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Fantasy Baseball and How To Win

Updated on March 7, 2014


Well, I have begun my season on ESPN Fantasy Baseball. I completed my first auction draft of the year yesterday. To say I was surprised at some of the prices paid for players is an understatement. I mean, I liked certain players, intended to draft them but not at what they were going for. Consider the following:

I did get the first player chosen, Mike Trout. He is the wunderkid of baseball, runner up to Miguel Cabrera for MVP honors in the American League each of his first two years as a major league player. His estimated price was $37 and I got him for that. I was pleased. I then bought Clayton Kershaw ($28) and Adam Wainright ($26) at prices I am at ease with and for exceptional pitchers, perhaps two of the top five in the league. Chris Davis at first for $31 and then came Yadier Molina. He is my prized catcher, and I had to go a bit higher than I planned to get him at $20, but still I was on my plan.

My next "want" was to nab last year's breakout player Matt Carpenter for either my 2nd or 3rd baseman. Things started to go a little crazy here. Bidding quickly escalated far beyond my comfort zone. He ended up going for $40! More than Mike Trout who is arguably the best player in the game! More than Andrew McCutcheon, Dustin Pedroia, Justin Verlander, and equal to Miguel Cabrera, he of the past two MVP awards. Huh?

I watched Prince Fielder go for $50. This is fully 20% of a teams total spendable funds. A team consists of 24 players, and to spend that much on any one player seems absurd.

I rounded out my team with players I was comfortable with, and some I expect to have better than average seasons. I got Albert Pujols for a song due to his past performances over two years, but he was injured, has had surgery and feels better than at any time for five years or more. He has talent, and I expect big things from him this season. Allen Craig was low at $10, and even though he was injured for the end of the year last season, this guy can rake! As a backup catcher I picked up Kansas City's Salvador Perez, who hit over .300, had double digit homeruns, and was excellent last season as a steady hitter. Cost? $5. Lance Lynn, pitcher for the Cardinals has had more wins the past two years than 98% of pitchers in the league, yet cost only $5 also.

I suppose what I am saying here is this: get out early, get who you want (for the right price) then sit back and wait. Towards the end, when the other teams have spent themselves out of getting the solid players having spent too much too early, pounce. You can get solid, middle of the rotation pitchers and good position players cheaply in later rounds. I mean, I watched Zack Grienke go for $7, CC Sabathia $2, John Lester $2, Mike Napoli and Matt Weiters $1 each, and Aroldis Chapman, he of the 100 mph heat and 2 strikeouts out of every 3 outs went for $9.

Good luck to all you Fantasy Baseballers. Have a great year.

Fantasy Baseball. A geeks game; losers who can't play the game play this, right? Some will say yes, but not everyone who plays Fantasy Baseball never played the game; some played the game very well and now enjoy this pastime after their careers are over. But I will tell you that for those who love competition and no longer have a chance to do this very much this is a great way to have some fun and maybe win bragging rights, even if it is only in you family or mind.

I began some five years ago on a sports website playing one team. To put it bluntly: I bit the big one. I followed one team (The Cardinals!) and knew little about other teams. My shortcomings led me to finish 8th out of 10 teams. Not too impressive.

The next year I added a few teams (try 20) and began to experiment with them. Trying teams heavy with great pitchers and mid-level hitters; great hitter and mid-level pitchers; rotisserie, heads up, total points I've played them all. I've won, I've lost, I've finished in the middle of the pack. I will say that overall my record was probably somewhere around .500 or a little better. Until last year.

Last year I focused on fewer teams in order to spend more time on each one. Believe it or not, staying competitive requires time each day. Not much, maybe five or ten minutes per team; just enough to make sure your players are healthy, are starting, are hitting and pitching well. So, last year on ESPN I played in five leagues. I won four of them and finished second in the other. How did I do so well?

Research. Finding that hidden gem deep in the draft that no one else saw. Oh I had the big names too. Cabrera, Kershaw, I even stole Bryce Harper right out from under the other manager's noses!

But on one team that finished 15 and 5, I also had Vogelsong, and Scutoro and some guy named Allen Craig. It was these second and third tier players who came up big for me and made the difference.

Allen Craig
Allen Craig | Source

Allen Craig came up big for the Cardinals in the World Series of 2011, but at that time he did not even have a regular position with the team. He was a natural infielder, but with Pujols and Freeze in front of him at the corners he wasn't going to get regular playing time there. Then it happened: Pujols signed with the Angels and that opened the door for Craig. I had met the young man in January of 2011 and gotten his autograph. He was a nice kid and I just had a feeling about him. When I knew he was going to get regular playing time at first, I knew he was going to do well. And boy has he ever! This is the hidden gem you must find in order to win. The overlooked player, the young just coming in to his chance player.

