Every now and then, someone will ask us to highlight the differences between the two predominant formats played on CBSSports.com and discussed on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, those of course being Head-to-Head and Rotisserie.
And yeah, I can offer a dry explanation that would provide sort of a nebulous understanding if you don't happen to play in both, but more interesting and instructive would be to offer examples of the players most affected by one format or another.
I should mention that these players are relatively few. Most who are good are good regardless of format, and the extent of their goodness translates well enough from format to format. But the exceptions are worth highlighting, especially if you're new to one format or the other.
Please note that these aren't intended to be the best possible lineups you could construct in these formats, which is why Mike Trout is in neither. They're merely the most representative of each format, comprised of the players you might go out of your way to draft specifically because you play in that format.
Please note also that by "Head-to-Head," I mean points-based, Fantasy Football-style scoring rather than category-based 5x5 scoring. In categories-based leagues, players are valued about like they are in Rotisserie, which would make this column unnecessary.
Let's get to it.
Based on standard CBS Sports scoring:
|Head-to-Head point values|
|For hitters|| ||For pitchers|| |
Hit by pitch
| || |
This format is the more straightforward one. There's no need to balance categories. Virtually everything a player produces is of benefit to you, and the benefit isn't relative to what you already have. What makes it complicated is that you have to consider the full scope of a player's contributions and not just the handful that a Rotisserie league would score. It allows you to win in the margins by targeting players who excel in the areas not normally rewarded, like hitting doubles, drawing walks, avoiding strikeouts and, for pitchers, accumulating innings. In fact, pure accumulation is a big part of the equation since percentage stats like batting average, ERA and WHIP have no direct value.
Realmuto is my No. 1 catcher in both formats, of course, but grabbing him in a Head-to-Head points league feels like more of a priority because of the playing time advantage he has over other catchers. A player in this format can stand out on volume alone, and some of the largest playing-time disparities are at this position. Plus, the lineup size in this format, with nine hitters typically started vs. Rotisserie's 14, means a larger share of a team's production is coming from its top catcher.
Honorable mention: Yadier Molina, STL
For as long as Carlos Santana is still playing at a high level, he'll be the poster child for this exercise. His walk rate is consistently among the highest in baseball, and his strikeout rate is uncommonly low for a power hitter. But those are of no use in standard Rotisserie leagues, where his middling batting average (more like .250 than the .281 he hit last year) suppresses his value.
Honorable mentions: Anthony Rizzo, CHC; Edwin Encarnacion, CHW
It worked out for DJ LeMahieu in both formats last year because he hit a career-high 26 home runs, but if he regresses to something closer to the 15 he hit in 2018, his value will hold up better in Head-to-Head points, where he's bolstered by a low strikeout rate and a respectable doubles total. Even if most of his production comes from runs scored, it should be a high total batting atop the Yankees lineup.
Honorable mention: Max Muncy, LAD
Maybe it won't come as a surprise that Anthony Rendon outperformed Nolan Arenado in a career season last year, but in Head-to-Head points leagues, he did in 2018 as well — at least on a per-game basis. It's the usual things — walks, strikeouts and doubles — that set him apart in this format, making it so he doesn't need a studly home run total to be studly.
Honorable mention: Kris Bryant, CHC
The fear for Bogaerts is that his totals will take a step back given that there wasn't an underlying skill change to explain the career highs, but he has steadily become a more patient hitter. The plate discipline should make for a gentler landing in points leagues if he does regress, giving him a chance of still ranking among the elite at a star-studded position, especially since he'll be among the league leaders in doubles either way.
Honorable mention: Marcus Semien, OAK; Jorge Polanco, MIN
The one thing these three hitters have in common is that they hardly strike out. Brantley may not quite measure up in home runs and Kepler in batting average, but Brantley (3.35) actually averaged more Head-to-Head points per game than Tommy Pham (3.25) last year and Kepler (3.55) more than Austin Meadows (3.48). Soto is of course trending toward becoming a first-round type in both formats, but after walking 108 times last year, he's already there in Head-to-Head while anyone investing a first-round pick in him in Roto is counting on further development.
Honorable mentions: Willie Calhoun, TEX; Alex Verdugo, BOS
The impact of strikeouts is lessened in this format, seeing as they're worth only half a point each, while the ability to pitch deep into games is paramount. Not only are innings worth three points apiece, but the chances of a quality start and win (worth a combined 10 points) go way up for pitchers who throw six-plus. These five all have a penchant for doing that despite averaging less than a strikeout per inning.
