2019 Fantasy Baseball: Points League Draft Strategy
I went to my first real music festival in 2018. That’s right, I waited until I was 27 to attend my first festival. I had been to concerts before, but never an all-day festival. After drinking lots at an all-day country concert tailgate on Saturday, I ventured out hungover to the festival. The first performance I wanted to see was Third Eye Blind. They played all their hits, but looking around I noticed it was an older, more mature crowd. These concertgoers were experienced and enjoyed themselves, but the energy was down significantly. That is how I would explain Roto leagues. They are the more traditional way to play Fantasy Baseball, but it cannot replicate the energy of Fantasy Football. Rooting every play for your guy to rack up points and also rooting against your opponent players. That is where points leagues come in.
Later that night at the festival, I got to see Eminem (you can consider me a Stan). It was the best concert I have ever attended. The crowd was going crazy, jumping and singing along to every song. There was a certain energy. That is the energy we need in our fantasy sports. That is points leagues to me!
Why Play in Points Leagues
The reason I advocate for points leagues is because they are simply more fun. I play in both formats every year, but points are my prefered style of play. Roto does reward the team that is best in the 5×5 categories. However, points ties in more of the game of baseball, as quality starts, walks, doubles, hit by pitches, etc all equate to fantasy points. Additionally, it is the only way to replicate the Sunday sweats of Fantasy Football. Have you ever been down 10 points with one of your pitchers going against one of your opponent’s hitters in Sunday Night Baseball? There are a ton of scenarios like this that will have you sweating out the game, with a win or loss potentially coming down to one play, just like Fantasy Football. Points leagues are simply the best way to get that thrill, which is why we play. You simply will not sweat that way in Roto until likely September.
Whether you play in points league or roto it’s time to start thinking 2019 fantasy baseball! Leagues are already forming at Fantrax.com, so head on over and start or join a league today.
Points League Draft Strategy for 2019
Now that you are sold on points leagues, we need to talk points league draft strategy. First, to help you best prepare, I have a points league series that uses Batter K-BB% to find values and busts in points leagues, exclusively in the Fantrax draft kit. The biggest difference you will see from me, more in points but also in Roto, is I address the starting pitcher position earlier than most. My logic is, pitchers are going less and less innings, you need to get that ace that is going to give you 180-200+ innings of elite baseball. Not saying you need to use your first pick on a starter, but two of my first four, five at the very latest, will be pitchers. A points league strategy that I dubbed a couple years back as Aces and Upside is still the way I attack the pitcher position today.
Even with the emphasis on pitching, my first pick is almost always a hitter. Since you will not be loading up with batters in the first few rounds like some opponents, I recommend taking a more proven pick with your first. That means leaving some upside on the board, like Trea Turner in years past, or a Nolan Arenado over Ronald Acuna this season. You can still go after the upside bat if you want, but I like to have a stable core of hitters. In the second round I typically grab another batter. If you go this route it allows you to take a less proven player with one of the first two picks. If one of Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer or Chris Sale was there, I would consider taking a pitcher then. Otherwise, I leave the arms to the 3rd and 4th rounds.
Aces & Upside
This is where my Aces and Upside points league draft strategy starts to go into effect. In 2018 there were only 32 pitchers who pitched 180-plus innings. Innings are super important in points because volume is king. Much like in Fantasy Football, you want the guys getting the ball the most. Not that all 180-plus inning throwers are created equal, but those who can give you a strikeout per inning and not allow a bunch of walks or runs are key. Of those 32 pitchers to go 180-plus innings in 2018, only 15 averaged a strikeout per inning. Of those 15, only 12 of them had an ERA of 3.40 or lower. You can see why I would emphasize this position early. In the third round some targets of mine currently include Blake Snell, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Trevor Bauer, etc. Obviously if one of the higher ranked pitchers falls (which is possible) jump all over it. In the fourth round you should grab any of those listed starters if they are still available. If not, some other names to consider are Carlos Carrasco, Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and Walker Buehler. These pitchers all have the upside to finish the season as Top-10 pitchers. In fact, the last three names can all finish as a Top 5 SP if everything breaks right. Not to say Carrasco doesn’t have that upside, it’s just not as high as the other three in my opinion, but he is the safest of that group.
Regardless of who you select, you now have the Aces part of my points league draft strategy complete. That is the most important part of this strategy. It allows you to have two workhorse aces that you can start every week, barring injury. That should give you an advantage on most of the owners in your league. Some others may select two starters, but I would be shocked if anyone took three. The majority likely would have one, and there will be those thinking they can select no starters early and load up in the middle and later rounds. That is a strategy that is much better utilized in Roto, where you can get by with elite per inning pitchers and not rely on volume as much. Do not be the guy who implements a Roto strategy in a points league.
