Fantasy Baseball Drafts: Advice and Strategies

By Kacey Kroh, Abshier House, Abshier House

If you’re ready for the new baseball season and are looking for advice to help you “one up” the rest of your fantasy league, then follow these simple strategies. You’ll be ahead of the pack in no time.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/justinkendra]

Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/justinkendra

Know what utilities will work best for your fantasy league

There are many different ways for you to put together your team draft. The following three examples are the most common utilities serious fantasy baseball players use and swear by.

  • Draft Kits — Many league members like to keep things simple and will fork out the extra money to buy a draft kit. Depending on the website you visit, draft kits can cost a couple bucks and upward into the low $100s. Do your research on the website itself to see how well their draft kits have worked for other leagues and/or league members.

    Draft kits typically include cheat sheets, a list of potential “sleeper” players, and some form of mock draft simulator.

  • Cheat sheets — You can find a whole variety of different cheat sheets online; some list the top projected ranking player in each category; some list the projected up-and-coming players known as “sleepers;” and some cheat sheets combine the two categories.

    Keep in mind you can build your own cheat sheet by painstakingly creating a spreadsheet from information on both team player pages as well as team depth charts. This can take a long time if you are involved in deep all-American leagues or deep all-National leagues. For the more shallow mixed leagues, typically you don’t have to go through all of the projected prospects, which makes putting together self-made cheat sheets not so time-consuming.

  • Mock Drafts — Mock drafts can be your best friend after you get your hands on some form of cheat sheet. Find a website that offers mock drafts and enter the top picks you want from your cheat sheet. Then run the mock draft to see what other players the simulator recommends to finish putting together your fantasy team. You can run the simulator multiple times until you find a team you want to use in your league.

Most leagues do not share players between team owners. If some of the other league members have players listed in your mock draft, try running the draft again. After several simulations, you can determine the best players to put on your team.

Some leagues determine an order on who gets to submit their draft first, second, and so on. . . the person to get first pick typically has the easiest time putting together their team. The person to get last pick usually gets stuck with whatever players are leftover from all the other league members.

To keep things fair, many leagues have adopted a style of drafting that involves each league member (team owner) taking a turn to pick out only one player at a time. The league continues through all team owners until all members have completely filled their team rosters.

This can be done in two different formats — a timed format and an untimed format. In a timed format, the team owners have to pick out their players within an allotted amount of time so the draft moves along quickly. In an untimed format, members have more time to select their players, but other members often get annoyed from the long wait between turns.

Not all “free” cheat sheets, draft kits, and mock drafts are 100-percent accurate or 100-percent free. For instance, some sites claim a free mock draft but will require you to purchase a cheat sheet first. Also some sites offer cheat sheets that are influenced by the writer of the cheat sheet to favor or dislike players personally instead of objectively.

Using a self-made cheat sheet and mock drafts from reputable fantasy baseball sites such as MLB.com is always the safe call!

Know the fantasy league layout

Then next most important thing to take into consideration before selecting your draft is to know your league’s layout. The most common league layout involves a 5×5 format in which the scores are based on 5 hitting stats and 5 pitching stats; however, some leagues use 7×7 or 2x2x2 and so on. Know what categories your league scores on so you can take into account the real value of each of your players.

Your players’ values are affected by the number of qualifying categories he can be scored on; the more categories usually means a lower base value since technically not any one player can be the best ranking in all categories of the game.

Fantasy baseball leagues have many different starting roster requirements, and you need to know what your league requirements are before you even consider making your first picks. Some leagues require two starting catchers, while others require only one.

Other requirements that are league specific may be the number of outfielders and number of all-purpose slots or the number of people you can keep on your bench. (The bench usually includes the injured players from your team as well unless otherwise specified by your league.)

It’s important to know which players are eligible for each category and position. Players who are typically eligible for a particular position are the players who have played at least five games in that same position in real-time.

Keep in mind that some leagues are more hardcore and allow players to be eligible only in specific assigned positions or in which the player has been assigned that position in at least 20 games in a previous season or 10 games during the current season. Check with your league captain to know all the details and requirements of your league.

If you are a fantasy baseball beginner, play a weekly or daily version of the game several times so you can get a feel for how drafts work and how to categorize and score your different players. Try using multiple sites while you practice to see which versions of the game work best for you.