Mock drafts rooms are really starting to heat up. I know because I’m in them all the time. Seriously. I’ve got a three-a-day habit going. One advantage of a draft addiction, though, is the freedom to run experiments. You can dabble with different strategies and see how they work for you.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the abundance of “middle-class base stealers” and how it should affect your draft strategy. The basic idea was that with so many more options open to you in the middle-to-late rounds, you don’t need to prioritize SBs at the beginning of your draft like in years past. You can focus instead on power and position scarcity. Well, shortly after that, I began to realize the same can be said about middle-to-late-round pitching. I was drafting 3 elite options within the first 6 rounds, just like I did in recent seasons, and found that I had pitching in excess. I had to pass on late pitchers that I’m very excited about.
So last week I decided to change my strategy. I started only drafting 2 pitchers in the first 6 rounds. This still left me with pitching excess so I started going with only one. The teams looked better. I had a much more solid lineup and my staff was good enough to go into battle with for the long season.
Then the weekend came and I spent all of it with my wife and kids and couldn’t draft at all. I didn’t get the shakes, but I did get a hankering for the thrill of seeing just how far I could push things. What if I don’t draft any pitchers in the first 6 rounds? What if I draft my entire lineup first? How crazy would that be?
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
Drafting All Your Pitchers After Your Offense
Before I share the results of my draft binging with you, I should clarify the parameters of my experiment. I draft primarily on two different platforms. Fantrax (obviously) and Yahoo. Fantrax’s standard 5×5 categories (they also offer customizable!) include a corner infield slot, a middle infielder, 5 OFs, and 8 reserves. So add it all up and that means you have 30 rounds of drafting. In that case, I decided to fill all 13 hitter spots before tending to the 9 pitchers (7 SPs and 2 RPs) I need. That means my first pitcher should be taken after pick 156 in a 12-team league. Yahoo, conversely, has only 10 hitter spots as their default and only 23 rounds overall. In a standard league there, most teams roster 6 to 8 starting pitchers. So I made sure I drafted at least 8 SPs and 2 save sources. My first pitcher should be selected after pick 120. Here are my results:
Fantrax Mock Draft
|Position||Player||Round Taken||Overall Pick|
|Reserve 3B||Brett Baty||29||345|
|Reserve SS||Oswald Peraza||26||304|
|Reserve SS||Anthony Volpe||23||273|
|P||Tyler Glasnow (IL)||14||160|
|P||Lance McCullers (IL)||20||232|
|Reserve SP||Jared Shuster||24||280|
|Reserve SP||Aaron Ashby (IL)||27||321|
|Reserve SP||Matt Boyd||28||328|
|Reserve RP||Jose Leclerc||25||297|
|Reserve RP||Gregory Soto||30||352|
Fantrax Draft Takeaway
OK, I cheated a little. The SP field was rapidly dwindling so instead of filling my last OF spot in round 13, I grabbed Dustin May. I’m glad I did, or my highest-ranked SP to start the season would’ve been Patrick Sandoval. This pitching staff overall is pretty thin and based entirely on upside. And three of the pitchers will start the season on the IL. To compensate, I tried to grab extra saves sources. If I could at least win that every week, maybe I’d have a chance? In any case, wow, take a look at that lineup! Counting stats would NOT be a problem for this squad. Power numbers down this season? Not for me they’re not. My middle infield slot (Cruz) could go 30/30, my 4th outfielder (Kris Bryant) went 25 HR/10 SB with a .835 OPS just two years ago, and I have two bench players who have 20/30 upside. It would sure be fun to set my roster every night.
