Win Fantasy Baseball in 10 Easy Steps

by on March 1, 2010   12 Comments

I’ve cracked the fantasy baseball code and I feel inclined to share the wealth.  Like me, you can win your fantasy baseball league just following these ten easy steps.  And RULE #1 is – Draft Albert Pujols.

RULE #1 (Cont.) – Draft Albert Pujols

In case you haven’t noticed, Albert Pujols is the best (and most consistent) hitter in baseball, which makes him the best fantasy player available, too.  Even better – he doesn’t get hurt, but if he does get hurt, he plays through it.  He has 9 seasons in the big leagues and never played in less than 143 games, hit less than .314, had less than 32 home runs, and never driven in less than 103.  If you draft Fat Albert, your chances of winning your league increase by at least 30%.  There are lots of other good options at 1st base, but Albert is a sure-thing.

RULE #2 – Don’t draft any players on your favorite team or any of your favorite players on other teams

The only way to win fantasy baseball is to be as objective as possible.  These aren’t real people with real lives doing real things off the field.  They are only numbers representing probabilities, both historical and projectable and that is it.  If you draft players on your favorite team or even worse, favorite players on other teams, you are more than likely to over-draft them or keep them too long if they stink.

RULE #3 – Draft with knowledge of other owners in mind

As a follow-up to RULE #2, you can easily use your knowledge of the other league owners to benefit on their subjectivity.  The more serious the league and the less you know your fellow owners, the harder this is to pull off.  Example – if you are in a group of Yankee fans and you are trying to decide between draft Jeter or a comparable player, take Jeter.  You know that down the line you will at least be able to get something above-value in a trade.

RULE #4 – Only use early draft picks on players that help you in every category possible.

The best fantasy players are guys that help you in every category, so make sure you pay attention to the non-speed positional guys that can offer 10-15 stolen bases, or middle infielders that can get you 15-20 home runs, etc.  Regardless of whether you are playing rotisserie or head-to-head, you want players that can help you win each category.  On the flip side, if you end up drafting lots of one-dimensional players, you will be in trouble if your “batting average guy” has a down year or your one “stolen base guy” tweaks a hamstring.  This is what makes guys like Pujols (16 SB) and A-Rod (14 SB) so valuable early on in power spots and Hanley Ramirez (24 HR) and Chase Utley (31 HR) in stolen base spots (SS/2B).  Every time they take the field they have a chance of helping you in every category.  Even if they go 0-4 with one BB, they can still steal a base for you.  Late in the draft, you can evaluate your weak spots and draft category specific players.

RULE #5 – Draft middle infielders and catchers the first chance you get

If you don’t get Albert Pujols, you need to get Hanley Ramirez.  If you don’t get either of those guys, you can wait on 1B/OF despite some of the attractive sluggers out there, and go for players in this order SS, C, then 2B.  These are the three hardest positions to fill and the ones that have the steepest decline.  After the top 5 in each position, you start getting into the guessing game, and you can’t guess your way into 1st place.  When drafting catchers, put emphasis on American League catchers, because they at least have the chance to get a start at DH on their day off behind the plate (the exception is iron-man Brian McCann, who is good for at least 135 games behind the dish in Atlanta).  EDIT – If you happen to miss out on the front-line players at positions with few impact players, it is not advisable to overpay or overdraft by 20+ spots in the overall rankings to get a mid-tier player.  Example – if you miss out on Mauer, McCann, and V. Martinez, you’re better off chalking up catcher as a loss and shooting for a long shot late in the game then to spend your money/draft pick on anyone in the next 5-10 catchers after that.

RULE #6 – Never draft starting pitchers from the American League (or Nationals, Rockies, and Pirates) early

If you pitch in the American League you have to face the DH, the Red Sox, and the Yankees.  In the National League, you get to take one of the best hitters in the lineup (DH) and replace him with a pitcher that barely knows which end of the bat to hold.  You also don’t have to pitch at Fenway or the New Coors, I mean, Yankee Stadium.  Sure, there are some good options in the American League that you might want to draft early, like Sabathia, Burnett, Lackey, Beckett, etc., but numbers will always fluctuate more in the American League than the National League, and wins are only one statistical category, and you can always get wins from starting pitching late in the fantasy draft (regardless of league), while ERA, WHIP, and Ks go much faster up the board.  Don’t draft any pitchers on the Rockies due to the park factor of Coors, and never draft any pitchers on the National or Pirates just because they stink and you never know how much of their defense or offense will be traded away mid-season.

