I really do believe there’s no such thing as too much draft strategy. There are a lot of factors that play into draft selections. I will be discussing topics ranging from positional scarcity to team construction and many things in between. The idea is to go into my strategy and targets through the first 10 rounds of a draft.
Why the first 10 rounds? Well, I believe that is the foundation of your fantasy roster and having a solid plan in place to attack the first 10 rounds can really set your team up for the middle and later rounds of the draft.
Lastly, I will be covering both 12-team and 15-team leagues as we go through the first 10 rounds. I will be utilizing NFBC ADP and discussing my targets each round per format. My targets will align with who is available per the ADP.
There are a few things to consider prior to making your selection. A few of those things are:
- How do you want to build your team?
- Who can fall to me in the second round?
- Is it a 12-team or 15-team league?
With the first overall pick, you get to set yourself up with a five-category producer. The usual players you’re deciding between offer a combination of floor and ceiling that the rest of the league doesn’t have access to and because of this, you already have a huge upper hand. You should also consider how you want to attack stolen bases. Stolen bases are at a premium this season and they are a key factor in making early-round decisions.
Don’t forget, this player is your team's foundation and you have to build upon him. I will say this a couple times throughout the article, but ALWAYS look ahead and try to figure out who will be there to choose from in the next round. This will always aid in your draft choice. At the end of the day, picking first overall is not the place to start taking chances.
There’s truly no wrong answer between the usual three players being considered for the first pick - Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna, and Christian Yelich. The only point I would like to drive home is I would not take a pitcher like Gerrit Cole here. I have seen it done and it not something I can recommend.
12-Team League – Pick 1.01: Mike Trout
15-Team League – Pick 1.01: Ronald Acuna
Why the discrepancy? It’s simple. In a 12-team league, there are fewer teams and speed will be easier to come by. With that said, Mike Trout is by far the highest-floor player in fantasy and in a shallower format where speed is an easier commodity to come by, I lean towards the higher-floor foundation. In a 15-team league, there are going to be less stolen base options throughout the draft and I want to address steals earlier and get them out of the way instead of scrambling for them later on. This is why I lean toward Ronald Acuna.
Round 2 and Round 3
From here on out you will be making back-to-back picks. There are pros and cons to picking at the turn, so you have to keep a few things in mind.
First, you need keep in mind you’re not picking for quite some time. This takes some planning forward. This is where looking ahead matters the most. If you plan for the worst case scenario of players that can fall to you in the following rounds, you will be able to anticipate what you will have available. This will really aid you in making the proper selections this round.
Second, you need to anticipate possible positional or category runs. This will factor more as the draft unfolds.
Now it’s is time to build on that high floor you established with the first overall pick. With these picks, I tend to attack the hitting side of things. However, on occasion I’ll mix in my first starting pitcher here as well. There are still a few speed options here, so taking advantage of any high-end speed options on the board to pair with the speed you took in the first is also a great idea.
Just a friendly reminder that speed is at a premium. Taking the speed now will leave you not chasing one-category contributors later. In turn, you are set up to take advantage of players who may fall as people scramble for stolen bases later.
12-Teamers – Picks 2.24 & 3.25: J.D. Martinez, Ozzie Albies, Starling Marte, Mike Clevinger, Luis Castillo
15-Teamers – Picks 2.30 & 3.31: Ozzie Albies, Starling Marte, Mike Clevinger, Xander Bogaerts
There is not a lot of fluctuation here. Be ready to pounce on some names that may fall that shouldn't. Players falling beyond their typical ADP is more likely in 12-team leagues. Players like J.D. Martinez or Anthony Rendon have fallen to the 2/3 turn in a number of 12 team drafts and I would prioritize grabbing one of them. This is a prime example of why ADP is strictly a tool to utilize and not a rule to follow. In a 12-team league, I mostly draft the best available player in the early rounds. I will still look at starting pitching here but I’m less likely to put an emphasis on it.
In a 15-team league I will typically take my first starting pitcher with one of the two picks on the turn here. This is due to the fact that starting pitchers thin out rather quickly compared to shallower leagues and I always like to get a starting pitcher with ace level potential to lead my pitching staff.
Round 4 and Round 5
You’ve now set yourself up nicely with a good foundation on offense. You should have a high floor in speed and batting average. Power may be lacking as well as RBI production because of that. The players falling to this part of the draft are typically better power hitters anyway so this plays perfectly to your team's need. This is exactly why looking ahead is so important. If you have an idea that these types of players typically fall to this point it allows you to construct a team built on the opposite stats ahead of time.
If you managed to grab some power and speed on the turn and avoided pitching, that is fine too. There are still very good pitchers to grab here. The only difference is I may consider taking two here actually to shore up my rotation.
