The big day is here. After poring over your rankings and cheat sheets for hours on end, you feel ready for your fantasy baseball draft.
But do you have a plan for when you’re on the clock?
Drafting isn’t easy, regardless of whether you’re an “expert” or just a casual fantasy player. There are a few common denominators in every successful draft, though, as well as important bits of advice that everyone should follow as they build their squad.
Here are five tips to read up on before draft day that can help you enter the season on the right foot.
1. Do your homework.
This one seems obvious, but it might be the most essential. Fantasy baseball leagues can vary widely by format and settings, so make sure know your rules before drafting. Do you have a standard scoring system? How big is your roster? Is there a weekly minimum pitch limit? What are the waiver wire rules? These differences will directly impact who you draft and when you draft them, so be sure to study up.
2. Go big in the first round.
We all overthink in fantasy drafts, but the first round is not the place to do it. Simply put: Draft the best player available. There’s obviously value in position scarcity — i.e. landing a player like Carlos Correa before the shortstop talent drops off — but if Mookie Betts is still around after a few picks, scoop him up. A projected first rounder is a safer bet to put up big numbers, so draft the apple of your eye and figure out the rest later.
3. Don’t live and die by ADP.
“Average Draft Position” is a useful tool, but it’s not a be-all, end-all. It’s a projection, after all, and a player with an ADP of 150 could significantly outperform a player ranked 75th. ADP can help determine whether you can wait an extra round to draft the sleeper you’ve been targeting, but don’t draft a player with a high ADP just for the sake of getting him off the board. Target the players you want to target and the positions you need to fill.
4. Wait out the catcher market.
Catcher arguably is the scarcest position in fantasy baseball, but if you’re in a 10- or 12-team league with one starting catcher per lineup, there’s enough to go around. Let your opponents reach for the Buster Poseys and Jonathan Lucroys of the world in the early rounds while you stock up on other talent, then grab a solid mid-level catcher like J.T. Realmuto (.303 batting average in 2016) in the later rounds. Your catcher likely isn’t going to win you your league, anyway, so don’t lose sleep over missing out an elite backstop.
5. Have at least one ace in your arsenal.
There’s usually a handful of roughly 15 pitchers who can be counted on for 200-plus innings a year. Make sure you snag (at least) one. Most scoring systems place a heavy value on wins and strikeouts, and Major League Baseball’s workhorses — think Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, etc. — should give you both in spades. Yes, you can stream starters on the waiver wire, but make sure you dedicate at least one of your first five picks to an ace. If you hit on two high-end starters, you’ll be in pretty good shape to dominate several pitching categories.
6. Find a reliable closer.
This is easier said than done, but saves are so hard to find once you get down into the lower tiers. While you shouldn’t reach into the upper rounds to land a closer, there’s plenty of value in grabbing an everyday closer in the middle rounds who can provide a steady stream of saves and strikeouts. You don’t have to target the big names, either — guys like Craig Kimbrel and Roberto Osuna whose closing jobs are secure should be available later in your draft.
7. Don’t be afraid to roll the dice.
Fantasy baseball often can feel formulaic, but baseball players are humans, capable of falling flat or greatly exceeding their projections. It’s best to play it safe in the early rounds, but as your draft winds down, go ahead and take a flyer on a promising young hitter or a pitcher you just feel good about. The worst-case scenario: He doesn’t pan out, and you find a relatively adequate replacement on the waiver wire. The best case scenario: You discover the next Mookie Betts.
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