2023 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: 10 Rules To Help Win Your League
Opening Day is less than three weeks away (and maybe even closer than that depending on when you’re reading this)! And that means it’s officially time to start buckling down on fantasy baseball draft strategy.
We’ve covered everything from sleepers to busts to prospects to MLB rule changes and more! But now it’s time to put that all together and think about how to approach your draft from a 30,000-foot point-of-view.
There are many ways to win your fantasy baseball league. And all of them require a certain amount of luck. But I’ve been playing fantasy baseball for 30 years (man, am I old…) and there are some time-tested strategies/rules/principles/tenants/whatever-you-want-to-call-them that I live by in every fantasy baseball draft I enter.
Let’s dig in.
This one is simple, but if you’re going to take the time to do a fantasy draft and then manage a team all season – take the time to put in the upfront work too! Read articles (like the ones on this site!), listen to podcasts, study some players, or at the very least – print out a cheatsheet. There’s nothing worse then feeling completely unprepared when it’s your time to make a pick, and just a little bit of pre-work will help you avoid that. The resources are out there – just take a few minutes to find them and absorb them.
Cheatsheets are awesome. I use one for all of my drafts. But I also break up each position into tiers to help me compare positions. What does that mean? Essentially, I take the top-20 or so players at each position and group them into tiers of similarly-valued players. Why does that help? When it’s time to decide between a shortstop or an outfielder, you can look at your tiers and try to figure out what might be available if you pass on that position. For example, you might only have one shortstop left in your top remaining shortstop tier, but you might also have six outfielders left in your top remaining outfield tier. More often than not (really depends on the players and how you value them), that would lead me to take the shortstop and hope one of those six outfielders is left for my next pick.
Wait on starting pitching
With the preface that I like to grab one or two stud starting pitchers to anchor my rotation, I usually wait on starting pitching. You’ll hardly ever see me take a starting pitcher with my first three or four picks. And you’ll almost never see my take more than two starting pitchers in the first 100 picks. Like I said, you should get an anchor or two that you can rely upon, but pitching is much more volatile than hitting, and you can almost always find good pitching on the waiver wire if you pay attention (more on that below).
Don’t chase saves
Similarly to starting pitching, serviceable closers can be found later in the draft (and during the season). And even more than starting pitching, closers are REALLY volatile. Again, I’d try to grab one in the top 100 if you can as an anchor, but I also try to load up elsewhere before I go chasing saves. If you pay attention during the season, you’ll be able to find at least two or three closers.
Catchers are (mostly) a dime a dozen
Every once in a while, a Buster Posey/Joe Mauer-type can help you win your league. Otherwise, you’re spending a top-100 pick on a guy who probably won’t hit more than 25-30 home runs, while your savvy leaguemates are finding a catcher at the end of your draft who will hit 20-25 home runs. I won’t mock you (too much) if you draft a catcher early, but it’s just not a smart use of draft capital.
Load up on hitters
Ok, so you’ve waited on starting pitching. You’ve waited on closers. Who do you spend your picks on? Hitters, of course! This is where you can really differentiate yourself from your leaguemates. Nail down those top-of-the-line elite hitters, cement them into your lineup, and then never worry about replacing them unless they get hurt. If you come out of the first five rounds of your draft with four elite hitters and one elite starting pitcher, you can spend the rest of your draft hunting for value (and upside).
Load up on high-strikeout middle relievers
I wrote about how high-strikeout middle relievers are a bit of a cheat code earlier, and I stand by that statement. They’ll pitch every two or three days, they’ll pad your strikeout stats, and they’ll probably luck into a few wins AND saves. You might even get REALLY lucky and inherit a closer by mistake. You only need to grab two or three at the end of your draft – and you can usually find good ones during the season too.
Take (some) risks
Fortune favors the bold, my friends. I’m not saying to take huge risks early in your draft (that’s where you want to lock in safety), but you should be ok with taking more and more risk toward the middle and end of your draft. Reach a round for a high-upside player coming off injury. Grab that high-strikeout middle reliever who you think will be a closer by May. Take a flier on a player you think will break out. What’s the worst that happens? You’re wrong and you find a replacement on the waiver wire. All you’ve really lost is a mid-to-late-round pick.
Don’t get too caught up on the buzz
I’m speaking out of both sides of my mouth here because I just told you to take some risks. But you shouldn’t do it too early – and that’s usually what happens if you’re drafting a top prospect. Every once in a while, the buzzy guys breakout. But more often than not, you’re spending a top-100 pick on a top prospect who won’t return value. Let someone else spend a top-100 pick on the buzzy, top prospect. Take the risks later.
You spent all that time prepping for your draft. You spent all that time actually drafting. But there’s a long season ahead of you, and the people who usually win fantasy baseball leagues are the ones who pay attention. You don’t have to become obsessive here either – all you really need to do is build 10 minutes a day into your routine. Check the box scores from the night before and go look at your waiver wire for five minutes when you wake up. Spend five minutes during the day checking news and setting your lineups. That’s it! A large part of your fantasy success will come from knowing which closer to pick up, which prospect just got called up, or which player you should pick up from waivers. The resources for news and who to grab are here at FantasySP.com. All you need to do is put in a little bit of work reading them!
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