Five Strategies for Success in Upcoming Fantasy Baseball Drafts

by Joey Schneider | Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016
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Mike Trout

For fans that desire to include more aspects of America’s pastime into their life, fantasy baseball leagues can offer unexpected thrills and learning opportunities.

According to a 2009 article from Forbes writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg, nearly 10.8 million people are estimated to play fantasy baseball on a yearly basis. Only a small amount of these participants come out victorious each year, generally guided by a flexible draft day approach.

As the 2016 season draws closer, five general strategies could help participants sustain a competitive edge in modern-day fantasy baseball leagues.

Josh Donaldson

Strategy 1- Build around a big-name hitter 

Of all the position players currently within the Top 10 of ESPN’s fantasy baseball rankings, all finished with at least 25 home runs, 90 RBIs or 200 hits last season. Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton and Nolan Arenado were the only three among this group who played on subpar .500 rosters in 2015, suggesting that big-name hitters on playoff hopeful rosters are known for extraordinary statistical production.

Choosing a corner infielder or outfielder with five-tool capabilities will allow managers to breathe easy once the talent gap shrinks in later rounds. Reigning MVPs Bryce Harper and Josh Donaldson are strong go-to candidates considering the leadership roles that both inherited prior to their first-time honors.

Jake Arrieta

Strategy 2- Draft pitchers of different teams, backgrounds

Starting pitchers can be risky investments in fantasy baseball simply because of the nature of the game. While generally limited to one appearance in five days, rotation members accounted for over one-quarter of the league’s disabled list stints last season, accompanied by 28 recipients that received Tommy John surgery over the past calendar year.

To prepare for the pressure and expectations that each season brings, it’s important to recruit pitchers of different teams, backgrounds and pitching styles. For instance, Jake Arrieta makes sense as a first-tier pitcher because of his pitch efficiency, but complementing him with starting pitchers aside from the Cubs’ staff provides insurance if Chicago’s season does not unfold as planned.

Jose Altuve

Strategy 3- Don’t hesitate to add speed

Sometimes the best way to win a fantasy baseball championship is to make decisions that other mangers in a league may find to be unpopular. This theory is best demonstrated by speed, mainly supported by outfielders with pure running abilities such as Billy Hamilton or Charlie Blackmon.

However, middle infielders built a reputation for agility by leading 13 rosters in either triples or stolen bases last season. Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon are two catalysts of this movement, as the pair combined for 96 stolen bases in 2015 to prove that speed can be just as valuable as power.

Santiago Casilla and Buster Posey

Strategy 4- Wait until middle rounds for catchers, relief pitchers

Although the ideal goal of fantasy baseball is to construct a lineup that offers the best chance of winning, managers may run into trouble when attempting to fill every starting position void as early as possible. Each team will inevitably come out of a draft with some weaknesses, but knowing which positions provide consistent outputs can help managers avoid additional setbacks.

Catcher and relief pitchers fall into this category since few of these performers exceeded an All-Star WAR ranking of 4.0 last season. While names such as Buster Posey and Kenley Jansen could provide positional superiority, waiting on late-inning battery combinations would be ideal until the rankings and numbered pick align more closely.

Paul Goldschmidt

Strategy 5- Set expectations through consistent practice

Just like anything humans pursue, repetition and practice are essential to learning the draft day effort that translates to a balanced fantasy team. ESPN offers mock drafts under snake and auction settings every five minutes, allowing managers to observe trends and determine potential sleepers in preparation for future events.

Becoming familiar with the system particularly proves valuable for managers who are unfamiliar with the game or have struggled to earn a playoff bid in previous campaigns. By practicing structure in mock drafts, one can understand tiny factors that work into the selection process and appreciate the competition that results from the social experience.

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Joey Schneider
About the Author

Joey Schneider is an aspiring sports journalist attending the University of Missouri- Columbia. The St. Louis native also writes about baseball for Fansided's Redbird Rants and The Sports Journal, while receiving experience as a credentialed press member at Kansas City Royals and Mizzou football games.

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