So I thought I’d do something a little different and quite possibly a bit embarrassing. I initially wrote this draft strategy piece for the Tout Wars 15-team Draft and Hold prior to last year’s draft. As I write this the 2020 iteration is just getting ready to start. Hopefully, by the time you’re reading this, we’ll be a few rounds in. It is a slow draft though, so we’ll see how that goes. You can check in to see how it’s going with the live look at the draft board.
This little corner of the Tout Universe consists of a 15-team, 50-player Draft and Hold League. This format mirrors the setup for the NFBC Draft Champion contests so the takeaways that follow may offer some insights on that if you’re thinking of jumping in that pool.
Normally I wouldn’t discuss my draft strategy for a specific league, but there’s no way the participants in this league are worried about what I’m gonna do. When you see the field of owners you’ll know why. Anyway, I thought it would be useful to look at my draft strategy from last year, see how it worked (or didn’t), and discuss changes for this year. I’ll wrap my strategies from last year in a quotes block and add my thinging for 2020 directly after.
My 2019 Tout Wars Draft and Hold Team
Just to set the context. Here is the roster of my 2019 Draft and Hold team. Don’t laugh. Go back and look at your drafts from last year. I’ll wait. Yeah, we all have some shady things in our past. Besides, this team managed to finish sixth. Not great, but top 40% in a league like this isn’t too bad.
*If the image above is too small you can click on it to see it in full size.
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Tout Wars Draft and Hold Basics
Draft and Hold leagues seem to be gaining steam as a way of still experiencing the joys of draft day, without some of the time-consuming tasks of in-season management. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be drafting 50-player teams via a slow draft on Fantrax. The draft had better go well because those 50 players are all I have to use over the entire season. There are no trades and there is no waiver wire. What you draft is what you get. The only way to affect your roster is through lineup moves.
The Tout Wars Draft and Hold league is a traditional two-catcher league with 23-player active rosters. It’s 5X5 with on-base percentage in place of batting average.
2020 Draft and Hold Participants
Check out the field of experts from all around the industry I’ll be participating against. For a newer league, the names on this list are pretty damn established. This also happens to be the draft order… Maybe I got Gilloolied… Actually, we got to bid on the draft slots and it was based on the order of last year’s finish. I love to draft near the turn so my order of preference was 1, 2, 3, 15, 14. I know 15 was one of my preferences and you can most definitely win from there, but I have to admit my fragile psyche took a bit of a hit when that news came down.
- Mike Sheets of ESPN Daily Notes – @MikeASheets
- James Anderson of Rotowire – @RealJRAnderson
- Matt Modica of The Athletic – @ctmbaseball
- Michael Stein of Fantasy Judgment – @FantasyJudgment
- Jon Hegglund of Baseball Prospectus – @JonHegglund
- Brad Johnson of The Baseball A Team – @BaseballATeam
- Anthony Aniano of RotoBaller – @AAnianoFantasy
- Alan Harrison of The Fantasy Fix – @TheFantasyFix
- Vlad Sedler of Fantasy Guru Elite – @rotogut
- Dr. Roto of Full-Time Fantasy – @DrRoto
- Jeff Boggis of Fantasy Football Empire – @JeffBoggis
- Jeff Mans of Fantasy Guru Elite – @Jeff_Mans
- Craig Mish of SportsGrid – @CraigMish
- Michael Florio of FantraxHQ – @MichaelFFlorio
- Doug Anderson of FantraxHQ – @RotoDaddy
Draft and Hold Draft Strategy
Maybe draft strategy is the wrong way to phrase it. You can see more how I like to build my teams in my articles on hitting strategy and pitching strategy. The following paragraphs are more a list of considerations in dealing with this format. There won’t likely be any Fantasy Einstein moments, but hopefully, it gives you a few things to think about if you play in a similar format.
The two strategy pieces linked above are from 2019, but my main philosophies haven’t changed. In fact I’d say a lot more people are following a similar draft strategy.
Draft Two Aces?
