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The best fantasy baseball draft strategy for rotisserie leagues!

Posted by on Sunday, January 25, 2009 (EST)

If you had a less than perfect fantasy baseball draft last season, then this simple strategy may help you improve your result this fantasy baseball season...

As with anything in life, there are many ways to achieve success in fantasy baseball.  There are thousands of web sites claiming to give you the edge you need to win your fantasy baseball league, but no one can guarantee success.  If you draft the perfect team, you still need to make great free agent pickups and avoid major injuries in order to finish atop of the final league standings. 

 

Over my last 18 years of playing fantasy baseball, I have found that the best way to win is to minimize your risk and maximize your potential upside, and the following fantasy baseball draft strategy is something that both novices and veterans can easily implement build a competitive fantasy baseball team.  

 

The core principles for selecting baseball players during your fantasy draft:

  1. Avoid selecting injury prone players in the first half of your draft.  No matter what kind of talent a player has, if he isn’t on the field, he won’t help you win.
  2. Avoid selecting players who have limited or no major league experience in the first half of your draft.  Anyone who bases their projections on a small performance sample is more likely to be proven wrong than they will be proven right.  Many web sites will proclaim that they knew Dustin Pedroia and Evan Longoria were going to be studs in 2008, but they will conveniently forget that they projected Troy Tulowitzki and BJ Upton as locks for 30+ Homeruns in 2008.   Last year I went against this principle, and I paid dearly for it in my NFBC draft.
  3. Try to maintain a ratio of three hitters for every two pitchers during each phase of the draft.  If you attempt to load up on all hitters or all pitchers during certain stretches of the draft, you will risk distorting the balance of your team.  There will we be good players available at every round of the draft, so you don’t want to miss late round opportunities because you decided to fill your team’s available pitching slots during the first half of the draft.  Teams that have all 10 pitchers they need by round 15 will very rarely “waste” late round reserve picks on Cliff Lee or Ervin Santana…  As you know, both Cliff Lee and Ervin Santana had stellar 2008 seasons, and in many smaller leagues they went completely undrafted!  Other strategies can be used to win a league, but most of them do not provide the flexibility or reliability of this simple fantasy baseball strategy.  Another advantage of this simple fantasy baseball draft strategy is that it will not be   affected by your competitors' strategies.  If you draft a team based on targeting specific categories and ignoring others, the flow of your fantasy baseball draft could drastically affect your fantasy baseball results.
  4. If all else is equal, go with the younger player that has upside, versus the older player who may be on a decline.  For example, if both players hit in the same spot of the order, are in good hitting parks, have been healthy the last few years, had similar stats in 2008, and play on good teams, the younger player has more of a chance to improve than the older player.  Mark Teixeira over David Ortiz for example…

 

The core Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy:

  1. Acquire three elite power hitters and two elite strikeout pitchers in the first five rounds.

 

Round

Player Type

Projected Stats

Comments

1

Power Hitter

35+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.300+ BA, 100+ R

Arod, Pujols, Wright, Teixeira, Braun, etc.  This player could also be a 5-Tool stud like Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, or Grady Sizemore…

2

Power Pitcher

16+ W, 200+ K, sub 3.50 ERA

Santana, Sabathia, Hamels, Lincecum, etc.

3

Power Hitter

30+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.280+ BA, 90+ R

Markakis, Morneau, Fielder, Gonzalez, Ramirez, Guerrero, etc.

4

Power Hitter

30+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.280+ BA, 90+ R

Dye, Wells, Dunn, Delgado, Hart, Hunter, Abreu, etc.

5

Power Pitcher

14+ W, 180+ K,

sub 4.00 ERA

Zambrano, Hernandez, Kazmir, etc.

 

 

      or

 

Round

Player Type

Projected Stats

Comments

1

Power Pitcher

16+ W, 200+ K, sub 3.50 ERA

Santana, Sabathia, Hamels, Lincecum

2

Power Pitcher

16+ W, 200+ K, sub 3.50 ERA

Santana, Sabathia, Hamels, Lincecum

3

Power Hitter

30+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.280+ BA, 90+ R

Markakis, Morneau, Fielder, Gonzalez, Ramirez, Guerrero, etc.

4

Power Hitter

30+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.280+ BA, 90+ R

Dye, Wells, Hart, Hunter, Abreu, etc.

5

Power Hitter

30+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.280+ BA, 90+ R

Dunn, Delgado, etc.

