We’ve been posting player profiles of big free agent signings (B.J. Upton, Mike Napoli, Dan Haren, and others) immediately after they hit, but I want to step back from that and talk a little draft strategy with you. The inspiration is a mock draft I am currently participating in with several other industry experts, such as the Fantasy Nomad, and Chris McBrien and The Doctor from the Dear Mr. Fantasy Baseball Podcast.
I’ve participated in so many fantasy baseball drafts in my life that I can get pretty lax with the entire process, particularly in mock drafts. My zen draft (a kind way to describe my slipshod indifference) approach will never fly with Nash, who approaches a draft with a meticulous plan.
But as I selected my 2nd Round player I figured it would be helpful to glance at the position requirements (I told you I could be a slow kid). The positions are:
C, C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, MI, CI, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, UTIL, SP, SP, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, Bench x5.
A 12-team mock draft with the above positional requirements brings up some interesting big-picture fantasy baseball draft strategy and I think it would be helpful to us all to take a quick look at it. (See, 200 words in and I’m getting to my point!)
In this draft you are looking at 14 position players drafted, including 2 catchers (gasp!), and you would imagine a bench spot or two would go toward hitters. This is versus just 7 pitchers, plus the remaining bench slots. So how does this mock fantasy baseball lineup overlay to the actual player penetration (Editor’s Note: No jokes yet.) among actual major league clubs? Break out your slide rule, because we’re going to do some math.
Last year the 30 major league teams carried 380 hitters on their rosters. Our mock draft has 12 teams each drafting 16 hitters (14 positions, plus est. 2 bench).
So our draft will penetrate (Editor’s Note: Again, no jokes.) just about half of the hitters in the league. This doesn’t factor in positional scarcity. Take catcher, for example, where our mock draft will see 24 catchers fly off the board, which is 80% of major league starters. Yikes.
Last year major league teams carried 370 pitchers on their rosters. Our mock draft has 12 teams each drafting 10 pitchers (7 positions, plus est. 3 bench).
So we’re only penetrating (Editor’s Note: Still no jokes.) 32.4% of the major league pitching pool. Interestingly, the pitching positions are designated starter and reliever. The two RP slots represent 80% of the league’s closers, meaning that drafting big-save closers will be imperative, while several #3 starters will actually go undrafted.
What’s the takeaway? It would be foolish to draft a pitcher in the first 10 Rounds of this mock draft! That’s the main point, but let’s break it down point by point, starting with the big picture:
- Do a little math on the back of a napkin that takes into account your specific league settings and how deeply your league penetrates (That’s what she said!!! Editors Note: And there it is.) the actual major league player pool. This is significant and has repercussions in terms of how you approach the draft.
- For this particular league, you need to draft a catcher a round or two before you’d typical take him. The 23rd or 24th catcher taken in this mock draft will be an absolute scrub with minimal at bats, but you should be able to scrounge up an outfielder with superior production later in the draft.
- Likewise, you’ll want to draft your closers a couple rounds early, and fit the “don’t pay for saves” mentality that has been beaten into fantasy baseball players. In this particular draft, the limits imposed by the two RP slots means you won’t be able to draft 3 closers late and spread their saves across three slots. Get two high-saves guys that are reliable (as reliable as a closer can be!) and from wining teams.
- Wait, wait, wait on pitching. There will be valuable starters available late and you’ll want to use the first several rounds of this draft to fill those hitting slots.
These are suggestions based upon this particular league, so you’ll want to do this simple research for each roster you draft. Count the number of slots, do some quick math, and determine some objective numbers for positional scarcity. Then adjust your draft strategy slightly to address that reality.
As a sort of prologue, I offer some advice to league managers. There are some subtle changes occurring in baseball (Seriously! Baseball – the slow moving glacier – does slowly change over time, despite what Joe Morgan may believe.) The traditional 14/11 split with team’s 25-man roster is often not typical. In fact, several MLB clubs spend a good portion of the season with just 12 hitters, meaning that they have more pitchers than hitters! (And this trend will accelerate if Colorado’s experiment catches on. It won’t, but if it does.) Yet in fantasy baseball we’re drafting half of the hitters, but only a third of the pitchers. Perhaps it’s time we slowly change as well. It may be as simply as dropping a hitter slot while simultaneously adding a pitching slot, or to add a scoring category such as holds, which allows owners to tap into the previously forgotten middle reliever. Something to think about.