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Top 10 Tips for Fantasy Baseball Snake Drafts

Fernando Tatis Jr. - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Before I begin, let me caveat everything I say with this: I don't consider myself to be some sort of expert master fantasy player. I've only been playing fantasy baseball for a little under a decade. But as soon as I started to immerse myself into this game we all love, my main focus was drafting.

I love everything about it. The anticipation, the preparation, the event, the post-draft analysis. The highs of drafting your favorite value pick of the season at a discount. The lows of getting sniped one pick before you. The smack-talk and banter between league mates, whether it's in person or online. And while your drafts should be enjoyable experiences, they're just one component of your fantasy baseball season.

Arguably, the draft is the most important component. You will have all heard the saying "you can't win your league at the draft, but you can lose it." Truer words were never spoken; while you can't win the league at the draft, you can certainly put yourself in the best possible position to win your league. So to ensure you don't drop the ball this draft season, here are my top-10 tips on succeeding in your snake drafts.

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1. Understand your league's settings and scoring system

We're in an era with more variety in league types than ever before. Whether it's the scoring, the rosters, innings limits, there are seemingly endless league styles you can play in now so it's crucial you know the type of league well before you enter the draft. For example, Carlos Santana has an ADP of ~278 in standard leagues. Since 2018, only three hitters have a higher walk-rate than Santana's 16.4% BB%, but in standard fantasy scoring, walks aren't scored. So Santana's value isn't as much in standard 5x5 roto leagues as it would be in a points league where walks.

I've been guilty of this myself just last year. I was coerced into making up the numbers in a league and while the scoring was standard 5x5, the lineups were MLB type lineups so only the four infield positions and three outfielders made up the hitting part of the roster. As I didn't pay much attention to this league prior to joining, I didn't even notice this fact until the tenth round. If you're unsure of a different league type (like a points league) and are worried about jumping in, just do some research so you know how the league scores. There's plenty of such resources at RotoBaller to get you going.

 

2. Familiarize yourself with the draft room layout beforehand

Again, I speak from experience with this one. My first ever league I joined was on ESPN and the league is still going today with pretty much the original group intact, still using ESPN. About five years ago, I stopped using ESPN for mock drafts as I got fed up with it. Every time it seemed like two people would disappear before it started, two would drop out after three rounds and then someone just drafts nothing but closers as a goof. I didn't achieve anything so I moved on from them.

Then, around two years ago, come the live draft, I was caught out. ESPN overhauled their whole fantasy product and that included the draft room. As I only use ESPN for this one league, I didn't realize until I joined the draft room 15 minutes before it began. It may not seem like a big deal, but every service provider is different and it's much easier drafting in familiar surroundings. The fact I still couldn't (and still can't) scroll the player lists properly on their platform is something I could have found a workaround before the draft. If you buy a new car, you'd work out all the controls, adjust the seat and steering wheel and tune the radio stations before heading off on a 500-mile journey, wouldn't you? Apply that philosophy to your fantasy drafts.

 

3. Read the latest news before the draft

I can't even begin to tell you the number of times some breaking news emerges just before I head into a draft or even during the draft. Whether it's a manager announcing who the team's closer will be, a slugger requiring surgery and missing the first two months of the season or a starting pitcher's arm falling off, there's fantasy-relevant news every day of Spring Training.

No matter what it is, you can get an edge on your league-mates if you keep up to date with the news. One of the most satisfying moments in draft season is finding out an under-the-radar guy is named a team's closer, then an hour later you draft them in the 20th round while everyone else is scrambling around the bottom of the barrel for a handful of saves. How many of you drafted a reliever believing he'd be the team's closer only to find out an hour later the role has been assigned to someone else. The panic scramble to the waiver wire only to see someone beat you to it is never enjoyable.

 

4. Use the queue even if it's just as a safety net

I'm not suggesting you just put a load of players in your queue and let nature takes its course. But how many of you have experienced internet problems at the worst possible time? Whether it begins buffering at the end of the latest Marvel movie or disconnects just as you hit send on an online submission you spent an hour typing up, your wi-fi doesn't care about your fantasy baseball draft.

Even if you only add a handful of players to your queue just in case you miss a couple of rounds until you can get your phone out and log-in to the draft, it could save you from auto-picking the pitcher who has been ruled out for the year after undergoing TJS.

 

5. Peer pressure exists but don't panic buy

I've yet to be in a draft when a run of a specific position hasn't taken place. Normally it's catchers or closers although this year it's also the top-20 starting pitchers. It's so easy to get caught up in it, panic, and overdraft someone. Take closers for example. Someone will taker Josh Hader in the fifth round, then Liam Hendriks will go in the sixth round. Aroldis Chapman will follow in the seventh round and at that point, it normally triggers a run of the next tier of closers going two to three rounds earlier than you'd expect as everyone else fears missing out on saves and starts chasing them.

