When it comes to fantasy baseball, there may be no position where player values vary more from shallow league to deep league than that of middle reliever.  Even if your league doesn’t use holds, a middle reliever that wouldn’t be draftable in standard leagues — even if roster size doubled — can provide some nice value in deeper leagues.  Last year, I drafted Hector Neris and Nick Anderson at the end of all of my very deep and NL-only leagues — both were available for a buck or in the free round of even my deepest, 15-team NL-only auction league. Both pitchers ended up helping me immensely, Neris by pitching well (his season was underrated in my opinion:  2.93 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 89 Ks in 67 innings) and ultimately assuming the closer’s role and notching 28 saves.  Anderson, on the other hand, while pitching in many high-leverage situations, never got that closer gig in 2019 that I thought he might, either with the Marlins or after he was traded to the Rays.  He ended up with one measly save — but that didn’t stop him from being a useful part of my NL-only pitching staff; in fact, in at least one league he was one of the only players who was in my active lineup from day one through game 162 last year.  The solid ratios, five wins, and whopping 110 Ks in 65 innings were enough to make a difference of a few points for me across those categories, which ultimately helped lead my team to a money finish.  If I’d been messing around with junk starters in that spot, I may have gotten some wins and Ks, but that progress would have been offset by the damage to my ratios.

With the current corona timeline that baseball is (hopefully) on track for, I’m guessing that middle relievers who are trusted near the end of games may even have a small spike in value — at least if anything close to expanded-roster teams playing 8 games a week and lots of doubleheaders into November becomes a reality.  (Please let it become a reality!)  Here are some true deep leaguers to look at, all outside of the top 500 NFBC ADP (with the exception of my first entry, Hunter Harvey, whose ADP is 475 — and probably only that high because of how many times I’ve drafted him!)

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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So, I’ve agreed to draft another fantasy baseball team this weekend.  I honestly can’t tell you how many that makes for me in 2020, and I don’t really care at this point.  At first I was worried about how I could possibly manage juggling so many rosters should baseball ever return (PLEASE, PLEASE return sometime this summer, baseball!) Now, though, I’ve decided that I’m just going to carry on, figuring that having a “problem” like having 20 or 30 lineups to set come July would be the greatest problem I can possibly imagine right now.

Since I’m still drafting and I know many of you are too — either joining public online leagues as a therapeutic way to pass the time, or participating in drafts for leagues you’ve been in for years and have had planned all off-season — I thought I’d look at the current state of players outside the top 250, and which names I have my eye on as being a potential value that late.  I’m basing these ADP numbers on MattTruss’s Monday post in which he included a beautiful spreadsheet unveiling weeks worth of RCL ADP, so theoretically this is data that many of you have actually contributed to.  Some of these players’ values got a slight VHB* bump, others I’m valuing exactly the way I would during a normal season.  This is an extra tough week for me, as I try to keep what would normally be the sunshine-y giddiness of Opening Day from being permanently replaced by an ugly cloud of darkness… but to that end, let’s try to be safe, stay positive, and think about how insanely exciting it will be to finally have baseball to watch, whenever that may be.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
 

The main difference between standard fantasy leagues and deep leagues is, of course, the depth of the player pool and the talent an owner has available to choose from when constructing a roster.  Trying to decide how to let player pool depth affect draft strategy is where things get challenging, and I find that especially true when it comes to starting pitching.  While I, like most of the Razzball community, prefer to eschew top-tier starters in mixed leagues, it can become both more tempting — and in some cases more necessary as far as I’m concerned — to roster a top-ranked starting pitcher in NL or AL-only leagues because that nice big pool of mid-range starters whom you can count on just doesn’t exist.  But whether you decide to splurge on a Cole or a deGrom in a deep league, or choose to try to build a stable of starters without one of the top studs, one thing remains the same:  at the end of any deep-league draft or auction, you’ll want a handful of SP names that you can take fliers on to fill out your rotation or plant on your bench.  Today we’ll take a look a some pitchers that I’d consider throwing a late dart at:  for now, these are all ‘bird in the hand’ guys that theoretically are expected to open the season in their respective MLB rotations, rather than players that might have more upside but may have to wait a bit longer for a full-fledged starting gig.  All of the following players have current NFBC ADPs outside the top 350 players drafted — so as long as you’re not counting on them to do any heavy lifting on your squad, they’re low ultra risk, and any reward you get is almost like free production.

