By Seth Klein (@SethDaSportsMan)
I like to go into a new fantasy baseball season starting fresh. Many owners can harbor animosity towards a player who has let them down in the past, but I’m a forgiving guy, it’s in my nature. Call me a sucker, but if I traded for a player last year and he injured his groin (I’m looking at YOU, Troy Tulowitzki!), I won’t let that determine the way I draft the following year. I’m not stupid, if the player’s injury is still lingering I will usually err on the side of caution and I especially don’t like drafting players who have long histories of injury proneness, but I’m a realist, I don’t take it personally, I know that particular player didn’t injure himself purposely just so I would lose my fantasy baseball league (…right??).
I am also an owner who tends to not read TOO much into Spring Training numbers, at least until the end of March. What we have to understand is that Spring Training is meant to be a way for coaches and GMs to evaluate their younger talent. Sure, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera need to limber up and get some game-speed action in, but those two could probably take a cruise around the world, only to get shipwrecked, contract malaria, get arrested in a case of mistaken identity, escape from a Guatemalan prison and STILL show up for Opening Day, go 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs and wave off the manager’s request for a pinch runner in the 9th inning. These guys are ultimate pros, the “practice games” are mostly in place so teams can figure out which players they want to assign to each level of their organization. Analyzing these stats too much will get you overexcited about a prospect who may hit 10 HRs in March, but is still only 20-years old and will undoubtedly be going back down to Double-A. For keeper leagues there’s a greater benefit to this, but even your keeper league roster will only consist of a handful of prospects who are inching towards being “major league ready”. When drafting your team it’s important to try and simplify things, and applying a few of the following techniques can really help.
My Top 5 Strategies for Draft Day:
1. Draft hitters early, especially power hitters (Bonus if they have speed, too)
2. Try not draft starting pitching until AT LEAST the 7th-8th round, unless a guy happens to fall into your lap and it simply can’t be ignored (starting pitching is always abundant on the waiver wire)
3. Don’t draft closers
4. Don’t draft closers
5. Don’t draft closers
Why am I so adamant about not drafting closers? This applies mostly to category leagues (points leagues may have a different scoring system), but closers only really carry value in one thing: saves. When you’re talking about a 5×5 league or even greater, I don’t mind punting one category in order to bolster others. Sure, on a much smaller spectrum closers can help increase your strikeouts and lower ERA and WHIP, but the minimal advantage that may give you is heavily outweighed by the even larger risk of your week completely going in the crapper when your 10th round pick, John Axford, gives up 5 earned runs in .2 innings. I’d rather build my hitting and starting pitching depth than take a gamble on a 9th inning guy. The closer position is a very volatile one, and with the exception of a few guys, very seldom is a closer’s job guaranteed, so it’s not usually worth the risk to draft them. Once the season starts and half the closers get demoted, their replacements will be there for the taking if you choose to do so.
I recently drafted a team, which I’d like to point out that I cleverly named “EncycloPEDia Braun”, and employed this strategy. It is a 10-team, head-to-head league with 13 categories: W, K, ERA, WHIP, QS, S+H, HR, RBI, R, Total Bases, SB, BA and game-winning RBIs. Having quality starts as a category as well as the combined stat of saves and holds, drafting closers was even lower on my list of priorities. After 30 rounds, and zero closers to show for it, I emerged very satisfied with the team I had drafted.
By focusing on only drafting hitting and starting pitching, I believe I significantly improved my chances of winning. Five of my first ten picks fell to me in spots that closers have routinely been getting taken at and you can see the massive upgrade I’m getting by going after multiple stats and forgoing saves. Since this draft was done on ESPN.com, I’ve used their average draft positions as well as their 2013 Projected Stats:
|38.5. Craig Kimbrel (41 SV, 4 W, 120 K, 1.99 ERA, 0.85 WHIP)||3.9. Edwin Encarnacion (36 HR, 99 RBI, 93 R, 10 SB, .283 BA)|
|69.8. Aroldis Chapman (37 SV, 6 W, 104 K, 2.57 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)||6.2. Chris Sale (15 W, 203 K, 3.37 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 20 QS)|
|69.8. Aroldis Chapman (37 SV, 6 W, 104 K, 2.57 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)||7.9. Jason Kipnis (15 HR, 70 RBI, 90 R, 25 SB, .257 BA)|
|82.4. Jason Motte (he is already on the DL and out indefinitely)||8.2. Pablo Sandoval (23 HR, 90 RBI, 80 R, 3 SB, .309 BA)|
|90.2. Fernando Rodney (38 SV, 2 W, 61 K, 2.53 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)||9.9. Josh Willingham (32 HR, 105 RBI, 80 R, 4 SB, .264 BA)|
|91.6. Rafael Soriano (37 SV, 4 W, 61 K, 2.89 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)|
|96.5. Mariano Rivera (36 SV, 2 W, 50 K, 2.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP)|
Pick for pick, I believe each player I selected will be more valuable than the corresponding closer in the same average spot. Even if, for example, you want make a case for Papelbon being better than Kipnis, it may cost you dearly in the end. If you decide to draft him around the 7th/8th round, you are now locked-in to drafting AT LEAST 2-3 more closers in order to make it worth your while, which will inevitably deplete your overall depth.
Failing to follow these aforementioned rules could mean an early end to your fantasy baseball season, but choose to abide by them, and your name may be etched into your league’s trophy come October. Good luck and Happy Drafting!
By Seth Klein (@SethDaSportsMan)
Seth is a contributing writer for FantasyTrade411.com, specializing in fantasy baseball, basketball and football. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, but has been a die-hard New York Giants, Knicks and Yankees fan since birth. He has been playing fantasy sports since 1999 and has since developed a real knack for daily streaming and “working the wire”, which can be attributed to his keen analysis of in-season trends. He is also a writer for the Knicks site BucketsOverBroadway.com, and you can find him gracing the airwaves on @ThaSPORTSKRIB, a weekly show dedicated to sports. Seth attended the University of Arizona, where he majored in “tardiness”, and is now a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist. Feel free to send all your fantasy sports questions to Seth on Twitter @SethDaSportsMan