Panic buying sets in and before you know it, someone has used their 12th round pick on Taylor Rogers despite him not being guaranteed the closer role. Someone will have taken Richard Rodriguez in the 14th round even though the Pirates will struggle to win 50 games this year. Yet, what's the one thing you will always find on waivers every year? That's right, it's saves. While your league mates take Rogers and Rodriguez, you can help yourself to Jorge Soler's 40 homers and 2021 Cy Young candidate Tyler Mahle.

To drive home the point, in 2019 Taylor Rogers (30), Ian Kennedy (30) and Hector Neris (28) all led their teams in saves. Do you remember where they were drafted? No, because they weren't. Their ADPs were: Rogers 583, Kennedy 722 and Neris 654.

 

6. Remain focused on the task at hand

Unless you're in a slow draft, ensure your focus is fully on the draft. Don't drink and draft. Don't draft while under the influence of anything else. Don't try and watch the latest episode of WandaVision during the draft. Just focus on the task at hand. That's not to say you don't enjoy yourself. Enjoy a beer. Have a snack. I personally listen to music while drafting.

But it's so simple to look away for a couple of minutes, get engrossed in a commercial for a new brand of whiskey, turn your attention back on the draft only to struggle to find your next two picks as both players you had lined up have been taken while your attention was diverted. You then scramble the player list, trying to find a suitable alternative only to wind up taking Framber Valdez in the eighth round, forgetting he's likely out for the season. It's just not worth it and will ultimately diminish your fun levels.

 

7. Don't punt a category..... ever

Every year, people post questions about whether or not they should punt a category. If you're going into your draft with the mindset of completely forgoing a category then you're doing it all wrong and will be on the back foot all season.

Whether it's a H2H or Roto league, willfully taking a blank on any stat isn't the way to succeed. Commonly, steals and saves are the most popular ones to punt. Let's say you punt saves, draft an extra starting pitcher or two, giving you more wins and strikeouts. Unless your first five picks are all starting pitchers, you've not boosted your ERA or WHIP doing that. Then your ace gets hurt and will be out all season. You'll need to do something amazing to replicate his wins and strikeouts, you'll fall further away in ERA and WHIP and still going to finish last in saves. It doesn't give you an advantage and merely requires more in-season luck to actually work.

 

8. FOMO is real and you need to avoid it

For those of you not up to date with cool lingo, FOMO is short for 'Fear Of Missing Out'. I only learned that late last year and it's probably an out-of-date phrase. Anyhow, FOMO is a part of everyday life. Whether it's staying home while your buddies go out partying and end up have one of the greatest nights of their lives or declining an offer to invest in a start-up company that goes on to become the next Tesla. In fantasy baseball drafts, FOMO is not taking that guy you really want to because you didn't want to reach a round or two early only to have someone else snipe him from under your nose.

Remember how I said fantasy baseball is a game and should be fun? Well, you should be rostering the players you like and actually want on your teams and you want to root for. How many times have you ended a draft and regretted not taking someone one round earlier and missing out on him? I bet it's more than the number of times you end the draft and regret taking someone in the 12th round when you could have waited until the 14th. Come Opening Day, you won't regret the shots you took, only the ones you didn't.

 

9. Use rankings and ADP as a guide only

It's easy to view the draft rankings on whatever platform you use and treat them as gospel. But the best use of the rankings and ADP is for a guide. Let's take ADP for example. Wil Myers has an ADP of 131 so I know that on average, in a 12-team league, he'll go in the 11th round. Based on my rankings, I might have Myers ranked at 80, meaning he'd a seventh-round player. Just because I have him as a seventh-round player, doesn't mean I draft him in the seventh round. Knowing his ADP, I can be confident in waiting and grabbing him in the ninth or tenth round. I still get value according to my rankings and projections while avoiding FOMO at the same time.

For rankings, it's important to remember that they do not take into account your roster construction. For example, Franmil Reyes (148) and Victor Robles (150) are both ranked as outfielders to be taken in the 13th round. If you've drafted plenty of power hitters early but need steals, Robles is more valuable to roster on your team than Reyes is. The same works the opposite way as well as positionally later in the draft. Carson Kelly is ranked 251 and Mark Canha 252. In a vacuum, I'd much rather have Canha than Kelly but if you've already got your hitting positions filled and still need a catcher, a full season of Kelly is more valuable than 10% of Canha's stats while he sits on your bench for the other 90% of the season.

 

10. It's a game - have fun

Don't forget, fantasy baseball is a game and you should be having fun with it. Yes, there are more paid contests than ever but you shouldn't be paying entry fees if you can't afford to lose.  So enjoy yourselves, enjoy the social aspect, enjoy the time you spend with league-mates whether it's remotely or in person. If this last year has taught us anything, it's to make the most of the things that give you joy as they could be taken from us in the blink of an eye.

What is it the MLB keeps promoting? Let the kids play..... If the MLB wants fun, then fun we shall have.



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