And you can get them at a steal of a price. Normally, players like this are not even drafted. Craig wasn't in my league, so I picked him up after I had picked my team, looked it over and decided I needed a change at first base. Enter Craig, who also had eligibility in the outfield.

So where am I in the rankings of my leagues right now? Well, in ESPN I am as follows:

League #1 160-78-14 2nd Place .663 Winning Percentage; 1st Place 170-68-14

League #2 Perfect Season 21-0 League Champion

League #3 Perfect Season 21-0 League Champion

League #4 82-32-6 League Champion

League #5 18-3 League Champion

League #6 11,332 points 2nd Place, 256 points out of 1st and 1,255 points ahead of 3rd

League #7 17-4 League Champion

In CBS Sports I have broken a 5 year losing record playing in a Rotisserie League. I finished the year as League Champion with 85 points while the second place team had 65 points.

How did I reach these levels this year? Am I in leagues with children? Or idiots? No, and I take pot luck when it comes to joining leagues. The single most important things I look for are 1) when are they drafting and can I be at the draft and 2) how many teams are in the league. Nothing more; oh wait; there is one other thing.

It must be an auction draft.

If you look at my record for 2013you will see I did pretty well. And if you read that last line you will see what I feel is my biggest secret.

Auction Draft.

Before last year I had never been in one. Hadn't even heard of one. I had played only in snake drafts and such. But in 2013 I entered an auction draft by mistake and stayed in it. It was early in the year, maybe mid March, and I learned a lot in that first draft. I entered several more and learned each round what to do. Here are my tips for you.

First, show up. If you aren't there you cannot bid.

Second, make sure you have gone over the draft lists and reset any upper limits to a players bid status if he is someone you really want. There are preset limits and most managers in these leagues just follow those. Major mistake.

Third, decide who you want and go after them. If the preset on Clayton Kershaw is $20 and you only have $360 for a team, decide if he is worth it to have, Boost him on up to $25 or even $30.

Fourth, In order to get those you really want, you have to have done some research and have backups who will probably be overlooked and will allow you to pick them up for $1 or $2 to round out your team. These "hidden gems" are who I spoke of earlier. They will make or break your team more than the Cabrera's, Kershaw's, or Verlander's ever will. I will say here that on my teams I spent roughly 80% of my budget on perhaps 10 players, and picked up the remainder of my team at $1 and $2 each. By doing this, being aggressive on who I wanted, I was able to outbid those who were not committed to getting who they wanted. It makes a difference.

And finally fifth, take care to examine what and how your league scores. In one of my leagues this year I was several weeks in when I noticed a trend. My players who played on the infield were getting more points than those who played outfield. Their batting averages and power may be equal to or even lower than the outfielders but they received more points per game. Then it hit me: in this league, defense counted. If a first baseman caught a ball at first thrown by an infielder he got points. So on this team I have a first baseman who has a below .300 average, middling power and RBI's but a ton of defensive outs playing and averaging 17 points per game starting at Utility over someone who has a .300 average, 20+ homeruns and nearly 100 RBI's who is only averaging 9 points per game. Sounds crazy but the name of this game is points per game. It makes a difference, believe me.

Rotisserie is a whole other animal. I have dabbled in this type of league for five long years now and have yet to do well. And I was stinking it up again earlier this year. Then I read an article which gave a few pointers on how to best compete in this type of league. It gave a target point total of 80 points, saying this would win most leagues. After looking at my team resting at around 60 points, I saw I was in the upper 20's to low 30's in both pitching and hitting. Changes would need to be made in order to compete.

The worst category I had was steals. But the teams ahead of me were not that far ahead, so I set about tinkering, looking for that speedster who would get me some steals. Then I saw that I was deficient on Saves, so I worked to improve that also. A trade here, a researched player there and all of a sudden I was in the 70's.

But there was one other thing that pushed me to the top of the heap. And it is something most managers don't appear to do.

When you are looking for a player from those available, change the stat time to 7 or 14 days rather than season, then organize the list by best player available. Why? By changing the time frame you can see who's hot NOW. Believe me, that matters. A player you might never hear of is suddenly batting .400 at a position you need help at. By doing this type of research you will improve your team. Ride him while he's hot, then drop him when someone else comes along. I dropped some premier names this year, names that I was tickled to death to draft initially. But a cold player kills you while a young, hot nobody can send you over the top.

Do the same thing to your team in order to see who you should start day to day or week to week. Keep those hot players playing and bench the cold ones. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO BENCH SUPERSTARS!!!

At different times this year I have benched Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and even Yadier Molina in favor of such stars as Kurt Suzuki, Josh Donaldson, and Martin Perez. You have to read between the lines and go with your gut in some of these situations if you are going to win.

