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4 Simple Strategy Concepts For Fantasy Baseball Drafts

Fantasy Baseball Drafts

Every year, I do a couple handfuls of Fantasy Baseball drafts, whether they are part of leagues I’m competing in or they’re just one several expert mock drafts that Fantasy Baseball writers get invited to join. I even do a bunch on Draft Wizard’s free Mock Draft tool, which is easily the best free Fantasy Baseball draft tool around.

For the most part, I’ll use a standard draft strategy that I’ll stick to, unless I decide to try out some experiments, like wondering what happens if I take two starting pitchers in the first three rounds, or maybe I try to wait on pitching until Rounds 10 or 11.

Either way, I created a standard gameplan for beginners in Rotisserie leagues that combines using my own personal rankings, along with Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) from FantasyPros.com, and finally, Average Draft Position from the National Fantasy Baseball Championships (NFBC).

(While we’re talking about ADP, print out the ADP from the commissioner service your league plans to draft on. This helps you get a better understanding of which players might go in which rounds, rather than how they might go in other league services.)

4 Simple Fantasy Baseball Strategy Concepts For Beginners

These aren’t guaranteeing you’ll finish first, but by using these four simple concepts, you should be able to compete with the best in your Fantasy Baseball league.

For the Most Part, Avoid Risk

ESPN’s Matthew Berry often brings up this point when talking about who to draft in any Fantasy league, ask yourself, “What’s the most likely thing to happen?” I couldn’t agree more. This is called mitigating risk, as you lean on the side of probability, as opposed to hunches and gut feelings. This helps people assemble a team that can keep them near the top of the standings.

In other words, in the early rounds, try to avoid players coming back from big injuries or players coming off just one huge season. Ask yourself, “What’s most likely going to happen: Will they be healthy all season? Will they duplicate that huge season, or will they fall back some as opponents learn how to beat them?”

Also, don’t take rookies too early, considering we know very little about their abilities at the major league level. Let your opponents grab one of those high-risk/reward guys that’s suddenly dealing with life in the bigs, while trying to hit a major-league curveballs.

It’s not a horrible idea to go after a big risk here or there, but you can’t build a roster out of dangerous plays.

Draft Hitters Early, Not Pitchers

This one is controversial, as most Fantasy pundits are now saying that the glut of homers in recent seasons means we must lock down great pitchers earlier than ever before.

Again, it’s about managing risk. Starting pitchers only help your team once every five days, and great relief pitchers can only help your team a few times a week. Pitching a ball goes against the nature of physics, forcing the body to make a high-powered motion with its arm in an unnatural position. An arm pitching a baseball overhand is forcing 100 Newton-meters of torque on the elbow, which is the same amount of stress as if the pitcher had a 60-pound weight hanging from his hand in that position, according to Dr. Glenn Fleisig from the American Sports Medicine Institute in Alabama.

In that article, the doctor goes on to mention that an elite pitcher’s arm rotates upward of 8,500 degrees per second. That would spin a pitcher’s arm 24 times in a second if it the speed were maintained!

”Shoulder rotation in baseball pitching is the fastest motion of any joint in any athlete.” – Dr. Glenn Fleisig

While pitchers might not get hurt more than hitters, the stats show that when they do get hurt, they stay on the disabled list longer than their hitting counterparts.

Why invest in that risk early in a draft, when you can wait until the fourth or fifth round for pitchers that are still considered among the best. That could mean your aces come from the top-15 to 20 starting pitchers in preseason rankings, but you would have been able to pick up guys like Stephen Strasburg, Jacob deGrom and Carlos Carrasco, who are now top-10 pitchers.

After Early Rounds, Target Breakouts and Sleepers

Have you ever noticed that the starting pitchers ranked among the top 30 and top 30 are usually pitchers that fall into three categories? They either have great potential with an unfinished resume, are pitchers who once showed greatness a few seasons ago, or they are boring pitchers with the ability to eat innings, without great K/9 rates, potential for wins or post low ERAs.

Interestingly, the pitchers in the top 50/60 groups are much closer to the top 30/40, than the top 30/40 are from the top 20 pitchers.

So why not load up on those top 50/60 guys with breakout potential?

Look for pitchers that eclipsed 60 career starts last season – or are about to early this season. Third-year starting pitchers have figured out how to be pros, they’ve usually seen success and failure, and now they’re easing into their careers with consistency and the ability to make adjustments.

For hitters in the middle and later rounds, try to build a lineup full of hitters in prime breakout ages between 26 and 28 years old. That doesn’t mean some players don’t break out earlier – or later – but that age group means those hitters have ascended through the minors and played a couple years in the majors at least.

Did you know a person’s ability to manage risk continues to develop until they are 25 years old?

Use Your Last Pick For a Middle Infielder, Final Outfielder or Ninth Pitcher

Don’t overthink your last pick, and try not to reverse engineer or you will end up screwing up your middle picks. But as the final few rounds come around, figure you’ll be able to get a pretty good middle infielder (or at least one that’s just as bad as the ones being drafted in Round 17), a decent outfielder or a pitcher with upside.

Rather than taking a designated hitter with your last pick, with the thoughts that he’ll be your first cut for a hot free agent, realize a lot of your opponents are doing a similar move. Draft your DH earlier when better hitters are available. He still might be your first cut, but you’re giving yourself a better shot at finding a late stud. You can also draft a ninth pitcher that has a chance of winning a rotation spot – and if he doesn’t, he’s your first cut.

You can use these four simple concepts for Fantasy Baseball drafts this season to give yourself a good chance entering the season. It will help you avoid mistakes and set yourself up for a good run.

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David Gonos

David Gonos has been writing about Fantasy Sports online since 2000 – and playing Fantasy Sports since 1989. He has drafted both Curt Warner and Kurt Warner, along with Big Unit and Big Papi. A veteran of hundreds of drafts in the past 15 years alone, Gonos is closely acquainted with sleepers, breakouts and busts – as he has drafted many of all three. He was a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBSSports.com for five years, and he has been columnist on SI.com and FanDuel.com, while also getting published on MLB.com, NFL.com, FoxSports.com and USAToday.com.
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