RULE #7 – Draft closers based on projected save opportunities (not ERA, WHIP, or Ks)

Closers are tricky because the proven ones go fast and everyone comes prepared with names of the lesser known guys to take later on in the draft.  During the season, there are always injuries to closers and the really active leagues have guys hawking the waiver wire when roles change in the back-end of the bullpen.  That’s why while you might be tempted to look at a guy like Andrew Bailey from the Oakland A’s, but you never know how many opportunities he will get with the Mariners and Rangers much improved in their division and the Angels set to dominate again.  Instead, look at the projected division leaders, starting with the best teams first – Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Twins, Angels, San Fransisco, Phillies, Brewers, etc.  Never draft closers based on ERA and WHIP because they fluctuate too much with relievers since they don’t pitch many innings (don’t look at Ks either for the same reason).  You want closers for one reason and one reason only – the SAVE – and you can’t get saves if you don’t get save opportunities.

RULE #8 – Don’t panic if one specific position goes fast (outside of SS/2B/C)

Just because your league takes a dozen closers off the board in the first three rounds doesn’t mean you have to rush in to get your guy.  Positional scarcity at SS/2B and catcher should be taken into consideration, but it doesn’t mean you should jump 100 spots down the overall rankings just to get 20 saves.  Remember, SV is just one category and you can never count on closers for their ERA, WHIP, and K.  The main thing to keep in mind is RULE #4 – draft players that will help you in the most categories.

RULE #9 – Master the claim, start, waive process based on match-ups

Once again depending on the depth and scope of your fantasy leagues, you will usually be pretty weak in your last couple pitcher spots, so I recommend using the waiver wire to claim, start, and quickly waive any pitcher that has the opportunity to start against some of the league’s worst offenses or in the best pitcher parks including the Nationals, Padres, Giants, Pirates, etc.  Example – Pitcher A starts on Wednesday and isn’t the type of pitcher that anyone else in the league will pick up off waivers.  After Pitcher A’s start, I put him on waivers, clearing a spot for Pitcher B, who will pitcher at Petco Park vs. the Padres on Thursday.  I start Pitcher B on Thursday and immediately put him back on waivers to repeat the process.  This only works if Pitcher A is an average pitcher without much long-term value, otherwise you would just want to hold on to him.

RULE #10 – It’s a loooong season – Top 5 teams draft well, but championship teams are claimed on waivers

Depending on the size and scope of your league (AL, NL, Mixed, # of teams) it becomes more and more important to know not just who is injured, but who is lined up to take their place.  The deeper the league, the more you’ll have to stretch for those last couple of rosters spots and consequently, the guys who accumulate the most ABs and the most IP are the most valuable to you.  Watching the waiver wire during the season is absolutely essential, especially if you are in a league with some inexperienced fantasy players that want to dump good players based on slow starts.  In 2008, you better believe that the green fantasy owners couldn’t trade Manny Ramirez fast enough when he went a month plus with a sub .200 batting average, and fantasy winners scooped him up and laughed their way to the championship when he finished at .332 with 37 home runs and 121 RBI.  Equally important is the early season disabled list, when unknowing owners will waive guys who go on the 15 or 60-day DL in April – the season goes through September, which still leaves those guys with June, July, August, and September to help your fantasy team.  If you have DL slots in your league – use them!

Author: Aimee Connors
Categories: Major League Baseball (MLB)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I love rule #2, people always think that the players on their team are better than they really are. However, I have a hard time not drafting Justin Verlander which breaks two of the rules!

    Comment by Eric Somsel
    March 1, 2010 at 12:43 pm

  2. About the only thing I can really disagree with is drafting catchers as soon as possible.

    Unless you are going for a Mauer/McCann/Martinez you can get a mid tier catcher in just about any round. I snagged Miguel Montero for $1 in the 24th in my auction league last year and Kurt Suzuki in the 18th of my standard mixed league. IMO after the top guys there aren’t really any standouts that are worth taking in the top 10 rounds.

    My #1(outside of drafting Pujols of course) would be knowing the depth at the positions.For example, in doing mock drafts the last few weeks it seems as though people think OF is a really deep position, when in reality it isn’t. The days of the 50 homer OF’er are gone, with the top producers now being 4 1/2- 5 tool guys like Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun. Or, in a ROTO format, guys like Rajai Davis and Michael Bourn can be great single category producers for cheap.

    Knowing and adding position scarcity into the value of your picks can go a long way towards winning leagues of any format.

    Also, I recommend finding a league that counts holds….I hate saves. Never have been able to find a league that doesn’t count saves, but I have found a couple that do holds+saves.

    I love fantasy baseball.

    Comment by Mac
    March 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm

  3. You’re definitely, right, Mac. I should have been more clear with my positional scarcity argument in terms of middle infielders and catchers – you always have to be aware of the overall rank and historical consistency of a player. In other words – if you have a chance to draft Mauer, Martinez, or McCann, you can’t pass it up (with exceptions like Pujols, Ramirez, etc.). I would pass up all pitchers to draft one of the elite SS/2B/C as well as all OF and most 1B outside of Pujols. However, once you get outside of those top three at catcher, you have to chalk up that position as a loss and try to get a steal late in the draft, and at catcher, the main consideration is – how many games is this guy going to give me and at what quality? Montero is a good late pick-up, but I wouldn’t take him much earlier than that since he had a career year in every category last year including games played at 128, which was 58 games more than he has ever played in – how will his body bounce back from that workload? Will he be a victim of the law of averages like most following a “career year”? At 26-years old, he should be fine… should be.

