Head-to-head fantasy baseball encompasses some of my favorite parts of fantasy – rivalries, strategies, and ties. Okay, maybe not that last one, but overall, it’s my favorite format to play. Like in roto leagues, you’re focused on compiling stats in your scoring categories (homers, runs, steals, strikeouts, etc.), but your matchup resets each week and you’re on to the next opponent.
Punting is one of my favorite strategies in H2H Categories, mostly because it allows me to not pay a premium for saves or speed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a) punting both or, b) fully punting either, but I do recommend a version of punting that I feel gives you an advantage over your opponents.
Here’s our disclaimer – This is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. You know your league and your in-season management ability. If you’re an owner who is excellent at scooping up new closers, then punting saves is a reasonable strategy to explore. These strategies are also not meant to be half-assed. If you’re leaving your draft knowing you need to find steals on the wire, take the time to find those steals. Now that you’ve been warned, enter the punting dungeon……if you dare.
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Searching For Cheap Thieves
Punting steals is usually a roster construction decision that is made within the first few rounds of your draft. If you start Mike Trout, Rafael Devers, and Pete Alonso, you’re projected for just 24 stolen bases. You should be well ahead of the curve in the other four standard hitting categories. Instead of trying to make up ground by drafting Scott Kingery or Amed Rosario in the mid-rounds, make it your mission to spend your later draft capital on upside speed guys.
The following players are available after pick 200 – Kolten Wong (13 HR/17 SB), Rougned Odor (28 HR/13 SB), and Niko Goodrum (18 HR/13 SB). Yes, all of these players have warts, which is why they’re being drafted after pick 200 but, all three can allow you to punt the steals category until late in your draft. And who knows, if Goodrum or Odor hit above .250, you have yourself a steal – pun intended – in the late rounds. In theory, you’re not wasting your mid-round draft capital on one-category players and you’re building a juggernaut at your other scoring categories.
Depending on your league size, if you’re looking for the ultimate SAGNOF steals option, go no further than Pittsburgh, where their starting center fielder is projected for 22 steals. Jarrod Dyson will be on the strong side of a platoon in center field and HC Derek Shelton plans to be aggressive on the base paths this year. With the Pirates projected to win just 71 games, there’s no reason to hold Dyson back and he’s free at an ADP of 419. Here are some other late-round steals options:
Sam Hilliard, OF – 286 ADP – Hilliard enters the year projected as being on the strong-side of the Rockies left-field platoon. According to Baseball Savant, he ranked 46th in Sprint Speed and has stolen at least 23 bases each of the last four seasons.
Trent Grisham, OF – 312 ADP – Like Hilliard, Grisham has a top-end Sprint Speed, ranking 42nd in 2019. He appears to be the lead-horse for the starting center field job and stole 37 bases in AA in 2017.
Harrison Bader, OF – 359 ADP – Bader reworked his swing in the off-season and he’ll combine guaranteed playing time due to his defense with a Sprint Speed that ranked 22nd out of 568 players. He also batted lead-off in his first Spring Training Game.
Saves is the category that I hate drafting the most. In 2019, 52 different relievers recorded at least 5 saves, while just 11 surpassed 30 saves. Of those relievers that topped 30 saves, Will Smith, Taylor Rogers, Alex Colome, and Ian Kennedy were all available beyond pick 200 and in some cases off the waiver wire.
If I’m being a company man and drafting a SAGNOF closer, I’m not paying up for garbage skills. Rasiel Iglesias (and his 1.5 HR/9) and Alex Colome (and his 4.00+ SIERA) do nothing for me when I have to spend a top 160 pick on them.
Just like with steals, if you’re punting saves, make it part of your plan to spend some of your late draft capital on the “Misfit Closers”. According to the NFBC, there are currently four closers that sport ADPs over 250 – Brandon Kintzler, Mychal Givens, Matt Magill, and Wade Davis. “But Richardo, they’re mediocre relievers on bad teams.” Bad teams earn saves too and beggars (punters) can’t be choosers.
If you’re drafting early, there are currently unsettled closer situations (i.e. San Francisco). The Giants are currently working out the roles of Tony Watson, Shaun Anderson, and Jandel Gustave (again, barf). You can take advantage of this and draft your favorite of the three with your last pick. If your boy gets the job, excellent! If not, you can cut bait immediately and scoop up some other SAGNOF candidates.
Good luck in your drafts!