Five Draft Strategies for Fantasy Points Leagues
We are still several weeks away from spring training being in full swing, but don't let that make you put off your fantasy baseball draft strategy. It's never to early to start thinking about your fantasy baseball drafts.
While your approach shouldn't be drastically different if you’re playing in a H2H, points league or a roto league, there are definitely certain players who are more or less valuable, depending on which type of league you are in. As spring training gets underway and opening day nears, there will be plenty of time to break down where specific players should and will go in both types of leagues. But for now, here are five general "points league" themes that you should plant in the back of your mind, so that come draft day, you will be as prepared as possible.
1. Draft the best available hitters in early rounds
At least the first 4-5 rounds of your draft should be for the best position players left on the board at the time of your pick, regardless of their position. Last year, I had a draft where my first EIGHT picks were position players and I selected my first pitcher, James Shields, in round 9. I won the league. Granted, the rest of my draft went very well, as I'll touch on more in a bit, but my first several picks put me in a great spot.
There are always going to be quality starting pitchers available in the middle and later rounds of a draft, but setting your team up with a handful of bonafide stud bats will put you in a great position for the rest of your draft.
There is one exception to this rule, in my mind. If it’s your pick in the 3rd round and Kershaw is somehow still available, I would have no issue taking him at that point. Otherwise, go with hitters early and often.
2. Don’t over-think it with position scarcity
Sure, if Cano is available at the 6th pick, you’re probably taking him, regardless of the fact that he’s a 2B. But as we found out last year, the 2B position was not as shallow as everyone thought it was going to be, with the emergence of players like Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, and others who had unexpected, solid seasons. The point is to take the best players available, especially early in the draft, and don’t be overly concerned with the position of a player. Now with that said, don't go and draft four first basemen with your first seven picks, or something crazy like that.
3. Catchers = Tight Ends: They’re all the same
Please don’t draft a catcher early. It's a wasted pick. Fantasy baseball catchers are exactly like fantasy football tight ends, except that Buster Posey is nowhere near the difference maker that Jimmy Graham or a healthy Gronk is. The difference between the best fantasy catcher and the 10th or 12th best fantasy catcher is simply not that much this year. Let other owners reach for catchers. I want to be one of the last teams in my league to draft a catcher and I'll still end up with a Ramos type player.
4. Wait on relief pitchers and closers
The most volatile position in fantasy baseball doesn’t warrant a pick until the later rounds. You know what I say to an owner who goes and grabs Craig Kimbrel in the 6th round and Aroldis Chapman in the 7th round? “Thank you.” I’ll gladly take an above average position player or fill another need in those spots instead.
In one league last year, I spent the majority of the season with Edward Mujica (undrafted) and Grant Balfour (Round 16) as my closers, and grabbed Danny Farquhar off waivers for the stretch run. Don’t waste your valuable early and early-middle round picks on relievers that have a decent chance of getting hurt and/or being replaced at some point during the season. You can get similar RP production much later in the draft or off waivers.
5. The last rounds matter, so do your research
In the same league that I referenced earlier where I went hitter heavy early, my last five picks were pitcher heavy and went as follows:
Round 19: A.J. Burnett
Round 20: Shelby Miller
Round 21: Hisashi Iwakuma
Round 22: Andrew Cashner
Round 23: Dexter Fowler
Look at the value I was able to get with those final five picks. Miller and Iwakuma were top 7 pitchers for most of the season in their respective leagues and Burnett was a durable, number 3 or 4 starter for most fantasy teams. Cashner started slow, but I hung onto him and he was an All-Star the 2nd half of the season. Fowler was on his way to a 20 HR, 20 SB season until he got hurt midway through the year.
Don’t just throw away or auto-draft your final few picks. Do research on sleepers and break-out candidates, and see if you can catch lightning in a bottle in the late rounds. They can truly be difference makers.