Welcome to Fantasy Baseball 101
Fantasy Baseball 101
So your friends or fellow fantasy football owners have asked you to join their fantasy baseball league. You reluctantly said yes and now you’re worried because you don’t know much about fantasy baseball or maybe even baseball in general. Fear no more, we’ve got you covered. Just follow this article and your co-owners will believe that you’ve been playing for years!
Keys to winning:
Just keep up with it
Fantasy baseball is much different than fantasy football. In football, a very large portion of your success is determined by what type of draft you have. A bad draft will almost always lead to a long, hard season. While the draft in baseball matters, it does not matter nearly as much. Take for example my fantasy baseball team from last season. My league drafted 25 players per team and I ended up with 7 of them on my roster at the end of the season. Only 7! I was forced to make many roster moves due to some of my players getting suspended for steroids (including my first pick Ryan Braun), as well as injuries and general struggling seasons. Believe it or not, I was able to overcome this horrible draft and win my league. The reason? I was able to stay on top of it and I kept up with it every day. In fantasy football, you can usually get away with making roster adjustments once or twice a week. In baseball, you’re going to need to look at it almost every day if you want to be successful. Every baseball team will play every day, with off days coming on rotating Mondays and Thursdays. Most leagues will allow you to make roster changes up until the first game of each day. Use this to your advantage. Most major fantasy baseball sites have an app which you can download or a way to easily access your team. I suggest setting aside 5 minutes a day to decide who you want to put in if you want to win.
Key pickups according to your matchup
Key pickups in general will go a long way in helping you succeed. Many times, top players will go through slumps throughout the season. In football, if your players are struggling for 2 or 3 games, you can afford to drop them because the season is only 16 games long. There are 162 games in the MLB season, so if a top draft pick struggles for a week or two, don’t give up on him. There will be people in your league who will get frustrated with their top picks and drop them early. Some of the best players on my team last season were guys who struggled in the first month of the season and I was able to swipe off free agency. Also, you will have a “disabled list” spot. Use this to pick up a good player who is hurt, that will give you a spark when healthy.
You will also need to make pickups according to your matchup each week. Most leagues will do a head to head style scoring, where Team A will face Team B. There will be categories like Home Runs for batters and Wins for pitchers. If Team A hits 20 Home Runs in the week, and Team B hits 16, Team A will win that category. Whoever wins the most categories will get the win for that week. There are different types of scoring, but you will always be trying to get more in a certain category than other teams in your league. If you are doing this head to head format, you need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of your opposing team. If your opponent hits a lot of Home Runs, you will need to look to pick up guys who can hit Home Runs. If your opponent only has one closer and you have three, you should not look to pick up any more closers for that week. You just need to compare the two rosters and map out a plan to try and win each category. I usually have 2 or 3 “expendable” guys on my roster who I know I can drop if needed. Most matchups will last 7 days and allow you to drop and add 7 players during that time span. I suggest using a lot or all of these drops if needed. I led my league with 149 roster moves last year, but I may have went A LITTLE overboard (the next closest was 100).
Most of the “experts” on the website that you will be drafting on know what they are talking about. Their rankings are usually pretty similar to how the season will actually go. No one can predict when a player will be injured or anything like that, so following their rankings is usually smart. I will list some of my sleepers and busts at each position as ranked by most major fantasy baseball sites (In this case, ESPN).
Sleeper: 7th. Brian McCann, NYY
McCann has great power to right field. As a Braves fan, I have seen McCann either hit Home Runs to right field or hit deep fly balls to right almost every plate appearance. With the notoriously short right field fence in Yankees stadium, I would expect plenty of Home Runs.
Sleeper: 11th. Jason Castro, HOU
If you wait to get a catcher, Castro should be around a while. He is a young guy who had a breakout year last year. He won’t put up crazy numbers, but is a solid catcher should you choose to wait and get one late.
Bust: 3rd. Joe Mauer, MIN
I love Joe Mauer as an actual player, but not a fantasy player. He just doesn’t put up great fantasy numbers to draft him where he is ranked (61st overall). He ranked 175th overall last year and is getting older, so I would wait and grab a similar catcher later in the draft. Also, he is moving to first base and I’m not sure if he will be able to be used as catcher in your league for the entire year.
Sleeper: 11th. Allen Craig, STLCraig is a very underrated player.
