obviously that sounds like a terrible idea, especially if every category counts as a win or loss each week. The advantage is that you are stacking other parts of your team.

The most common categories to punt are stolen bases and saves. Many of the best guys at stealing bases do not contribute much in other categories. The same logic is used for the lower level closers. All they give you is saves.

So instead of worrying about those two categories, you focus on power hitters with good average and high-strikeout starting pitchers (I know, breaking news that those types of players are what you want on your team). It is a bit extreme, but you catch my drift. If you have basically no speed on your roster, but then a better player slips to you that does not provide it, you would still take the better player.

Imagine that you are needing steals and Delino Deshields is there later in your draft. However, Trey Mancini has slipped a little bit and you can get him instead. This is one of the few times where I might favor the punting of a category.

Another category that can get punted easily is batting average. There just are not that many good hitters anymore. It is really tough to find a good batting average after the first few rounds. So if the draft falls to me where I end up with elite pitching and power but minimal batting average, I am not going to try and chase it later in the draft. I mean is it really going to matter if you add a .240 hitter over a .225 guy?

Know What You Can Get Cheap

The punting of categories leads me into my last piece of advice for you head-to-head draft strategy. Know beforehand which categories and players you can get for cheap at the end of the draft.

Study the Average Draft Position and Expert Consensus Rankings. Make notes on good overall values on players that you are going to target later in your draft. Then, take note of which categories are most abundant at this point in your draft.

This knowledge can help you fill out a more complete roster. If you know there are some serious power hitters available later that you really like, when you have a toss-up between Justin Upton and Robbie Ray you can lean towards Ray. You know that you can make up some power later, but the pool of strikeout machines at starting pitcher dries up quickly.

Basically you want to have a flexible plan for your head-to-head draft strategy. Don’t count on one single player being available at his ADP. You can take note that there is a group of five guys with similar talents generally available in Round 15-18. A good example is what I noticed with shortstops this year. The talent pool is so extremely deep that you can be the last person in your league to take a shortstop and still fill good about your guy. It’s very similar to the depth at recent years at quarterback in Fantasy Football.


That’s it for my head-to-head draft strategy. Be sure to check out all of our other preseason content!

Michael Tomlin
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Michael Tomlin

Michael Tomlin is an ESPY-nominated, former college football player who stays associated with the game through Fantasy Sports. He has been writing his personal blog, Dirkland.blogspot.com, for three years and it focuses on Fantasy Sports, as well as handicapping. He was born and raised in the DFW Metroplex, and he follows all of the Dallas teams, along with Texas Tech athletics and Manchester City F.C.
Michael Tomlin
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