National Fantasy Baseball Championship Pre-Draft Strategy

Rick MillemanCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2010

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 26:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers bats against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on August 26, 2009 in Anaheim, California. The Angels defeated the Tigers 4-2.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Today I make my first foray into the National Fantasy Baseball Championship , competing in a 15-team, 5x5 rotisserie scoring mixed (American and National) satellite league.

I have to wonder what I am getting myself into. I prefer and usually only play in leagues with fantasy point scoring as they seem more like real baseball to me than playing for categories. But, since roto leagues are more traditional for fantasy baseball, and this is a high profile competition, I figured I would give it a shot.

Let’s see what damage I can do to my reputation.

Since this is only a satellite league, my real goal is to learn the ins and outs of NFBC to go for the big prize next year. If you haven’t heard of the NFBC before, its annual main event awards a $100,000 grand prize to the overall winner of 405 teams (27, 15-team leagues), plus it has a number of other live and online league options.

I have some past success playing rotisserie, but the biggest roto success of my career was some time ago. I won a 3,000+ team competition back in 1999. The prize, after arguing with the less than honest contest administrator, consisted of a few team jerseys and sports memorabilia, highlighted by a lithograph of the first (and only?) meeting between Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, signed by Ted Williams. That gem still displays in a prominent place in my den to this day.



The draft is a snake draft and I am slotted in the eighth spot. Since I pick eighth in every round (seven to the left of me, seven to the right), I will always have 14 picks before my next turn, giving me ample opportunity to plan out my next pick.

Draft Buddy will be my best friend for those few hours, as it will help me keep track of every player taken in the draft as well as tracking category stats to see how I am doing against the competition. This will let me know what categories I need to go after, and what categories I am already heavily invested in and can ease off on later in the draft, to strike a nice balance across the board.

At the eighth pick, I can hope beyond hope for Ryan Braun , although I doubt he will be there. Matt Kemp will also be a strong possibility, but it may require one of the first seven owners to pick Tim Lincecum or go against the norm for Kemp to fall to eighth. The third and likely choice for my first pick and stud player to build around is Miguel Cabrera .

On the return trip in the second round, I’ll be looking hard at Jimmy Rollins , given the shortstop position drops off rather dramatically after the top guys are gone.

My overall strategy is to get a good infield and a few stout pitchers. I will be happy taking an infielder off the second tier of each of the four infield positions and maybe grab a first tier catcher if one hangs around too long.

The league uses two catchers, so I’m going to try to make the second starter a quality guy, grabbing a player in the third tier because once you get past that you are getting little to no production.

Outfield bargains can usually be found throughout the draft and I plan to fill out my roster with a few of those. I know I won’t get any five category guys that late, but good help can be found with patience.

I want to get three good pitchers to ride for the season and plan to be aggressive with strikeout guys. While I don’t expect a Roy Halladay to fall into my lap in the third round, I do plan to pursue Josh Beckett and Javier Vazquez types to eat up innings, pile up wins, and strike out batters.

A stud closer is also on my to-do list to help fill out my saves category. A Jonathan Papelbon -type of guy will help all my categories as well as allowing me the freedom to wait longer for other bullpen arms. After that, I will probably go with eighth inning guys who will pick up the occasional save, but are very reliable in the ratio and strikeout departments.

How all of this pans out is anyone’s guess. With 14 other competitors after top quality players too, I may have to change my plan mid-draft. Since everyone has the ability to find studs in the first few rounds, the ability to adapt in the middle of a draft and to find the bargains as they develop is what wins fantasy titles.

Preparation is the key. I feel prepared, as I’m sure everyone competing in this league will feel heading into the draft. I’ll report back post-draft to review how it panned out and weigh my chances to win this league.

Rick Milleman is the head fantasy baseball contributor at . Check his annual player projections included in the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy to help draft your championship team.