5 keys to drafting your Fantasy Baseball team

March 22, 2010

After completing my eleventh fantasy baseball draft last night, it became even more apparent that you never know what to expect. Fantasy football and basketball pretty much go as planned, but baseball is really in a league of its own. 

I’m not an expert when it comes to drafting a team, despite some success over the years.  I do, however, pride myself on reading plenty of “experts” opinions and gauging the patterns of other fantasy managers. 

Going into a fantasy draft requires two things:  Knowledge of the players of course, and also the ability to adapt.  You don’t know who the other members are going to draft and there tends to be a “run” on a certain position at some point in any draft.  Your ability to alter your strategy (if needed) will go a long way in competing for your respective championship. 

For example, relief pitchers tend to go one after the other, and you will have to be ready.  Do I want to draft one there, or should I wait?   Temptation is a hell of a drug and your ability to resist trends if it doesn’t help your team will be a big plus.  There will also be the unexpected pick(s) in the early rounds, such as Ryan Howard going 5th overall or Joe Mauer going later than expected. 

Be ready….

To further assist readers, I have mapped out five important things, or keys, to drafting a Fantasy Baseball team.  Again, take these with a grain of salt as they are just one man’s opinion. 

1. Wait on Starting Pitching

It’s very tempting to select a Tim Lincecum, a Roy Halladay, or even Zack Greinke early in a draft.  Specifically Lincecum and Halladay are going to be studs this season and their production is not going to be matched by too many pitchers. Nevertheless, I would wait to take a starting pitcher until at least the third round, for two main reasons. 

First, starting pitchers will go at most twice a week, and therefore their affect on your team will not be as great as a stud player who will play in 5-7 games a week.  Would you rather draft Mark Texeira who will give you six games of production, or Roy Halladay who may only give you six innings in a week? 

Second, there are A LOT of starting pitchers.  There may not be a lot of elite starting pitchers, but you can get by with 3 or 4 2nd tier guys.  Yes, I already mentioned how Lincecum and Halladay will be unmatched by most pitchers, but is there really much of a difference between say Adam Wainwright and Yovani Gallardo?  Maybe a couple of wins, and a couple of points off the ERA, but the difference in other positions is much more vast. 

I’m not saying to avoid paying attention to starting pitching- Pitching usually counts for one-half of the league’s scoring system and it will be hard to win without a decent staff.  Just be wise with your selections and don’t over-value the starters. 

2. Draft a top-tier first baseman. 

I know what you’re thinking….”there are about 10-12 elite first baseman in the league.”  And yes, you are right.  However, looking back on past leagues I was in, it was very rare that a team won the ‘chip without an elite first baseman.  So while drafting Prince Fielder over Ryan Howard won’t win you the league, starting Adam LaRoche at first base could cost you it.

3. Don’t waste your time with elite closers

I’ll use my team from last season as an example with this one.  Sure, I thought about drafting Mariano Rivera early, and it was tough to pass up on Pablebon and Broxton, but the difference between closers is miniscule.  Remember, we’re talking fantasy, not reality, and all that matters is stats.   Yes, Rivera is the greatest closer ever, but a lot of that has to do with the big-game save.  For fantasy owners, a game against the Red Sox doesn’t mean anymore to you than a game against the Royals. 

Another reason to avoid drafting closers early is there’s always guys available in free agency.  Last year I picked up Andrew Bailey and David Aardsma during the regular season, and both were studs.  Every season there are new closers who emerge, existing guys who lose their jobs, and injuries galore.  2010 will be no different. 

Again, don’t avoid the position completely.  Draft one, maybe two closers but don’t break the bank on one of the elite guys.  I have never been a part of a league that was won or lost based on the closer position. 

4. Know position value

I mentioned earlier how there is an abundance of first baseman and starting pitching.  There is also an abundance of outfielders and you should draft accordingly.   Second base also seems to be a much deeper position this year compared to seasons past.  However, take a look at third base and you’ll find five, maybe six top of the line guys.  Short Stop is pretty bare as well, and I don’t even have to mention the catching position.  Oh, but speaking of catchers, if you don’t draft Mauer, McCann, or even Victor Martinez, wait until the 10th or 11th round to begin filling this position.  Unless you just can’t pass up on Wieters, then draft him in the 8th round…

If you’re stuck deciding between an outfielder/first baseman and a shortstop, sacrifice a few homeruns and RBI’s and take the short stop.  Now I’m not asking you to pass up on Matt Holliday and grab Jimmy Rollins, but I am telling you to draft Hanley Ramirez over Albert Pujols. 

5. Stay active

This has more to do with right after the draft, and during the season, but a lot of leagues are won on the waiver wire, and baseball is no different.  In fact, it’s the most active league in terms of trades, pick-ups, and drops.  If you’re coughing up cash to play in the league, you better be active and aggressive.  Know your league, know the teams, and know the needs of others for trading purposes and also scooping players.  Also know the scoring system, and what counts and what doesn’t.  The biggest mistake I made as a fantasy rookie was not knowing the league setup and what got me points and which categories were meaningless.  Some leagues count OPS, some don’t.  Some leagues shy away from pitching losses, some include it. 

Also be sure to check the waiver wire right after your draft.  There may be some players left that you forgot about, and there’s sure to be players dropped immediately by other teams that could help your squad. 

Finally, a lot of it is going to come down to luck.  Nobody could have predicted Jose Reyes going down last season or any other Met injury for that matter.  There’s also going to be break-out players that nobody could have projected.    Have a plan going in, draft smart, and always expect the unexpected. 

Since so much comes down to luck, don’t be afraid to take a risk as well.  If you see Alfonso Soriano lingering around the 8th or 9th round, grab him.  Bank on Geovany Soto rebounding and becoming a top 5 fantasy catcher this season and don’t let him slip into the high teens.  Be optimistic that Jose Reyes comes back at the end of April and steals 50 bases. 

Take chances…

I wish you luck during your fantasy season, unless you’re a contributor to this site.


One comment

  1. could you not have wrote this before sunday??

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