An increasingly popular method of filling rosters in fantasy baseball is the serpentine draft. The draft order reverses after each round, with the team that picked last in the previous round picking first in the next; the order snakes back and forth.
Luck usually determines where you select. Some leagues base the order on the previous season's standings. After that, it'll be up to you to put together a competitive squad. Remember that no two drafts are identical, and players you covet will end up on other clubs. Regardless of the format, the goal is the same: to draft a team capable of competing in as many categories as possible.
Batters before pitchers
Many a fantasy season has been derailed before it could even get going by a catastrophic injury to an early-round starting pitcher. That's why, with very few exceptions, you should spend the early rounds of your draft looking to select top-tier hitters. Generally speaking, batters are more consistent from year to year and carry less injury risk. Their performance is also less dependent on others. For example, a starter can't earn a win if the team doesn't score runs for him or the bullpen can't hold a lead.
Year after year, a signicantly larger percentage of top projected batters finish as top fantasy performers. Conversely, a notably smaller percentage of pitchers who are projected highly finish as such. In standard league drafts, few pitchers are selected in the first four or five rounds.
This pattern can work in your favor if you plan properly. You should never rule out selecting any player or type of player. If the time is right and the value is good, an unexpected selection can aid you in many ways. You can throw off your draft mates, who didn't expect you to make that pick. You can also change the balance or depth at a position, perhaps triggering a run.
Just ask yourself: Which player fits my need most, is most valuable
Be cautious with closers
As volatile as starting pitchers are, closers can be even more fickle, making it another position at which it's better to wait for the middle or late rounds. As often as not, a closer finishes the season either on the disabled list or in a non-closing capacity. At anywhere from a quarter to a third of the time, pitchers who finish a season as closer didn't begin it that way - and they usually go undrafted.
The strategies for approaches to saves vary greatly. Some prefer to land a couple of year-in, year-out studs and not worry about it (in theory). Some choose a high-end reliever, a mid-level option and a low-end hopeful. Some prefer to load up in the middle and late rounds on less heralded closers or speculative choices. Some avoid the category completely. There's a high degree of difference between the risk factors there, but closers are risky picks anyway.
There is no best way. Your goal is earn the most value, especially when it comes to saves, so take advantage of your opponents' draft patterns, whatever they may be. Be opportunistic and avoid runs, and don't forget: Future closers will reside on the waiver wire when you're done.
Know your sleepers and undervalued players
What is the right time? Most of the time, you can target true sleepers - risky players with high upside - in the final half to third of your draft. By doing this, you minimize risk and still have a chance to land great potential. It's tempting to draft that blue-chip prospect before anyone else can. Keep in mind: Of the top fantasy batters every season, only a couple are rookies, and they aren't often the prospects most expect them to be as soon as they arrive.
Know which sleepers and undervalued players you're interested in; that allows you to plan your draft strategy more thoroughly. For example, if you're high on a veteran third baseman coming off down season in the late rounds, you may be able to forego that position early in the draft and focus on other areas.
By the same token, you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket. You may choose to bypass all catchers until the late rounds because you're completely sold on a specific backstop. If that player is selected before you take him, you'll be left with scraps. To prevent that, it's imperative that you thoroughly research plenty of undervalued players and sleepers. Have some at each position.
You should have not only a Plan A but a Plan B and Plan C as well. Ensure that the success of your draft doesn't hinge on the draft fate of one or two players. All winning fantasy baseball rosters don't look alike.
About Herija C. Green
A graduate of the prestigious Top Gun school, Green's ego writes checks his body can't cash. When he's not overdrawing his ego's bank account, Green enjoys games of beach volleyball, riding his Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle, and buzzing the tower (whether the pattern is full or not). He resides in the Danger Zone and yes, Ice... Man, he is dangerous. He also writes.
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