    As for outfielders – I think the 1B/OF argument for me is less about the depth of the position and more about the sheer quantity. Unlike 2B/SS/C, almost every organization has a top prospect waiting in the wings, which makes the VORP (value-over-replacement-player for those not familiar) much less in the OF than, for instance, Ramirez at SS or Mauer at C.

    Comment by Jason Wuerfel
    March 1, 2010 at 1:46 pm

  4. Good points, Jason. There have been a lot of years and teams in which I did exactly what you’re talking about. Chalking C up to a loss and waited until the 24th and ended up regretting it later because I had to use a waiver move on an equally crappy catcher because my original was so crappy he lost his time.

    I’ll tell ya, I am having more trouble at 2B this year than anything else. My major drafts don’t come up until the 11th and 27th, but I’ve been doing a lot of mocks and I still have no idea what I want to do at 2B.

    I have conceded that, even though they weren’t kept, I’m not going to spend a high pick on Kinsler or Utley. There are just too many other guys I’d like to go for that I know won’t be around in the 3rd of 4th.

    Maybe I’ll just suck it up and draft Schumaker and be happy with a .300 avg and not killing me with K’s.

    Comment by Mac
    March 1, 2010 at 1:55 pm

  5. Frankly, the only catcher I would draft in the first few rounds would be Mauer, and in most drafts he’s gone within the first 6 picks. I had him on every one of my teams last season, and I think I got him in like the 3rd/4th round of most drafts. Definitely payed dividends last year. Russell Martin has been badly overused by Torre in my opinion, catching 145 or more games in 07 and 08, and 137 more in 09. It’ll catch up with him. McCann is the only other catcher I’d think about early. I’ve been hanging back and snagging Matt Weiters in a few of my drafts.

    I had a 16 team keeper league draft last night, and took Chase Utley with the 4th pick, as Pujols and HanRam were both gone. I grabbed Adrian Gonzalez in the 2nd round, and snagged my steal of the draft, Michael Bourn, in the 8th round of a 16 team draft. For my catchers, since Weiters was gone, I took Yadier Molina and Carlos Ruiz in rounds 26-30. Molina is close to a .300 hitting catcher and I don’t need much more out of that spot than a decent average and the occasional RBIs and dingers. Ruiz has been improving each year and I think he’ll eventually be a catcher who can hit .280, knock 15 homers, and drive in a decent amount of base runners with a solid Phillies offense ahead of him on the bases.

    I also grabbed Scott Sizemore and Desmond Jennings late, and I’m anticipating them making decent contributions this year in the majors.

    Comment by Matt Pennington
    March 1, 2010 at 4:53 pm

  6. I love Desmond Jennings, Ian Desmond and Alcides Escobar all as late guys that could have some big contributions(especially speed) this year.

    Comment by Mac
    March 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm

  7. As I mentioned in RULE #4 – always go with the guy that can help you in the most categories. That is why I don’t like Uggla (no average, high Ks, no SB), although Kinsler is worth 20+ SB along with his power, he is always an injury risk, but if he slips a few rounds, is worth the risk because of the 30/30 potential (and not many strikeouts if that is a category for you). I also like Brian Roberts a little more this year because the Orioles offense continues to improve with guys like Adam Jones, Matt Weiters and Nolan Reimold continuing to develop and Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins added to the lineup – he has 10+ home runs most years and will steal 30+ while hitting in the .280-.290 range (he will also drive in more runs than most top of the order type guys). I like Zobrist because he plays every position and can be moved around based on what else you draft. Shumaker is a good pickup, but only really, really late in the draft because he has no power, no RBI potential, and no stolen bases – all you will get is runs and average.

    Comment by Jason Wuerfel
    March 1, 2010 at 8:55 pm

  8. I also really like Brian Roberts, but I stayed away from him this year. I’m a little concerned about the herniated disc. I didn’t feel like taking the chance on him, especially with some of the young guys I took risks on. Like I said, I like Roberts though, and I hope everything is good and he can get/stay healthy.

    Comment by Matt Pennington
    March 1, 2010 at 10:39 pm

  9. Anybody here have a competitive league looking for an owner?

    Comment by Mac
    March 2, 2010 at 3:39 am

  10. The league I do with my friends might have an open spot, I’ll let you know when I find out if you want.

    Comment by Matt Pennington
    March 2, 2010 at 10:39 am

  11. For sure. I’m always looking for new leagues that don’t have guys dropping out by the AS break.

    Comment by Mac
    March 2, 2010 at 1:23 pm

  12. Drop me an email at and I’ll give you the details on the league if you’re interested.

    Comment by Matt Pennington
    March 3, 2010 at 1:09 am

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