Draft Day is probably one of the most exciting days in your entire fantasy year, even more so than the day you win your first game, or the day you find you made the playoffs for the first time. That’s because everything is bright and new entering each and every draft. You have the exact same chance of choosing correctly and dominating your fantasy league as every other owner, and if you do your homework right you can make that potential a reality, with some skill, and a little luck.
Believe me, luck can factor in, but it’s hard to pick players based on potential and not be disappointed. Odds are that players who aren’t tried and true will disappoint you more often than they break through and surprise you. So you should take the bulk of your time figuring out which lower-tier players are likely to move up a tier during the course of the season. Instead of bulking up on older players who are past their prime and are now living on name recognition alone (Prado, Beltran, Bourn), you should spend time looking at some fresh faces with potential who can ride your bench until (if) they prove themselves.
First, though, you need to figure out what kind of league you want to be in. I suggest starting off in a head-to-head league because it’s easier to draft, in my opinion. The next thing you need to decide prior to the league draft is how you want to build your team, which all depends on and determines your first pick. There are two distinct options:
- Pitcher first
- Hitter first
If you decide to go with pitcher first, you need to know the tiers so you don’t waste your first selection. Maybe you have a favorite team, but their best pitcher isn’t top-tier. Don’t reach for him in the first round. In fact, don’t reach for him at all. You want to populate your team with the best players, or players who have upside, not based on them being from your favorite MLB team. So, who are the top-tier pitchers?
- Clayton Kershaw
- Felix Hernandez
- David Price
- Chris Sale
- Max Scherzer
- Johnny Cueto
- Corey Kluber
Now, of course not all top-tier pitchers are created equal, but if you don’t have the number one overall pick then you probably aren’t getting Clayton Kershaw and you’ll have to settle for someone who is next in line. No matter where you draft in a 10-team league you should have one (or more) of these top-tier pitchers available to you. Do your research. If you want to build your team around Johnny Cueto, then do it. Don’t think you have to go with Sale, or Scherzer. Cueto is top-tier for a reason, because he has the numbers to back it up.
Perhaps, though, you would rather take your chances on one of those top-tier pitchers falling to the second round, and you would prefer to build your team around a top-tier hitter instead. Maybe having a second-tier guy with potential lead your pitching attack is fine with you. It’s a good option, especially since there are more top and second-tier pitchers than there are top-tier hitters. So who should you target if you’re looking for a hitter first mentality?
- Mike Trout
- Miguel Cabrera
- Paul Goldschmidt
- Anthony Rendon
- Troy Tulowitzki
- Giancarlo Stanton
- Jose Altuve
- Jose Abreu
Are there other hitters who are dynamic and can really help your team? Sure, but it’s all relative. You’re not going to start your team off with a catcher because by the time you pick again you won’t be able to supplement him with one of these top-tier hitters, while you can always plug in a catcher later. If you have the first pick you can’t go wrong with picking Mike Trout because he has the numbers to back it up, and you should be able to get two solid second-tier pitchers in the next two rounds.
It’s up to you, but always make sure you’re flexible. If Goldschmidt goes off the board right before you pick, and you had your heart set on him, don’t pick just any hitter because you wanted to be hitter-first. That’s called settling. Instead, you should consider switching it up and going with a top-tier pitcher because the one who could have gone with that last pick is now available to you. Take advantage of situations. That’s how you play fantasy baseball, and that’s how you should draft.
Stay tuned for a breakdown of one of my recent drafts.