10 Team Leagues
* Get 3 solid Closers (solid meaning he definitely has the job, and make at least 1 of them one of my top 9 solid closer picks) and either another scrub closer or closer in waiting later in the draft (so 4 total if possible). When I talk about drafting 3 solid closers, I’m not at all saying you should be the first person in your league to draft a closer, nor should you ever pass on a top starter for one. For instance, there’s no closer I’d draft ahead of any of my top 40 starters. You want to build up a lead in saves early in the season so you can ditch closers and use starters (especially 2-starters) in the last month when all the young studs come up from the minors and it’s too late for other players to catch up in saves – but not too late for you to pile on Wins and Ks. Teams often don’t use their closers in the last week or two unless they’re in contention for the playoffs (teams that are out of it and teams that have clinched have no reason to use their closer much). Also, you never know with closers what’ll happen, so you don’t want to assume you’re going to catch up later because closers get injured, lose their job, etc so it’s good to get a lead early when you know you’re getting what you need. Plus starters often get off to a slow start, but later on in the season you have a better idea of what you’re getting from them, so it’s good to use more closers early on.
*Drafting closers also helps you save money because the #1 thing owners blow their FAAB money on is closers… they’ll usually go for anywhere between $100-$400 depending on how aggressive your league is, what time of the year it is (early/middle/late), etc. You don’t want to be caught up in a bidding war for closers, so it’s best to just set yourself up in saves in the draft.
*If you find yourself needing saves, there are a few ways to get some cheaply. One is keeping an eye on who’s next in line to close for teams, and then speculatively picking up guys for $1-2 some weeks and see if you get lucky… this is a much better strategy than waiting for a guy to be anointed a new closer and dropping a third of your FAAB budget on him. You’ll really need that money later when an established player (usually a hitter because you won’t see those too often) pops up on the waiver wire, such as Mike Morse, Brett Lawrie, and Desmond Jennings did last season. Another way is to keep in mind is that people often drop closers late in the season so if you really need a few saves late in the year you can almost always count on someone with a huge lead in saves dropping a closer or 2 to pick up on waivers in D&P 10 team leagues.
*In a 10-team D&P league, where there are only league prizes, it’s perfectly acceptable to not worry as much about saves if people in your league are overdrafting closers insanely early. You may get in a league with someone who decides to draft all relievers (including closers) in which case he wins Saves and everyone else is fighting for 2nd… don’t get caught up in it, just draft quality hitters and starters while they do that. Try to get a closer or two, but don’t follow what everyone else is doing because this is your chance to get an advantage in other categories (like hitting, strikeouts, wins, etc). Being below-average in a category in a league-only game (no overall) is acceptable as long as you make it up in other categories, but you shouldn’t ever punt a category.
*In 10-team leagues it’s a good idea to try to stream starting pitchers who start twice in a week when there is a decent starter with good match-ups. This works in 10-team leagues particularly well because there are usually some decent starters available on the waiver wire, whereas in 12-team, and especially in 15-team leagues, the quality of starters available is MUCH worse.
*Here’s another tip, look ahead two weeks. Don’t pick up a starter the week that he 2-starts for $15-20, pick him up the week BEFORE he 2-starts for $1-2 and just hold him on your bench until you can use him. It’s a great way to beat your opponents to the punch while saving money. And, oh, hey… I just so happen to keep track of that for you on my site.
*Employing 3 closers full-time while streaming 2-starters will allow you to keep up in strikeouts and wins, plus you’ll make a charge late in the last month when you ditch your closers for starters. You’ll keep at least 1 spot on your team for 2-starters each week (except maybe on rare occasions where there are no good options). Don’t start streaming 2-starters until you have a good idea of what to expect from the starters and what kind of match-ups to use them in. I usually don’t start streaming guys until about 2 months in or so unless there’s obvious good options out there. You need to be careful when streaming that you don’t give back the points you’re gaining in Wins and Ks by sabotaging your ERA and WHIP, which can certainly happen when you start questionable pitchers just because they’re 2-starting.
