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Top-Five Strategies for Winning NFBC Best Ball Leagues

Shohei Ohtani - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

Best-ball leagues have become more popular in recent years in fantasy baseball. Dedicated players have made fantasy baseball a year-round game, and nothing prepares us better than to participate in drafts.

Many of us have learned the hard way that overloading on leagues that require FAAB or setting lineups can hurt our overall results. One way to participate in more drafts without worrying about in-season management is to participate in a best-ball contest.

Let's break down how NFBC contests work and the top-five ways to be successful in the best-ball format.

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How It Works

Best-ball contests work like this: a full roster of players is drafted, usually between 40 and 46 players. That roster is set for the season. No free agent pickups are allowed. Scoring is points-based, and the scoring varies on different fantasy sites. Each week the optimal lineup is automatically chosen for each team based on the highest points scored at each position. The fantasy manager does not participate in setting lineups.

The NFBC has been the premier high-stakes fantasy site for many years, and they have always been open to requests from their customers. They have been running a version of a best-ball contest for several years called Cutline. Cutline follows the best-ball points format, but also incorporates two FAAB periods per season. After requests from the community, NFBC added traditional best-ball contests in 2021, with no in-season management at all. This frees up the users to participate in many drafts without having to worry about getting overwhelmed during the season.

Besides the Cutline leagues, there are two different types of best ball contests on NFBC. Both are 12-team leagues. The Best Ball Double Up contests pay the top five teams double their entry fee, and 6th place gets half of their entry fee back. The advantage to this type of league is that the fantasy manager only has to finish in the top five to double their money. The other type of league is a Best Ball 12. There are two price points for this type of league. Each pays 6.7x to the first-place finisher, 2x to second place, and third place gets their money back. These leagues require finishing first or second to make a profit, but the return on investment (ROI) is much higher. Both snake drafts and auctions are available. All best ball contests require a similar strategy. The tips below may be helpful when starting out in best ball leagues.


Know your scoring system

The scoring for all NFBC best ball contests is the same:

Hitting Pitching
Type Points Type Points
At-Bats -1 Innings Pitched 3
Hits 4 Hits Allowed -1
Runs 2 Earned Runs -2
Home Runs 6 Walks -1
Runs Batted In 2 Strikeouts 1
Stolen Bases 5 Wins 6
Saves 8

Fantasy baseball managers may be used to playing in points leagues, but not all points leagues are created equal. The NFBC points scoring format was developed to mimic rotisserie scoring. There are no points for walks for batters so it favors batting average hitters over on base percentage hitters.

Any easy way to rank players for a specific points scoring format is to take your favorite set of projections and calculate the points for each player. Fangraphs has several great free sets of projections such as Steamer, ATC, and The Bat, and they can be easily exported to Excel. The following formulas can be used to calculate points for NFBC scoring:

Hitters = (H * 4) + (R * 2) + (HR * 6) + (RBI * 2) + (SB * 5) – AB

Pitchers = (IP * 3) - H - (ER * 2) - BB + SO + (W * 6) + (SV * 8)

Once each player's points have been calculated, they can be re-sorted from highest to lowest point totals.  The NFBC has a nice feature that allows a fantasy manager to import their own rankings and use them in the draft room as their default rankings. This can be really valuable in slow drafts in case of an auto-pick (try not to let that happen).


CYP – Cover Your Positions

 NFBC best-ball leagues draft 46 rounds and don’t have any in-season pickups. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that multiple players are available at each position. Players will be lost to injury, poor performance, and be sent down to the minor leagues. Ideally, it’s good to have 3-4 players at each infield position, 10-12 outfielders, and 18-22 pitchers. Rostering players at the high end of each of these ranges would result in more than 46 draft picks. Players with multi-position eligibility can be very valuable when trying to reach the highest possible numbers at each position.

