Fantasy baseball is better than fantasy football. That’s right, I said it! And I back it up here.
Now that I’ve lost credibility in 95% percent of the readers’ eyes, let’s begin.
So why should you listen to my fantasy baseball advice? In 5 of the last 6 years, I’ve either won or been in the championship game in every league I’ve participated in. Ten team leagues, twelve team leagues, roto, points, auction or draft; I’m just awesome. And lucky. And obsessed.
Put yourself in a position to win your fantasy baseball league this year by following these five steps:
1. Tailor your approach
Succeeding at fantasy baseball is all about tailoring your strategy to the type of league you’re in. Roto leagues are like Robin Williams- I have no idea what everyone thinks is so great about them. I prefer points leagues, because everything positive that your players do is rewarded, just like in actual baseball. Pitch and hit better than your opponent, and you win. To anyone who argues in favor of roto leagues: if they’re so great, why don’t we do roto in fantasy football? There are just as many meaningful stat categories.
There are cheat sheets available on every major fantasy baseball site, and believe it or not they even still sell fantasy baseball preview magazines- made out of real paper! These sites and publications all have separate rankings for every kind of league. A player like Ben Zobrist is worth a lot more in points leagues than most roto leagues, because he walks a lot. A walk gets you 1 point in most points leagues, but gets you nothing in a roto league that doesn’t have walks or OBP as a category.
2. Get a superstar
Regardless of the type of league you’re in, one thing is certain: you’ve got to have a star. You need that one player that will give you above average production every day (or every start), and can go out and single-handedly win you a matchup in any given week. Draft one of these players in your first round, or bid high in an auction league to make sure you secure a difference-maker:
- Ryan Braun – consistently successful, he’s the Pittsburgh Steelers of MLB players
- Miguel Cabrera – seems like he’s been on top forever, still only 29
- Justin Verlander – best pitcher in the game, hands down
- Prince Fielder – doesn’t strike out much, walks a lot, hits a ton
- Felix Hernandez – if he was on a better team, he’d be the #1 SP. Wins hard to come by.
- Clayton Kershaw – in the top 5 in MLB over the last 3 years in all the stats that matter
- Albert Pujols – fading superstar, but still good for .290, 30HR, 110RBI easy
- Robinson Cano – league leading hitter at a tough position to get big time production out of
- Jose Bautista – 2013 will be the best lineup he’s ever been a part of: more RBI, runs
- David Price – everything’s on the rise with the 2012 AL Cy Young winner
3. Wait on pitching
If you focus on hitters early, or spend a large chunk of your auction budget on them, there’s no need to worry about your pitching staff suffering. Here’s why:
In 2010, it made sense to grab a top shelf SP as early as you could afford to. If you missed out on Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez or one of the other top 5 SPs, the drop off to Tier 2 was significant. This year, you can wait until the first 10 SPs are off the board and still scoop up a serviceable fantasy staff ace. Matt Cain and R.A. Dickey are outside of most publications’ projected top 10 SPs, yet they both ranked in the top 5 in points leagues in 2012. Building your staff around one of these guys is like taking a dump on a school bus- you might get laughed at sometimes, but you’ll be respected because they fear your moxy. What?
4. Don’t be afraid of scrubs
Here’s the situation: it’s the 9th round of your draft, and you’ve filled every offensive position except shortstop. The top 8 players at the position are gone, and at this point the remaining available shortstops all look the same (and it’s not good). You see Alex Gordon (who’s going around 93rd in most online league drafts) staring you in the face, but you’ve already got 3 outfielders. Do you grab one of the available shortstops or snag Gordon even though you don’t really need him?
Get Gordon. Or whoever the best available player is, regardless of position. You need depth and options. Every player you select to fill your starting positions isn’t going to work out, and you need depth to address issues that arise. To borrow from Matthew Berry’s recent 100 Facts column: Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Albert Pujols have more extra-base hits than Alex Gordon.
This isn’t me telling you to go out and get Gordon, I’m just showing you that there’s value in the 9th and 10th round, and it’s time to capitalize. You can get a light-hitting or aging shortstop much later; get the players that will help you now. Don’t be afraid to have a scrub or two penciled into your starting lineup when you have studs everywhere else.
5. Work the waiver wire weekly
If your league allows daily transactions, take advantage. At the end of any fantasy baseball season, look at the standings and compare them with the number of transactions each team made. More transactions typically means an owner cares and is paying attention. Those teams that have zero or two transactions all season are inevitably in 10th or 12th place, having checked out in May citing some kind of “I don’t have time for fantasy baseball, I have a life” bullshit. Every league has one or two of these guys. Why do they sign up in the first place? I’m hearing a Robert Stack “Unsolved Mysteries” voiceover in my head right now- anyone else? No? Moving on.
Whether you can make moves daily or weekly, make them. The best part of waiting to draft a crap-ass shortstop in the 18th round? You can drop the shit out of him in week 2 for that rookie SS that’s already got 8 stolen bases, and not feel bad about it.
The bottom line is, have fun and stay involved. Check in at least once a week. Don’t have a guy who’s out for the season in your starting lineup. That’s more embarrassing than taking a dump on a school bus.