Sometime this weekend, WFNY writers and Patrons will come together electronically and take part in the inaugural Waiting For Next Year fantasy baseball league.1 I, myself, have been playing fantasy baseball or football since I was 15 or 16,2 so I am taking it upon myself to be the conduit between the fantasy goodness and you, the readers. On Monday, I will have a recap of the draft: what my plan was going into the draft, a recap of rounds and the best pick in each, who came out with the best team, how I’m going to make fun of Gage, you know, the basics. For today, I want to give a basic image of the league, what the settings are and some basic strategies you can use in your leagues.
Whether you are new to fantasy or have been doing it half your life like me,3 the No. 1 rule is to make sure you look over the rules and settings of the league. Countless times people will just cruise into the draft without looking and be shocked when they find out they need to draft starting pitchers (SPs for shorthand) AND relief pitchers (RPs) instead of some standard pitching slots (simply P), or not know that OBP is a scoring category rather than the typical AVG, all of which greatly impact valuations of players and how the draft will go.
For this league, we will have daily lineup changes as opposed to weekly, and a maximum of six acquisitions a week. The max number of moves keeps the possibility of streaming pitchers to a minimum4 while still allowing for moves to be made in the event of injury or suspension, something you don’t get in weekly lineup leagues.
We are in a head-to-head style (H2H) and it’s 5×5 categories (runs, home runs, RBI, stolen bases and OBP for hitting; wins, saves, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP for pitching). These are all standard categories, with OBP replacing AVG, but is something becoming quite common with the rise in K- and BB-rate amongst hitters. A 26-man roster is a little daunting in a 10-person league, but we will start a C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, three OF, two utility spots, four SPs, three RPs and four P slots with a five-man bench. Default leagues usually have five OF spots, but with two Util and the extra bench players, it evens out to make sure that the number of drafted players is about the same.
Writing about my strategy pre-draft here is risky, as I don’t want to give away all my tips and tricks, but I will go over some viewpoints I have about positional rankings and what I bring to the draft with me. On the actual draft day, I let the system, in this instance Yahoo, give me the ADP (average draft position) and general ranking of players 1-300, but I make my own positional rankings and use those for the most part when drafting. While I don’t get much of a feel of “this player is better overall/ranked higher than this player”, I do sense needs at a position better. If lots of starting pitching come off the board early, I can make the determination to get in on the run or take advantage of value elsewhere, since, for every pitcher taken higher than normal, that means somewhere a player is dropping in value.
I would also suggest coming up with your own tiers of players and establish pre-draft “basements” for positions. Being that this is a mixed league (AL and NL players rather than one league only), positional depth is better overall, but we all agree that there is a big difference in value between Trea Turner and Trevor Story and that you’d rather have J.D, Martinez as your No. 1 OF instead of Adam Jones. When I say “basements”, look at the different positions and figure out who is the worst player you would be comfortable with starting/using, and then plan on taking either him or someone higher. At 3B, everyone would enjoy having Nolan Arenado, but in a 10-team league where you only start one 3B, my basement might be someone like Rafael Devers. Having tiers and “basements” allows you to look elsewhere for value if you see there are four 2Bs ahead of your basement player.
The most important tip I can give for drafting is to have fun. Enjoy the time picking players, but also remember that it isn’t the end of the world if you come out with a roster you aren’t 100% happy with. Players emerge as the season rolls along, prospects get called up, closers will lose their jobs (often at an alarming rate), and the onus is on you to make your roster better. I wish you all luck in your drafts, except for those playing against me.