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With just a couple days to go before the start of the 2021 MLB season, fantasy baseball hopefuls everywhere are also preparing to embark on what will almost certainly be another year of disappointment, frustration and envy. The days leading up to your fantasy draft are very similar to real-life Spring Training, with everyone still full of hope and confidence, but also much like actual baseball, fantasy sports rarely live up to our expectations. With that being said, my fantasy draft is tonight and while I’m certainly no expert, here are a few of the things I’ve been pondering over the past couple of days:
Auction vs. Snake Draft
This is obviously the first thing you have to consider when preparing for your draft, as the strategies are markedly different. Snake drafts are much more straightforward — usually I just compile a ‘big board’ ahead of time and try to stick to it as much as possible during the actual thing. Auction drafts are an entirely different beast, as you have a limited amount of money to dole out throughout the night. $260 per team is pretty standard for fantasy baseball, so you have to decide just how much each player is worth before you begin bidding.
The two main strategies are usually to either spend big on a couple superstars and then fill out the roster with average players, or to skip the superstars entirely and have a more balanced roster, albeit lacking any elite players. I generally lean towards the latter, but the area where I’ve struggled with the most is being too conservative with my money. The last thing you want is to wind up with $30 extra at the end of the night; it’s a hard line to balance. That being said, it’s very risky to put all your eggs in one basket so to speak, especially on a pitcher, given how fragile they tend to be.
Admittedly it is quite fun to be the person with the most money in the back half of the draft so you can just outbid everyone and have your pick of the litter for your final 10ish roster spots, but you do lose out on those top-tier guys at the start. Regardless of your strategy, splitting up your $260 between hitters and pitchers is a must. The rule of thumb is to spend 65-70 per cent of your money on hitters and 30-35 per cent on pitchers.
This is another area where some preparation can be useful. Having a list of guys who can play a bunch of different positions is handy, because it is pretty much impossible to do all of this on-the-fly. Guys like Cavan Biggio, DJ LeMahieu, Jeff McNeil, Trey Mancini, et al. are nice luxuries to have as they’ll give you lots of options throughout the long season. It’s not a must, but defensive flexibility certainly gives guys like Biggio a boost in terms of value.
This is always a tough category, but this year feels especially tough after the anomaly that the 2020 season was. Former MVPs struggled, but it was a 60 game season where guys had a gazillion other things to think about, so how much stock do you put into it? Personally, I don’t put much into it and would welcome Christian Yelich on my team any day. Kris Bryant is another former MVP who had a down year in 2020, Gary Sánchez was downright awful last year, there’s no shortage of options. In an auction draft, scooping up some of these guys while their value is low is not a bad plan, but remember, a lot of people are probably thinking the same thing, which could easily lead to an overpay.
COVID-19 & Injuries
This is the underlying factor that no amount of preparation can account for; it’s impossible to predict who will get COVID-19 and who will get injured because of the jump from 60 games last year to 162 games this year. Actually, we can kind of guess who might get injured — pitchers! Too many pitchers have already gone down in Spring Training, as they are unfortunately the most susceptible to major injuries after a long layoff. So if there was ever a year to underspend on pitchers, I think this is the year.
Well, hopefully everyone’s draft goes according to plan (they won’t) and good luck this season! Remember, if you win your league after reading this article, I get a 20 per cent commission of your winnings.