It's finally March, which can only mean two things: Spring Training and fantasy drafts. All the effort spent on rankings and draft prep finally come to fruition. Once your draft is completed, you then get to spend every day of the rest of the season analyzing player performances, scouring waiver wires and setting the best possible lineup.
For some, this proves to be too much of a time commitment to handle and those owners end up finding themselves at a disadvantage to those who are monitoring every second of every game. For those who love the prep and fast-paced action of a draft, but have trouble keeping up with daily lineup maintenance, best ball leagues are becoming a popular alternative to traditional leagues.
In best-ball leagues, the only control you have over your team is who you draft. There are no adds from the waiver wire, there are no trades, just draft your team and then an optimal lineup will be chosen for you every day throughout the season. This style of league provides some interesting challenges and aspects that are not found in traditional leagues, and as such normal draft strategies must be changed to adapt to this style. In this overview, we'll take a look at several strategies to consider that can give you the edge in winning your best ball league.
Best Ball Guidelines
Don't wait on catcher
Catcher is usually considered one of the worst-hitting positions in fantasy, with only a very few elite or even very good options available. On top of that, many catchers regularly get less playing time than other position players do, with backup catchers getting anywhere from 20 to 50 or more starts per season. In 2017 there were 22 catchers who played in at least 100 games, and only six catchers who played in at least 125 games. Of those six, only two — J.T. Realmuto and Buster Posey — appeared in at least 140 games. Owners should take this into consideration on draft day, by not only drafting a catcher early but also drafting at least two catchers. In a best ball league where you can't make any roster changes, you don't want to be stuck getting little to no offense for days at a time from any spot in your lineup, let alone catcher.
Consistency is key
When drafting, owners should place a premium on players who exhibit consistency in their performance as well as their durability. Since there's no trades or free agent pickups, you're stuck with whoever you draft — for better or for worse. So players who are consistently healthy and on the field will be more valuable to your team. For example, a player like Kevin Pillar — who has averaged 153 games a season since 2015 — would be more valuable because of his consistency at staying on the field than a player like Denard Span who has averaged 111 games over the same time frame.
Owners should also look for consistency in player's yearly performances. Jose Ramirez hit 29 home runs in 2017 — more than double his 2016 output. He could match or even surpass that total in 2018, or he could hit 10. If you won't be able to cruise the waiver wires or trade block, would you rather take the chance that Ramirez's 2017 season wasn't a fluke or would you rather draft Josh Donaldson — a third baseman who has averaged 33 HR over the last five seasons and is currently being drafted after Ramirez. The same question applies to pitchers: Would you rather own Robbie Ray coming off one outstanding season or Chris Archer coming off three consistently very good seasons? Who is more likely of the two to repeat last season's performances? These will be crucial questions to consider leading up to draft day.
Draft super-utility guys
After you draft your core starting lineup, make sure to draft several players with positional flexibility. Guys like Marwin Gonzalez, Andrew Romine and Eduardo Nunez should all be considered just for their ability to plug in throughout the lineup when your star players have days off. Will they put up amazing performances for your team that will rocket you up the standings? Not likely. But each at-bat they have as a part of your lineup could give your team another point in the standings. And if one of the cornerstones of your team misses time due to injury, these super utility players will make sure you get some value instead of nothing.
Avoid relievers as much as possible
Most owners already place an emphasis on drafting starting pitchers over relievers in standard leagues. In best ball leagues though, owners need to take that draft philosophy to the extreme and potentially draft only one or two relievers. Outside of guys like Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman, closers have very little to no job security throughout the year. So drafting a closer — like Luke Gregerson for example — who may be passed up on the depth chart part way through the season would leave you at a disadvantage with a "dead" roster spot. Owners will be much better served filling their pitching staff with almost exclusively starting pitchers. While starters can and are bumped from the rotation every season, most starters that are relevant for fantasy purposes are able to maintain their position throughout the year at a higher rate than closers. Since owners can't replace players on their rosters after the draft, it's better to own a bunch of starters and punt on saves rather than draft multiple closers, of which half may not be contributing hardly any value to your team after the All-Star Break.
No waivers. No trades. No setting lineups. Best Ball leagues provide different challenges than most owners will have faced in previous drafts, but following these strategies can be the deciding factor in whether or not you end the season as league champion.