October 27, 2021

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Beauty Made Perfect

Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: End-Round Slot

Drafting a great roster is the vital base for a successful fantasy baseball season. All draft spots are not created equal. There are pros and cons for all of them. You’ll find that everyone has their own preference on the best spot to start the draft. The purpose of this article series is to get you thinking about building your team from a certain section of the draft order. Regardless of whichever gate you start from, you can still find success.

We have already discussed why drafting from the middle has tons of benefits. This article will describe why drafting from the end (picks 11 through 15 of 15-team leagues) is very advantageous and how to build a great roster base from these spots. Sure, you’re not at the top, but you will still get a couple of elite players out of the first two rounds. It’s also an advantage to get four quality players in the top 50 and six in the top 80. You will need some sense of aggressiveness in your spirit to draft on the ends. You should focus on drafting the players you want, even if it means reaching forward many picks, instead of being a slave to ADP.

Below are three different teams that drafted from the end. This is NOT a guide-map of specific players to select. This is a hypothetical draft discussing some players that you COULD select at these draft spots as well as the thought process behind each selection. Your competitors aren’t just drafting aimlessly. They’ve got a goal in mind with each pick. Give each draft selection its own respect. Roster construction is the name of the game! **”We” mentioned throughout this draft is referring to the team manager (obviously the author).

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Goals

A successful team will have these priorities for the first five rounds of the draft:
• Load up on speed
• Load up on elite pitching
• Load up on power bats
• Get elite saves

How do we accomplish all this if there are only five picks?

This isn’t a secret code. You don’t need a cipher machine to figure it out. Prioritize them according to your draft style, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. This is where you might have to have a heart-to-heart chat with yourself. Put your pride aside and be truthful with “self”. Once they are prioritized, get what you can and have a plan to get the rest throughout the draft.  Now build that draft plan.

 

General Tips for All Leagues (regardless of draft slot)

• Know your league’s rules of war (league settings).
• Don’t stalk and draft players because they, too, share your hobbies of marbles, geocaching, pallet projects, or even spartan racing. Build a team that can accumulate enough stats in each category to get you to an overall victory
• Try to avoid drafting ALL the speed or ALL the power or ALL the closers or ALL the catchers. This could leave you with a glaring hole elsewhere. It is better to be in the top third of all categories than have an extraordinarily dominant lead in one category. To do that you need to have a solid foundation in all categories. Protect The Base!
• Identify your personal strengths and weaknesses before the draft. If you know you are able to identify quality pitchers later in drafts, then lean more towards hitters early and vice versa.
• Learn the draft’s strengths and weaknesses (player pool). Do closer’s and steals dry up? Are there an abundance of enticing outfielders later in drafts? The answers to these questions and more are important when developing your draft strategy.
• Know the strengths and weaknesses of individual rounds. Identify what each round provides (first five rounds) so you can see where the holes are. Below might be an example of charting the strengths of the first five rounds. Hmmm, if you don’t like the starting pitchers in round three, or four if you have to jump them up, then don’t build a draft strategy has you drafting an SP in that round. **These first five rounds were based on NFBC ADP for the last two weeks.

• Build your draft strategy. Plan your drafts, both before it starts as well as a couple of rounds ahead. Don’t wait until the current round. Now you can come up with a draft strategy that factors in the strengths and weaknesses of the draft as a whole, the first five rounds, as well as yourself. Below is the mental flow chart we discussed in the previous article (yes, your inner third-grader drew it up).

• Stay flexible. It is great to have an initial draft strategy, but you need to be able to improvise along the way. There will be players that drop to you that you didn’t think possible. Also, the players you wanted will be snatched right before your pick. These times are when you need to be able to make calm, competent decisions that fit a quality team construct. Yes, you may need to alter strategies so it’s best to have a couple of courses of action available.

 

First Team

Thought Process:

1st round: We got our wish early in this draft. We wanted speed and Jose Ramirez was there to provide. Is it possible we could get a 30 HR/30 SB-player? Maybe, but we don’t want to be that greedy. We are ready to flow in a couple of different directions for round two since we have speed targets in rounds four and five.

2nd round: The decision was made to push starting pitching until it comes back to us in the third round. For this round, we wanted another power/speed guy in Bryce Harper. We know the batting average will fluctuate; it is something to keep an eye out for for the rest of the draft.

3rd round: Our first starting pitcher is Kenta Maeda. We couldn’t wait. He isn’t an elite arm, but he is a quality starter. Despite a delay in pitching, we will be going back to the speed category in the fourth round.

4th round: Aahhh! Of course, we had Starling Marte all queued up, but he got selected just ahead of us. No worries, we rerouted to a starting pitcher that should provide reliable innings. Yep, Lance Lynn is the choice. Plus, he also plays for the White Sox which offers plenty more benefits than the Rangers. His ratios leave something to be desired, especially for our second starter. That will also have to go to our priority list.