*In addition to keeping a rotating spot on your team for a 2-starting pitcher, you should also keep a rotating spot open for a hot hitter… now, you don’t want to replace an elite hitter in your lineup with the flavor of the week, but a hot hitter can give you a big boost with his hot streak, especially if it’s just at the expense of a borderline player such as an Andres Torres or Matt Joyce. Shelley Duncan’s September last season would have given a huge power boost to a team in need if they were willing to give up the spot of a borderline player for him. Plus, you never know when a hot streak could turn into a hot season like Bonifacio last season. Those who passed on him thinking he would cool off in a week or so lost out. This is another reason why taking risks later in the draft is fine, because most likely several of your late picks will end up being dropped and replaced with a hot hitter or a 2-start pitcher, etc… and if you hit on one, then you could be adding another elite player to your roster.
Taking Risks in the Draft
*Don’t draft as if you won’t ever drop anyone… don’t worry so much about having a backup at every position right off the bat… take the best player available, especially late in the draft as you can always pick up players when needed and drop the ones that don’t work out (example: someone drafting Alex Gordon for his upside at the end of the draft last year even if you didn’t need another OF). Just make sure you have every position filled. When you take a risk, try to take risks on positions that other players might be weak in anyways, so that you aren’t losing as much… if you end up with a crappy starting 1B it will hurt you a lot more than if you have a crappy Catcher because everyone else probably does too! Later in the draft, the opposite of what you do early in the draft applies: unknown quantities are a better pick than known mediocre quantities. This is how championships are won.
*Injury-prone players and health risks (such as Josh Johnson or Steven Strasburg who has an innings limit) are much more valuable in 10-team leagues because the replacement value is higher. It’s an especially good idea to take risks on SPs and OFs because if they get injured or don’t work out, there’s plenty of solid options on the waiver wire to replace them with. You won’t have that luxury in deeper leagues.
In 2-catcher leagues, such as NFBC 12-team and 15-team leagues, having 2 good catchers is probably the biggest advantage you could have positionally because everyone else will likely have 1 mediocre and 1 borderline bad player starting there while you have 2 actual good players at Catcher. However, in 10-team D&P leagues, only 1 Catcher is required, so it’s actually far less important than it is in deeper leagues. Therefore, if I didn’t get Santana or Napoli, I’d probably wait until there was a pocket of them going and grab one of Posey/Wieters/Montero. Or maybe I’d just wait until the end of the draft and take a guy like Alex Avila or Wilson Ramos. Catcher is not that important because you only need 1.
Positional Scarcity refers to the fact that some positions don’t have as many good players that qualify at certain positions compared to others. For instance, in 2012 (10-team leagues only), SS is the scarcest position (followed by 3B, 2B, C, 1B, then OF). At the end of a 10-team draft, I could still get OF Alex Presley, who I think will be a very solid OF this season. In contrast, at that same point I wouldn’t be able to find a decent C, SS, or 3B. The options at 1B and 2B would be a little better, but nothing like what’s available in the OF. Positional Scarcity is real – fantasy baseball is relative… if I take 3rd Baseman A now, I can get Outfielder B later.. or I could take Outfielder C now and get 3rd Baseman D later… which combination of 3B and OF is better? Look for pockets of value: If a SP in the 6th round produces similar value to a starter in the 2nd round, draft other positions that that value can’t be found later in (like at 3B, SS, or C).
Tiers are also important. If I miss Player A in round 9, will Player B in round 10 be MUCH worse? If there’s several guys left in a tier at a position, you probably don’t need to rush to draft one… but if there’s only 1 guy left in a tier at a position, then you need to place a higher priority on getting that player. Pay attention to the flow of the draft and don’t get caught on the wrong end of a run just because you think you should be able to wait on a player.
Draft Offense over Starting Pitching
*Draft offense over starting pitching. Make sure you get a few guys who you think should be aces, but it’s more important to get hitting because pitchers will be much easier to find later in the draft and throughout the season on the waiver wire. The easiest thing to find is starters, next is outfielders. At the end of the draft you don’t want to be looking for a MI… all that’s left are OF, SP, and maybe some weak 1B options… so draft your infield early even if there’s a slightly higher-rated OF or SP available. In a 10-team draft, the SPs and OFs available at the end of the draft are still very good, but the players available at C, 3B, and SS will not be so good. 1B and 2B might have some decent options left, but nothing compared to SP and OF. Fill out your infield before outfield when possible, though don’t pass up elite OF studs who can help in all categories (Kemp/Upton/CarGo).