Yahoo Mock Draft 1
|Position||Player||Round Taken||Overall Pick|
|Reserve 1B/2B||Miguel Vargas||21||248|
|Reserve OF||Jarred Kelenic||23||272|
|Reserve SP||Kodai Senga||19||224|
|Reserve SP||Trevor Rogers||20||233|
|Reserve SP||Aaron Ashby (IL)||22||257|
Yahoo Draft 1 Takeaway
Drafting pitchers a few rounds earlier makes a big difference. I still ended up with Dustin May, but now I have three potential aces (Lance Lynn, Hunter Greene, and Chris Sale) in front of him. It’s still based on upside and injury risks, but it at least feels much deeper and only one pitcher will start on the IL (very late-round flyer Aaron Ashby). There are a lot of Ks there, too. I might only have to win one pitching category on a weekly basis because, sheesh, that lineup feels immaculate: dependable five-category players (Betts, Lindor, Arozarena) mixed perfectly with dependable power (Devers and Olson), a great SB source (Edman), and two huge prospects (Cruz and Carroll). What a fun squad!
Yahoo Mock Draft 2
|Position||Player||Round Taken||Overall Pick|
|SS||Fernando Tatis (Suspended)||02||032|
|Reserve 2B/SS||Nico Hoerner||18||214|
|Reserve 1B/2B||Miguel Vargas||23||267|
|SP||Lance McCullers (IL)||19||219|
|Reserve SP||Reid Detmers||20||238|
|Reserve SP||Trevor Rogers||21||243|
|Reserve SP||Jameson Taillon||22||262|
Yahoo Draft 2 Takeaway
I cheated a little here, too. I thought I’d lose Severino if I didn’t grab him with my 10th-round pick, and based on Yahoo ADP, I figured Kris Bryant would make it back to me 6 picks later. So I filled my position players with 10 of my first 11 picks instead of just the first ten. It feels like that paid off a little. Again, I’d need the upside to largely hit (Lodolo, Detmers, Rogers) and would need most of the injury guys (Sale, Lynn, Severino, Luzardo) to not be injury guys this season. My biggest problem with this draft, though? It feels like there’s a little too much uncertainty with the hitters. Will Fernando Tatis return healthy and just as dynamic? Will Jazz Chisholm finally give me a full season? Can Robert and Bryant stay healthy? Will Adley Rutschman take the next step? That’s too many questions after dedicating so much investment to one side of the lineup. Not as happy with this one.
Is This a Viable Strategy?
The results of this experiment sit somewhere between don’t-try-this-at-home and proceed-with-caution. In a standard Fantrax 5×5 league with such a large roster, I cannot recommend this strategy. It’s too dangerous because one, it will depend too much on upside and on oft-inured players. And two, because in a league that goes 360 players deep into the pool, you’re not likely to find decent replacements on the waiver wire if/when you’re upside doesn’t work out/injuries happen. In general, deep leagues need to be played more conservatively. You want roster balance and should take on less risk wherever possible.
The Yahoo leagues are different. They only go 276 players deep. This means I can likely find a pitcher or two on the wire during the season who can either help me through an injury to one of my solid guys or become one of my solid guys himself. And for daily leagues, there should be a decent pool of streaming pitcher options. If almost all my upside players bust, I can still win Ks and wins often by using all my weekly roster moves on daily starters. That’s a big-time commitment, though. Also, if you did employ this strategy on Yahoo, I recommend drafting very dependable early hitters. High-floor kind of players like Devers, Altuve, Olson, and Seager. If I’m banking on upside with pitching, I want my hitters to be as sure-thing as possible.
Finally, it’s important to note that mock draft rooms and real draft rooms vary greatly. In one of my Yahoo rooms, more than half the league was on Autodraft by the middle rounds. Getting all those late-round values probably won’t happen in real life. This experiment was mostly just to demonstrate how many SP options are available to you this year. The de-juiced ball has essentially narrowed the gap between elite pitchers and everyone else. Unlike recent seasons, you can really focus your early picks on power and position scarcity (get your 3B, OFs, and 2B early) rather than getting an “ace.” And you don’t have to be so extreme. Maybe mix in a couple of reliable arms to balance out the risks you’ll take later. If you have time, do some mocks yourself and see what I’m talking about. Ultimately, familiarity with the player pool is the single biggest weapon in a draft room. It prevents you from making panic picks and it allows you to create the strategy you’re personally most comfortable with. As always, good luck and have fun.
Is this a viable strategy or merely some mock draft room shenanigans? Leave your take in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!
Have you tried doing the opposite? Draft all pitchers first then batters!