5th round: We wanted more speed and pop, and we wanted to grab one of the second basemen in this range, so we chose Brandon Lowe. The extra positional eligibility is pretty nice too. We are aware of the negatives. Yes, his batting average may dip down to the .250s, and he does play for the Tampa Bay Rays. However, we’re confident there should be very minimal, if any, playing time shenanigans with Lowe.

Assessment & Priorities of Work for rest of draft:

Pitching: We may have innings, but we didn’t do a great job of foundational ratios. Looking down the road, there aren’t many starting pitchers in the draft that will give plenty of strikeouts and have great ratios. We will have to choose one or the other. The path might already be chosen for us, based on our first two pitchers, but we will look to see how this team can best benefit.

Closers: We didn’t consider one of the elite closers as we were more focused on offense and having a respectable pitching staff. Since we will continue to maintain our offensive strength and build up our starting rotation, we will likely just nab closers starting in the 14th round.

Batting average: Protect the Base! Evidently, we didn’t follow through on this game plan. No, we’re not resigned to a low average. We’ll keep it in mind for the rest of the draft. However, we’ll also benefit from setting up quality lineups throughout the season to take advantage of matchups.

 

Team Two

Thought Process:

1st round: Drafting at the end, we knew we wanted to get at least one pitcher with these two picks. We didn’t feel comfortable waiting until the third round for our first pitcher. The consideration was either Freddie Freeman (1st round) and whatever pitcher fell to us in the second or Bauer and best bat. We chose the latter because we like Bauer a little more and it helps to have a pitching foundation.

2nd round: We had another decision to make in the second round. We badly wanted to hit the button for Cody Bellinger, but the shoulder concerns kept me from doing so, especially considering it might keep him from tallying the SB we would covet by drafting him this early. Instead, we grabbed Francisco Lindor to ensure our shortstop spot was filled early. We know he doesn’t dominate in any one area, but we like that he contributes in all categories. Unless we like a certain player, we’ll likely match up Hitter/SP for the next few rounds.

3rd round: We were not a fan of the pitchers going in this region. We chose Anthony Rendon to continue to stabilize the batting average and compile counting stats.

4th round: There were still no starting pitchers we like here so we contemplated drafting an elite closer in Josh Hader or Liam Hendriks. It was only an option because of the scarce selection of reliable closers this year. Plus, by the time our next pick comes around, most of the top guys will be gone. Ultimately, we thought it still too rich to draft a closer this early so we went for another all-around contributor at the plate in Starling Marte. Of course, we are tracking his age (32). We still like the potential for 20 stolen bases.

5th round: Wow, the rounds are getting away from us. It took us a while but we finally decided to back up our first-round pick of Trevor Bauer. We jumped up to get Jose Berrios. This will make plenty of people shake their heads in bewilderment. Berrios has an improved defense behind him with the addition of Andrelton Simmons. He continues to pitch in the AL Central as well. We don’t love it, but we are comfortable with it.

Assessment & Priorities of Work for rest of draft:

Power: Thus far, our team has a pretty balanced approach across the board. The hitters we drafted are predominantly speed guys instead of power, so we are trailing in the homer and RBI departments. It’s ok, we are not concerned at all. There are plenty of guys along the way that will donate a few long balls and hit out of the three through six spots. We will keep an eye out for guys that have a little batting average to go with it.

Closers: We had an option but it was just too soon for us. We were comfortable passing then because we have a couple of targets in the seventh and eighth rounds as well as rounds eleven and twelve.

Pitching: You might be wondering why pitching isn’t higher on our priority list. Well, we have a laundry list of starting pitchers that we like between rounds eight through fifteen. These guys will have some weaknesses, but our strength is identifying pitching throughout the season.

 

Team Three

Thought Process:

1st round: The draft hadn’t even started and we knew we were going to double-up on starting pitchers since we drew a pick between 11-15. It was just a matter of which ones it would be. Lucas Giolito was the first pick and we feel we have a strong start to our team with an easy 200 strikeouts and potentially double-digit wins (yes, wins are not predictable). Pitcher is the goal in round two, unless something goes crazy and Freddie Freeman drops to us (not likely).

2nd round: Shocker! We had a plan to draft Aaron Nola to be the battle-buddy for Giolito. Unfortunately, someone drafted him well before ADP to prevent us from having a fellow Louisiana man on the team. Instead, we redirected to Yu Darvish. Two elite guys and over 400 strikeouts to start the draft? Yes, please. Ok, I know you’re worried about his durability. It is a consideration and a risk we were willing to take because we have a plan to back up pitching sooner than you think. Oh, and yes, there is a plan for the offense.

3rd round: We attack a couple of priorities with our first selection on offense, Tim Anderson. The man will put 20 over the wall, steal double-digit bases, and he also owns a batting title. As a cherry on this delicious sundae, he also plays for the offensively potent White Sox so the runs and RBI will tally themselves. Plus, it’s nice to have a quality shortstop so we don’t have to worry about the position anymore. We’ve got an eye on another guy with quick feet in round four.