The 2020 Razzball Commenter Leagues are now open! Free to join!

Please, blog, may I have some more?
 

Last week, we talked about players that are on the old side and are generally boring fantasy picks, but who might still be able to provide some decent deep-league value.   This week, we’ll focus on guys that may be able to help with two components crucial to most any successful fantasy team, namely power and speed.  In deeper leagues, we’re hit with a kind of double whammy.  First, the potential for things to go wrong is more prevalent since we’re drafting deeper into the player pool and therefore rostering much riskier players — whether the risk is injury, demotion, or just poor performance.  Second, once this level of risk leads to the need to replace players and fix holes on a roster, that’s much harder to do with what it usually a dearth of options available via the free agent pool.  If you’ve ever played in a 12-team “only” league with a deep bench, you know what I mean:  I’ve actually had situations where I needed to replace a hole at, say, second base when my second baseman was sent to triple A, and ended up having to just keep the minor leaguer in my lineup because there was literally not a free agent major league player who qualified at second base available in my league’s player pool.

At any rate, as I’m filling out a deep-league team, I’d often rather have two players who can both help me in both homers and steals rather than one hitter who I hope to count on for power and one who is more of a straight speed threat — even if I have to give up a little bit of ADP value or pay a buck more for a guy than I’d like to in an auction.  It’s just a way to mitigate risk slightly, in hopes of preventing the loss of one player from hitting me too hard in a single category. Thus, on to some names.  All of the following players A) had at least 10 homers + at least 10 steals last year, B) are guys that I think, in my completely unscientific projections, could reach a number of both home runs and steals that’s at least in the teens this year, and C) have current NFBC ADPs outside the top 225.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
 

It’s not easy to draft a player who is old (at least relative to baseball ability), boring, and offers little true upside.  Well, it’s easy, but it’s not fun.  I can’t believe how often in a draft I veer off of my carefully-constructed, perfectly-ordered master list of players, skipping a solid but dull veteran to reach a few spots lower on my list for a youngster who may or may not end up with any fantasy value at all.  I’ve already been guilty of this in 2020, and I need a little re-set for myself to remember how helpful a boring but probably steady player with a decent floor can be, especially in deeper leagues.  Thus, a list of some players whom I can’t possibly call “targets,” but could actually pay off nicely down the road with solid-if-not-spectacular production come summertime.  (All of the following players are on the ugly side of 30, and are being drafted outside the top 250, according to current NFBC ADP).

Please, blog, may I have some more?
 

It’s always dicey to put too much stock into average draft position when strategizing for a draft, particularly for players you are heavily targeting.  No owner wants to come up empty when four or five of his “must-haves” get snatched up a round or two sooner than expected, leaving said owner with a litter of panic picks and a team nothing like he’d envisioned.  On the other hand, paying no attention to ADP could lead to a series of reaches, which might result in a draft devoid of any true value picks, and a team without some solid built-in value is a team with a long season ahead.  In deeper leagues, these value picks are even more important.  The deeper the league, the shallower the free agent pool, so while your hits have an even bigger positive impact on your team, your misses might leave you with nowhere to turn in an attempt to plug holes on your roster.  Deeper leagues most definitely require near-perfect timing in a draft or auction, which makes assessing ADP — and when to use it versus when to ignore it — that much trickier.

Since I am obsessive enough about fantasy baseball that I now consider it more of a part-time job than a hobby, it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am currently — even though it’s only early February — finishing up my fourth slow draft of the season. So far, these are all 15-team mixed re-draft leagues, and while the format is different than some of my other leagues, the 15-teamers go deep enough that I am getting a good idea of players values that feel more “real” to me than just ADP numbers.  What I want to look at today is a handful of outfielders whom I had considered as potential targets going into my drafts but have not ended up drafting yet.  The reason?  They all have been going significantly ahead of their current NFBC ADP.  That ADP, of course, is still doing a great deal of fluctuating this early in the pre-season, and I think I’ve been too reliant on it when assessing where I hoped to draft some of my deep-league targets (the following players all currently have an NFBC ADP ranked well outside the top 200).  Going into my next draft(s), I feel like I’ll know that if I really want any of these guys, I may have to reach a little further than I’d originally planned to secure them (and that’s not even taking into consideration value jumps that may happen depending on who looks healthy and productive in spring training).

