When it comes to fantasy baseball there are many methods and strategies that owners follow, such as waiting on pitchers, punting saves, getting steals late or early, loading up on 20/20 guys, etc. What we've found over the years is that some combination of these, but more importantly, being flexible is the key to filling and maintaining a winning fantasy roster. First comes all the research, which takes place by immersing oneself in all the numbers, especially the analytics. Then we put together an order based on projected performance, but also value. Value plays a huge role in fantasy sports, and I'll get to what I mean by that in a second. Some other crucial elements we consider are ball park factors, injury risk, line up and bullpen protection, weather, coaching aggressiveness, lineup placement, schedule, age, division strengths and weaknesses, as well as a few others. During the draft, whether auction style or your standard snake draft (12th pick gets 13th as well), drafting players later than where they are traditionally getting picked is almost always a recipe for success. After a successful balanced draft, full of value picks, it takes close attention and consideration throughout the season to maintain a winning roster.
Draft Value Explained
Getting good value for a player during the draft is essential to having any kind of success. Anyone can draft great players in the first few rounds, but it's the studs you find in the 20th round that win leagues. If you believe highly in a player who no one else does, absolutely move him up in your rankings, just not too high or the value of your picks could be spoiled. Ideally you'd still get him without missing out on other highly rated players. For instance, I may think Jeff McNeil is going to outperform Jose Altuve, but I’m not gonna select McNeil before him. I’m going to have Altuve slightly lower in the rankings than most owners, and I’m going to have McNeil higher than most owners. Don't get me wrong, Altuve is still a great player and if he falls to me, I'll gladly take him, but I won't be upset if I don't get him. However, if I do get Altuve and since I've moved McNeil up a couple rounds in my rankings, I now have a chance to get both. If I were to put McNeil up in the 3rd round where Altuve is going, now I've wasted my 3rd round pick, when I could have easily gotten him in the 7th round. Basically, after you've put together your rankings, you want to look at the average drat position or adp of where a player is going and adjust accordingly. If you have a player you're high and you've placed him in the 5th round, but his adp says 11th round, you should have no problem moving him down to the 8th or even the 9th and still have the opportunity to get him. The same goes for guys you may not be too fond of. If you have a player listed in round 13 and hes going in the 7th (chances are you wont get him anyway so it wont make much of a difference), then it would be wise to move him up to at least the 10th or 11th round. Chances are that if he falls to you that late, it would still be a valuable pick. Remember the name of the game is VALUE. There is a reason other leagues are taking him in round 7, and if you can get him in round 10, that is a great pick. Even if you don't believe in him, he'll make for a great trade asset.
The first 150 picks or so are like that. Once you get past 150, even 125 almost anything goes. Especially once you get past the 200 mark. Go ahead and pick whomever you think is best, regardless of value or if they’ll be available in the next round, because any owner can take anyone in those late rounds. Plus the value of the pick isn’t as high, so it won’t hurt you to reach for someone you believe in, even if he’d still be available in a couple rounds. There's nothing worse in fantasy drafts than being all in on a guy all off-season, knowing he’s your top sleeper and then waiting too long to get him because some other savvy owner grabs him before you do. It’s OK to reach for those players, just don’t go crazy. So again just to reiterate, say for whatever reason you thought Manny Macahdo was going to outplay Nolan Arenado, of course the chance of that is about 2%, but if you truly believed it, you still should not take Machado before Arenado. You move Nolan down a few ticks from his adp and you move Manny up, but he does not pass him in the rankings. This way, hopefully you get them both.
Be Ready with Players in the Queue
Since the draft is full of unpredictability, you need to be prepared with plenty of players ready to go in your queue. The hurried, panic pick is something all owners want to avoid. I've had numerous occasions where I had 7 or 8 guys queued up, just to see them all go in the 8 picks before me. Always have at least 2 more players in your queue, than the amount of picks you are away in the draft order. I know that sounds confusing, but its as simple as: if your pick is coming up in 10 spots, you need at least 12 players queued. Many owners choose to set their pre-draft rankings on the site they're drafting from, which isn't a bad idea in case you inadvertently miss the draft, but isn't completely necessary. You can always update throughout the draft from your print out or other document with your rankings on it. You need to be constantly adding to your queue, even if you've just had your turn. Have snacks near by so you don't need to run to the refrigerator! If you wait until 3 or 4 picks before you're up, you may be blindsided and be forced to grab someone you didn't necessarily want. Every fantasy owner knows what its like to be scrambling under the search menu, trying to remember the spelling of your player's name, only to find out he was selected 5 rounds earlier. Be ready to go long before your turn and keep eliminating players off your print out as they get selected. With this simple awareness/strategy every turn in draft will be met with a sense of calm and plenty of thought out options. If your guy does gets picked just before it's your turn, it's no problem, simply grab the next one from your queue.
