MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports

It's Tuesday and that means we're one day closer to the start of the season -- and even closer to your final drafts! Well, I hope you like Myles Straw because he's the only player we talked about on today's podcast. Alright, he's not the only one, but I wanted to dedicate an entire pod to just strategy. We receive lots of questions asking about our strategies in each of the different formats that people play in.

It's difficult at times to analyze each and every player we talk about from three different perspectives: Rotisserie, H2H Points and H2H Categories. Each format has nuances that you need to know about before entering your draft.

How much of each stat do you need to win each category in Roto? Why are people so aggressive on starting pitchers in H2H points leagues? What the heck is a Marmol strategy? We answer each of these questions and many more, including some thoughts on Salary Cap Drafts, Dynasty and in-season FAB management. 

And of course, you can subscribe to make sure you get the latest episodes of Fantasy Baseball Today right when they drop on Apple and Spotify.

Also, the Fantasy Baseball Today Draft Guide is LIVE! It's a one-stop-shop to help anyone dominate their drafts that includes sleepers, breakouts, busts, rankings, analysis, tiers and more. The best part about it? It's free!

How to approach 5X5 Roto

Before we jump into any actual strategy as it pertains to your 2021 rosters, let's talk about what your category targets should be. Based on the hitting targets from 2019, assuming a 12-team league with standard 5x5 categories, here's what you needed to finish first in every hitting category in 2019:

  • .278 batting average
  • 383 home runs
  • 1,183 runs
  • 1,137 RBIs
  • 152 steals

And on the pitching side, with the same rules applied, here's what you need to finish first in each category based on 2019 totals:

  • 103 wins
  • 100 saves
  • 1,622 strikeouts
  • 3.497 ERA
  • 1.131 WHIP

Scott has a specific strategy when it comes to 5x5, standard 12-team leagues, but he doesn't always find it possible to follow: "The single biggest scarcity in Roto 5X5 leagues is stolen bases. That's why Mike Trout never goes No. 1 overall despite still being just as good of a hitter. It has overtaken the game in this format because there are so few players who contribute to it and it is as essential a category as any. Ideally, you want to get a pretty good start in that category, but I find that I am too interested in taking SPs early and non-speed values like Corey Seager and Anthony Rendon."

On the flip side, Scott feels like there are more mid-and-late-round speed options than last year. "Guys like Myles Straw, Jon Berti, Tommy Edman and a lot more. You don't need a lot of steals to be competitive. That's not a category I aim to win, I just want to finish in the middle of the pack. Still, it's optimal to get some steals contribution early."

My strategy is that if I'm taking hitters early on, they have to at least contribute in either batting average or stolen bases.

Chris has focused his Roto strategy more around stat scarcity than position scarcity. "With the exception of catcher, there's someone you'll feel good about at every spot. My general strategy in Roto is one SP after the first two rounds, another SP in the fifth-to-sixth round range, and then I really like the 100-150 ADP range of SP -- so I probably get my SP3, SP4, SP5 out of that group."

All three of us are not drafting RPs early -- and at times avoiding them until the end of the draft -- unless there is a really high potential impact guy that falls. For Scott, that's James Karinchak, Trevor Rosenthal, Will Smith and Amir Garrett. Otherwise, Scott is loading up on the Greg Holland, Daniel Bard and Joakim Soria types. "The closers you draft are very unlikely to be your save sources the entire year, I just want to narrow down the guys who are going to be there at the beginning."

How to approach H2H points 


This is probably the most popular format on CBS Sports and one that I Iove, but I'm going to come clean on it. I think there isn't as much strategy in this format as there is for Roto or even H2H categories. I think you want to be aggressive on starting pitchers early and target hitters with strong plate discipline who bat in the top half of really good lineups because those hitters will get more plate appearances. Plate appearances = Fantasy points in H2H points formats.

In this format, Scott is very close to taking an extreme strategy: "I'm about to that point where I just want to take all the SPs until all the good ones are gone and then just take whatever is left at hitter, trusting myself to fill hitting in season. Everybody is going to push SPs up in this format.

