5 Tips for Fantasy Baseball

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ESPN lists Ryan Braun as fantasy's top prospect

I love fantasy sports, and one thing I’ve learned is that every sport has a different strategy. Here’s 5 tips that have helped me land myself consistently in the fantasy baseball playoffs.

#1 Preparation is key.

I like to come to the table prepared. I start by making a spreadsheet of the top 10-15 players in each position (more for outfielders and starting pitchers). I also give my players overall rankings so I can make sure that I’m not just drafting a guy because I need a particular position filled.

Give extra credence to players who can play multiple positions, especially if one of those positions is catcher. It doesn’t matter if he plays that position that night; just as long as it’s listed next to his name, you can play him at that position. If you want to pick up a player later down the road, it’s nice to know you can make room by moving a player to his secondary position.

If you’re drafting in an auction league, figure out what players you really want to spend money on. Big players are usually going to go for far more than their suggested price tag. You may consider paying more for a position player, especially if there aren’t a lot of hot prospects in that position. This year, there’s not much in the way of catcher, shortstop and second base. Don’t blow your money too quickly. Usually in auction drafts, you can get some really great players towards the end for some very low money. So as the draft is winding down, keep $20 and get some bargains. Usually you’ll be able to buy players for $2-3 because no one has the money left to outbid you.

#2 Fill your lineup with pitchers.

You really only need one or two offensive players on the bench. The rest of your team should be pitchers. In our league, we have five active pitching positions with only one designated for starters and one for relievers. I like to have four relievers and fill the rest of my lineup with starting pitchers.

Since pitchers only pitch once or twice a week, you want to make sure you have plenty to get you Ks, innings pitched, and recover your ERA if one or two of your starters gets blown up.

Sometimes you may have only one or even no one starting a particular night. That’s a good time to fill the other pitching positions with relievers. My goal is, as much as possible, to never have a pitching position vacant. Obviously, that doesn’t happen on travel days, which generally occur on Mondays and Thursdays.

#3 Think of your players in terms of stats.

It’s important to remember that winning categories gets you wins, so you shouldn’t just look the major categories like batting average or ERA.

For offensive position players, consider where they bat in the lineup. If they’re batting leadoff, it usually means they’re going to get you runs, OBP, and average. Usually lead off batters have good speed and can get you steals. If they bat cleanup, they’re going to get you good RBIs and slugging but probably not as many runs.

While good players will perform well no matter what team they’re on, their team does affect their stats. Poor teams cost pitchers wins, holds, and saves. They cost offensive players runs and RBIs. Teams that score more runs will generally help you with runs, RBIs, Wins, and Saves.

#4 Keep on top of your team like you’re a day-trader.

People who don’t regularly manage their team usually lose. Checking on your team a few hours before gametime is a good idea. Usually they’ll tell you if a player is getting benched or if there’s an injury that will keep a player out.

Keep the weather in mind too. If you know of some big storms rolling through parts of the country, you may want to change your lineup. Postponed games can cost you, especially if it affects multiple players.

Matchups are very important. If you can’t decide between starting two players, see how they fair against the particular pitcher. Likewise, if a pitcher is scheduled to play a team that constantly abuses him, you may consider not starting him. Sometimes it’s better to leave a position empty than to risk losing ground in a particular category.

Sunday is not your day of rest when it comes to fantasy baseball. Since it’s the last day of the baseball week, you should be all over it. If there’s a particular category where you’re in close contention, do everything possible to win that category. You may even consider dropping a player and picking up a streaking player or a decent pitcher scheduled to start.

#5 Remember, baseball is a long season.

You’ll find that players often go on streaks and slumps. Don’t just dump players because they’re having a bad month. Bad months are bound to happen. If they’re notoriously good, hold onto them and let them work out their kinks.

Occasionally, you may want to dump a good player if they’re just having a bad year. You may not want to do this until a few weeks after the All-Star break, but sometimes players just have terrible seasons. Just ask all of those who had Tim Lincecum last year.

You’d be surprised how much the All-Star break changes a player. Sometimes hot players will start to fizzle, but for the most part, slumping players pick up their play and start to sizzle. Think of the All-Star break almost as a new season. Check out some of those free agents. You might even find teams bringing up hot prospects from the farm system.

What makes fantasy baseball so great is that surprises happen. Any given year, stars are born. Free agency is your friend, and you should check it regularly. Whereas fantasy football doesn’t offer much in the way of free agency, there’s a lot of game-changing opportunities in baseball. You just never know who you might find on the wire. Don’t be surprised if you start off the season with one team and end up with something drastically different by the end. Just consider it good experience, especially if you’re looking to land a job with the Miami Marlins.

Hopefully, you’ll win, and all hard your work will pay off, especially if you’ve got some sweet cash riding on this league. Just realize that with all of the work it takes to manage a fantasy baseball team, that money is going to average out to probably less than $1 for every hour you spent obsessing over your team. Remember, it’s not about the cash; it’s about the bragging rights. Take the cash and buy something nice for your spouse… you know for all the hours you neglected them for fantasy baseball.

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