I was thinking about ideas for a draft strategy post to complement Grey’s recent draft strategy post when I concluded that the vast majority of my strategic thinking goes into my draft preparation. The draft itself is more just execution. So I figured it might help some of you if I laid out my draft preparation and then some notes on how my strategy might change based on league format.

My larger goal with any draft is to be in control. With the right preparation, I can take advantage of whatever advantages the draft room is giving me. I drafted the 2nd and 3rd pitchers off the board in this year’s Tout Wars and was the last player to take a pitcher in LABR.  Yet my hit/pitch split for the two teams was within one percentage point (63.7/36.3 vs 64.6/35.4).

I also strive for zero ‘instant regret’ picks. Those are the picks where you are ‘under the gun’ and pick someone that you regret while the draft is still going on. I think most drafters get ‘lost’ during snake drafts more than they’d care to admit. I can say with full honesty that I only made one of those picks combined between LABR and Tout (LABR – Yasmany Tomas in 16th when none of my planned bats were still on board and Storen went the pick before).

You do not need to follow each and every step (you could just from my $/projections and edit from there) but I do think all this research makes for a smarter, more efficient draft.

Draft Strategy

  • Familiarize myself with the player pool
    • Review all 30 teams for initial estimates of playing time and batting order. Marry this information with Steamer projections to build initial player projections + rankings/dollar values
    • Read through player profiles in Baseball HQ Forecaster and Grey’s rankings.
  • Identify/research breakout targets – i.e., players that I think could beat their Steamer projections
    • What players fought through injuries last year, dragging down their stats?
    • Read general baseball articles looking for scouting reports/observations that a player made noteworthy improvements in their approach (e.g., Daniel Murphy making a power adjustment in 2H 2016, a pitcher adding a pitch to their repertoire.)
    • Park changes (e.g., Miami bringing in the fences in 2016)
  • Set up a spreadsheet that shows my rankings/values versus NFBC ADP
    • Look position-by-position to identify likely targets and fundamental differences (i.e., as usual, the market’s more bullish than me on catchers and MI)
    • Do further research on players that give me pause.
    • Start going round by round and jotting down the players that could/should be available for me to draft.
    • Note: If you are not experience with Excel, I would invest a little time to learn the following functions: VLOOKUP, SUMIF(S), AVERAGEIF(S), and COUNTIF(S). There are so many free general resources on the web to help with this. Tanner at Smartfantasybaseball.com (and FanGraphs) is really helpful. He’s good answering questions too!
  • Run several mock drafts to test/revise my notes
    • I use FantasyPros Draft Wizard as it uses ADP to auto-draft for the others. I have no desire to do any actual mock drafts. Time suck + giving away my trade secrets + at mercy of some doofus trying trying out some wacko strategy.
    • Test my resulting teams’ category balance – e.g., I found myself struggling to draft enough power and made some category weighting tweaks to accommodate.
    • Test to see my hit/pitch mix is coming in around 65/35. Revise notes where necessary.
    • Review results to see if I’m hitting a desirable mix of upside vs dependability.
  • Read other strategy articles/posts + talk with other fantasy players/experts
    • I don’t gain much from this but I like to stay open-minded. Sometimes my mind gets changed on a player. Sometimes on a draft strategy.

