Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy 2013: How to Build the Perfect Team

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIMarch 24, 2013

Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy 2013: How to Build the Perfect Team

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    Opening Day is right around the corner, meaning fantasy baseball is in full swing. It's time to fire up those big boards and start planning your draft strategy.

    A draft can definitely make or break your fantasy season, depending on how it goes. It's the most instrumental component of any fantasy team.

    In order to help you on your league's big day, we're giving a rundown of some helpful draft strategies. Following these guidelines won't ensure you fantasy glory, but they're sure to get you a little closer.

Spend Your 1st-Round Pick Wisely

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    Your first-round pick not only sets the tone for your fantasy draft, but in theory it should be your best player each year. That's why you need to make sure to spend it wisely.

    While some may see Mike Trout as a risky move, it's impossible to ignore the season he had last year. If he's half as good in 2013, that's still worthy of a first rounder. His name should be at the top of your fantasy board.

    The concrete top five in 2013 have to be Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Robinson Cano. After that, things get muddled.

    Just remember to be smart. Being bold in a draft is good, but the first round isn't the best place to take a risk.

    Instead of splurging on the injury-plagued Josh Hamilton, roll with a young stud like Andrew McCutchen. Look past the declining bat of Albert Pujols and nab a young power bat in Joey Votto or Prince Fielder.

    And never, ever, take a pitcher in the first round. There are plenty of aces on the board, and all are far too injury prone and inconsistent to waste a first-round pick on.

    The only exception to this rule should be Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander, but even they are one elbow injury away from a wasted fantasy season.

    Another pointer: this year is not a good year for position scarcity in the first round. Unless his name is Cabrera or Cano, don't spend such a valuable pick on a second/third baseman or shortstop.

Only Combat Position Scarcity with Quality Players

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    People make a big deal of position scarcity. And if you make it a bigger deal than it really is, you'll end up getting burned.

    The thing about position scarcity is that it's only worth combating if you have quality talent. That means names like Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Jose Reyes, Adrian Beltre and David Wright.

    Don't burn a mid-round pick on a suspect talent like Ian Desmond just because you need a shortstop. Instead, pick a better quality player and then go after a sleeper like Josh Rutledge after the 10th round.

    If you can get your hands on a top-tier talent at a thin position, that's great. Otherwise, aim for sleepers and allocate your picks accordingly.

    Remember, fantasy baseball is about maximizing player return, not filling up your roster as fast as possible.

Sit on a Catcher and Closer

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    The value of catchers and closers is one of the most contested things amongst fantasy players. Some overvalue, some undervalue. If you're smart, you're in the latter group.

    Unless you can get your hands on Buster Posey, there's no reason to draft your catcher before Round 9 or 10. If you really have to take a closer early, your mantra should be Craig Kimbrel or bust.

    Otherwise, this is the best place to look for steals.

    Catcher is rife with undervalued talent. Carlos Santana had a down year and could be a steal in 2013. There's also Wilin Rosario, who could easily slug 30 home runs in Colorado. Don't forget about Miguel Montero or Salvador Perez either.

    Save numbers are so varied that you could target almost any closer and be OK. So don't waste time on a Jonathan Papelbon or Mariano Rivera when a Sergio Romo or Kenley Jansen could be just as good—if not better.

    Remember, these two positions are generally the least tiered in baseball. The guys at the top aren't that much better than the guys in the middle—and those guys are almost indistinguishable.

    If you're going to wait before drafting any positions, make sure it's these two.

Start Your Rotation Early

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    Just like MLB, a solid rotation is the backbone to any good fantasy baseball team. If you're looking for a winning formula, try this out:

    Rounds 1-6: Try to have at least two pitchers at this point. Don't take unnecessary risks. Focus on consistency and upside, and try to get two top-tier talents. These are your 200-200 guys (200 innings, 200 strikeouts).

    Rounds 7-10: This is a good time to look for either a fringe-ace (think Josh Johnson) or strong bounce back candidates—Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester are two big names to consider this year.

    Rounds 10-end: This is when you nab the young upside arms. Think: Matt Moore, Brandon Morrow or Jeff Samardzija.

    Once your rotation is set, focus on high-upside arms. Julio Teheran is a big one this year, as is the underrated Clay Buchholz, who had a great second half last season.

    It's not a fool-proof formula, but it's a great way to get a varied mix of aces and high-upside arms while being smart and not wasting early picks on risky moves.

Be Bold or Go Home

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    How many of you laughed when the guy in your league drafted Mike Trout in the top 20 rounds last year? Or the guy who drafted Stephen Strasburg as if he was an ace instead of a pitcher coming off a major injury?

    And how many of you readers out there had a laugh because you ended up with both players on your fantasy team?

    If there's anything you should learn from fantasy baseball, it's that being bold can always pay huge dividends. And if you do it right, the rewards are much greater than the risks.

    Playing it safe is great, but established players are consistently boring. Very rarely are they the difference-makers in winning a fantasy league.

    It's the bold picks that make the biggest impact.

    This year, take a look at late-going sleepers such as Jurickson Profar, Manny Machado or Wil Myers. And there's always Bryce Harper, though he's going pretty early in some leagues.

    Looking at pitchers, this is a huge year for rebounding starters. Adam Wainwright is a mid-round pick who could pitch like a top 10 talent. Really looking for a steal? Try your hand at Roy Halladay or stashing away Brandon Beachy.

    Never be afraid to go young when it comes to pitching. Keep an eye on breakout candidates like Julio Teheran, Jarrod Parker or Shelby Miller.

    Picking consistent players is a great way to build a base for your team, but remember, at the end of the day, it's the bold moves that can make or break your fantasy team.