I have to say right here that I am proudest of one particular player in 2013: the St Louis Cardinals Matt Carpenter. As I am a Cardinal fan for the past 50 years or so, I tend to pay close attention to them. I knew Carp was going to get a chance to start the season as the second baseman for the team even though he had never really played the position. Virtually no one in any of my leagues even knew who he was, let alone how good he was. I purchased him in my leagues for the sum of either $1 or $2. And look what he did. He outperformed virtually every other position player in baseball. Silver Slugger award; All-Star; a hitting machine for the Cards, setting the table all year long. And now he moves to third base, his natural position. Some will say he doesn't hit for enough power to play third. Fine, don't draft him.

I will.

ESPN 2014 Fantasy Rankings by Position

Catcher Top 10

1. Buster Posey, SF 2. Yadier Molina, STL 3. Joe Mauer, MIN 4. Carlos Santana, CLE 5. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL 6. Wilin Rosario, COL 7. Brian McCann, NYY 8. Salvador Perez, KC 9. Matt Wieters, BAL 10. Wilson Ramos, WAS

First Base Top 10

1. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI 2. Chris Davis, BAL 3. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR 4. Prince Fielder, TEX 5. Joey Votto, CIN 6. Freddie Freeman, ATL 7. Eric Hosmer, KC 8. Albert Pujols, LAA 9. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD 10. Allen Craig, STL

Third Base Top 10

1. Miguel Cabrera, DET 2. Adrian Beltre, TEX 3. David Wright, NYM 4. Evan Longoria, TB 5. Josh Donaldson, OAK 6. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS 7. Kyle Seager, SEA 8. Aramis Ramirez, MIL 9. Pedro Alvarez, PIT 10. Brett Lawrie, TOR

Second Base Top 10

1. Robinson Cano, SEA 2. Jason Kipnis, CLE 3. Dustin Pedroia, BOS 4. Ian Kinsler, DET 5. Brandon Phillips, CIN 6. Ben Zobrist, TB 7. Matt Carpenter, STL 8. Jose Altuve, HOU 9. Chase Utley, PHI 10. Martin Prado, ARI

Shortstop Top 10

1. Hanley Ramirez, LAD 2. Troy Tulowitzki, COL 3. Ian Desmond, WAS 4. Jose Reyes, TOR 5. Elvis Andrus, TEX 6. Starlin Castro, CHC 7. Jean Segura, MIL 8. Everth Cabrera, SD 9. J.J. Hardy, BAL 10. Alexei Ramirez, CHW

Outfielder Top 10

1. Mike Trout, LAA 2. Andrew McCutchen, PIT 3. Carlos Gonzalez, COL 4. Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY 5. Adam Jones, BAL 6. Ryan Braun, MIL 7. Carlos Gomez, MIL 8. Bryce Harper, WAS 9. Yasiel Puig, LAD 10. Alex Rios, TEX

Starting Pitcher Top 25

1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD 2. Yu Darvish, TEX 3. Cliff Lee, PHI 4. Adam Wainwright, STL 5. Felix Hernandez, SEA 6. Max Scherzer, DET 7. Stephen Strasburg, WAS 8. David Price, TB 9. Chris Sale, CHW 10. Cole Hamels, PHI 11. Madison Bumgarner, SF 12. Jose Fernandez, MIA 13. Zach Greinke, LAD 14. Justin Verlander, DET 15. Anibal Sanchez, DET 16. Mike Minor, ATL 17. Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA 18. Homer Bailey, CIN 19. Matt Cain, SF 20. James Shields, KC 21. Masahiro Tanaka, NYY 22. Mat Latos, CIN 23. Gio Gonzalez, WAS 24. Jordan Zimmermann, WAS 25. Shelby Miller, STL

Relief Pitcher Top 10

1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL 2. Aroldis Chapman, CIN 3. Kenley Jansen, LAD 4. Greg Holland, KC 5. Trevor Rosenthal, STL 6. Koji Uehara, BOS 7. Joe Nathan, DET 8. Sergio Romo, SF 9. Glen Perkins, MIN 10. David Robertson, NYY

Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera | Source

I hope this will allow you to improve your play in your Fantasy teams. I would think this should apply to football, basketball or any fantast sport out there. Do not be afraid to gamble; do not be afraid to go after those who you want. And do your homework ahead of time! Good luck, and Play Ball!!

Do you participate in Fantasy Baseball, Football, or Basketball?

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I did this a few years ago but just don't have the time to do it seriously...then another Hubber roped me in during the mid season this year and asked me to take over a team in his league...the damn team was in last place and in horrible shape. I've managed to play .500 ball since taking over, and move out of the cellar, so I consider that a productive year. :) Thanks for the info...I would love to play more but there aren't enough hours in the day, buddy!

      blessings to you and yours always


    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      Mike, I don't play fantasy sports but I'm glad you are mastering the skills of fantasy baseball. I'm sure you have a blast!


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