Draft Strategy Tweaks Based on Format

  • Daily vs Weekly Roster Changes
    • Hitters
      • Daily – Veer a little more towards upside. Consider lefty hitters for last 2 OF & UTIL that I can platoon out vs LHP.
      • Weekly – Veer a little more towards dependability.
    • Pitchers
      • For Daily, I want a 3-4 SP core and then stream the rest. Big stable of relievers to max on saves + all other stats.
      • For Weekly, I want a large stable of SPs that I can rotate in/out based on matchups. Usually no more than 3 RP on the roster.
  • 12 Team vs 15 Team Drafts
    • No major change in hitters. A little more hospitable in deeper format to SAGNOF since there is less of an opportunity cost on power (e.g., last year drafted Revere in NFBC and Hamilton in Tout).
    • More focus on SP depth in deeper leagues since streaming options and RP alternatives are weaker.
  • Snake Draft vs Auction Draft
    • I pay more attention to other teams’ drafts in Auction, keeping an eye on the difference between the room’s prices vs my prices.
    • Avoid getting stuck in ‘$1 per player’-ville as it can lead to sacrificing end game value (any player worth much more than $1 will likely get bid to $2).
    • I track hit vs pitch expenditure tighter in Auction draft as I have a better feel for how to spared out my pitcher picks in snake drafts (do not take more than 4 pitchers in first 10 picks or 6 pitchers in first 15 picks and you’ll likely skew too pitcher-heavy)
  • AL/NL-only
    • I am a little more focused on depth at 1B/OF (i prefer to draft at least one 1B/OF eligible player for additional flexibility). I try and have 300+ ABs at every starting hitter spot.
  • AVG vs OBP Leagues
    • No major change in strategy – just using different $ values.
  • Standard vs Yahoo roster format
    • Yahoo’s removal of CI/MI/OF4/OF5 and addition of 2nd UTIL basically leads to no real change in position values (one UTIL almost ends up just being OF4). I’m even puntier on C/2B/SS since there will be such a deep free agent pool if my end game plays don’t work out.
    • For pitching, I just treat the 8 pitcher staff like a 9 pitcher staff since everyone is rotating their pitchers.
  • GS vs IP cap
    • In GS cap leagues (like RCL), stock up on relievers to max counting stats.
    • In IP cap leagues, it depends on the cap. If it’s at 1,300 or lower, I’m looking at SPs as K/9 players vs K plays and judicial in my middle reliever usage. If at 1,400 or higher, more liberal on RP usage and open to any SPs

Post-Draft Strategy

  • For leagues with trading, I like to total my Player Rater category dollars for all the teams to get a sense for everyone’s strengths/weaknesses. I could usually do this in 10 minutes or so depending on the draft results format of the site. Very annoying that sites combine name with team and position because it makes it harder to match up with my player rater names.
  • If the site I draft on totals up ‘projected standings’, I’ll look at it but generally ignore the findings because: 1) I don’t believe in the projections, 2) Roto points could really distort the differences per team in a category (e.g., the 4th through 11th teams might be separated by 10 SB), and 3) Any team who drafted a prospect gets massively penalized in these standings.
  1. Owen Simring says:

    So about that 65/35 split, can you talk a little bit about why it’s changed from 67/33-70/30. And if it has changed, why are the Steamer/Razz projections still doing 66.5/33.5. I know it’s doesn’t make a huge diff and I’m not looking to pick nits, just asking more out of curiosity than anything else. Thanks.

    • I’ve found 67/33 (which the player rater is) best reflects most leagues. For ‘expert’ leagues like LABR/Tout, I modify it slightly based on history + NFBC ADP.

  2. Bryce Krispie Treats says:

    I have a keeper league where we keep 5 players for 5 years and cost increases every year.

    I have built myself a very good offense.

    Harper, Goldy, Marte, Rizzo, and Arenado – Im keeping all of them for $103 on a $260 budget (with no additional MI or CI positions).

    If you were in this position, how would you allocate your money after keepers? Im contemplating blowing all of my money on 3 top pitchers…

    Thanks for the article!

    • I’d figure out:
      1) How much surplus $ are there in the league based on estimated $ value of kept players and price.
      2) Distribute that across all available players. Best way to do that is proportionally so, if it ends up being 10% of the pool, a $30 becomes $33 and a $1 becomes $1.3.

      I would then flesh out the rest to try and get to something like 67/33 on hit/pitch split. Obviously you’ll spend more on pitching since there are more open spots + you got 5 studs on offense. But no reason to blow your budget versus squeeze out the most value.

      • Bryce Krispie Treats says:

        @Rudy Gamble:

        Thanks for such a thorough response!

        The reason why Im thinking about blowing all of my $ on 3 really good pitchers is because I dont think the people in my league think about surplus… until the middle of the draft. It happens every year. Everyone in the top 4 rounds go for a tiny bit above their projected price and then the “sleepers” and young guys with no track record go for a ton. I just want to get the most out of my $ without wasting it at the end. Id rather have kershaw for $51 than Carlos Martinez and Raisel Iglesias for $45 combined… Do you think I have the right thought process? or am I forgetting about something important?