I’ve been spouting off for months about the increased value of elite starting pitchers and how it’s crucial to roster two of them in the first four rounds. Tout Draft and Hold is a 15-team league. That means it’s going to be harder to get two pitchers out of the group I am targeting and the hit on offense will be more severe. I can adapt to deal with the loss in offense, but I may have to lower my standards for my second starting pitcher. Ideally, though I’d still like to get two starters from the Sweet 16 of starting pitchers as Matt Modica called it.
This strategy remains solid. Pitching aces are more valuable than ever. We just didn’t do such a good job of identifying the right ones in 2019. At least half of that sweet 16 were undeniable busts. I also did a terrible job of following up my deGrom pick last year. David Price as my second starting pitcher? Nathan Eovaldi after that? Ouch! I finished sixth? Anyway, I’ll be looking to grab two ace-quality starters this year. I might have to use two of my first three picks to do it. Yeah, 15-team leagues force some tough decisions. For reference here is the current ADP for starting pitchers on Fantrax.
Good Environment for Middle Relievers and High Upside Starters
You know I like to use high-K, low-WHIP middle relievers. If you’re not onboard with using middle relievers in mixed leagues, here are 7 reasons you should be. Fifteen-team leagues are very favorable to middle relievers. There are going to be a lot of questionable starters drafted. They can ruin your ERA and WHIP, which can be extremely hard to correct without the ability to trade. For that reason, I’ll be looking to roster at least three middle relievers.
While I will largely stay away from the ugly underbelly of starting pitchers, that doesn’t mean I won’t take a few shots at high upside starters. The large bench means I can put them on my bench and let them prove themselves. They key in this draft will be to gauge when to pounce on this type of pitcher. If I use two early picks on top starters, I’ll need to focus on offense for most of the middle of the draft. Will my upside targets be available? Hopefully, I can get the feel for how that goes, but with so many experienced players, I’m not sure there will be a real pattern to this draft.
This stuff is genius… So, why then, did I not follow my own advice? I drafted way too many questionable starting pitchers and Chad Green and Brad Peacock had pretty disappointing years. I did grab Hector Neris in this league and many others. He saved my bacon in the saves category. I’ll look to actually follow through on this draft strategy this year. With two categories being devoted to ratios (ERA & WHIP), it’s just not smart to draft ratio killers. I’ll still target a few high-upside arms, but relievers will have to be a bigger emphasis in 2020. Honestly, if I don’t finish top-three in ERA and WHIP, I’ll consider it a disappointment. These two categories are maybe the easiest ones to exploit. We all need to stop drafting mediocre starting pitchers in the chase for wins and strikeouts.
Roster Flexibility and No Holes
With no ability to add to my team, two things are going to be very important. One is that I can’t afford to have any holes on offense. I can use middle relievers as safety valves on the pitching side, but I need to have every position covered on my offense, plus reserve players to slot in when injuries inevitably happen. That brings into play my second point. It’s going to be very beneficial to draft good players eligible at multiple positions. Tout uses 15 games played for eligibility purposes so that adds a few options. Either way you can bet I’ll be targeting these types of players to make it easier to roll with the punches when my starting players take a hit.
Again this part of my draft strategy is solid, even if it’s pretty much common sense. The issue is how deep this 50-player draft goes. I’ve played in NL- and AL-Only leagues ever since I began fantasy baseball in 1992. The speed at which every position thinned out in this draft still surprised me. We all like target late-round upside. After round 25 in this 15-team league we were targetting players who MIGHT get 200 at-bats.
Catchers and Closers
This kind of meshes with the previous paragraph, but covering all the positions and all the categories will be huge. Wait too long on catchers or closers and you are sacrificing production. The middle relievers I’ll target will hopefully chime in with a decent amount of saves, but I’ll need at least one reliable (is there such a thing?) closer.
I won’t likely reach for a top catcher, but I would very much like to stay away from the lower levels where negative value lives. Hopefully, the league waits on catchers long enough for me to build a good offense and grab a couple useful catchers. Because if I get locked out of the position, it’s not likely a good catcher is just going to pop up from a reserve pick.
It should be easy right? Build a top offense without drafting bad starting pitchers, grab a couple of closers, and two solid catchers… Again in 15-team leagues like this, it’s hard to cover all the bases. I just need to do a better job of covering them than last year. I could deal with a similar catcher situation as in 2019 (Grandal and Mejia), but I have to grab two relatively safe closers. and hopefully hit on another arm who inherits the job during the season.
