Standard League Draft Strategy: Part One (Hitters)

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For many, a draft is all about finding sleepers, predicting who the busts and breakouts are, and deciding who to pick with the first pick or who to allocate the most money to in an auction draft. While finding the right players is certainly a necessary element of a successful fantasy draft, it is not sufficient.

You also must have some strategy in mind. This two-article piece will focus on a few roster thoughts for standard leagues (i.e. 5x5, 12 teams, 23 roster slots (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, UTIL, UTIL, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, P, P, BENCH, BENCH, BENCH, BENCH, BENCH, DL, DL), 1400 IP, 162 games per position).

Part one will address strategy for hitters, whereas part two will focus on pitchers. Here are three strategies to keep in mind when drafting hitters.

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(1) There's Hidden Value in Multiple Position Eligibility

If you have played in daily leagues, you have had to bench an active player while leaving a starting spot empty due to positional restrictions. For example, your shortstop may be taking a day off, but all you have on your bench is a first baseman and an outfielder. You also have probably experienced the phenomenon of having to play a player against a Clayton Kershaw or leave the slot empty, while benching a batter against a fifth starter, again due to positional restrictions; the batter facing Kershaw is your only option at that position, while you have too much depth at the other. What if there was a way to maximize your games played, while also starting players in their best matchups, without wasting roster spots? There is. The solution is to draft players who qualify at multiple positions, so you can move players around to avoid game waste and to play your best matchups.

There is more than one way to employ this strategy. You can select an everyday player who qualifies at many positions, such as Jose Ramirez, and that alone will provide you with a huge chunk of your flexibility. Alternatively, you can also select multiple players who qualify at only a couple positions. The more flexibility, the better, but at a minimum it is useful to have two options per position (on different real life teams).

Drafting multipositional players also has less obvious, but at least as valuable, benefits, including: (1) the ability to have your bench bat play any position; (2) the ability to seek value later in your draft, as your multipositional players allow you not to have to fill a specific position (e.g. if you have Trea Turner who will qualify at 2B, SS, and OF, you will have the flexibility later to select a player at any of those positions, as opposed to if you had drafted Jose Altuve, in which case you may not want another 2B); (3) the ability to target the best players on waivers, rather than only those at a certain position, as you have positional flexibility on your team; and (4) the ability not to carry position-specific backups and thus have more roster space for extra pitchers or to gamble on upside players. I usually draft one bench bat, and as the season progresses, shift to two bench bats as my pitchers sort themselves out.

 

(2) Which Multipositional Player Types You Should Target Depends on Your League’s Members

Should you be targeting any specific type of player when you employ this strategy? That depends. In leagues where your opponents are unlikely to meet their game limits, it is important to target batting average. That way, you can out-compile them in the other stats due to playing more games, but still compete in batting average. In such leagues, punting categories such as average will be dangerous, because you need so many points to win (as uncompetitive members often accumulate very few points, inflating everyone else’s score). Additionally, low batting average options tend to be available on the wire late in the year, if you later need to add in other categories; starting with high rate performers allows you the flexibility to decide later.

In more competitive leagues, targeting a specific type of multi-positional player is less important; you simply want the best value. In those leagues, everyone is likely to reach or approach the game maximums, so you will not be able to out-compile them. You just need to take the best players available, and beat them in the categories you can. In these leagues, punting categories becomes a viable option; since scores will not be inflated, you could win the league despite being in the bottom of one category.

 

(3) Players Who Are Good Multi-positional Options for 2017

As discussed previously, you can target a few players who qualify at many positions, or target many who qualify at a couple. My favorite targets who will qualify at multiple positions, using a five-game minimum, are Trea Turner (2B/SS/OF), Jose Ramirez (2B/3B/SS/OF), Kris Bryant (1B/3B/OF), Eduardo Nunez (2B/3B/SS), Matt Carpenter (1B/2B/3B), Hernan Perez (1B/2B/3B/OF), Brad Miller (1B/2B/SS) and, if healthy, Steve Pearce (1B/2B/OF). Others to keep an eye on are Howie Kendrick (1B/2B/3B/OF) and Javier Baez (1B/2B/3B/SS). Among the players who qualify at two positions, Jose Reyes (3B/SS), and Matt Holiday (1B/OF) may provide good late value, but others include Manny Machado (3B/SS), Daniel Murphy (1B/2B), Jean Segura (2B/SS), Kolten Wong (2B/OF), and Miguel Sano (3B/OF).

One caveat is that catchers who play another position do not have added value, as you are unlikely ever to play them anywhere other than catcher. Aside from the obvious fact that catchers generally hit worse than other positions, the main reason is that you should not be carrying more than one catcher on standard league rosters throughout the season. Thus, if you play the catcher elsewhere, you are simply losing a catcher game for another game.

Check back soon for my thoughts on pitcher strategy...

 

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