If there’s anything that years and years of playing Fantasy Baseball teaches you, it’s that there’s really no wrong or right way to draft. There are methods across the industry and across all sports that will get thrown out there, but if everyone uses the same one, what’s the point?
With Fantasy Baseball leagues being deeper than most sports, the approaches that people will take for the draft will vary a lot, with so many positions and needs to fill. The only strategy that you should take all the time is to let the draft come to you. Don’t get cute and get married to an idea and force yourself to stick with it during the draft. Take what’s there, go after value and fill your needs.
No matter the method you apply in drafts, you’ll have to fill your needs eventually in the draft. Oftentimes this will come at the end of the draft, when you’ll need to catch up on speed, power or average on offense, or strikeouts or saves at pitcher.
The ideal situation is to get a well-rounded player early in the draft who can contribute across the board, but, well, there’s a reason they go early in drafts. If you find yourself behind in certain categories, here are some late-round speed, power and strikeout specialists who can help you out.
Ah, the narrative for 2017 is that speed is hard to find. Well, it actually holds weight, as in 2016, there were a total of 2,537 stolen bases, which was actually up from the 2,505 steals in 2015. However, the 2,537 steals in 2016 were still the second-fewest in a season since 1981, when the league stole 2,021 bases. Oh yeah, there were also four fewer teams in the league in 1981.
Speed is hard to find, and finding players who contribute more than just speed is even harder. But, if you find yourself falling behind in speed early, fear not. There are options for you toward the end of the draft.
Rajai Davis stands out the most, as he has stolen at least 36 bases in three of his past four seasons. Last year, he gave the added bonus of 12 homers in 495 plate appearances, too, but if you’re drafting him, you’re targeting him for the speed. In Oakland, he’s set to play every day, so he’ll have his opportunities. However in 2016, the A’s stole 50 bases on 73 attempts, the fifth-fewest in the league. Davis should hit at least 35 steals again, even in his age-36 season. In early NFBC ADP data, Davis is the 215th overall player and the 56th outfielder off the board.
Jarrod Dyson – Should get the majority of the at-bats in Seattle. Won’t help in other categories.
Travis Jankowski – Similar to Dyson. Should have the everyday role but can’t hit.
Charlie Tilson – Deep, deep league play. Speed is his game, and he’s starting in center for the Tigers. Should steal around 20 bases.
There were more home runs hit last year than there were in any other year dating back to 1871, except for 2000 – the peak of the Steroid Era. In 2000, there were 5,693 homers hit. Last year, there were 5,610. To break it down more, there were 784 more home runs hit in 2016 than there were in 2015.
The industry has taken notice, and it’s reflected in ADP, too. Guys like Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo aren’t as valuable as they were, say, going into last year. Hell, the National League leader in homers may go to Japan to play because he can’t find a team that will take him. Reverse Moneyball, anyone?
Power is available throughout the draft, and if you need someone late, there’s no one that stands out more to me than Tommy Joseph.
First of all, first base isn’t as deep as you would think. If you find yourself without a first baseman in the first couple of rounds, you’re going to be settling for mediocrity at the position. Why not wait longer and take Joseph, who is the 250th player overall taken in NFBC drafts and the 28th first baseman off the board? Chris Carter, the aforementioned NL league leader in homers without a team, is being drafted earlier than Joseph.
In 347 plate appearances last year, Joseph hit 21 homers and didn’t crush you in batting average, batting .257. His strikeout rate wasn’t through the roof at 21.6 percent, and his walk rate was passable at 6.3 percent. Based on his minor league numbers, his strikeout rate could come down to around 19 percent.
His 45.1 percent flyball rate was high – it would have been tied for 11th in baseball if he qualified – but his 18.9 percent home run to flyball ratio isn’t out of the ordinary for someone who hits the ball in the air as much as he does, especially with his 36.6 percent hard-hit rate last year. What’s more, his 12.5 percent Barrels per batted ball event is the same as Josh Donaldson.
Not only does Joseph play in a great ballpark for power, but he has the first base job to himself this year with Ryan Howard is out of town and no real competition for the job outside of Rhys Hoskins in the minor leagues. Joseph can easily hit 30 homers and fill your utility void.
Greg Bird – He’s a power-hitting lefty in Yankee Stadium. If the shoulder is OK, I’ll take all the Bird shares.
Jorge Soler – He finally gets a chance to play every day in the heart of a lineup.
Jonathan Schoop – He plays every day, has great power and plays in a great park.
Is pitching getting more and more dominant? Well, if you look at just strikeouts, it seems that way. Strikeout totals have climbed every single year, from 32,884 in 2008 to 38,982 in 2016. It’s the single most important stat for a pitcher. The more people you strike out, the fewer people that get on base. The fewer people on the bases, the fewer runs that are scored. It’s simple.
But after the 200-plus-inning pitchers who strikeout batters in dominant fashion, who’s left? Well, late in the draft, there are plenty of options.
My favorite – an industry favorite, really – is Robbie Ray. Ray was second in baseball in K/9 last season with 11.25 per nine innings. Even if you factor in some strikeout regression, like we’re assuming with his BABIP and strand-rate, you’re looking at elite strikeout numbers at the end of the draft. He had 218 strikeouts last year, which tied him with Noah Syndergaard for the ninth-most in baseball.
I’m not saying Ray is Syndergaard – I’m not, I promise – but while Syndergaard is going as the fifth pitcher off the board and 18th overall in NFBC drafts, Ray can be had as the 63rd pitcher off the board at 206th overall. Even if the strikeouts regress to the 190 range, that’s amazing value late.
Michael Pineda – He’s the American League version of Ray. Except while I’m factoring in regression for Ray in BABIP and strand-rate, I’ve seen it too many times from Pineda to think he’ll turn it around too much. He’s a late strikeout-only pitcher.
Francisco Liriano – He’s not attractive – or really even that good – but he can still rack up strikeouts.
Tyson Ross – He’s an obvious injury risk, but at pick 280 – the 82nd starting pitcher off the board – you can afford to gamble. He struck out 212 and 195 batters, respectively, over his last two full seasons.