I’m gonna do something no other fantasy baseball analyst is likely to do. I’m gonna admit to an area of weakness. I spent my fantasy childhood almost exclusively competing in NL- and AL-Only auction leagues. It’s still a format that I prefer for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I believe it gives every manager more control over how they shape their roster. My auction strategy has been honed over the years and I’m confident I will be a contender in any auction league I take part in. What has been harder to come by for me though, is a consistent draft strategy for mixed league snake drafts.
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Now, I’ve won my share of snake draft leagues, but I’ve also had my share of middle-of-the-pack finishes. I’ve always relied on a draft strategy that focuses on taking the best player available regardless of team needs. It’s worked well in active leagues where trading is easier and I can convert excess value in one category into value in other categories I need. It hasn’t worked so well in industry leagues where trades are generally a little harder to nail down. In order to be more consistent in snake drafts, the last couple of years I’ve put more of a focus on having a better-balanced team coming out of the draft.
I still lean toward the best player available, but over the last few years I’ve given myself a little more leeway and emphasized statistical and positional needs a bit more. With that in mind, I’ve settled on a blueprint for the first 10 rounds of my snake drafts. It’s really helped make my teams more balanced and offered me the freedom in later rounds to pick the best players and not worry about trying to catch up in certain categories.
Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy for the First 10 Rounds
To put this model into play in a quick but realistic environment I used the FantasyPros Mock Draft Simulator. If you haven’t used it you’re missing out on a great tool for getting ready for your upcoming drafts. It uses a combination of expert rankings and recent ADP to perform a mock draft that will take just a matter of minutes. It’s a great way to get a feel for the player pool in a short amount of time. You can even use their Draft Assistant to connect to your drafts and get in-draft advice on all of your picks. The draft simulator is free and the other great tools FantasyPros offers are very fairly priced.
I do allow myself the freedom to veer away from the formula if there’s an obvious play that doesn’t fit, but here are the ingredients I’m looking to acquire within the first 10 rounds of my drafts. I don’t tie each type of player to a specific draft slot, but if I collect these basic ingredients in these first 10 rounds, I know my team will have a balanced base that should have me contending for the championship if I hit on a few players in the later rounds.
- 2 Pitchers with proven No. 1 Starter Upside
- 2 Sources of 20+ Steals
- 3 Sources of 30+ HRs
- 1 Top Tier Closer
- 1 SP with upside and good K potential
- 1 more solid hitter without regard to category strengths
- 1 of my hitters has to be a third baseman. That position gets barren really fast and I don’t want to be reaching later on for the last decent bat at the position
There’s still some flexibility here, but this draft strategy should allow me to build a balanced roster that allows me to take the best values later on and also take a few shots on those personal sleepers we all have.
Mock Draft Results
So how did this draft strategy work out? You be the judge. I just finished the mock and I’m a little wishy-washy about the results. Here are my first 10 picks:
1. Jose Ramirez, 3B, CLE
I drew the No. 3 pick, so I felt pretty good about getting a five-category stud. I vacillated between Jose Ramirez and a few other studs. In the end, Ramirez met my desire to have a top third baseman and he could potentially meet my thresholds on steals and homers.
2. Randy Arozarena, OF, TB
I gotta be honest. I’m not sure I see Arozarena as a second-rounder, but in a 15-team draft, the power speed combos dry up pretty quickly. I do think he’s got room for growth on the power front if he ever builds any kind of consistency, but mark this down as one pick I have second thoughts on.
3. Aaron Nola, SP, PHI
Nola has never quite made that jump to fantasy ace, as there always seems to be a category he falls short in. Still you have to like the 200-plus innings of sub-1.00 WHIP and 220-plus strikeouts. On a Philly team that should once again compete for the title in the east, 15 wins is certainly in reach. So it might be a matter of my perception of him. Whether he’s a true No.1 fantasy starter or not he makes a nice base.
4. Daulton Varsho, C/OF, TOR
I do think there’s some risk here, but Varsho could potentially meet my power and speed threshold and he’s eligible at the catcher position. I would have rather waited another round, but current ADP says he likely wouldn’t have been there.
5. Devin Williams, RP, MIL
Williams’ name doesn’t instantly pop in your head when you think of elite closers, but one look at the numbers and you could make a pretty good argument that he’s one of the top three in baseball. He came four strikeouts away from the century mark last season and that was with a bit of a rough start to the season. Williams also has virtually no competition for the job. I’m not a fan of grabbing a closer this early but if I want one of the elites, I had to jump here.
6. Robbie Ray, SP, SEA
Ray was nowhere near as much of a fantasy force as he was in 2021, but the strikeouts were still there and his control gains were for the most part retained. If you believe in xERA his 2022 season was virtually identical to his 2022 season. Regardless, I feel like it’s a tight squeeze to call him a No. 1 starter. After running through this mock draft simulator one thing becomes clear. Drafters are grabbing up all the frontline starters in 2023 fantasy baseball drafts. If you’re in a 12-team you can wait a bit, but you better jump quickly in 15-team leagues.
7. Byron Buxton, OF MIN
I may be the biggest Buxton detractor in the fantasy industry. Or at least I thought I was. Seeing him available in the seventh round was quite the surprise. Still he 28 HRs in just 382 PAs in 2022 and if the Twins let him run he’s got 30-SB upside as well. If he stays healthy… Hell, let’s not pretend. If he can play 120 games, I’m probably happy with what he’ll produce.
8. Kris Bryant, OF, COL
It was at this point in the draft where the hitters all started to blend together. There were plenty of hitters who offer solid power and a bit of speed available as well. Bryant has been a huge disappointment in recent years, but I’m gonna give him one more Mulligan in Colorado. If he happens to regain third base eligibility I’ll be all the happier. He is another health concern and I’m not sure I like that immediately after drafting Buxton. Consider this a big question mark and a pick I have second thoughts on.
9. Freddy Peralta, SP, MIL
Round nine and I still need to add that third starting pitcher with upside and strikeout potential. Peralta has shown that kind of upside as recently as 2021. Injuries derailed his 2022 season and he’s another health risk on this roster. Still, if healthy he’s a definite No. 2 fantasy starter who could contribute in four categories. I felt like he offered more upside than any starting pitcher available at this point in the draft.
10. Jose Miranda, 1B/3B, MIN
Miranda is a bit of a personal favorite of mine as I think there’s more upside here than people think. This is a player that hit .345 with 30 HRs between Double- and Triple-A in 2021. He struck out at just an 18.8% rate last year and finished the year strong. Is the 10th round too early for him? Maybe, but I’m making a point dammit!
And the Verdict
I think my team is balanced and I have a solid base but I think I’ll have to gain some profit on the hitting side later in the draft. This little exercise is great practice and you learn real quick where the shortages are. This year it seems that elite pitching will be in demand and there doesn’t seem to be as much power to go around as in past years. Of course, the rule changes regarding the shift could have an impact that we aren’t able to judge as of yet.
Regardless of the way you feel about the team I drafted, I encourage you to test this draft strategy out with the FantasyPros Draft Simulator and then carry it out in your other mock drafts as well. Maybe this draft strategy isn’t what you have in mind. Regardless, exercises like this will help you be prepared when D-Day gets here.
Are you buying in on Doug’s draft strategy? For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!