One of the most important points to remember when playing in best-ball leagues is the fact that the optimal lineup is automatically set each week. Because of this, it is important to have as much flexibility as possible in your lineup so that the best scores will be counted. Some fantasy sites like Fantrax roster each player at only their primary position, but sites such as NFBC allow a player to retain multiple positions of eligibility. A fantasy manager can use this to their advantage. For example, the two lineups below are the same, with one player substituted:

Player Eligibility Starting Position Points   Player Eligibility Starting Position Points
Joey Votto 1B 1B 16 Joey Votto 1B 1B 16
Ozzie Albies 2B 2B 24 Ozzie Albies 2B 2B 24
Josh Donaldson 3B 3B 16 Josh Donaldson 3B 3B 16
Tim Anderson SS SS 21 Tim Anderson SS SS 21
Jonathan India 2B MI 19 Jonathan India 2B UT 19
Evan Longoria 3B CI 10 Jonathan Villar SS/3B MI 10
Rowdy Tellez 1B UT 6 Rowdy Tellez 1B BN 6
Alec Bohm 3B BN 14 Alec Bohm 3B CI 14
Total Points: 112 Total Points: 120

This is not meant to be a Johnathan Villar vs. Evan Longoria argument, merely an example of how multi-position eligibility can work in-season in a best ball league. While it’s not a good idea to artificially inflate players that have multi-position eligibility too much, incorporating several of them into a draft strategy at an appropriate ADP can be a valuable asset to a best-ball team.


Consider Different Types of Players

 Some of us who have been playing in head-to-head and rotisserie leagues for many years have become weary of players that are unpredictable or streaky or that can only be started during favorable matchups. The nice thing about best-ball leagues is that fantasy managers don’t have to make these kinds of lineup decisions.

The most elite example of this is Shohei Ohtani. Many industry analysts caution against drafting Ohtani in roto leagues because the fantasy manager must choose whether to start him as a hitter or a pitcher every week. In a best-ball league, he will be started at his highest scoring position. Because of this, he can be valued as an early first-round pick, if not #1 overall.

Another example of this is German Marquez of the Rockies. Going into the 2021 season, the narrative surrounding Marquez was that he should be started on the road and benched at home for the most part. Unfortunately, that’s not how the season played out for him. Below are the point totals for his last 9 starts:

Date Opp PTS
9/27 WAS 3
9/22 LAD -4
9/17 @WAS -9
9/10 @PHI 23
9/4 ATL 10
8/30 @TEX 3
8/25 @CHC -5
8/17 SD 17
8/12 @SF -5

If a fantasy manager in a roto league had attempted to situationally start and sit Marquez in 2021, they often would have guessed incorrectly. A best-ball league is a great format for a player like this because only the best scores will be counted. This value increase applies to other types of players also, such as streaky hitters, and pitchers who are the type have several good starts followed by a blowup.


Playing Time is King

When drafting a fantasy best-ball league, it can be tempting to take too many players with perceived upside. In reality, players who are more likely to get regular playing time can be valuable. In 2021, players such as Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Schoop were viewed as old and boring, but they played well consistently hit at the top of the lineup, and accumulated a lot of plate appearances. Conversely, players like Cavan Biggio and Dylan Moore had a shorter track record but were drafted based on upside potential. Poor performance cost them playing time and resulted in fewer points scored.

Another group of players with playing time risk is rookies and prospects. Some, like Jared Kelenic, struggle in their first year in the majors and get sent back down to the minor leagues. There are also players like Wander Franco who play well in the majors but are unusable in the early part of the season before they are called up. Others, such as Bobby Witt, never get called up to the majors at all and occupy a bench spot on your team for the entire season.


Load Up on Late Pitching

Before starting a best-ball draft, it’s important to look at the last rounds of the draft to see what types of players will be available. Based on 2022 ADP, most of the hitters with regular playing time run out before the end of the draft in a 46-round best-ball league. Pitchers who will get regular appearances often last through the last round. They won’t always be pitchers that look appealing on paper, but regular playing time is what is most important. Pitchers like Antonio Senzatela, Alec Mills, and Keegan Akin may not have good overall numbers at the end of the season, but they will have enough good starts throughout the season to find their way into your lineup.

Another category of late pitchers that can be useful is relief pitchers. Closers will often be available much later in a best-ball draft than in a roto draft, however, speculating on closers with uncertain roles expecting to get points for saves will often not result in a good return on investment. Middle relievers can be useful, although there is a difference between the types of middle relievers that should be targeted in a best ball league versus a roto league. Relievers who will pitch multiple innings, follow an opener, or provide good ratios and strikeouts can help to fill in the gaps during weeks when the starting pitchers on the roster have not performed well.

NFBC best ball leagues can be a great way to prepare for the season and learn the player pool without adding any in-season management. Hopefully, the tips above have helped best ball rookies find success. Good luck in 2022!

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