Honorable mentions: Trevor Bauer, CLE; Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS
Carlos Carrasco is the representative SPARP pick (starting pitcher as relief pitcher) in a year with many to choose from. A quality starting pitcher will always outscore a quality closer in this format, and Carrasco has spent many years as a quality starting pitcher, just without the RP eligibility. Among closers, it's really just about racking up saves, which is why Hansel Robles' middling ratios aren't a detriment except to the extent they impact his job security. Provided he keeps it, though, it wouldn't take a great disparity in save total for him to finish ahead of some of the very best at the position.
Based on standard 5x5 categories (BA, HR, RBI, R, SB for hitters and W, ERA, K, WHIP, SV for pitchers)
Rotisserie leagues aren't simply an exercise in collecting the best, most productive players. You have to weigh what each one contributes across several categories and strike the right balance across your entire roster. It's a quirk that leads to artificial scarcities, elevating a stat like stolen bases beyond its real-life utility. Thus, one-category specialists might have considerable value here when they'd be just an afterthought in Head-to-Head leagues.
Efficiency is of greater concern, particularly for pitching stats, where 40 percent of the focus is on ERA and WHIP. Volume can actually be a detriment, then, if it negatively impacts those ratios.
All signs point to Will Smith being a big power hitter, but he sells out so hard for power, with such an extreme fly-ball rate both in the majors and minors, that he may not have much else to offer. He profiles as a home run specialist, in other words, which would still be of great value in Rotisserie leagues, especially at the catcher position. A more well-rounded offensive profile would play better in a Head-to-Head points league, though, especially if we're acknowledging he's likely a high-strikeout guy.
Honorable mentions: Tom Murphy, SEA; Jorge Alfaro, MIA
Jose Abreu is kind of the yin to Carlos Santana's yang, making up for his lack of on-base skills (which go unrewarded in Rotisserie) with a consistently high batting average (which goes unrewarded in Head-to-Head). Hitting his way on base also makes him a more consistent RBI threat, and he led the AL with 123 last year.
Honorable mention: Danny Santana, TEX
Where can you find stolen bases? That's (sadly) the most pertinent question in Rotisserie play these days, and Villar has been one of the most consistent sources of them. Even if he regresses from last year's 24 home runs in a tougher park for hitters, which might move him out of the startable range in Head-to-Head points leagues, he's still a near lock for 35-plus steals while playing every day. He's in rare company there.
Honorable mention: Keston Hiura, MIL
Yoan Moncada was only the 14th-best third baseman in Head-to-Head points per game last year — and that was with him overachieving in some areas. He narrowed the gap in more subtle ways in Rotisserie play, though, emerging as a potential batting average standout while contributing a not-unhelpful number of stolen bases. Also, the strikeouts don't hurt him so much in this format.
Honorable mentions: Miguel Sano, MIN; Scott Kingery, PHI
Even though he played just 102 games last year because of injuries, Adalberto Mondesi still nearly led the majors with 43 steals, so if that's the most valuable commodity in Rotisserie these days, it makes sense he'd be a standout. But he's not a great player overall with horrible plate discipline and iquestionable power. There's a scenario in which he's an impact player in Head-to-Head points leagues, too, but you'll need him at a steep discount there.
Honorable mentions: Javier Baez, CHC; Tim Anderson, CHW
Starling Marte's career high in home runs last year brought his Head-to-Head value as close to his Rotisserie value as it's ever been, but the areas where he stands out the most — batting average and stolen bases — are still of greater value in Rotisserie. The lack of walks puts it over the top. Meanwhile, Victor Robles and Franmil Reyes are standouts for stolen bases and home runs, respectively, but each averaged less than 2.75 points per game in Head-to-Head leagues last year, making them replacement-level in that format.
Honorable mentions: Oscar Mercado, CLE; Mallex Smith, SEA
The first four here — Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Chris Paddack and Jesus Luzardo — have the potential to dominate ratios like ERA and WHIP, but they face workload limitations, whether in their inability to stay healthy or just given where they are on the development curve. Matthew Boyd is a little different since it's mostly his win potential that's compromised both by pitching for a bad Tigers team and struggling to keep the ball in the park. Wins matter in Rotisserie, of course, but they matter even more in Head-to-Head points. He should be a standout in strikeouts and WHIP, if nothing else.
Honorable mention: Joey Lucchesi, SD
Josh Hader is my highest-ranked closer in both formats, but there's more value to getting the top closer in Rotisserie, where saves total doesn't carry as much of the weight. Hader's outlier strikeout totals the past two years help take the pressure off the entire pitching staff, and so should his ERA and WHIP, to a lesser degree. Nick Anderson, meanwhile, has yet to be named the closer for a team that prefers a by-committee approach, but even if he's splitting ninth-inning duties, his ratios will set him apart here in a way they don't in Head-to-Head points leagues.
So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.