Now you've got everything prepared ,which is great, but you also must remain flexible in order to have a successful draft. You have your rankings and you know who your target guys are. You have all your sleepers moved up and your duds pushed down, but what happens in round 10 when 6 second baseman all come off the board at once? Do you grab the next best 2b or wait?? This all depends on the situation, but my advice would be if the next eligible second baseman on your list isn't for another 50 picks, then you're going to have to wait. You risk ending up with a mediocre or worse 2b for the start of the season, but you cannot bump up a player 5 rounds just to fill a position. Grab the next best value pick and hopefully, you can trade with someone who has a plethora of players at the position. If you notice an owner drafting a lot of the same position, chances are he'll have a need elsewhere. Its not a bad idea to quickly check what positions he hasn't filled and load up on those in the coming rounds, to make a trade even easier. However, if in that same scenario, the next second baseman on your list is only 20 or even 25 picks away and the following 2b after him is 60 picks away, then I say go ahead and take him. Chances are he's going to go next if not soon afterward, and moving a player up a couple of rounds for position scarcity won't hurt your overall draft. The one position I shy away from when it comes to impulse drafting is the bottom half of the closers category. This position is so volatile that if you grab say the Giants closer in round 18 because other owners and scooping up all the saves, then you really are hurting your team in the long run. You're better off grabbing a decent starting pitcher or power hitting outfielder, than a guy who could be out of a job within a month. So many new closers are constantly emerging, you really only need one top 10 closer and then let the rest fall to you when the value is there. I do the same thing with catchers. I NEVER reach for catchers. If I miss out on the top 6 or so, I have no problem waiting until the end to grab one. Most of those guys could outperform any of the mid range targets selected in the late teen rounds. 2 catcher leagues is a different story, but in the majority of standard leagues you can wait. Positions I do join the rush on are ace pitchers and speed. Feel free to bump up the next stolen base guy or ace pitcher if they start going fast. Just make sure they're not too far down your list. Remember, your pre-draft rankings are meant to be a guide as the draft goes along. Definitely stick to the majority of the rankings as much as you can, but make the necessary adjustments as you go. And one other note, if during the draft you have a guy you suddenly have a good feeling about and you've ranked him 146th and the player ranked 140th is still available, go ahead and grab 146. It could come back to haunt you, but having guys you really feel strongly about is always better than not. You don't want to be left kicking yourself saying "I knew it!" come the all-star break.
The Last Few Rounds of the Draft
This is where I like to get creative. Go ahead and take some prospects who have a chance at making the team and becoming an every day player. Grabbing those quality set up guys is also a great idea. They not only help your ERA and WHIP, but are one injury or a couple of bad performances away from becoming an elite closer. Most of the time I'm filling my catcher position here, unless one has fallen to me earlier in the draft. That usually only happens if I yell "he's still left!?" Otherwise I'm waiting. Most of those guys at the catcher position, excluding the top 7 or so in the league, will perform similarly.
Daily League vs Weekly League
Here are some quick notes on daily leagues vs weekly leagues. In daily leagues strong side platoon guys are your friend if you have the roster space. You don’t want your lefty outfielder who bats .290 vs righties and .210 vs lefties hurting your BA unnecessarily. A guy like Joc Pederson is a perfect example. He hit every one of his 36 home runs against righties last year and was absolutely atrocious vs lefties. With the new rules in place preventing teams from subbing in lefty pitching just to face one guy, Joc is not only a fantastic start vs RHP, but also won't see as many lefty relievers coming in to face him. If he plays 125 games in your lineup and hits 30 home runs that is tremendous value. Be wary of managers that play the percentages and don’t use a steady lineup. The Rays love to platoon. The Giants are going to do it a lot. The Mariners come to mind, although there aren’t a ton of fantasy worthy candidates. The Angels may do it with Joe Madden in charge, especially with Ohtani coming in and out of the lineup. That will have a trickle down effect on many of his teammates' playing time. Relief pitchers and closers are more valuable in daily leagues as well because you can practically fill your active pitching roster with them. They will accumulate a very low era and whip for you, while raking up great k/9 as well. Round out the remaining spots with 4 or 5 great starters in quality match ups only, and you should have exemplary pitching numbers across the board. This also helps keep you under the innings limit for leagues that have them.