        • @Bryce Krispie Treats: if your league’s biggest pricing inefficiency is with top players, then exploit it! the last time i played in a league like that was LABR NL 2009 where we bought Pujols/Braun/Reyes at close to value which worked out great (the rest of our draft needed work….)

          • Bryce Krispie Treats says:

            @Rudy Gamble:

            Yea, it seems like our league likes to over compensate in every department.

            Prospects barely ever came into play and the advantage went to the people who picked them up when they got the call or stashed them. This was pretty rare, but a few of us were proactive enough. Now, prospects are being rostered and nobody even knows if they’ll be called up at all this year. Now the value goes to us guys who dont waste roster spots and overpay in the draft!

            • yup – most ‘home’ leagues are inefficient. it’s the biggest adjustment when moving to an nfbc/expert league such as the one we co-sponsor with Scout (playscoutfantasy.com)!!! :)

              take advantage of ’em where you can, BKT!

  3. Red Riv Rev says:

    I’m thinking about draft strategy as it pertains to a keeper league. 20 teams; 25 roster spots, H2H. It’s a 10×10 including the norm plus hits, total bases, OBP, SLG, and net stolen bases, as well as QS, holds, GIDP, -BB, and -L. Keeper rules are you can keep anybody except players drafted in the first three rounds the year before, ten players total (2 IF, 2 OF, 2 SP, 2 RP, 2 Any), which means there’s some top-end talent in the draft and then it falls off a cliff and there are prospects and then guys in the 200-300 ADP range.

    Anyway, I’m wondering which way you’d go if you were me. It’s snake-style; I have pick #4 and a very solid team:
    IF: Rizzo, Bogaerts
    OF: Pollock, Yelich
    SP: Richards, Iglesias
    RP: A Miller, Cecil
    Any: Freeman, Heaney

    Assuming Trout, Goldy, and Harper go 1-3 I will have the option of Giancarlo or Kershaw at 4.
    Round 2 I’ll be picking from guys like: Beltre, Kipnis, Carpenter, or Quintana/Verlander. And by round 4 I’ll already be faced with the kind of guys like: Moustakos/N Walker or E Ramirez/Porcello or potential keepers like Trea Turner/A.J. Reed/Gausman/Velasquez.

    Given that dearth of quality would you rather take Stanton at 4 and load up on pitchers thereafter or take Kershaw and then load up on hitters?

    • i go Stanton at #4 b/c your keepers (other than Rizzo) are shaky on HR and maybe RBI (depending on where they all hit in the lineup).

      focus on building SP depth. mix some upside plays with safe, boring plays who play in pitcher parks. guys like Jeff Locke, Nicasio, Colon, Peavy, etc. can be had late and can help bolster W/K. it’d be great if you can nab another top 30 SP but it’s not mission critical.

      • Red Riv Rev says:

        @Rudy Gamble: Thanks. That’s exactly what I was thinking. Definitely lacking a bit in the power department, and even though it seems like the dregs of the starting pitchers universe out there, there’s probably some nice guys to fill in.

        What do you think are the chances of Giolito seeing serious innings from June on? Since the league is H2H I’m tempted to grab him in round 5ish if he’s available and try to land both a keeper plus a guy who could help me out in the playoffs this year, assuming I make it, of course :-). Or is that just foolish cuz even if he’s up he might get shut down early?

        • @Red Riv Rev: i think he’s got a decent shot. not drafting him in redraft leagues but see the appeal in keeper. same w/ Glasnow.

  4. Jerry says:

    Hey, Rudy! Great article and insight. I have the tenth pick in my head to head points league draft. I’m keeping Correra. I was planning on taking a first baseman with the tenth pick and then going after an OF with my wrap around pick. Who would you take from: Betts, Blackmon, Marte, Springer or JD Martinez, who all will be available? Or should I take Sale instead of one of those OF? Thanks for the help.

    • thanks. I rank them Betts/Marte/Springer/JDM/Blackmon with the last 3 all close.

      I love Sale…i have him higher than all those hitters but it’s a matter of how you like to build your team.

  5. Jerry says:

    Ok, thanks. I also forgot to mention that Pollock may be there as well. Do you rank him higher than those other guys?