If you're looking for a live example of this, CBS Sports editor Dan Schneier tried out a version of this extreme strategy in a H2H points salary cap (formerly known as auction) draft last week. Here's how his team came out. Can you live with these hitters to go along with these pitchers?

Scott says an old strategy -- chasing two-start SP streamers -- is no longer viable: "It used to be a way to make up for a suspect pitching staff, but the disappearance of the middle class of SPs has ruined the two-start streaming strategy."

Chris is also on that bandwagon: "I definitely draft SP earlier -- 29 of the top 59 players in salary were SPs in the previously referenced H2H points salary cap draft. I will say this though -- in H2H points because the push for pitching has gone so extreme, I think zigging while everyone is zagging is a viable strategy because you can end up with five or six of the top-25 hitters if you pursue that strategy."

On the flip side, with hitters, typically you want to target hitters with better plate discipline and high OBPs.

The last thing I'll mention is quality starts since many people were asking about it in our Facebook group today. You have to go at least 6 innings while allowing 3 ER or less to qualify. Basically, if you play with quality starts, you want pitchers who go deep into their games (but usually those are just the best pitchers). Here are the top 12 in quality start percentage over the past three seasons, minimum 40 starts:

  • Jacob Degrom
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Max Scherzer
  • Gerrit Cole
  • Hyun Jin Ryu
  • Corey Kluber
  • Trevor Bauer
  • Shane Bieber
  • Zack Greinke
  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Patrick Corbin
  • Aaron Nola

How to approach H2H categories

Chris is not a fan of H2H categories leagues where every category counts and you can go 10-0 or 9-1, etc on a week vs. the ones where you get one win or one loss for the week if you win or lose the majority of the categories. His strategy approach in either version is different than the other two formats previously discussed because he's open to punting (and by punting he means not investing heavily -- just to be clear). "You can punt SP, you can punt saves and you can punt stolen bases. But you can't really punt HRs, RBIs or runs because they are so tied into all of the hitting categories. You're never going to literally draft no stolen bases, but you can punt and it's a viable strategy. I'm more likely to punt steals or saves in this format."

I love punting steals in this format. Every time a player hits a home run, they impact four categories. The same cannot be said for steals. Trying to predict steals on a season-long basis is hard enough, but trying to predict it on a weekly basis... 

How to approach Salary Cap drafts

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Sep 22, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) reacts to the Cubs bench after hittting a two run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the eighth inning at PNC Park. Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports

Chris kicks us off by breaking down his strategy for how to nominate players: "Generally speaking, I nominate players I don't want. Occasionally, there is value in throwing out a lower-end guy you like early on. If you throw out a boring guy who you'd be fine getting for $5 -- like Anthony Rizzo --- you might get him where if you throw him out later in the draft when people knew how few 1B were left -- it might push him up a little."

Scott swims upstream on this one. "If my whole plan hinges on me getting a certain player, and I'm keeping myself from bidding on other players that could potentially be good values because I'm counting on getting that player, I got to just put that player out there. Because it may be a lost cause and then I just lost my chance at other players waiting on him."

I like to throw players out a position I already filled. You're not going to be bidding on players at that position anyway.

For more on all of our auction strategies, dive into the podcast for an in-depth breakdown.

Spring news and notes

From new pitches to new batting stances, Scott gets us caught up on everything we need to know about spring baseball so far with his latest spring notebook. What stood out most to me was the nugget Scott uncovered about Dinelson Lamet:

  • Dinelson Lamet threw 4-6 sliders in a simulated game Sunday, his fastball sitting in the mid-to-high 90s. "He had a really, really good day and reported coming out of it feeling really well," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. It doesn't put Lamet in the clear as far as his elbow goes, but his slider is his everything. Throwing it with conviction even amid concerns about his elbow's health will be critical to his success. Still, Lamet acknowledged that he may not be quite ready for the start of the season. "Once I join the team and once I'm ready to go and once I'm pitching, I don't want to go backwards," he said.