Please, blog, may I have some more?
 

I’m usually not big on worrying too much about positional scarcity, but anyone who has competed in a variety of different fantasy baseball league formats knows that depth at a given position is one thing that can make a big difference in approaching a draft for a shallow league versus a deep one.  The last couple of years, I’ve been making a concerted effort to draft with less concern about a player’s position, and more towards getting the best value possible with every draft pick or auction purchase, regardless of league size.  But when approaching a draft this way, it’s even more important to know what your options are going to be at each position, which positions you can wait to fill later, and which players are actually worth reaching for if you do realize you’re running out of decent options at a given position.  Getting to the point of today’s post, let’s take a look at some third basemen for 2020, with an emphasis on how I’ll be approaching the position in deeper leagues.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
 

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve taken an early look at first and second base and how those positions are stacking up for fantasy baseball this year, particularly in terms of how the state of the position might affect those of us in NL-only, AL-only, or other deep leagues.  This week, we’ll move on to catcher.  Why didn’t we just start with the catching position?  Mainly because talking about catchers felt like a phenomenally boring if not mildly depressing way for me to kick off my posts in 2020.  But the more I’ve thought about it, I’ve changed my mind significantly on that front.

Not only do I feel that there are more interesting catching options out there than there have been in a few years, but thinking about some of my teams last year is also reminding me that catcher is one of the positions that is most relevant to discuss when thinking about how to attack it based on differing league parameters.  Any given owner’s approach to drafting or buying a catcher might vary wildly even within the same drafting season depending on how that league’s rosters are structured, but the more we know about the position in general, the better.  All information in terms of catching options, how tiers are looking, and which of last year’s results might help us prepare better for this year, can help as we head into drafting for the current season — whether we’re choosing a team for a standard re-draft mixed-league with a head-to-head format that only uses one catcher, a 12-team NL-only roto keeper league that employs two catchers, or anything in between.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
 

Last week we took a very early look at the first base position for fantasy baseball in 2020, both with some early general thoughts that could apply to both deep and shallower leagues, as well as some more specific thoughts about NL-only, AL-only, or other deep leagues.  We’ll move along to the Keystone this week as we try to do some early navigation into the world of second basemen.  Since Grey has already kindly gifted you with his list of top 20 second basemen for 2020 fantasy baseball, I’ll began by quoting him directly — as he said, “First time I can remember a position, besides catcher, that didn’t have one guy in the top 20 overall.”  Two other important points he made which I largely agree with and will now paraphrase:  1) The guys at the very top of this position are probably not worth drafting at their current price in any format, but 2) There are lots of 2B bargains later on.  One other thing I noticed that I thought was interesting when looking at the second base landscape:  just off the top of my head, it looks to me that about two-thirds of the top 30 second basemen also qualify at another position, even when using a 20-games-played-in-2019 threshold.  I don’t remember any position having stats quite like that in the past, and what it means to me at first glance is that there are A LOT of guys who qualify at 2nd base this year.  Let’s take a look at some names, and how the current state of second base particularly affects those of us deep-leaguers.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
 

Happy New(ish) Year, Razzball friends!  It’s time to stop worrying about what we haven’t quite gotten around to accomplishing so far this offseason, and time to start thinking about fantasy baseball in 2020 — or as I like to think of it, a slightly more official reason to go into procrastination mode when it comes to things like real-life commitments, chores, and duties.  Since it’s still January and all, and since we’re all preparing for drafts and auctions of many different shapes and sizes, I’m going to try to cover things somewhat more generally for the time being.  We’ll still lean towards the deep-league perspective to some degree, but what I’m most interested in for now is keeping on top of the overall baseball landscape – trades, free agent signings, rule changes, depth chart shake-ups, draft trends, recent statistics that I might have overlooked, MLB teams facing unprecedented punishments for cheating, etc. – and viewing it from a more generic lens for the moment, then tailoring all of that information to individual leagues, drafts, and auctions as they come.

Please, blog, may I have some more?