  6. Tom says:

    Narrowed down my list of possible keepers to the following:

    Carrasco 9
    Machado 13
    J.D. Martinez 13
    Bogaerts 14
    Stroman 1
    Wade Davis 1

    I can’t decide between Melancon at 13, Russell Martin at 2, and Marcus Semien at 1.

    I am leaning Martin at 2 because I don’t want to overpay for a catcher in the auction draft.

    What do you say Martin or Melancon?

    Thank you.

  7. Stumanji says:

    Need help choosing keepers. Keep any 6 forever, OPS league:
    Joc Pederson-probable
    Addison Russell
    Yu Darvish

    Been offered the following in trades for various draft picks:
    Kyle Seager
    Carlos Gomez

    Pls help!

  8. ShidestheLimit says:

    Excellent article, loved reading this. Quick question about a small fold needed in my own personal draft prep.

    I’m in a 6×6 redraft with an NA spot. Who are you targeting for the NA? The categories in my league are as such:

    Hitting: AVG, R, HR, SB, RBI, OPS
    Pitching: W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV, HR Allowed

    Pre-draft, who are your top 3?

    • Thanks. AJ Reed, Orlando Arcia, maybe giolito?

  9. Scott steelers says:

    So in a 5 keeper league I’m keeping 1b Abreu, 3rd Sano 2 (out of 3 total) OF: Springer, Polanco and SP: Scherzer. 1st pick I will probably have thr option of JD Martinez, Chris Davis, Madbum, Degrom. Which order would you put them in to draft? Take into consideration that the next best SP when the 2nd rd arrives will be Salazar/ Ross/Liriano/Richards tier. OF avail I’m 2nd would be in the Kemp /ellsbury /Brantley tier. Tganks!

    • Chris Davis, Madbum, JDM, deform

  10. Kiss the bum says:

    Does this sight continually update dollar values for the rest of the season? I use Dollar values to measure prospective trades. I’ll take a $12 and $16 players and try to trade for a $28 player, Etc… Thanks Rudy

    • Yes, under Rest of Season Player Rater. Updated daily.

  11. Pete O says:

    Hey- Noticed you referred to FantasyPros draft wizard. How much stock do you put into their projections after the simulated draft is complete? Thanks.

    • I really like the FantasyPros wizard b/c of the auto-drafting. I generally ignore the ‘suggested picks’ and projected standings because I prefer my rankings/projections over ‘consensus’. Have talked w/ FantasyPros about offering up a version that includes ‘Grey/Rudy’ picks and our projections.

      That said, I’m tracking my mock draft against my spreadsheet and seeing if my category $ totals match my targets. If I didn’t have that to point out potential team flaws, I’d put a little more stock in the standings (as pointed out in post, the standings might say you are great/bad in a stat even though the differences b/w teams is negligible. This could lead to overcompensation no matter who is providing the projections)

      • Pete O says:

        @Rudy Gamble: Currently we can use the Razzball Rankings which is cool but that would be awesome if we could utilize Grey/Rudy picks and projections. Hope that happens! Thanks again.

        • i know fantasypros is spec-ing it out. fingers crossed for 2017.

          • A Wesley Snipes Life says:

            @Rudy Gamble: oh shit would that kick some ass, it’s already the best mock software (and you can input keepers and such too)

  12. n mo says:

    Hey Rudy, I keep getting an error trying to access the War Room:

    The page you were looking for doesn’t exist.

    You may have mistyped the address or the page may have moved.

    I got to the login, attempted what I thought was my log in and now the above is all I can see.

    • Hmm, it is working for me. Can you try shutting down your browser and restarting?

  13. Killer joe says:

    VLOOKUP is my absolute favorite excel function. I literally smiled for hours the day I discovered it!

  14. Scott says:

    Your third paragraph is spot-on Rudy. Had too much of that last year, and my first draft this year. So I’ve instituted a draconian do-not-draft list and I’ve done much better, and been happier to boot!

  15. LC says:

    Excellent stuff once again Sir!

    Quick question if I may?

    Recieved a trade offer in my 12 team 5×5 obp dynasty. 3 OF, 2 util, 25 man roster and 15 man minor league team.

    My Michael Brantley

    for his

    Mike Moustakas
    Gerardo Parra
    Alex Bregman
    1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks in the 2017 three round prospect draft.

