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2024 Best Ball Draft Strategy for Fantasy Baseball

For as much as fantasy baseball managers love to draft, not all of us are too fond of – or have time for – the constant upkeep that managing a fantasy baseball team requires. Enter Best Ball leagues! Best Ball leagues are quickly becoming one of the most popular fantasy baseball formats around, and for good reason. It is a “set it and forget it” format that is taking over the fantasy baseball landscape. You can draft to your heart’s content and then sit back and watch your handiwork unfold. With Best Ball, you do not have to worry about setting lineups every day or racing to the waiver wire. And your inbox will no longer be flooded with absurd trade proposals that you would never agree to in a million years. If this sounds good, then Best Ball may be for you!

How Does Best Bell Work?

As always, it is of paramount importance to understand your league settings before taking part in a draft. Best Ball is essentially a points format with a 40-round draft. Every player on your roster accumulates points based on how they perform each week. In Fantrax Best Ball leagues, your starting lineup will consist of 13 hitters and nine pitchers. The software will automatically determine your starting lineup by counting points scored by all players and then assigning those points to the players at each requisite position at the end of each scoring period. Below are the roster requirements for your starting lineup as well as how many players I would recommend drafting at each position. I also included the scoring system used to determine the number of points your starting lineup will earn each week.

Catcher (C)13
1st Base (1B)13
2nd Base (2B)13
3rd Base (3B)13
Shortstop (SS)13
Outfield (OF)57 - 9
Utility (Any Hitter) (UT)3
Pitcher (P)916 - 18
Scoring GroupScoring CategoryPoints
HittingHits (H)1
HittingHome Runs (HR)3
HittingRuns Batted In (RBI)1
HittingRuns Scored (R)1
HittingStolen Bases (SB)3
HittingWalks (BB)1
PitchingEarned Runs Allowed (ER)-1.5
PitchingInnings Pitched (IP)1.5
PitchingQuality Starts (QS)3
PitchingSaves (SV)6
PitchingStrikeouts Pitched (K)1.5
PitchingWins (W)3
PitchingHits Allowed + Walks Allowed (H+BB)-0.5

This information can be a bit intimidating, especially if you have not played in many Points leagues. That is why I have outlined some tips and tricks that I have used over the years with a fair amount of success in Best Ball leagues. These should assist you in your Best Ball journey. Some of my strategies may seem a bit out of the ordinary compared to how one might handle a Roto draft. However, I truly believe utilizing these tips will benefit the Best Ball player in the long run.

Getting that itch already? Give a good scratch and jump into a Best Ball League on Fantrax! All the uncertainty that comes with an MLB offseason makes Best Ball leagues the best way to get an early start on the 2024 fantasy baseball season.

2024 Best Ball Draft Strategy

Positional Depth

An important thing to note when drafting is that in Fantrax Best Ball leagues is that each hitter is only assigned to one primary position. That position does not change during the season. This is something that fantasy managers must consider when drafting. There are 40 rounds in a Best Ball draft, yet only 22 starting spots each week. The good news is that three of those starting spots are reserved for Utility Hitters. These hitters can play at any position. I would generally try to draft three players at each of the infield positions and seven to nine outfielders. That will give you two backups at each position and leave you with 16-18 draft picks for your nine starting pitcher slots. The last thing you want to do is take a zero at a position because you are shorthanded due to injury.

Embrace the Boring

Part of what we love about drafting is the ability to stake our claim to that next rookie breakout. But that is not always the best strategy in Best Ball drafts. For every player who enters The Show and lights it up, countless others never make an impact. And you will be stuck with those players all year. Even the ones who do make it do not always have a lot of volume. Last season, Jeff McNeil scored more total fantasy points than Elly de la Cruz. Patrick Corbin outscored Eury Perez. One or two speculative picks are fine but do not go overboard drafting players based on potential. Best Ball leagues are won by the team that scores the most total points. Points per game, points per plate appearance, and points per inning pitched only get you so far.

Early Rounds: Hammer Hitting

I value hitting exponentially higher than pitching in Best Ball leagues. Hitters simply score historically at a much higher and more sustainable clip than pitchers do. Last season, 39 hitters scored at least 500 fantasy points, and 95 scored at least 400. In the last three seasons combined, 40 pitchers scored at least 500 points, and 98 scored at least 400. In 2023, 12 different hitters scored at least 600 fantasy points. Leading the way was Ronald Acuna, who scored 894! The last time a starting pitcher scored at least 600 points was in 2019. Starting pitchers have been devalued in recent years because they are pitching fewer innings. That trend is only going to continue in the same direction going forward. Because of that, I usually only take one or two starting pitchers in the first 10 rounds of a Best Ball draft.

To illustrate this point, I will use George Kirby. Kirby is one of the top young pitchers in the Major Leagues. In early 2024 Roto drafts, fantasy managers are taking him on average in the fourth round in 12-team leagues. That makes sense in Roto. Kirby has a pristine WHIP and can be an excellent source of wins and strikeouts. And those things do count in Best Ball – just not very much. TJ Friedl, Carlos Santana, and Esteury Ruiz were just three of the 73 hitters who outscored Kirby last season. If Kirby is available in the sixth or seventh round, then perhaps I will grab him. But I am not drafting him in the fourth round. Sticking to this strategy means I will miss out on most of the top starting pitchers. And I am completely fine with that.

