Fantasy Baseball draft strategy: Tips from the pros

Robinson Cano, still mashing after all these years
Robinson Cano, still mashing after all these years

With spring training underway, it can mean only one thing: your fantasy baseball draft is just around the corner. With that in mind, the Yahoo fantasy baseball collective offer up some nuggets pertaining to draft strategy:

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Q. What is your realistic dream team (ADP feasible) for the first five rounds of a standard, Yahoo default, mixed league draft?

Brandon Funston: 1) Jose Altuve 2) Noah Syndergaard 3) Trevor Story 4) Daniel Murphy 5) Yoenis Cespedes … Landing Altuve’s all-category speed game in the middle of the first round is my idea of a dream, and in many drafts, entirely possible. … If I had to pick one pitcher to give Clayton Kershaw a run for his fantasy money, I’d put my money on “Thor.” … Trevor Story was a top 10 roto shortstop last season, and he only played 92 games.

Andy Behrens: Not surprisingly, I have given this a silly amount of thought. Here’s the dream five: 1) Mike Trout, 2) Francisco Lindor, 3) Robinson Cano, 4) Yu Darvish, then 5) Schwarber, Abreu or Cespedes. And at that point, the draft would pretty much be a coronation. 

Scott Pianowski:  1) Kris Bryant, 2) Carlos Correa, 3) Robinson Cano, 4) A.J. Pollock, 5) J.D. Martinez. For this to work, I need Correa and Cano to approach the later parts of their ranges, but it’s not impossible. I would consider Pollock and Martinez a round earlier in deeper leagues. I like a focus on infield first, and I always feel confident I can find pitching on a budget. Bryant also chews up three positions, which I love.

Dalton Del Don: 1) Clayton Kershaw 2) Corey Seager 3) Yu Darvish 4) Christian Yelich 5) Rougned Odor…Darvish is my pick to win the Cy Young this year, and I don’t get why Odor is available where he typically is. He just hit 33 homers with 14 steals as a 22-year-old. 

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Q. What round will you consider drafting your first starting pitcher? What round will you consider drafting your first closer?

Funston: I would take a starter in the 1st Round if it was Clayton Kershaw and he was available with pick No. 6 or later. I’d take Noah Syndergaard in the back half of Round 2. I could see myself opting for Yu Darvish in late Round 3 or early Round 4. Those are the three starters I’d consider very early if I can land them for a discount. Otherwise, I’m content taking a Carlos Martinez, Kyle Hendricks or Jacob de Grom as my No. 1 and make it a priority to add some quality arms around them in the middle rounds.

Pianowski: If I see a juicy value on a starting pitcher, I would consider one of the vanity guys (which is basically Kershaw down to Verlander). But in my early drafts, they’re going for big money, full value. Thus, I’ll focus more on the Teheran/Maeda tier. Usually, I’m focusing on proven NL arms in good parks, with the potential for some profit, too. 

Behrens: I’m happy to take Clayton Kershaw in the first when Trout is off the board. Kershaw is a tier-of-his-own pitcher with unthinkable numbers. If he’s gone, however, I’ll often wait until Round 3 or 4. I’m unlikely to draft a closer in a mixed league before Rounds 7 or 8, which usually means I’ll miss the first run. If I’m playing in a more casual league (that is, no Pianowski), then I might wait a few additional rounds. Saves will be available on the wire throughout the season. 

Del Don:  Obviously I’d take Clayton Kershaw in round one (and first overall). I’d happily grab Noah Syndergaard in round 2, and I’m big on Yu Darvish this year too, but I’m always more aggressive drafting starting pitchers than most. I’m more willing to wait for closers though. I want them in that middle tier, which is usually rounds 8-11.  

Q. With speed being at a higher premium than power, briefly describe your draft plan of attack for acquiring speed, and share a couple of your favorite speed targets based on their Yahoo ADP.

Funston:  True five-category contributors are rare, which is why we see Mike Trout and Mookie Betts being drafted at the top of most drafts, and it’s why I have Jose Altuve (now that he’s added some power to his game) right after those two on my draft board. Obviously, not everyone will be fortunate enough to be in a position to draft those guys. But I’ll do my best to add as many players that can offer 15-plus SBs while also offering positive upside in at least 2-3 other categories. Trout, Betts, Altuve, Jean Segura (in the middle rounds) … if I can get a couple of my early speed targets, I probably won’t take more than a late flyer on speed specialist late. If I miss out on my early targets, I’ll be hoping to get Rajai Davis late (if he stays healthy, he should push 500 ABs and 40 SBs in Oakland).

Pianowski: I like a worker-bee approach, nearly everybody chips in. I want as many category-juice sources as I can get, hopefully without sacrificing on batting average too much. This is why it’s critical, for me, to take those hitters early. I’m usually out on the one-dimensional rabbits who cost a lot in March, but I’ll definitely try to find similarly-skilled players in the later rounds, or in free agency (think Billy Burns, 2015).  I like the price on Jose Peraza (182.5), though he’s much cheaper and gettable in public leagues (he went Pick 143 in last week’s Yahoo Friends & Family Draft). 

Behrens: In a perfect draft, you’ll get your speed from players who contribute in multiple categories. It’s a pain to rely on specialists, even if we’re talking Billy Hamilton-level base-stealers. Generally speaking, I like to get speed in the outfield and at short. I hope to add at least one player who can reasonably reach 35-45 steals, then several other guys who can deliver 10-15. If you whiff on steals in the opening rounds, look to mid-draft infielders Jose Peraza and Tim Anderson. 

Del Don:  Jose Peraza seems extremely undervalued with an ADP of 183.4. He’s shortstop eligible and will approach 40+ steals now that Brandon Phillips has been traded. He’s one of my favorite targets this year…I also really like Jarrod Dyson, who’s averaged 31.2 stolen bases over the past five years while averaging 252.8 at bats. He’s now expected to be a full-time player in Seattle and carries an ADP of 232.8. 

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