    Brantley gives me a ugly feeling in my gut, I like the guy, but dont trust him much at all.
    I currently have:
    Grandal,Rizzo, D.Gordon,Frazier,Andrus/Story, Upton, Springer, J. Abreu. Texiera.

    I dont like bench bats much, but I figure my offense is good enough that I can take it on the chin and sort out the incoming assets in season, perhaps flip some of that in season for a hefty return.

    Your thoughts?

    Much appreciated

    • Seems smart to me. Parra should be a nice bat on home weeks. Not sure where you’re playing Moose though.

      • LC says:

        @Rudy Gamble: That was my biggest issue with the trade. Moose seems like a bench bat for me in this deal. If he could help out right away, it’d be much easier. Oh the joys of fantasy baseball.

        • LC says:

          @LC: I cant bank on Tex staying healthy for a full season, so Moose is decent insurance there. I also have guys like Domingo Santana in my minors system that I could call up. Tough call, thanks for your input.

  16. Nicholas Pieroni says:

    Rudy H2H pts were pitching is big and goes early and often and I stuck to my principles and now Im regretting not buying in. 10 team H2H pts. Could you lend me my thoughts…….
    Grandal, Goldy, Kipnis, Bogarts, Machado, Stanton, betts, springer, Gomez, Tex, Schoop, v-mart.
    Jofer, Waino, Pineda, walker, Severino, Rodon, Cashner, Berrios, Joe Ross, CC, Maeda, Holland, Darvish, Roberson and K-rod.

    • Seems pretty solid but I am used to deeper leagues. V-Mart/Schoop need to be on short leashes. Fingers crossed on SP – u got some bullets. Might want to tear a flier on Nicasio.

  17. Jay says:

    In a snake keeper league do auction values need to be adjusted? Assuming auction values are based on the projected stat lines i don’t think i need to adjust the values depending on who is kept.

    The only thing i’m debating is to adjust the values at a specific position due to a large number of players being kept (ie this league has 15 of top 20 pitchers being kept). Any thoughts on weighting the value on a position due to keeper scarcity?

    • I don’t like weighting on position. If anything, i prefer to weight on categories. But I don’t play in keeper leagues so let me think…

      Okay, this might be a little mathy but it’s a good exercise.

      1) Cut/paste my $ values for your league into a spreadsheet
      2) Add up the $ value for all kept hitters as well as starting pitchers (we can ignore RPs for now)
      3) Divide the hitter $ sum by $174 * # of teams. Divide the SP $ sum by $60 * # of teams. This will tell us the % of hitters vs SP value that is being kept.
      4) If the pitcher one is higher, there would be some rationale to boost up the SP values. My guess is that they’ll be pretty close though.

  18. A Wesley Snipes Life says:

    also, best thing about shandler’s forecaster, it’s out WAY earlier than other good books or info.

  19. Hooker says:

    I like this primer a lot. One Q:

    How do you project for streaming SPs? I like the idea of taking a core 3-4 SP and then stockpiling good RP. My primary league is SV+H as well, so I can really wait on those RP, often in my last 5-6 rounds. I’m also getting into the idea of making sure I grab Alex Colome and then perhaps Trevor May with my last pick (both SP/RP elig in Yahoo), then running out Colome and May in my SP slots when possible, while also rostering a full set of Hold hogs like Watson, Joe Smith, Siegrist, Strop and the like. I think that’s enough to stay competitive in SV+H while also helping my ratio and Ks. And I get to focus almost exclusively on offense for the first half of the draft.

    So back to my Q: if I only grab 3-4 guys, say: Salazar, Matz, Corbin — do you have any tips for creating a safe and accurate projection for what I’ll get from my streamers?

    Many thanks~ Z

    • I think a safe floor for streaming (if u are using streamonator) is a $5-7 player in your format. So find the average of players ranked there for season-long and that’s my best bet.

      • Hooker says:

        @Rudy Gamble: Simple and safe. Kudos!

  20. Mike says:

    Hey @Rudy_Gamble!

    I was wondering who’s in your avoid list this year

    • No ‘avoid list’ this year. But comparing my rankings vs ADPs will highlight a bunch of players who won’t end up on any of my teams.

      • Mike says:

        @Rudy Gamble: Thanks! Really wanted to check your thoughts after Teheran killed me last year

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