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Ten Tips: How To Win Fantasy Baseball Snake Drafts

As we prepare to head into the bulk of drafting season, it’s time to lug out the spreadsheets with all of our projections, dive into whichever periodicals you prefer, and come up with this year’s sleepers and top picks.

On top of this preparation, however, it’s easy to lose sight of the focus needed to stay the course through the draft.  Here are some tips cobbled together over the last couple of years to help you navigate your way through the literal, and metaphorical, twists and turns of a snake draft.

There are dozens of tips, but here are ten that can be the most important as you head into the draft season for snake drafts.

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Know the Exact Scoring System

Know your scoring system backward and forward. This seems like a foregone conclusion, but many players simply assume they know the scoring system. Make sure you know every way in which you gain, or perhaps lose, points. For example, a friend asked for some assistance to prep for his draft. When asked for the scoring system, he told me it was "standard."

Upon further investigation, it was an on-base percentage league, not a batting average league. That changes your strategy considerably. So, first things first, spend time to fully understand the scoring components. Is it saves?  Saves plus holds?  Are you penalized for certain things like batter strikeouts?  Know the system!

 

Be Sure to Prepare

How do you prepare for your drafts each season? Has your preparation led to success in your leagues? Take a long look at what you do to prepare and make sure that it adds up to the results you want; quite honestly, you should be playing to win or at least finish in the money, so to speak. The goal should always be an improvement as a player each season. Take an honest look at what you did well the year before, and where you might be able to make changes for better results this year. A good process will lead to better results.

 

Study the Habits and Trends of your Leaguemates

If you know your league-mates, study their prior draft strategies if they are available to you. This can be helpful to identify their trends and their patterns. Granted, they can and will change, but old habits die hard sometimes. Also, be sure to take a deeper look at what worked and didn’t work for you last year. Look for the trends in how your draft. Are they discernible to the other players in your league? My late father-in-law used to tell me, that if you look around the poker room and can’t see the mark, the mark is you. Be mindful that other players could be on to your strategy quickly. Adapt and survive.

 

Populate a Strong Queue

The queue is your best friend. I cannot stress this enough; keep a strong queue. Every player has had this experience: you are prepared to take the guy you want, only to have the person drafting in front of you take him. This is referred to as “sniping.” You might only have one minute to make your choice, so having a queue of potential picks is crucial. A queue of 4-5 players at all times is a must.

An example: I am fortunate enough to play in the Great Lakes Area Roto Fantasy League, also known as GLARF, as part of the EARTH league. My friend Sara Sanchez, a wonderful human being and fierce player, took Nico Hoerner with the 12th pick in the fifth round. Guess who was my pick all loaded up, ready to hit the smash button? Yes, Hoerner. I immediately went to my queue and had Jazz Chisholm there, so even forced to pivot, I had a series of players lined up to draft. You don’t want to waste precious time scanning the ADP and perhaps making a rushed pick. Which leads to the next point.

 

ADP is a Guide, Not the Law

ADP is a guide, not the Bible. Of course, ADP can be helpful. But be sure of one thing: use the ADP for the platform you are playing on.  For example, if you are playing on ESPN, use the ESPN ADP.  If you are on Fantrax, use the Fantrax ADP. You would be surprised at how many people use the NFBC ADP for all of their drafts on all of their platforms. Do not make that mistake.

 

Focus on the Middle Rounds of the Draft

A word on where to make hay: the middle rounds are the place to get the so-called value picks.  As players, we worry so much about the first three or four rounds and then speculate on end-game targets, that we forget to truly focus in on the middle rounds. Don’t make this mistake. Rounds 10-20 have some terrific players in there.

In a recent mock done with some fellow writers, in rounds 12-18, I have rostered Ke’Bryan Hayes/Jonah Heim/Kerry Carpenter/Reid Detmers/Andrew Vaughn/Zack Neto/Leody Taveras. All are somewhat known commodities but with some upside. It’s fine to roster the so-called boring players, too, but get that balance between those “known” Anthony Santander types, and the possible upside of a Thairo Estrada. The four-hour time clock can make drafts drone on, so be sure not to lose your focus or your edge as the marathon grinds on. The graphic below shows my thought process: all are players that should have safe floors but have upside as well.

 

Strive for a Balanced Roster

Your goal should be to have balance in each position.  This largely depends upon your draft context.  For example, in roto, the goal should be a balance that gives you a chance in each category.  In points leagues, the goal is simply to score more points. Thus, things like so-called positional scarcity may not impact your squad as much; getting more points no matter the position is the key. You can see below that my 2023 GLARF team did not have that balance; while I did well in home runs, I lacked in stolen bases. My team's batting average stunk. I did not create the needed balance to finish in the money.

 

Avoid Falling in Love - "The Carl Crawford Syndrome"

Avoid falling in love with specific players whenever possible. I refer to this as my Carl Crawford Syndrome. For three or four years in a row, I had to roster Crawford, who you may recall as a "toolsy" outfielder in the early 2000s. I kept anticipating a level that never came. That blinded me to other draft possibilities and other kinds of roster builds. Instead, do what many of the experts suggest: develop tiers and try to get a player from that tier. When Crawford went from Tampa Bay to Boston, I expected big things. Here is what he did from the 2011 season and on:

Read: not super helpful. I was wrong. This is why we do not become enamored of players and instead should build tiers.

For example, you may decide your build needs a frontline closer to earn saves. The top tier involves some combination of Edwin Diaz, Josh Hader, Devin Williams, Emmanuel Clase, Jhoan Duran, and Camilo Doval. You may have an arm there that you prefer, but instead of insisting in your mind that you must have Diaz, look at the players more as commodities. In your mind, convince yourself that any of these top-tier closers would work for your team.

 

Don't Panic!

Avoid panic. It will destroy your vision of the team you are building. There will be runs on positions, most likely catchers or closers, and you may feel compelled to jump into the fray. You might have to do that to avoid being shut out of a position but keep in mind that a run on a specific position can also represent a buying opportunity for your team. In a slow draft, I am in right now, there was a run on closers. I still need one. However, I do not want any of the ones currently available to me, and Christian Walker and his 30 home runs and 10 stolen bases are still on the board. He was my pick. No panic. Just pivot. I will get saves later.

 

This is Supposed to Be Fun! Build Relationships and Make New Friends

Drafts are the most fun thing we do all year. More than anything, enjoy the process. Enjoy being in a room of people who love this game as much as you do, eat some bad snacks, and make a fake team of real players! Enjoy the camaraderie and build new friendships. I have been blessed to not only be in my home league for many years but have branched out into things like GLARF in the EARTH League, TGFBI, and leagues run by new friends met while writing about this game.

Try to keep growing as a player and honing the craft, but this is really about friendships and bonding, and in today’s throwaway world, we need these relationships more than ever.



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