By passing on that ace tier, grabbing two starting pitchers here could be a way to hedge your bet. We are also entering a tier of hitters where very little stand out from one another. It is a rather large tier and there’s a chance one falls back to you all the way in the next round that you weren’t expecting. You can’t bank on that happening by any means, but if any type of player or skill set would fall to you it would be a player within this rather large tier of similar talent level.
12-Teamers – Picks 4.48 & 5.49: Manny Machado, Matt Olson, Chris Paddack, Charlie Morton, Lucas Giolito, Giancarlo Stanton, Clayton Kershaw
15-Teamers – Picks 4.60 & 5.61: Manny Machado, Jose Abreu, Giancarlo Stanton, Tyler Glasnow, Yoan Moncada, Trevor Bauer, Tommy Pham
Now you start to see the bigger difference in the players available to you based on league size. Again, your targets (or mine) will fluctuate based on said availabilty. There are always surprises and values that fall in drafts at times and you need to be willing to adapt. Regardless, there are two different ways to draft based on league type. Draft to your strengths.
Round 6 and Round 7
By the time I reach this portion of the draft, I typically have two starting pitchers and three hitters. That is ideal for me personally. However, you’re still focusing on your core and if for some reason you went hitter heavy and only have one or no pitchers, then now is when you likely would address that need. If you stacked pitching early on, then you would attack hitters. But for this exercise, we will assume you took a similarly balanced approach as I would.
Here is where I like to go with two hitters. I feel the value in the hitters available outweigh the pitchers that are available. Because I draft so much and study the ADP relentlessly, I typically have an idea of the players who will be available here for me and I feel the hitters are far more valuable. Because of this, I always set myself up to be looking at offense at this point in the draft. I may mix in a closer on occasion as well.
12-Teamers – Picks 6.72 & 7.73: Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Josh Bell, Eugenio Suarez, Aroldis Chapman, Roberto Osuna, Tommy Pham, Jose Berrios
15-Teamers – Picks 6.90 & 7.91: Josh Donaldson, Eugenio Suarez, Roberto Osuna, Lance Lynn, Tim Anderson, Carlos Correa
Round 8 and Round 9
We are entering the time in the draft where guessing what may fall to you is very tough to do. ADP is not followed nearly as closely so you cannot bank on any player falling to you beyond here. You need to take the player that best suits your team needs.
This is also the point in the draft, regardless of league size, I grab my first closer typically. I do not need two high-end closers, but I like having at least one I can count on for saves and be that steady source of saves. I will then typically grab two closers at the back end of the middle rounds or grab them in the late rounds to round off my team. This causes me to be aggressive on the waiver wire when seeking saves in-season.
Also, to this point, I only have two starting pitchers typically. The pitchers available here are all solid mid-rotation types. I am not married to a starter here if I get a closer, but if I don’t take a closer here, I definitely grab a starter. Ultimately, I would l like to target hitters here but, I end up going with a starting pitcher and closer here to get my team back to a balanced roster. My team goes from having five hitters and two pitchers, to having five hitters and four pitchers. I always aim to stay balanced and build a solid base to both sides of my roster.
12-Teamer – 8.96 & 9.97: Lance Lynn, Kenley Jansen, Corey Kluber, Jesus Luzardo, Carlos Correa, Cavan Biggio, Miguel Sano, Zach Wheeler
15-Teamers – Picks 8.120 & 9.121: Max Kepler, Tim Anderson, Kyle Schwarber, James Paxton, Franmil Reyes, Zac Gallen, Ken Giles
This is far from the end of your draft, but the first ten rounds are definitely the foundation to your fantasy team. A solid foundation is essential to winning your fantasy leagues. You can strike gold off the waiver wire or hit big in the later rounds, but it’s all for nothing if you put your team in a hole to start off due to the poor foundation.
At this point in the draft my team is pretty balanced and now I take either the best value that falls to me or I target specific team needs. I build the remaining of this team around what statistic I am weakest on as that pick comes up. I essentially ignore ADP and get my guy. You cannot depend on players to fall to you so you have to make the picks that make most sense for your overall roster construction.
12-Teamers – Pick 10.120: Kyle Schwarber, Franmil Reyes, James Paxton, Justin Turner, Lance McCullers Jr., Carlos Carrasco
15-Teamers – Pick 10.150: Kenta Maeda, Lance McCullers Jr., J.D. Davis, Carlos Martinez, Willie Calhoun, Jorge Polanco, Matthew Boyd, Yasiel Puig
Keep in mind that come draft day, players may fall who you don't expect. Be ready to adapt accordingly. Stay tuned for more fantasy baseball content from us over here at RotoBaller!
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