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Fantasy Baseball: How to get ahead of the competition in April

Fantasy baseball is definitely a marathon rather than a sprint. That being said, statistics produced in April contribute equally to those produced every other month, which puts pressure on managers to get off to a good start.

Here are some tips for enjoying a stellar April in Yahoo! leagues.

Maximize innings pitched

This tip can be ignored by those who spent little draft capital on pitching and instead choose to find it on the waiver wire throughout the season. But for most of us, getting ahead of the pace in leagues with an innings cap is the way to go. Your pitching staff will likely never be healthier than it is right now. We will see many pitchers succumb to injuries during the first half of the season, and by the time we reach August, there will be so many starters who are simply unusable in fantasy leagues. For this reason, wise fantasy managers will use their pitchers aggressively now, in hopes of building up high totals in wins and strikeouts while maintaining solid ratios.

In Yahoo! leagues with daily transactions, this plan should include heavily using relievers who can provide ratios help and a high strikeout rate. In fact, I plan on using nearly all of my bench spots on pitchers during April in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League.

Scrounge for saves

As part of the pitching plan in the preceding paragraph, fantasy managers should aggressively pursue all possible closer options during April. This is especially true in 2022, as we entered the season with unsettled bullpens in so many cities. Chasing good relievers who could be part of the ninth-inning picture of their respective teams should provide ratios help, a few vultured wins this month and could also lead to finding a full-time closer who provides at least 25 saves.

Pitchers such as Art Warren, Drew Steckenrider and David Robertson are examples of relievers who are helpful now and could be very valuable down the road.

Drew Steckenrider #16 of the Seattle Mariners is an intriguing fantasy reliever
Drew Steckenrider could pay huge fantasy dividends later in the season. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Work the trade market

Loyal readers already know that I like to make trades. And I don’t need a month of regular-season action to start this process, as player values are already shifting during April. My standard plan this month is to buy low on players who are off to slow starts but remain healthy and are not at risk to lose playing time. Managers will sometimes panic about slow starters, but the reality is that stats produced during the initial weeks of the season shouldn’t change our valuation of a player unless we are seeing something that indicates that the player is not healthy. Also, while selling high on someone who starts hot is the hardest thing to do in fantasy baseball, it is often the right thing to do.

For example, six players hit at least 8 homers in April 2021, with just one of those players (Shohei Ohtani) producing at least 20 more long balls during the final five months. In the steals category, Jazz Chisholm stole nine in April (14 more the rest of the way), Ramon Laureano swiped eight (finished with a total of 12) and Marcus Semien stole six bags (on his way to a total of 15). I’m not suggesting that you force trades for players who start hot, but you should consider all options.

Consolidate

One more tip on the April trading market: You should look to consolidate your assets whenever possible. This means making 2-for-1 or even 3-for-1 trades when the opportunity arises. Roster spots have value, especially early in the season, as having more roster space allows a manager to be aggressive on the waiver wire. The best April deal is one where you swap three decent players for one star who happens to be off to a slow start. By making this deal and then using the waiver wire wisely, you can quickly replace the lost roster depth while improving your top-end talent.

Maximize plate appearances

This tip is especially for those who play in Yahoo! leagues with daily transactions. Your goal during every month should be to maximize plate appearances, but this is especially true during April when the season is fresh and we give great attention to our teams. You can maximize plate appearances in a few ways. First, avoid players who appear to be in platoon roles, even if they are fairly productive in their part-time opportunities. And second, look at lineups and find players who are often getting an extra plate appearance by being placed high in the batting order.

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Robbie Grossman is a great example of this point from last season. Grossman didn’t have a great April, but it was clear from his opportunities that the Tigers were using him as a full-time player and often batting him high in the lineup. I was begging Yahoo! managers to pick Grossman up, as his power-speed blend was bound to eventually pay off in a full-time role. Sure enough, the veteran finished the year with 23 homers and 20 steals.