The Need for Speed?
As far as speed goes, I’m hoping one of the multi-category studs will still be there at pick 14. I’ll draft the most valuable player at that point regardless, but all things being equal I’d like to get at least 20 SBs as a base. After that, I’ll try to draft players who get me at least a handful of steals each. I likely won’t chase the one-category wonders unless they fall pretty far.
Yeah, speed is hard to come by without drafting rabbits who hurt you everywhere else. I’m starting to wonder if it’s getting too much hype though. I do want to finish at least middle of the pack, but I think there’s another category where I might be able to sneak away with some sneaky points.
Everybody’s chasing the obviously valuable speed/power combos, and yeah, I’ll do it too. But in that chase, a lot more people seem willing to absorb hitters with sub .240 batting averages and on-base percentages barely over .300. You have to draft so much power to compete these days that batting average and OBP have gone by the wayside a bit.
Tout Wars uses OBP instead of AVG, so if I can just finish seventh or eighth in SB, but avoid OBP drains, a top-3 finish in that category should be a doable target. And remember, you don’t have to win any category. I’m aiming top-three to six in all categories. That should have me near the top. Mike Sheets won the league last year with 131 pts. That’s averaging a third place in each category. The next few finishers were all close to 100 points, a sixth-place category average.
It’s an OBP League
I’m not counting on it, but much of the content we provide in the fantasy baseball industry is geared toward batting average. I expect the people in this draft to account for that, but I still expect a few values to fall through the cracks. In fact, I’m actually working on an article that highlights the players that gain and lose the most when moving to an OBP league. I’ll be using that data heavily for this draft.
Not gonna sneak much by this group of owners, but OBP is easier to project than AVG, so if I place a bit more emphasis on it as I mentioned earlier, I think this category can be manipulated a bit.
Everyone likes to boast about how they don’t jump in on the runs on certain types of players that happen in pretty much every draft. I set no such rules. In a 15-team draft you can quickly get locked out of a position or category. Sometimes it’s okay to zig when everybody else is zagging. Ideally, I’ll start those runs, but that’s easy to say and hard to do. The key will be in not waiting so long that I put myself in a bad situation.
Yep. I drafted at 14 last year and will be at 15 this year. I better be the one starting the runs, because there will be 28 picks between my opportunities. It’s gonna hurt, but at some point, I’m gonna have to pass by a good hitter and draft a closer… and then do it again later. Catcher? We’ll see what happens.
The Hitting/Pitching Split
Normally this term is used to talk about how you’ll allocate your money in a fantasy baseball auction. In this case, I’m speaking on roster construction. A 50-player roster leaves a lot of leeway in how I build it. As far as I know, there are no limitations on how I fill my roster, as long as I can field a legal active roster. It’s gonna be a little tricky. I want to get enough depth on offense so that I can weather any injury storms that come along. But I also want to roster plenty of pitching so I can stream in for favorable matchups and cover up any duds. Right now I’m thinking my reserve roster will mirror my active roster as far as makeup. I suspect I’ll be able to grab a few middle relievers I like pretty late, so I may build up offensive depth first.
Yep. What he said… Or what I said. The one thing I’ve promised myself is that I will have a larger supply of usable middle relievers this year. If I plan on exploiting ERA and WHIP they will be a key ingredient.
What else should I be thinking about in my draft strategy for this league? Am I missing anything? I’ve played in plenty of deep leagues, and many that didn’t allow trades. With no waiver wire either this is something new for me. Feel free to make fun of my picks on Twitter @rotodaddy. Better yet, throw me a few suggestions.
The 2020 Tout Wars Draft and Hold begins on Monday, February 17 and will hopefully be done by Opening Day. Again, you can follow along HERE.
You buying in on Doug’s Draft Strategy for Tout Wars Draft and Hold? Throw some shade or heap some praise in the comments below.
2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings
- AL-Only Rankings: | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP |
- NL-Only Rankings: | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP |
- Mixed League Rankings: | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP |
- Mike Kurland’s Ranks, Tiers, and profiles: | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP |
For all the rankings, strategy, and analysis you could ever want, check out the 2020 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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