How To Win Your Fantasy Baseball Draft

Harris DeckerSenior Analyst IMarch 24, 2010

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants poses during media photo day on February 28, 2010 at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

I would like to preface this article by saying that I play in a head to head league on with ten total teams. Over the past three years (starting in 2006), I have never finished below second place, winning the championship once. My draft strategy always remains the same and is a virtually fool proof plan. 

The first thing to remember about fantasy baseball is not to play favorites. If you are in it to win it, forget who your favorite team is. As a Mets fan, I can't stand Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, but if they are there and it's time to take them, you take them!! That point seems painfully obvious but often overlooked as players from your favorite team get drafted many rounds early. 

The main key to my draft is the balance between hitting and pitching. It is important to remember that pitching is very marginal. Pitchers in early rounds are not that much better than pitchers in late rounds. Here are some interesting statistics to think about.

The #1 pitcher in pre-draft rankings is Tim Lincecum.Last year, he was 15-7 with 261 strike outs and 2.48 ERA. His average pick in drafts is 9.4. Jon Lester is currently being picked 70.7 on average. His stats are as follows: 15-8, 225 and 3.41. Is Lincecum really worth that early pick when you can wait almost six round and get Lester? 

Picking pitching in the early rounds is a ridiculous method. Solid, reliable hitters are much tougher to come by and therefore must be picked much earlier. There are some rare situations in which you are left in a position, forcing you to pick a top flight pitcher. In those rare cases it is important to bite the bullet and take them. My point is, pitching is easy to find in deep rounds, hitting is not. 

The entire basis of my strategy is marginalizing what type of true production you get out of your top players. In a ten team, head to head mock draft I participated in recently, my picks were as follows: 

  1. Mark Teixeira
  2. Joe Mauer
  3. Ichiro Suzuki
  4. Kevin Youkilis
  5. BJ Upton
  6. Curtis Granderson
  7. Josh Johnson
  8. Dan Uggla
  9. Matt Cain
  10. Chad Billingsley
  11. Jason Bartlett
  12. Ian Stewart
  13. Jake Peavy
  14. Rick Porcello
  15. AJ Burnett
This left me with a solid rotation. What ends up happening with top flight pitchers is that you have top heavy rotations. Two top pitchers in this mock draft went to the same team. They selected Lincecum and Felix Hernandez. The trouble is, after these top two, the teams next pitchers are Ricky Nolasco and John Danks.
It gets even worse beyond that. You need to have a balanced pitching rotation full of middle of the road pitchers. I used my 7th, 9th, 10th, 13th, 14th and 15th picks on solid pitchers. I was able to add even more depth in the later rounds, picking up veteran pitchers for my bench such as Mark Buehrle and Derek Lowe. 
The strategy works. Draft all your hitting up front. If you've reached the 7th round without a pitcher, look at your hitting and ask yourself, is this good enough to win. If it is, start drafting pitchers and you will have yourself a solid winning fantasy baseball team in 2010.