In the next few rounds you will have other teams loading up on arms, as they play catch up there. That allows you to take the hitters you want here. While the rest of the league is zigging, you can zag. Also, it is easier to find value bats in points leagues than starters. You need to look for hitters that draw walks, limit strikeouts, hit doubles, and then total Runs/RBIs since each is a point in standard points leagues. Also, do not value stolen bases like you would in a Roto league. In Roto leagues they are one of five offensive categories, meanwhile, in a standard points league they are worth two points. That means three stolen bases are equivalent to one solo home run. Points leagues treat stolen bases more like the MLB does, rather than Roto leagues.
While loading up on bats I will tell you this… never select a catcher early. They simply do not get enough volume to justify taking early. I attack the catcher position in one of two ways. I find a value I like in the catcher 8-12 range, give or take. Some guys I have taken in recent years include Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. They worked out, but I have also ended up platooning the catcher position, much like tight ends in Fantasy Football.
While I do load up on bats between the fifth and 10th round or so, I do usually select one more pitcher. You can think of this pitcher as the bridge between the aces and the upside arms. Typically, I target a pitcher that I think has the upside to make that jump and potentially finish as a Top 20 pitcher. Two years ago my main target here was James Paxton. Last year it was Masahiro Tanaka that was my main target. These are pitchers who I felt very confident would return SP3 value, but have upside for more. This year pitchers who fit that mold are German Marquez and Zack Wheeler. I will target one of these pitchers in the sixth or seventh round. The rest of my picks are used on non-catcher hitters.
The Middle Rounds
In the double-digit rounds is where you will want to start addressing more pitchers. The pitchers to target here need to check off one of two boxes: they either need to have breakout upside (think Blake “Bae” Snell, Patrick Corbin, or Mike Foltynewicz from last season) or they need to be an underrated points league pitcher. First, these pitchers with upside should show traits of dominance, with some warts in previous seasons. Whether they be control issues, an injury, a down season, whatever the case may be. If there is the upside to outlive the ADP, take the shot, as long as you believe in the upside. Some pitchers that fit the bill this season are Joe Musgrove, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood, Zack Godley, Jimmy Nelson and Trevor Richards for those in deeper leagues.
The double-digit rounds of your draft should be a mix between hitters to fill out your starting lineup and plenty of pitchers. Typically, my bench in points leagues will be all upside starters. The reasoning is because it allows you to not only take as many upside shots as possible, increasing the chances that some hit, but it also allows you to stream each week. Doing this allows you to both stream matchups and gives you a better chance of having two-start pitchers on your team, which are hugely valuable in weekly points leagues. In this format your lineup typically locks on Monday, meaning you get however many starts you have in your lineup for the week. The more pitchers you have with two, the bigger the advantage. If you want a bench bat or two that’s fine, but the majority, if not all, should be upside arms. Some pitchers who qualify as a later round upside arm are Freddy Peralta, Marcus Stroman, Jake Junis, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, Michael Pineda, Trevor Cahill, and Joe Ross.
The End Game
In the later rounds is where you should look to add your catcher and relief pitchers. While closers are uber valuable in Roto, they are devalued in points. Typically, points leagues will have two RP spots that can be used by any player with RP eligibility, including starters with RP eligibility. Also, because each team can roster two closers there will be options to be had on the waiver wire. Even with the number of teams with an unknown closer or a committee, you should be able to wait and be okay. Normally, I identify a lower-end RP1 that I really like and will pull the trigger there, usually as the 10th or so team nabbing a closer. I then take a higher-end RP2, to mitigate the risk.
Hopefully my Aces and Upside points league draft strategy helps you as much as it has helped me in points leagues! But now that I gave you a strategy to help you win… let me tell you how to improve your points league!
My biggest draw to Roto was the fact that it made me dive deeper. A traditional Roto league has all the traditional infield spots, as well as a corner and middle infielder, and five outfield spots, rather than the traditional three in standard points leagues. Also, there’s typically nine pitcher spots, instead of the typical five starts and two relievers in points. So my home league expanded our points leagues, adding a MI, CI, OF, and SP spot. I would be down to add even more. The deeper the better, am I right?
If you have any questions feel free to hit me up on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.
Did you find Michael’s points league draft strategy useful? For more great fantasy baseball rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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