*Never EVER draft a starter in the first 3 rounds unless we have someone like Pedro/Schilling/Big Unit circa 2000… which is to say HUGE strikeout numbers, fantastic ERA/WHIP, and lots of wins (they were dominant in 4 categories). The fact of the matter is that the very best SP can only ever contribute in 4 categories (ERA/WHIP/W/K) because they can’t get you saves. Meanwhile, most hitters you want to draft in the first 3 rounds will contribute in 5 categories, or at least be dominant in 4. Clayton Kershaw is the #1 rated SP and I wouldn’t take him until the 3rd round because while he gives you a fantastic ERA/WHIP, he doesn’t strike out like 10+ batters per 9 innings and his team isn’t that good offensively so you can’t even count on 20+ Wins – he’s not dominant in 4 categories. He’s dominant in 2, very very good in 1, and good in another – not good enough to replace a top-flight 1st/2nd round hitter. People drafting Justin Verlander in the 1st Round are out of their freaking minds.
1st Round Picks
Your 1st Round Pick MUST have 0 question marks… and if he does have a SLIGHT blemish, then he must make up for it with enormous upside and/or positional scarcity. For example, in 2010 I did not value AROD, Josh Hamilton, or Adrian Gonzalez as 1st Round picks based on their injury concerns. Now, it turned out that Gonzalez was fine as a first rounder, but AROD and Hamilton hurt themselves and had bad years for 1st round picks. In a draft I was in I chose Miguel Cabrera over Adrian Gonzalez because Cabrera had absolutely no question marks, he’s very healthy and has never really had an off year. The saying goes, “You can’t win a league in the first round, but you sure can lose it.” Shawn Childs called me conservative for doing so, as he took Adrian Gonzalez with the next pick. Don’t take your risks here, save them for later in the draft when the risk/reward differential is greater. I take plenty of risks, but missing on a 1st Round pick can sink a team. Granted it’s less of a problem in a 10-team league, but still something you want to avoid.
Qualitative Categories vs. Counting Categories
*First of all, the qualitative categories are WHIP, ERA, and AVG. Counting Categories are every other category (W, K, SV, R, RBI, SB, HR). Not every category is created equally – some categories are more important than others. For instance, with starting pitchers, it’s more important to get pitchers with good ERA/WHIP than getting ones with more strikeouts and wins because you can chase Wins/Ks in free agency, but you can’t chase ERA/WHIP… once your quality stats (ERA/WHIP) have deteriorated they are very difficult to build back up, and it takes much longer to do so. The same goes for AVG with hitters… early on in the draft, I try to build a good team AVG because finding SB or HR guys is much easier than finding legitimate .300 hitters. Those great AVG hitters also allow you to take guys like Mark Reynolds and his .220 AVG and 40 HRs. AVG is also something you cannot chase in free agency like you can HR or SB. Now, again, this is not to say I’m looking to draft Placido Polanco over like Brett Lawrie or anything, but I’m just saying that guys who can provide elite AVG (while also giving you SB and/or HR too) are few and far between and will be a HUGE boon to your team.
Avoid Drafting “Judys”
*…at least early in drafts. You want to focus more on balanced (HR/SB) guys and power hitters than SB-only guys (Judys) because Judys are deficient in both HR AND RBI, whereas power hitters are usually productive in HR, RBI, and R. Later in the draft if you feel you need some steals, go ahead and draft a judy if you need one… just make sure your team is based on power hitters and balanced hitters. Also, SBs are much easier to pick up on the waiver wire than HRs.
Avoid Drafting Old/Young Players
*Don’t draft pitchers before age 23 or age 37+
*Avoid SB guys after 33, and don’t draft SB guys age 36+…power hitters around age 36-37 don’t fare too well either
*Try to draft pitchers ages 23-29 (especially 23-27)… they seem to fall off quite a bit around age 30-31
*Don’t expect much from hitters under the age of 23 (Jay Bruce his rookie year, Jason Heyward, etc – they don’t have a good track record)
Avoid Inconsistent Starting Pitchers
Inconsistent pitchers who have solid overall numbers, but vary widely from start-to-start have less value in 10-team leagues because to get the overall numbers you desire, you’d have to leave them in your starting lineup at all times, but instead you’ll spot start them and probably not get the best of what they can give you. Some of the match-ups you pick and choose to start them in they’ll get crushed, while others where they look risky you bench them for and they have a fantastic outing. Avoid them in 10-team leagues when possible.