Fantasy Baseball Strategies: All Batters
Drafting your lineup in fantasy baseball seems so simple: just draft guys who hit home runs and let them account for your Home Runs, RBI and Runs scored, and that's your road to success... that'll win you 3 out of 5 offensive categories in a standard 5x5 league, and that's all you need, so long as you win 3 out of 5 in pitching, too. You try this year after year, and it never seems to come together. Either guys streak all at the same time, then go cold all at the same time, or the injury bug takes away the most-important batter in your lineup. It never fails that something fails you every season.
We're here to help you get past the usual frustrations as best we can. Of course, with the injury bug, you're kind of on your own, but there's no excuse why you can't figure out a system where you have adequate backups at every position to fill your needs when someone goes down... and your strategy of abandoning speed for the win-3-out-of-5 strategy isn't as sound as you may think, either.
Drafting for Power and Speed
Since the advent of the sports highlight, people have been enamored with the home run. Guys like Dave Kingman, Reggie Jackson, Cecil Fielder and Mark McGwire all led the way with then mammoth home runs. Decades later, we're still looking for those home run highlights, even if it's a solo shot in the 4th inning when their team is already up by 3 runs.
During your fantasy draft, you need to make sure you don't put all your eggs in one basket. Just like we wouldn't recommend you count on Chris Davis as your sole source for Home Runs, we're not going to recommend you count on Billy Hamilton for all your stolen bases. You need to spread it out a little bit, and the best way to do that on draft day is to focus your attention on the 30/30 and 20/20 guys first, meaning, regardless of the position they play, go after the guys who are most-likely to end up the closest to 30 HR and 30 SB by season's end.
There were tons of guys last year who, combined, made up the difference of Billy Hamilton's stolen bases. Drafting Todd Frazier and Anthony Rizzo alone at the corner infield spots brought fantasy owners 30 extra stolen bases, whereas the teams with Hamilton probably ended up with less than 10 from their 1b/3b combo. Throw in bargain picks like Ryan Braun, Jason Heyward and Lorenzo Cain and you've got a well-rounded lineup where stolen bases come consistently instead of in bunches
Surprise Players Who Dominated Fantasy Leagues
Charlie Blackmon was one of our top sleepers last year, and he quietly went about tearing up fantasy leagues as we predicted (and he still came pretty cheap in the draft... AJ Pollock just kept on producing all season long... Lorenzo Cain added some much-needed power... and Ryan Braun who was shunned even in fantasy leagues ended up with 25 HR and 24 SB... and Brett Gardner actually disappointed fantasy owners last season by sacrificing stolen bases for home runs.
Do I Draft the Hard-to-Fill Positions First?
The quick answer is, "no." As we said above, draft the guys who are going to give you a balance between power and speed, first, regardless of their position. Now, having said that, it just so happens that Carlos Correa is likely to have at least a 30 HR/20 SB season, and he plays Shortstop, but he's also likely to be gone in the first round of your league. Same with Paul Goldschmidt. But then there are a bunch of other guys who are going to be drafted early on who won't help your team as much as some higher-value picks in later rounds.
Bryce Harper, for example, will definitely be gone in the first round of your draft, which is fine... but he only had 6 stolen bases last season. Remember, you have to take care of 5 offensive categories, and Harper, really, only handles 3 of them (HR, Runs, Average - he "only" had 99 RBI... talk about nitpicky. Anyway...). Look a little deeper into the guys you'll be able to get in the 5th-15th rounds: