Every year, MLB trends – e.g., K’s are up, starter innings are down, the opener! – cause a lot of fantasy writers and players alike to rethink how they approach starting pitching in drafts. Reflection is generally a good thing but it is a waste of time if you keep making the same mistake.
There is no one successful way to draft Starting Pitchers. There are factors specific to you (the drafter). Are you better or worse than the average person in your league at finding hitter or pitcher bargains later in the draft? Are you better or worse at streaming during the season? Is your league format conducive to streaming (better in shallow leagues and daily rosters, harder in deeper leagues and weekly rosters)? How do your projected player values line up with the market?
Here is my only evergreen advice on the subject: Do not wing it when it comes to how much you spend of your draft capital (either auction $ or draft picks in snake) on starting pitching.
This is particularly an issue in one’s early drafts as most people tend to course correct issues through draft season.
You should be able to do enough pre-draft research to determine where the best SP values are based on ADP, league tendencies, and your draft board. In most mixed league formats, the ratios of Hitters/SP/RP is 67/24/9. The SP% is a little higher in Points leagues vs Roto since SPs are so valuable in that format. You should know how much draft capital you want to spend on SP within +/- 3%. I prefer to stay around the average (24%) since my only real preference post-draft is to not have any major roster imbalances. So my goal is to stay between 21-27% on SPs.
My draft strategy and research is built around this SP allotment (as well as a couple other considerations). In essence, I am trying to identify the ‘tough’ draft-day decisions and make them ahead of time rather than try to do it in the heat of the moment. For instance, If I decide I am likely going heavy hitter in early rounds, I am going to do more research in the late SP1-early SP3 range as I am probably drafting three. If I am likely going two aces, I am not spending as much time on that range.
It is tempting to want to stay 100% flexible and take advantage of any draft room inefficiencies in any given round. This is fine….in shitty leagues. Most competitive leagues do not have major inefficiencies. If you keep finding that everyone is overvaluing or undervaluing a position or skill set, it likely means you are guilty of the opposite. You should have identified this in your draft prep but at least sticking with the planned draft capital allotment keeps you from compounding the mistake and starting the year with a team that does not reflect your fantasy team managing strengths/preferences.
If you feel staying 100% flexible truly is a competitive advantage for you, then this is still a helpful exercise. You should just plan/research for the most likely scenarios. There will likely be a lot of overlaps on your roster in these scenarios but maybe ‘two ace’ team means you need to research cheap power in rounds 6-10 or ‘1st round SP and two SP3s’ means you put more time into your 2nd-4th round hitter picks. This also requires being conscious of each plan so you don’t go 1st/4th/8th round on SPs and then wonder why even the dumbass projected standings after the draft are laughing at your offense.
How do you this in snake drafts when there are no auction dollars to add up into a percentage? Easy. Go to one of our Preseason Player Raters that best meet your league size and roster format. Keep the rank and the $ value. Delete the rest. This will give you a $ value for each draft pick. When you mock draft, add up the pick value of your SPs and divide by $260 to see if you are staying within your range. You will likely find that your top 10 rounds are the determining factor and there are a limited number of combinations that work. For instance, if you draft 2 SPs in the first 5 round, you cannot expect to have league average SP draft capital distribution unless you wait until at least the 11th round before taking SP3. If you go hitters with your first 4 picks, you are likely going to need 3 SPs in the next 6 rounds. After a couple of drafts, you will just follow those combinations instinctually.