It’s time to start planning for fantasy baseball season, and like it or not, there are some common draft strategies that can sink an owner’s season before it ever begins.
Fantasy baseball drafting is more challenging than it looks. With at least eight offensive positions, several utility slots and a ton of options for your pitching rotation, it’s important to be adequately prepared for a long and involved draft.
It’s not exactly rocket science, but there are a lot of major mistakes owners still must avoid, especially in the early rounds of the selection process. Let’s break down three of the top mistakes fantasy owners make on selection day that can completely derail a season.
Paying Attention to Positions
At some point, owners need to pay attention to what positions they are filling in the draft. That point shouldn’t come before the sixth round.
It happens far too often. Owners look at the right side of the screen, referencing the positions that have been filled and addressing the open slot next to “SS” or “2B” or any number of other openings in the starting lineup. The time will come to fill in your lineup.
The first five rounds should be all about value. Dustin Pedroia is one of the most productive second basemen in the game, but he’s not worth a second-round selection if Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton and Justin Upton are still on the board.
Unless you’ve already drafted three players at the same position early in the draft, there’s no harm in stocking up. That’s what utility spots are for.
In most formats, aggregate production is what puts wins on the board. Use your first five (or more) picks on the guys who are most likely to put up big numbers, saving the position-filling for later rounds.
Over-drafting the Long Ball
Don’t get me wrong, power hitters are an essential part of an owner’s lineup. It’s important to remember the other statistics, though.
Home runs represent just one category of fantasy baseball scoring. Drafting Hanley Ramirez, B.J. Upton and Curtis Granderson in the first six rounds may help you win the long ball category every week, but it won’t do much for your team’s batting average.
The key to winning in fantasy baseball is balance. And value. And luck.
Okay, so maybe balance is just one of the keys, but it’s an important aspect to keep in mind on draft day. If you hope to win a few matchups in the batting average and stolen bases categories, make sure to pepper in players like Shin-Soo Choo, Ian Desmond and Juan Pierre from time to time.
There’s a reason Mike Trout and Ryan Braun will be flying off the draft board in the top three picks this year. That kind of all-around production isn’t available in every round, though, and finding various players who can contributed to specific scoring categories will go a long way toward a championship.
Starting the Closer
Drafting relievers in the early rounds (or anywhere before Round 10) is like handing a closer the ball to work the first inning.
When is it acceptable to start drafting relievers?
With so much value to be had at other positions, selecting relievers early in the draft is a bad strategy. Even if Mariano Rivera, Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman are each notching a couple saves a week for your squad, losing the production that could be had at other positions isn’t worth the trade-off.
If that isn’t reason enough to hold off on the relievers, look at it this way: there are 30 closers in the MLB at any given time. Another 10 or 12 relievers warrant serious consideration to be selected in your fantasy draft as well. With about 40 relievers getting consistent innings, there’s no reason to rush to select any of them, especially when you’re likely to get only an inning or two from any of them in a given day.
There’s nothing wrong with using a couple mid-round picks on top-tier closers, but don’t overdo it. Use the value to stock up on quality starting pitching and positions players who will boost your team’s stats on a daily basis.