Craig battled injury for a portion of last season and still ranked as the 70th best overall fantasy player. He is going to hit for a high average, get a lot of RBIs and score a lot of runs. Those will be categories which you need a lot of, and he should be available pretty late in your draft. Also, he plays outfield which will give you flexibility on where you play him.
Sleeper: 24th. Mark Teixeira, NYY
Teixeira missed almost all of the 2013 season, and guys will and should be reluctant to pick him up. Currently, ESPN has him projected to hit 30 Hrs and put up great numbers for the 24th overall first baseman. He is definitely a guy to take a flyer on if he is around near the end of your draft.
Bust: 2nd. Chris Davis, BAL
Chris Davis had one of the best out-of-nowhere seasons of all-time in 2013. He has always been a power hitter, but he hit 53 Hrs and had 138 RBIs which are insane numbers. This breakout season has him ranked as the 6th overall player on the board. I think he will have a good season, but not good enough to draft him 6th overall. In 2013, he struggled during the 2nd half of the season and that cannot be ignored.
Injury issues should keep you away from Albert Pujols
Bust: 9th. Albert Pujols, LAA
Pujols was a legitimate MVP candidate virtually every year. However, since signing with Los Angeles, he just has not been the same. His numbers have declined each year and he is coming off of a season ending injury in 2013. Many will pickup Pujols with the hope that he can return to his old form, and it may very well happen. However, it is unlikely he can be anywhere near what he used to be. Someone in your league will reach and draft him way too early because of his name. Make sure that you’re not that guy.
Sleeper: 15th. Jed Lowrie, OAK
Lowrie is a guy that you will be able to plug in at either 2B or SS and played almost every game last year. Second Basemen usually don’t provide a lot of power, but he should hit around 15 Hrs. He puts up great numbers for a guy ranked so low among 2B and should be a good value late in the draft.
Sleeper: 22nd. Omar Infante, KC
If you’re in a 12 team league, Infante is a great pick-up and boost for your team batting average. He will probably not be drafted in most leagues, but will play everyday and bat 2nd for the Royals. If you need a 2nd baseman badly, don’t feel too bad if you can pick him up.
Bust: 5th. Brandon Phillips, CIN
Phillips has been a great player with a lot of power coming from the 2nd Base position. He has averaged 18 Hrs over the last 4 years but his other numbers are beginning to decline. He hits for a very low average and will not drive in as many runs with Shin-Soo Choo no longer in Cincy.
Sleeper: 13th. Andrelton Simmons, ATL
Simmons is widely regarded as the best defensive shortstop in the league. His offense is still a work in progress, but his defense is so good that he will hardly ever be out of the lineup. He started showing signs of power and development near the end of last season, which I expect him to carry right into 2014.
Bust: 7th. Starlin Castro, CHICastro has been called out for his lack of effort.
Castro was the definition of a bust in 2013. He was drafted in the late 3rd or early 4th round in virtually every league and finished the year rated as the 342nd fantasy player. He is only 24 and has plenty of time to right the ship, however many have questioned his desire and work ethic. He should be better in 2014, but not enough to warrant a high pick.
Sleeper: 16th. Will Middlebrooks, BOS
Middlebrooks started off the 2013 season hot, and then struggled. He was eventually sent down to the minor leagues then recalled later in the year. Once he returned, he found his swing again and hit pretty well. Guys in your league will probably be reluctant to take a shot at him, leaving him to be had late. Before drafting him, I would make sure the Red Sox haven’t signed Stephen Drew because if they have, Middlebrooks may not play everyday.
Sleeper: 24th. Matt Dominguez, HOU
Dominguez would be a good pickup if you play in a large league and are looking for a steal. He is a young guy who is still developing and showed some good power numbers last year. He is a better pickup than some of the 3rd baseman ranked ahead of him.
Bust: 9th. Aramis Ramirez, MIL
Ramirez enters the 2014 season at 35 years old. He battled injury all year last year and put up respectable numbers when he was healthy. Again, he might be good when healthy, but I wouldn’t bet on him staying healthy all year.
Sleeper: 20th. Hunter Pence, SF
Pence is often looked down upon for his unconventional style. His batting stance may be something to laugh at, but his numbers are not. He finished the 2013 season as the 12th overall best player, yet comes in at 68th on ESPN’s preseason rankings. I’m not saying to draft Pence in the first 12 picks, but if you have to reach a little to get him, he should be worth it.
