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How to Play Fantasy Baseball

Updated on February 16, 2013

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A baseball glove, bat and ball
A baseball glove, bat and ball | Source

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Fantasy baseball is a wonderful ‘game’, if you will, that provides individuals from all walks of life with an opportunity to manage their own Major League roster. Another perk to fantasy baseball is that you don’t have to be an “expert” in baseball to play. Sure a basic knowledge of the game, and the players, is a plus but it is by no means a prerequisite to participating in a fantasy league.

Many sports fans have, at worst, heard about fantasy sports leagues whether it is baseball or football or some of the other ones available over the internet. Personally my first love has always been baseball so, no matter what, it will always be my favorite sport to follow.

Being a huge baseball fan I have enjoyed participating in fantasy baseball leagues for more years than I can remember; I actually won the first league I ever played in. I was ecstatic at the time, being a fantasy rookie, but then I quickly realized winning was not always that easy!

The beauty of playing in a fantasy baseball league is you are the manager of your own All-Star team. You get to figure out who you want to be on your team and then you participate in a draft to hopefully get the guys you have your eyes on. For people like me, who thoroughly enjoy the managing side of the game, this is a real treat.

Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft

Fantasy Baseball Draft

There are typically a couple of different kinds of drafts for a fantasy baseball league. The simplest one is to just let a computer pick your team for you; this is usually referred to as an auto-draft. The computer will take into consideration how many players you will need and what positions they play when building your roster for you. It is literally a completely hands off experience. You just pick a team name and let the machines do all of the work.

The other kind of draft is a live draft. In this draft format you actually participate in a timed draft where each team has an allocated time to make their player selections. This draft more closely resembles the drafts seen on TV for professional football and basketball. This format tends to be used by people who have had fantasy baseball experience because of the quick thinking that might be required; especially if the team right before you snatches the player you were about to draft. I have known some people who elect to participate in these drafts but stay in the shadows during the actual draft process. This means they are online but they are only watching the draft unfold and are not actually participating in the player selection process.

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Offensively the standard statistical positions are batting average, home runs, runs batted in (RBI), runs scored and stolen bases. Pitching stats are measured in wins, earned run average (ERA), walks and hits allowed per inning (WHIP) strikeouts (K’s) and saves.

Most leagues have a predetermined amount of games to be played at each position and usually match a Major League Baseball season of one-hundred sixty-two games. Staying aware of this maximum is important because once you exhaust all of those games that position will no longer contribute to your team’s statistics. Pitching has a maximum as well but the cap varies from league to league.

In addition to understanding the games and inning maximums I suggest you read the league rules and completely understand them. These rules will dictate trade deadlines, the latest you can move a player from the bench into the starting lineup, etc. It is also important to know how your players are doing, since you are the manager. If a player gets hurt you need to move them to the bench and put someone else into the lineup because players who don’t play can’t contribute to the team. It is also wise to know how other players around the league are doing during the season. Is someone having a great year that is an available free agent? Being the manager you hold the power to cut one of your players and pickup the guy who is playing great baseball.

Fantasy Baseball Tips

Baseball Fantasy League

The rules will also breakdown what kind of league you are in. Many fantasy baseball leagues are rotisserie style leagues. A rotisserie league means that the league accumulates stats everyday all of the way up to the last game of the regular season. After the final day of the season the final statistics are tallied and a winner is crowned.

There are also leagues that play in a head-to-head style format. This means that you will play against another manager every week. At the end of the week the team with the best overall stats wins that week’s match up. This format is more common in fantasy football but will be seen in some custom leagues.

More competitive leagues might be structured as “keeper” leagues. These leagues are built around returning managers who have to earmark players that they want on their team for the next season. Of course this number has a maximum so managers need to be smart about which players they are keeping for the next season and hope they don’t get hurt in the off-season or spring training.

Fantasy Baseball Strategy

Strategy is a pretty big part in playing fantasy baseball. Your goal is to build the best team that you possibly can using the statistical categories provided by the league. For example you might be attracted to a player known for hitting a bunch of home runs every year. The downside to this player is he may have a poor batting average. You have to make the decision if you are OK with this trade off; maybe you counter this player by getting a player who has small power numbers but a high batting average? Since you are the manager these are your decisions. Remember the goal is to build a well rounded and balanced team.

My biggest challenge in playing fantasy baseball is could I draft one of the players that I do not particularly care for in baseball. We all have that one guy we simply do not care for. I have always struggled with drafting these players and then cheering for them because they were on my fantasy team. I usually get around this by drafting the player and then trading them to someone else. I know it shouldn’t be an issue but it is just really hard to root for certain guys or division rivals of your favorite baseball team.

Free Fantasy Baseball

For me I have always elected to participate in the free fantasy baseball leagues that are available online. I choose to do this because I am not a gambler at all and it wouldn’t be fun for me to play in one of these leagues and lose money. I’m not playing to win money, I’m playing because it is fun and I enjoy it. Too many times we have to pay for entertainment these days; fantasy baseball provides a free option to other, costlier, methods of entertainment.


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    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      summerberrie - glad you were able to understand it. Fantasy sports are a great way for fans to follow the players that they really enjoy to watch and have some fun doing it too.

    • profile image

      summerberrie 5 years ago

      adjkp25, my son played fantasy football. I never really understood it, but now I do...thanks.