Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Vital Tips to Drafting a Championship Team

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2013

TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27:  Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels runs on a first inning single hit against the San Francisco Giants during the spring training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium on February 27, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Fantasy baseball is a grind. No matter how your draft goes, fantasy baseball championships are won and lost on the waiver wire each year.

Still, you can be the king of the wire and still fail to make the playoffs if you don't draft a solid core. That's why I've decided to share my four tried-and-true "Tenets of Successful Fantasy Baseball Drafting" with you.

I know that everyone has a different philosophy when drafting and you may not agree with mine, but this particular model has brought me a lot of success over the years. If you are looking to shake up your own approach, I suggest following these four suggestions.


Draft Studs at Weak Positions

If I have one of the first four picks in the first round, I'm drafting Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout and Matt Kemp, in that order. The first two players are so safe and productive you can't pass them up—and Cabrera is a great value at third base—while the versatility and overall potential of the latter two players makes them obvious picks.

But after that, my strategy will change. 

With the fifth pick, I would target two players—Robinson Cano and Buster Posey. Why? Because each play a position that can be difficult to get offensive value from, especially Posey at catcher.

Look, you could draft Joey Votto or Albert Pujols there, but the likelihood is that you'll be able to find value at the first base position later in the draft. Same in the outfield. But other positions—catcher, second base, third base and shortstop—can be really hard to draft. Those positions simply don't have a lot of offensive depth.

Here's another way of looking at it. If you look at ESPN's Player Rater—which assigns values to a player's runs, home runs, RBI, stolen bases and batting average and provides a rough portrait of how valuable a fantasy player is—Buster Posey had a value at 8.85, whereas the second most valuable catcher was Yadier Molina at 7.49.

There were five players with first base eligibility with a better rating than that and 16 players that topped it with outfield eligibility. If you take it further, the third-best catcher, Joe Mauer, came in at a 6.95. Six players with first base eligibility and 24 players with outfield eligibility scored better.

You can find great value later in the draft at certain positions. It's hard to get value at catcher, shortstop and second base. Take studs at those positions early and reap the rewards.


Versatility, Versatility, Versatility!

Player A hits .304 with 93 runs scored, 25 home runs, 91 RBI and 23 stolen bases.

Player B hits .232 with 102 runs scored, 43 home runs, 106 RBI and 10 stolen bases. 

Which player do you draft first?

While both guys are excellent options, I want Player A (Alex Rios), simply because he is far more versatile a producer than Player B (Curtis Granderson). Sure, I love that Granderson gives me nine more runs, 18 more home runs and 15 more RBI, but he kills my batting average and barely helps in steals.

But Rios helps me in every single category. I'd rather build a team of versatile, five-category producers rather than mix and match power players with a few guys who hit for average and a stolen base expert or two.

I know, I know, Mike Trouts and Andrew McCutchens don't grow on trees, but if you are stuck between drafting a versatile player and a category-specific producer, always choose the versatile option.


Wait On Pitching

If you absolutely must have Justin Verlander and you don't mind using a late-first or second-round pick to land him, be my guest. The man is one of the safest players in fantasy baseball, which is certainly a plus at a volatile position like pitcher.

But after that, wait. Trust me, you'll find solid values down the board. And for heaven's sake, don't overpay for saves. Closers are the most volatile players in fantasy, and two months into the season a savvy waiver-wire play or two will net you a solid closer, I promise.

According to ESPN's Average Draft Position, in a 10-team league you'll be able to select Gio Gonzalez (44.6) in the fifth round, CC Sabathia (52.8) in the sixth round, Roy Halladay (63.8) in the seventh round, James Shields (88.2) in the ninth round, Yovani Gallardo (91.4) in the 10th round and Ian Kennedy (112.9) in the 12th round.

If you play your cards right, you can build a solid staff without selecting a single pitcher in the first four rounds. Wait on pitching!


Target Bounce-Back Candidates

Here is a list of players who had disappointing 2012 seasons (or lost serious time to injury) but should be available for a discount at your draft. Target the following:

Jose Bautista, Roy Halladay, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford (I believe in you, Carl!), Victor Martinez, Ryan Howard (his ESPN ADP is 111.0, meaning you can get him in the 12th round), Hanley Ramirez, Adam Wainwright, Tim Lincecum and Josh Johnson are a few players I'll be keeping an eye on.

Those are just a few bounce-back candidates that are being drafted well below their traditional value. Yes, they are all risky, but if they pan out, you are going to look like a genius for snatching them at a discounted cost.


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