4th round: It was wishful thinking to imagine that Starling Marte would fall to us. No matter, we had our decision-making meeting to decide between Marcell Ozuna and Alex Bregman. We would like to be swayed to Ozuna, but ultimately we decided to go with our original preference list which has Bregman higher. We know he doesn’t steal many bases, might have benefitted from trash cans, and that he loves pulling the ball to get his power. However, Bregman was once a first-round pick, not long ago at that. Plus, the Astros still have a very good offense. If you were also thinking that I’m biased because he’s an LSU alum…I will not comment.

5th round: Yes, we planned to back up our pitching, and we will. But we’ve already dedicated the first two rounds to pitching. We need bats with potential. That is exactly what we got when we drafted Keston Hiura. There are plenty of shouts of riskiness. We get that, but he has always been a quality hitter, contrary to the puny contact rate of 2020. It will also be nice if he does, in fact, get first base eligibility to go with second base.

Assessment & Priorities of Work for rest of draft:

Speed: Pitching was the focus but we were able to grab a few hitters that give us a decent start on offense. We will need to grab a few more along the way. Among these three hitters, Anderson is the only one with premium sprint speed. Bregman and Hiura are both sitting at league average in that category. Optimally, we’d be dancing in the streets if the latter two reach double digits in the category.

Closers: We missed out on the premium guys. We could have picked one at the three/four turn, but we felt it was important to grab bats, especially after starting off with two quality starters. We have a couple of targets at the seven/eight turn.

Batting average: We need to keep an eye on that batting average. Tim Anderson and Alex Bregman might have to drag Keston Hiura’s average along if things don’t go well.

Pitching: Despite the strong starting pitcher focus to start, we will head back to the mound for one, maybe two, more starters before the 10th round is up. We are more confident finding quality hitters later in drafts than we are with decent arms so we will front-load our weakness.

 

Draft Strategy Evaluations

We’ve established that drafting from the end has advantages and disadvantages. Now, let’s see if certain draft strategies are more successful than others from this area. Below we have the overall statistics of the three teams through five rounds.
**The projections of the players came from the ATC projection system.

Team One utilized the Speed-First approach and finished with a team that leads nearly all offensive counting categories, sacrificing batting average. The pitching staff wasn’t the priority and it shows. It is a little unnerving that the ERA and WHIP are already hurting. Some work needs to be done with all these ratios.

Team Two implemented a Hybrid approach starting with an elite arm but focused more on guys with power and speed. This team is very well balanced, both on offense and in pitching. They may lag behind in HR and RBI, but their batting average can offset the variety of options throughout the rest of the draft to improve these weaker categories. The early gain in stolen bases will make draft decisions easier as well.

Team Three employed the Dual-Aces strategy, and justifiably owns the pitching categories. While the pitching staff has a stout start, the offense is no slouch as it is competitive in R, HR, and AVG. With three hitters already on the roster, the stolen base and RBI may appear lackluster. However, every team will have holes, but this team at least has a decent baseline.

R HR RBI SB AVG W SO SV ERA WHIP
Team 1 277 98 283 48 0.264 24 383 0 4.08 1.21
Team 2 271 74 251 45 0.277 26 427 0 3.83 1.20
Team 3 267 79 245 30 0.272 25 435 0 3.69 1.15

 

The Verdict

Just like the first article of this series, we evaluated the thought process, assessments, and statistical results (through five rounds) of each team. The results provide a couple of options. The two most optimal draft strategies at the end are the Dual-Aces strategy and the Hybrid approach, as both provide balanced rosters. The primary consideration is that there aren’t many premium foundational pitchers available in the third and fourth round. Under normal circumstances, if you started with two starting pitchers, you’d be concerned with your offense. That isn’t the case in 2021 as there are quite a few attractive bats in the third and fourth rounds. Ultimately, the winning strategy is still…the one that is right for YOU.

Just a reminder, you don’t win your league in the first five rounds, but you can definitely lose it if you don’t set up a solid foundation for your team. Drafting from the end provides its own challenges but does allow you be the master of your own destiny. A passive attitude might lead to a mediocre team. Unleash your inner leader and don’t be afraid to be a little aggressive to build the team you want.

 

Conclusion

The end picks of the draft are excellent spots to take control and generate your own success. You won’t have frequent activity throughout the draft. However, your knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of yourself, the draft, and early rounds will help you build an excellent, but flexible, draft strategy. This will also enable you to be aggressive to find the success you desire from end draft positions. Preparation is the key.

As a reminder, the three drafts above aren’t supposed to be the perfect build to start a draft. One purpose was to discuss the various thought processes that happen while drafting. It was also an exercise to show you how to build a solid base using different draft strategies and highlight some players that might be available picking from the end of the draft. The bottom line is that a quality draft will not just come to you. Participate in your own success!

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