 

      or

 

Round

Player Type

Projected Stats

Comments

1

Power Hitter

35+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.300+ BA, 100+ R

Arod, Pujols, Wright, Teixeira, Braun, etc.  This player could also be a 5-Tool stud like Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, or Grady Sizemore…

2

Power Hitter

35+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.300+ BA, 100+ R

Arod, Pujols, Wright, Teixeira, Braun, etc.  This player could also be a 5-Tool stud like Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, or Grady Sizemore…

3

Power Hitter

30+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.280+ BA, 90+ R

Markakis, Morneau, Fielder, Gonzalez, Ramirez, Guerrero, etc.

4

Power Pitcher

14+ W, 180+ K,

sub 4.00 ERA

Hernandez, Halladay, Oswalt, Kazmir, Beckett, etc.

 

5

Power Pitcher

14+ W, 180+ K,

sub 4.00 ERA

Zambrano, Lackey, Volquez, etc.

 

 

I have tried a wide variety of strategies, but the above scenarios have led to my most dominating teams.  I have seen teams that have has success going with all hitters in top five rounds, or three pitchers and two specialty players in the first 5 rounds, but often those teams need more things to go their way during the season to finish at the top of their fantasy baseball league.  Also, if you focus on reliable and elite power hitters versus studs at scarce positions, you are less likely to be disappointed if the player you selectmisses their fantasy baseball projections. 

 

For example, I was sure that Ryan Howard at 1B, BJ Upton at 2B, Troy Tulowitzki at SS, and Russell Martin at C was an ideal start to my fantasy baseball draft last year, as I was implementing a pure position scarcity draft strategy for my 2008 NFBC Draft.  Unfortunately, I ignored that a pure position scarcity approach to the draft is very risky, because when you select the top rated players at scarce positions, you are paying a premium for them assuming they will meet or exceed your expectations.  Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley will only rank in the top two rounds for 2009 because they have good (not great) numbers in all 5 categories, so if they where to have a year when their Batting Average or Stolen Bases takes an unexpected steep decline, you suffer twice the damage, since you bypassed big stats from a power hitter and you missed an opportunity to select a Mark Derosa type of player ten rounds later in the draft.  A guy like Ryan Howard on the other hand, has his first round value firmly planted in Homeruns and Runs Batted In, so there is more upside to the pick of a power hitter, than there is downside, and you are less likely to find a 45+ HR hitter in round 10, than you are finding a 2B who can hit .300 with 15 HR.  If Ryan Howard would have hit for a .315 average last year, he could have easily been the top overall pick for 2009, Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia will never reach those heights, even in career years like the fantasy baseball seasons they posted in 2008…

 

  1. Pick up two closers, one speed demon, another quality power hitter and another power pitcher in the next five rounds. 

 

Round

Player Type

Projected Stats

Comments

6

Top Closer

40+ SV, 50+ K

FROD, Nathan, Lidge, Papelbon, etc.

7

Speedster

90+ Runs, 40+ SB, .270+ BA

Victorino, Fontenot, Taveras, Pierre, Figgins, etc.

8

Good Pitcher

12+ W, 150+ K, sub 4.25 ERA

Cain, Billingsley, Sheets, Dempster, etc.

9

Good Closer

30+ SV, 40+ K

Cordero, Wood, Street, Fuentes, etc.

10

Good Hitter

25+ HR, 100+ RBI,

.280+ BA, 90+ R

Hawpe, Burrell, Ludwick, Loney, Votto, Laroche, etc.

 

            or

 

Round

Player Type

Projected Stats

Comments

6

5-Tool Hitter

20+ HR, 90+ RBI,

.300+ BA, 90+ R, 20 SB

Kemp, Either, Pence, McClouth, etc.

7

Speedster

90+ Runs, 40+ SB, .270+ BA

Victorino, Fontenot, Taveras, Pierre, Figgins, etc.

8

Good Pitcher

12+ W, 150+ K, sub 4.25 ERA

Cain, Billingsley, Sheets, Dempster, etc.

9

Good Closer

30+ SV, 40+ K

Cordero, Wood, Street, Fuentes, etc.

10

Good Closer

30+ SV, 40+ K

Cordero, Wood, Street, Fuentes, etc.

 

This second stage of the draft not only maintains balance between hitters and pitchers, but also helps you to maintain balance across all scoring categories.  There are many fantasy baseball experts who will tell you to ignore closers early, and bank on free agent closers surfacing during the year.  Unfortunately, many teams are taking that approach these days, so there is always fierce competition for those closers-in-waiting.  If you are lucky, and things go your way, you may win your league, but you are also taking a bigger risk, so your season could end early as well.

