2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: My dream draft strategy for Points, Rotisserie, and Head-to-Head Categories leagues
Heath Cummings dreams about the perfect draft for him in all three of the major formats.
- Draft Prep Tiers: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP
- Heath's Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
- Scott's Top 100 prospects | Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
You should feel extremely uncomfortable committing to one strategy pre-draft. You have no idea how everyone else is going to attack the draft or who will fall in your lap. That doesn't mean you should be opposed to having a pre-draft strategy. Seem inconsistent? It's not at all.
I enter each draft with a strategy I would like to implement. It's built around the format of the league, the size of the league and the competition I'm going against. I also try to lay it out in a best-case scenario, because what are we planning for if not total domination?
Because of that ambition and the reality of Fantasy Baseball drafts, it rarely goes as planned. Which is perfectly fine. In-draft flexibility is one of the most important qualities you can possess on draft day. But I still start with a blue print... A perfect draft, if you will. And here they are.
In no format has my draft strategy changed more than in head-to-head points. As recently as last year I was lamenting taking any starting pitcher in the first round. I now have four ranked that way. Is that because Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale got much safer? Not at all.
All the things we warned about with pitcher injuries still exists. But the combination of the upside and floor within the big four is too far ahead of the field for me to pass on any of them after pick six. So much so, that my preferred draft strategy if I'm picking in the second half of the first round (or an auction) is to. This gives you a huge advantage at starting pitcher but it does put you a little behind in terms of offense.
To combat that I like to spend the next few rounds attacking offensive upside. This includes bats like Andrew Benintendi, Rhys Hoskins and Alex Bregman. In fact, in a lot of leagues you may be able to land all three. While there's plenty of risk taking those guys that early, there's also first round upside. Besides, there is a ton safety available late in the draft in a standard points league. I also seem to find myself taking Buster Posey any time he falls out of the fourth round.
As for closer, I would like to have one of the top three (Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman) but it feels less necessary than in categories leagues. You can wait a few more rounds and pair Raisel Iglesias with Brad Hand to give you big upside at reliever without the big price tag.
Assuming you have your two aces, mid-to-late round pitchers need to be a combination of innings eaters and upside, but I'm less likely to chase the volatile Lance McCullers and Blake Snell's of the world in this format.
If I missed out on aces early (or picked in the first half of the draft) I want to spend a pair of picks from round three through six on aces like Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke or Justin Verlander. I'm not sure these guys have the upside in Rotisserie that Noah Synergaard or Stephen Strasburg do, but they're better suited for this format thanks to their history of big innings totals.
A few quick notes before we move on:
- Don't miss guys like Matt Carpenter, Adrian Beltre and Carlos Santana late. They're better in points and they're falling too far.
- I lean toward using my bench spots on pitchers, unless my pitching staff is stacked and my hitters are weak.
- There is no reason to draft a third relief pitcher or second catcher. Those will be available throughout the year on the waiver wire.
There are a lot of different ways to set up this format, but I'm presuming three outfielders and flexibility in how many starters and relievers you have on your pitching staff. That flexibility is in fact my favorite feature of a head-to-head categories league and I attempt to take advantage of it by focusing on a reliever-heavy strategy. Just how-reliever heavy you go will depend on the innings minimum in your league.
Of course, you aren't starting your draft with relievers. You're starting by building an exceptionally strong offense and largely ignoring starting pitchers. I'm fine with taking an ace in the first five rounds if the opportunity presents itself at a discount, but I'm more interested in accumulating guys who steal bases and help you in average. If they also hit home runs? All the better.
In an ideal categories draft I get the second or third pick and take Jose Altuve or Trea Turner to start the draft. At the 2/3 turn I'm adding two from the combination of Jose Ramirez, Starling Marte, Dee Gordon and J.D. Martinez. If Aaron Judge is available I love combining him with two of the names above.
The fourth and fifth round are where I'd be willing to take one of the big three closers, but if they're gone I'm perfectly happy continuing to stack my offense. If I already have three steals specialists I may turn to some of the power bats like Khris Davis, Hoskins and Edwin Encarnacion. If I'm even kind of concerned about my batting average I'm likely to take Buster Posey or Willson Contreras here. It can be understated how much of a drag most catchers are on your batting average.
I'm again targeting Iglesias and Hand in this format, but I'm looking for more like five or six good relievers and I'd like for four of them to be closers. You just don't have to reach for them. Wade Davis is there in the ninth round, Hector Neris in the 12th and Kelvin Herrera in the 15th. Remember, one of the benefits of this strategy is that you stack your offense, so don't spend too much on relievers, there will be plenty available later. I also make an effort to get Andrew Miller or another high-strikeout middle reliever in categories leagues.
As for starting pitcher, I'm not abandoning it altogether. I mentioned avoiding McCullers and Snell in points, but I'm targeting them in categories. I'm also filling my bench (save for one or two utility guys) with high-upside starting pitchers. The dream scenario is that by mid season you have the flexibility to compete in all five pitching categories, but can dominate in three of five (saves, ERA, WHIP) whenever you need to. You will face teams that are punting saves and if a couple of your upside starters hit you can compete in wins and Ks in a given week, too.
If the plan worked out late in the draft I'm looking for cheap power, and there is plenty of it available. Guys like Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Logan Morrison are available after pick 200. Ryan McMahon and Randal Grichuk are there 100 picks later.
There are a lot of similarities between my Rotisserie draft strategy and the one above so I'll just highlight the main differences.
- I have no interest in being in sixth place in a Roto league mid-way through the year, whereas in many H2H Category leagues that gets you in the playoffs. For that reason, . Looking for late-round Roto picks with upside? .
- You must focus more on starting pitching in Roto, but I'm still likely to have more relievers and fewer starters than the average team. Build leads in saves, ERA and WHIP early in the season. It will be easier than you think to make up ground in wins and Ks in the second half, because the teams that are out of it are going to drop off a cliff.
- Rotisserie leagues generally have deeper rosters, including two catchers. I love Wilson Ramos as a value pick, even if he's your second catcher.
- In a five outfielder league, outfield becomes arguably the thinnest position behind catcher. While there is plenty of upside at the position late, I don't hesitate to take three of them in the first five or six rounds if the value fits.
- With all those extra hitter spots, batting average is going to dive for most teams late in the draft. Guys like Ramos, Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera can keep you afloat while others sink.
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