Ceiling/Floor, Injuries and Position Eligibility
Often times you may see a players projections slightly better than a player ranked above them. Most of the time this can be attributed to ceiling/floor, position eligibility, and injury risk. A player like Giancarlo Stanton is lower on my rankings only because of the constant nagging injuries. Where as a healthy, durable second baseman might not produce superior numbers, I can rely on him more and he plays a much harder position to fill. Especially if that 2B qualifies at multiple positions, that's an even bigger leg up. Multi-position guys are a huge help during the season when you're dealing with injuries. It's nothing to be blown out of proportion however, but if the players mentioned are projected to produce somewhat similar numbers, the latter is always going to be ranked higher. Ceiling and floor is basically the very best and the absolute worst you can expect out of a player. Many factors go into this, but usually the younger players have a higher ceiling and a lower floor, where as most players who have been in the league a while are less volatile. The easiest to predict are usually the aging sluggers who are on the decline. There are always exceptions however, and that is why a deeper look into the numbers is needed.
Why are better projected stats lower on the rankings?
As we stated above, sometimes draft rankings and projected stats don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. This may seem a bit confusing for a newer players. As mentioned, injury risk, ceiling/floor and position eligibility play a big part. Also, playing time may be in question. The main factor however, relates back to player value. Remember during the draft it's all about player value. I can't state this enough. When an owner believes a player will outperform his projections, he may want to move him up in his pre-draft rankings. However, if he believes a 12th round projected player is worthy of an 8th round selection, he can probably safely take him in the 10th round and still maximize value for the other picks. By all means upgrade or downgrade players to your liking, just don’t over pay to the extent that you’re taking a large risk when it isn't necessary.
Standard Roto vs Head to Head Roto
There are a few subtle differences when preparing to play in a Head-to-Head vs a standard Rotisserie league. The majority of player ratings still apply. The main distinction is the emphasis on stolen bases and saves in standard roto leagues. In h2h if you lose the steals or saves category, you can make up for it elsewhere and still win the matchup. Where as in roto, it's tough to be victorious with a 1 in any category. Therefore when preparing for head to head leagues, it's smart to move those speed guys down a slightly in the rankings, as well as some of the lower tier closers on bad teams. They may not earn a single save all week, and there's a good chance they blow up your era or whip with a single bad game. Another difference between the leagues is while the law of averages applies in roto, playing the hot streaks in head to head can lead to lopsided wins. While an average player on a hot streak is very valuable in h2h, in roto while still helpful, he may not be worth dropping an overall better player for him. Just as a hot player or two can win you the week, a couple of guys in bad slumps could cost you. In the long season of stand roto it won't matter as much, meaning you don't have to pay as close attention to it. Let your stars play and they'll reward you in the long run. In h2h get those hot players in your lineup and move those slumping ones to the bench. The starting pitcher matchups play a huge role week to week as well, affecting head to head leagues more. Most of these differences occur during the season, but when preparing for the draft just take heed of steals and saves as previously mentioned, and move those players down a bit for h2h. The rankings listed on this site are for standard roto leagues, but can easily be adjusted with this simple formula. A guy like Trea Turner is a perfect example. While he's a first round pick in roto, he can be moved down to the second in h2h. If a player relies on his speed for his value, you can safely move him down about 10 spots in your head to head pre-draft rankings.
20/20 Players vs 2 Category Studs
Traditionally 5 category players are sought after in roto, where as 1 or 2 category studs are great in head to head. If you take two 20-20 (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases) guys and total them up, you obviously get 40 sb and 40 hr. Where as if you get a 35 hr player who steals a couple bags, and a 35 sb guy who hits a few homers you end up with identical stats or close to it. In which case it comes down to rbi/r. Although when these are totaled up, they are usually about equal as well. (The power hitter gets the RBI and the speed guy gets the runs). This is why its so important to pay attention to batting average. That is commonly where you'll find the difference. There are plenty of power hitters who hit for a low average, and for that reason it's wise to wait on these guys and try to load up on steals early. Finding 30+ stolen base guys is so difficult these days, a steal is practically worth 1 and a half home runs when playing roto. So go with steals first, but when given the choice between the 20/20 or 35+ HR hitter, pay attention to the batting average and select the player with the higher of the two. Just remember to balance it out as the draft goes on.
I hope these ideas and tips help you guys and gals put together a fantastic roster for the upcoming season! If you need any advice or have questions please write us and we'll respond promptly.