 

If you get two closers during the draft, you’ll get your points in saves, plus have a chance to finish first in saves, if you outbid those teams who are banking on free agent saves.  Getting one of the speed demons is optimal, but if none are left, just try to grab another 5-Tool hitter.

 

  1. After building the foundation of your team through ten rounds, you are in an ideal position to use RotoRank’s position scarcity grade system to fill out your team. 

 

If you loaded up on power early, most of the elite players in scarce positions will be off the boards, but there are still plenty of solid contributors that can be found at 2B, SS, 3B, and C after round ten.  Players drafted after round ten usually have one or two major flaws in their game, for catchers, the flaws are often batting average and speed.  If you take a close look at the stats for catchers in 2008, you’ll notice a lot of guys who had 15-20 homeruns.  If you grab one of these established hitters, there is usually very little downside, unless you grab a rookie like JT Knowles who hit a measly .169 in 300 at-bats during the 2008 campaign.  On the other hand, the owners who draft Joe Mauer in round five because he can hit .350 in a good year will pay dearly for that selection if Mauer slips for any reason, and at the catcher position, there is always an increased injury risk.  Similar fantasy baseball draft values can be found at all of the scarce positions, and those players will usually jump off of the page at you, if you are using one of RotoRank’s fantasy baseball draft guides.

 

Based on what happened to me last year, I am going back to this reliable draft strategy no matter how tempted I may be to select Ian Kinsler, Troy Tulowitzki, Brian McCann, or other elite player at a scarce position before Round 3 of the 2009 NFBC Fantasy Baseball Draft.

 

The great thing about this strategy is that it will work for almost any rotisserie league, and if you combine it with an up-to-date fantasy baseball draft list like the reports that RotoRank can generate, you’ll definitely have a reason to manage your fantasy baseball teams until the end of September!


 

Comments:

Roto success using Rotorank
By Pghachey@imonmail.com on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 (EST)

I was in the hunt to win 2 very competitive leagues right up to the last few days of the saeson in 2008 using, almost exclusively, Rotorank's custom draft guide.

I'm going to use it every chance I get, based on the success I had with it in the past. The pronciples discussed in this article is a blue-print to a successful and enjoyable fantasy season. I didn't win either league as I was edged out in final 3-4 days.  Some of this was bad luck due to an injury or 2 and some of it was attributed to the other teams' having a couple of Hot players.  But losing by 2 or 3 points after a long 6 months of fantasy can be very frustrating.  However, it's more satisfying than watching from the sidelines those last 2-3 weeks of the season and planning on next year.  Rotorank is worth the registration fee for sure.  Thanks Gerry!

 

Paul Hachey  

Reply to this Comment

closer
By sethnb58@aol.com on Friday, January 30, 2009 (EST)
Your article suggest that 2 closers should be taken in rounds 6-10.  Why then does your draft guide rate them so low.  In my NL 10 team guide, the top closer is coming in at number 148?

Reply to this Comment

Fit the strategy to your league configuration...
By rotorank on Thursday, February 05, 2009 (EST)

This strategy works best for a 5x5 mixed-league draft.  It will work for leagues with other scoring structures as well, but it may need to be adjusted slightly.  For example, if you are in an AL-Only or NL-Only league, less closers will be available.  If you are in a 6x6 or 7x7 scoring league, Saves will be less important, and closers will likely rank lower.

 

The main point I was trying to make was that you should focus your ealy selections power hitters and power pitchers that have value in almost any strategy and/or league format, then use position scarcity ratings to fill out your team.

 

Take a look at my SHARB and SKEWP Category Ranking article for another approach for drafting players after you establish your core set of power hitters and pitchers...

Reply to this Comment

Winning with RotoRank
By Pghachey@imonmail.com on Saturday, April 03, 2010 (EST)

Well, I thought I would post an update and I may have already done this in another section of RotoRank late last year. I used RotoRank again, and I won in 2009 in a highly competitive Boxscore Baseball league, SuperMegabucks.  It's about $300 to enter, so you can't be iffy on getting in and it's usually by invitation only to avoid an inexperienced owner getting in over their heads. But it's an exciting league against some veteran owners and since no trading is allowed,  a good draft is of the utmost importance. I used RotoRank almost exclusively again and enjoyed a wonderful season. I had to make some moves throughout the season due to injuries or players just not performing, but that's a given every year. Thanks again Gerry! Your product is priceless!

 

Paul Hachey

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