When drafting hitters, you do not need to concern yourself with balance. Want to draft Kyle Schwarber and Pete Alonso? Great! Sure, they combined to hit .207 last year. But they also combined for more fantasy points than Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell, who won their league’s respective Cy Young Awards. At the same time, speedsters do not need to be ignored. Stolen bases are also worth three points. As we saw last season, the new rules implemented by MLB dramatically increased the focus on the running game. That means that many players have increased value in Best Ball formats compared to other formats. Players like Nico Hoerner, Ha-Seong Kim, and CJ Abrams all scored over 500 fantasy points last year, largely on the strength of their ability to steal bases.

I tend to gravitate towards power hitters in Best Ball leagues because there is a caveat to scoring that often goes overlooked. Fantrax Best Ball leagues credit hitters with three points for a home run. However, in reality, a home run is worth at least twice that number. Each hit is worth one point, as is each run scored and run driven in. When a player hits a home run, they are also being credited with a hit, a run scored, and (at least) a run driven in. The average home run results in about seven fantasy points, not three. Regardless of the type of hitters you draft, you should be looking for players who are expected to play nearly every day. Bench bets and platoon hitters need not apply.

Starting Pitching

If I only take one or two starting pitchers in the first 10 rounds of a Best Ball draft, that means that roughly half of my remaining 30 picks will be starting pitchers. And I am perfectly fine with that. That is because plenty of pitchers who are less desirable in Roto leagues make for solid Best Ball pieces. First and foremost, innings are of paramount importance. Of course, quality innings are great, but quantity is even more important. Starters who do not perform particularly well will still have significant value in Best Ball leagues. Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Lance Lynn finished outside the top 95 starting pitchers in ESPN’s Player Rater last season, which is based on Roto scoring. Yet all three ended 2023 as top-40 starting pitchers in total fantasy points.

There are plenty of nondescript starters throughout Major League Baseball who can be solid pieces for your Best Ball roster. The St. Louis Cardinals have taken some heat for the average age of their retooled starting rotation even following the retirement of Adam Wainwright. But if you can guarantee me that Kyle Gibson or Steven Matz will throw 150 innings this year, I will gladly take either one of them toward the end of drafts. Of course, there are no guarantees. Which is why you want as many players as possible who can eat innings. Last season, 45 hurlers threw at least 160 innings. All but three totaled at least 300 points. Considering there were only 55 starters who eclipsed the 300-point plateau, we can see a pretty healthy correlation between innings pitched and fantasy points scored.

In recent years we have seen starting pitchers throw fewer innings than ever before. A byproduct of this, as it relates to fantasy baseball leagues (especially Points leagues), is that starters have fewer two-start weeks. Spencer Strider averaged 18.55 points per game last season. Kyle Gibson only averaged 10.35. But because you are not setting your lineups each week, there will be weeks where a Gibson two-step has more implied value than a Strider one-start. That is something that you will not have to deal with on the hitting side. This is another reason why I am more concerned about quantity than quality when it comes to starting pitchers, and why I prioritize hitters early in drafts instead of starting pitchers. You may have noticed by now that I have not discussed relief pitchers. There is a reason for that.

No Relief

I am sure I will lose some of you with this piece of advice. Relief pitchers are an essential part of fantasy baseball rosters, and even more so in this age in which they contribute wins, saves, and holds in high numbers. However, relievers (even closers) are not the best bet to rack up huge point totals. Again, keep in mind that you do not need to draft a balanced roster. You just need to score as many points as possible. In the last three seasons, 74 pitchers have scored at least 425 points in a season. Only five were listed as relievers, and only four of those were closers. Last year, Felix Bautista put together one of the best seasons we have seen from a closer in recent memory. Mitch Keller, who was the SP36 in Roto leagues, outscored Bautista.

There is too much volatility when it comes to closers for me to invest in Best Ball leagues. We know about the injury risk that comes with most players, especially pitchers. But closers are also far more likely to lose their job due to performance than players at other positions. If a hitter or starting pitcher goes through a slump, they may miss a few games before returning to action. Once he returns to action, he may regain his role and be just as likely to put up fantasy points as he was previously. When a team removes a closer and places him in a different role in the bullpen, he loses nearly all of his future fantasy value. We see this happen all over the league every season.

Even a closer who makes it through the year relatively unscathed is not a lock to score a large number of fantasy points. Kenley Jansen finished 13th in the Majors with 29 saves last season but was 93rd in total points among all pitchers. Miles Mikolas was one of the least effective starters and still scored more points than Jansen in 2023. As with starting pitchers, if other fantasy managers are going to draft relievers near their ADP, I will happily punt on the position. The difference is that I will eventually draft enough starters to ensure I have a healthy number of innings, whereas I see no reason to draft a lower-level closer. And I certainly would not waste a precious draft pick trying to speculate on a potential closer down the road. You need to get the most out of each draft pick in Best Ball leagues.

Now that you know some of the secrets to my success, jump into the fray and join one of our Best Ball leagues here!

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