[licks finger, puts it in the air] It’s best ball weather, folx. That wind from the north bringing the chill warns not of failure but of luck and opportunity. There’s fun to be had. For some players, there’s a bunch of money on the line too. Right about now, you’re probably fending off ads from DraftKings, Underdog, NFBC, Fantrax, and a legion of other providers that are advertising best ball leagues. Sign-up bonuses! Overlay! Just 2 more needed to fill this league that drafts at 1AM!

Oh, and RazzSlam starts on March 4 (that’s today!). We’re still working on making it a national holiday, but so far only Kiribati recognizes the sanctity of this holy day.

Personally, best ball is my favorite fantasy format. As a middle-aged corporate worker who has duties to family, animals, civic society, and video games, I have little time to log in and meticulously manage baseball rosters. That’s where best ball comes into play: I draft a team, and then the provider tallies only the top scores from eligible players and discards the rest. I don’t need to worry about 12PM vs 6PM starts, or late scratches, or day-to-day injuries, or, or, or. If you like worrying about that stuff, then great. Me? I’ve got 3 hours in the time where work ends and kids bedtimes begin to do a bunch of stuff, and looking at my fantasy roster usually doesn’t make the cut.

Best ball has a different skillset than legacy fantasy baseball. Generally, you want good players who play a lot. QED! But you’re not quite, Richard Feynman yet. You’re not winning the Nobel for drawing stick figures.

Myself? I’m not a legend in the best ball community. I am but a humble servant of variance. In the first four RazzSlams, I’ve tallied two top 20 finishes, including a 6th best overall points score in 2022. I’ve additionally notched an industry win in best ball fantasy football against the biggest of the big names imaginable, while also taking second overall in RazzSlam/RazzBowl/RazzJam combined points over the history of the contest going into 2023 (Dalton Del Don is first, bee-tee-dubya).

I’ve written a few best ball guides in my days, but I think it’s time to simplify everything to some digestible advice.

Best Ball Best Practices

  • You want as many plate appearances as possible. Everything else is secondary.
  • When considering plate appearances, prioritize categories in this order: hits, home runs, steals, RBI, R.
  • Many gaming platforms have negative points for hitter outs and/or hitter strikeouts. So, many hitters need a .250 batting average just to break even on the hits category.
    • In other words, a .240 hitter will actually lose points on the hits category.
  • Stacks (3+ hitters from same team) are fine, but don’t go crazy.
  • Multi-position eligible players are gold. Track them down in the late game.
  • Punt pitchers in most formats and platforms. Strong teams rarely take more than 1 pitcher in the first 5 rounds.
    • I usually wait until round 7 to take starting pitchers depending on the room. I probably won’t take a closer until round 20 or later.
  • Prefer starting pitchers to closers until you get into the dart throws. Then just pick whoever has the most chances for Wins or Saves.
  • Your late round draft picks should consider the type of league you play in.
    • For Draft and Hold (no waiver wire/FAAB), pick players who are certain to get playing time (veterans preferred).
    • For waiver wire/FAAB leagues, nab rookies with upside. If they don’t play, then swap them for other players when the season starts.
  • If your league has a cutline (e.g., top 100 teams advance past July, top 50 past August, etc.), then ensure to draft enough veterans to get your score high enough to be in the competition.
    • A team full of rookies that will be hot in September won’t make it past the July cutline when half the team is still in the minors (and accruing zero points).
  • If you play in multiple leagues, diversify your team lineups to mitigate losses.

Best Ball Targets for 2024

Shohei Ohtani (ADP: 12): Ohtani used to be the best ball cheat code when he could pitch. He probably won’t pitch at all in 2024. That’s fine. Are you drafting at the 9 spot and wondering if Jose Ramirez is your guy? I’d lean Ohtani there. Ohtani seems to have enough Wolverine in his blood that he’s already crushing spring training balls. Sure, it’s only spring training, and 2023 Bryce Harper took way longer to recover than 2024 Ohtani. There’s risk. There’s also a risk of a 9.0 earthquake when I go to Japan in two weeks, but I’m still going. Ohtani is one of the last 5-tool threats in draft queues, with dinger upside that makes him worthy of a look for best ball teams. The downside is that he takes up the UTIL spot, which can limit the maneuverability of multi-position players.

Manny Machado (ADP: 47): Machado was a first/second round pick for years before a lackluster 2023. What did he do that thrust him into the abyss? Tennis elbow? More like dinger elbow! 2023 wasn’t that bad — he hit 30 dingers, kept his K rate within career norms, and lost a bunch of batting average as his BABIP dropped. His line drive rate sucked but his barrel percent was third highest in his career. Launch angle right in line with career norms. He was never a speedster to begin with but his SB plummeted last year despite the rest of the league running at record rates. Is that why we dislike Machado now? People worried his recovery from elbow surgery would keep him out this spring. Wait, Ohtani had that too. Ohtani’s playing in spring training and getting drafted in the first round. Lemme check the new Razzball lineup tool page: Yup. Machado’s playing. Whatever. Guy played through pain and still had 30 dingers last year. I’ll take the risk and draft him.

Evan Carter (ADP: 105): Want a really cheap stack with powerful upside? Take Corey Seager or Marcus Semien in the second / third round, followed by Adolis Garcia in the fourth / fifth round, and then Evan Carter way later in the draft. You’ve just snagged yourself correlated hitters for cheap. If you’re targeting the Rangers stack, then consider leaving MI open for Seager / Semien in the first round. Carter comes with plenty of risk — the guy can barely order a beer legally and somehow we’re already planning our best ball victories around him. Whatever. Carter is slotted to bat fourth for the reigning champs, and that’s all you can ask for in best ball.

Pitchers to Target at Value: 

  • Blake Snell (is he really going to sit out?)
  • Sonny Gray – best ball superstar when he’s healthy
  • Walker Buehler – anybody on the Dodgers really, but he’s cheap with big upside
  • Charlie Morton / Lucas Giolito / Aaron Civale — veterans with Win upside
  • Kyle Gibson — IP plus Wins is all you want. Best ball format will hide his atrocious games.

Best Ball Avoids

Elly de la Cruz (ADP surging in NFBC): Guy is going in the early second round now! Somebody took him at pick 16 in TGFBI, a 15-team format. As noted above, bad batting average loses points in best ball leagues. EdelaC’s risk profile is much more a 5th round or later pick, but hopeium is pushing him into the top tier. Most best ball platforms have modest scoring bonuses for stolen bases and negatives for outs/strikeouts, so EdelaC could end up costing you a ton of draft capital if you draft him at his current value. Let somebody else take a shot on that 30+% K rate while you focus on quality hitting.

Tarik Skubal (ADP: 49): Really, it depends on how good you think the Tigers will be this year. Best ball pitcher scoring is predicated on the Win. Skubal has notched a total of 23 Wins in his career in 72 starts. He’s never topped 150 IP and he’s never had sustained high K rates. With his ADP nearing the top 10 starters, he’s going ahead of guys like Max Fried, Freddy Peralta, and Blake Snell. Skubal’s a super-high risk, low-reward kind of player that doesn’t justify his current ADP.

Oneil Cruz (ADP: 86): Career batting average of .237 with career K% at 33%. Plus, how many runs are the Pirates going to score this year? Cruz is a fine prospect and useful for traditional formats, but he’s going ahead of guys like Xander Bogaerts, Ketel Marte, and George Springer.

Are you in my RazzSlam league? If so, drop a line! DT’s in my league and drafting right next to me. Drop those comments below and have a great week!