Sleeper: 45th. B.J. Upton, ATL
Perhaps the biggest bust of the 2013 season, Upton was a huge disappointment. Atlanta gave a whole lot of money to the 29 year old outfielder and he turned in one of the worst seasons of all time. He amazingly ended the year as the 799th ranked (yeah, I didn’t know there were that many either) fantasy player. He has been a good fantasy player throughout his career and knows he must turn it around soon. He should be around in the very late rounds of your draft and just might be worth a flyer.
Sleeper: 79th. Kole Calhoun, LAA
Calhoun is a last round/free agent pickup guy. He is ranked as the 336th player coming into the year so he probably won’t be on a lot of people’s radar. He started last year in the minors and worked his way to the big leagues where he became a solid player. He should get a starting job, and I suggest keeping an eye on him because he may turn into a good pickup.
Bust: 25th. Carlos Beltran, NYY
Beltran is 36 years old and starting to get a lot of mileage on his knees. He has played a ton of games over the last couple of years with the Cardinals. Although he has played well lately, this smells like a typical Yankees pickup of an old, declining player.
Bust: 21st. Matt Kemp, LADIt looks like Kemp will start the year on the DL.
Kemp had a tough 2013 due to injury and was labeled a bust. Coming into the season he was one of the most sought-after fantasy players on the board. Sure he still has talent, but the injuries are still a risk and no one knows if he will be able to start the season on time and how much he will be able to play when he does.
Bust: 8th. Bryce Harper, WSH
Harper is a young stud. If you are in a keeper league, by all means, take him! But if you’re in a league for just one year, I’m not so sure about him. He missed a ton of time in 2013 with injuries and struggled because of them when he did play. He will be a great player for a long time in this league, but I wouldn’t reach too high for him if you’re only playing for this year.
Sleeper: 18th. Matt Cain, SF
Cain struggled mightily in 2013. He came into the year one of the top 3 or 4 best fantasy pitchers available, and was a major disappointment. That has made him fall down to the 18th best pitcher and the 76th best player. He had a bit of a forearm injury which could have caused him to have some trouble. Whatever it was, some may avoid him this year, giving you a solid pickup at a reasonable price.
Sleeper: 28th. Doug Fister, WSH
The Nationals are loaded at starting pitching which makes it easy to forget that they acquired Fister. Fister had a very good year in Detroit last year, improving almost all of his numbers. I definitely expect that success to carry over to the National league.Beachy is a bit risky, but could payoff big.
Sleeper: 73rd. Brandon Beachy, ATL
Beachy was one of, if not the best pitcher in the National league halfway through the 2012 season. Unfortunately, he was forced to get Tommy-John surgery which made him sit out for over a year. He came back and threw 30 innings in 2013, but experienced some swelling in his elbow and was shutdown. He is said to be fully healthy now, and could be a great pickup if he can return to anything he was like in 2012.
Bust: 3rd. Cliff Lee, PHI
Lee is one of the most consistent pitchers in the game. He is still a great pitcher, even at 35. However, the Phillies seem to not be able to capitalize on a lot of good starts which Lee makes. If your league counts wins instead of quality starts as most do, Lee should not be the 3rd pitcher taken. Also, pitchers historically decline quickly in their older ages, and 35 may be starting to push it.
Bust: 17th. Homer Bailey, CIN
Bailey has a lot of experience for a 27 year old and he seems to get a little bit better every year. The Reds just awarded him with a huge contract, which means he won’t have to impress anyone to try and get more money. My question is if a player who went 11-12 with a 3.50 era is worth taking as the 17th starting pitcher. I vote no.
Sleeper: 25th. Neftali Feliz, TEX
Joe Nathan is gone from Texas, and there is now a race for who will take over. I fully expect Feliz to win this job and have a great year. Nathan has had a ton of saves over the past few seasons, and whoever wins this job should get just as many chances. Keep an eye out for updates to make sure Feliz does in-fact win it.
Bust: 11th. Jonathan Papelbon, PHI
Papelbon has experienced a decline in velocity, and numbers over the past couple of seasons. He has voiced his displeasure with the organization and has become a not so fan-favorite because of it. Couple this with the fact the Philly doesn’t look like a team that will win a ton of games, and you get plenty of reason to avoid him.
Comment if you have any further questions or anything and I'll be happy to help you out!