Best MLB fantasy draft strategy: Tips, guide, cheat sheet
Whether you’re playing fantasy baseball for the first time or you’re a veteran, everyone needs to find the best MLB fantasy draft strategy.
While that strategy might be different for different people, it’s critical for fantasy players to head into their draft with a clear idea of what they want to do. If nothing else, they should have a baseball fantasy cheat sheet to help them along during the draft.
Best MLB fantasy draft strategy, tips & ideas
We wanted to put together an MLB fantasy draft guide with plenty of MLB fantasy tips and suggestions to help you prepare for your draft.
Just so we’re clear, you don’t need to follow all of our advice when putting together your best MLB fantasy draft strategy. However, we wanted to share 10 MLB fantasy tips with you to help you put together the best fantasy roster possible.
Play it safe early
While it might sound a little boring, the best MLB fantasy draft strategy is to play it safe early. Don’t make any bold moves early, even if you think the player you want has a big upside.
Instead, stick to the players that you know are going to put up solid numbers, stay healthy, and provide plenty of value. MLB fantasy drafts are a marathon and there will be plenty of opportunities to take a chance on a boom-or-bust player in the later stages. With the first few players you add to your roster, don’t rock the boat too much and play it safe.
Use your own rankings
There are a lot of sources and sites that rank fantasy players but don’t rely on them entirely. Try using those rankings as a guide to create your own set of fantasy player rankings.
There might be some deep sleepers who you value more than others while there might be other players who you think will be a disappointment. After all, the things you value on your fantasy roster might be different from prognosticators. If you’re serious about fantasy baseball, create your own list of player rankings for each position.
Consider batting slot
One detail that is sometimes overlooked is where in a lineup a hitter tends to be. That’s why one of our MLB fantasy tips is to draft players who hit at the top of the lineup. Obviously, batters who are typically no. 5 or no. 6 in their batting order have more upside.
But batters who hit first or second in the lineup every day are going to have a lot more plate appearances over the course of a full season. This helps to give these players a little more value, which is why batting slots should be considered as a factor during fantasy drafts, especially during the middle and late rounds.
Prioritize starting pitching
In real baseball, there is no substitute for elite starting pitching, and the same is true in fantasy baseball.
Among the first four or five players selected, at least two should be starting pitchers. This is one of the positions where you want to be aggressive early. There aren’t many starting pitchers who can go deep into games, rack up 200-plus innings during the season, and win 10-plus games.
This means you have to snag these pitchers early while you still can. No matter how many teams are in your league and the scoring system in place, starting pitching should always be a priority.
In addition to drafting elite starting pitchers early, strikeouts are what it’s all about when it comes to fantasy baseball. Obviously, most of the aces in the majors excel at getting strikeouts. But once you get past the top tier of starting pitchers, focus more on strikeouts than any other stat.
There might be some crafty veterans who have a good ERA, but they might not be as valuable in fantasy leagues as a young flamethrower who’s inconsistent but is capable of racking up the strikeouts. When the biggest stars are gone, turn your attention to strikeouts when adding pitchers.
Don’t just draft closers
When it’s time to draft relief pitchers, most fantasy owners just draft closers. But outside of grabbing one of the elite closers in the game, this isn’t always the best strategy. Keep in mind that saves are just one category that goes into scoring fantasy points. It’s not the be-all and end-all.
Take a close look at relief pitchers who may not be closers but who are likely to rack up a lot of innings or strikeouts during the seasons. There are plenty of non-closers with good ERAs who stuff the stat sheet in other ways.
Plus, closers are often more likely to pick up losses than wins whereas good relief pitchers who often pitch in the seventh or eighth inning might be more likely to pick up wins that can help your fantasy team in the long run.
Injuries are inevitably going to play a key role in any fantasy baseball season, so this is something you want to watch closely. Depending on the date of your draft, you’ll want to closely monitor any injuries that pop up early in spring training.
If there is any question about a player being available for opening day, it could hurt their fantasy value. At the same time, make sure you’re aware of players who have had injury problems in recent years.
Players who have been injury-prone in the past or are coming back from a serious injury are a little riskier to take, especially early in drafts. Of course, there is a risk-reward element to every player, just make sure you have the latest information as it relates to injuries.
Draft young players late
Even if you have a strong hunch on a promising rookie or a young player who’s poised for a breakout season, wait until late in the draft. As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to take a lot of chances early in the draft.
Young players are particularly volatile and come with a lot of unknowns, even if you’re high on their talent and their upside. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to young players who have already had their breakout season. However, the latter stages of the draft is when you want to indulge your hunches on young, promising players. Doing so earlier can be a risky move.
Speed is a virtue
Speed is often a forgotten element in baseball these days, but it still counts for something, especially in fantasy leagues. The trick is to find a balance between drafting players purely for their speed and completely ignoring it altogether.
You don’t necessarily want to elevate players just because of their stolen base totals. However, it’s a good idea to draft a team full of players who can steal 5-15 bases in a season. This will help you to amass a healthy stolen base total over the course of the season, which can make a difference in your fantasy league.
In other words, if you’re deciding between two comparable players, consider opting for the one with more speed. Plus, keep in mind that faster players aren’t just going to get stolen bases; they’re also more likely to score more runs during a season.
Draft with your head, not your heart
This should be evident to anyone who has played fantasy baseball before, but it’s always worth repeating. If you’re serious about winning your fantasy league, draft with your head and not your heart.
Of course, you want players on your favorite team to succeed. But that doesn’t mean you should double-dip by putting them on your fantasy team.
Try to do your best to be objective and realistic about your favorite players. If it’s a close call, feel free to opt for the player you prefer to succeed. However, you have to learn to take off your fan hat during your fantasy draft and make wise, unbiased choices.
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