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10 Tips to Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball Snake Draft

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Jan 14, 2019

The strategy in snake drafts begins once luck determines who lands Mike Trout with the first pick.

First, let me preface this by saying that if you’re in charge of your league, you should really consider doing auction drafts. I get it, though. Auction drafts take a long time, and they are sort of next level. The concept of a snake draft doesn’t truly make sense. You’re assigning people numbers based on luck, which determines who they are allowed to pick. Instead of 12 people having a shot at Mike Trout, only one does.

That mini-rant out of the way, we are going to help you ace your snake draft since they are the most commonly used form of drafts in the fantasy industry. While luck determines your draft slot, strategy decides how your draft plays out. Sure, the Trout owner has a distinct advantage after Round 1, but they need to hit on just as many other picks as you do to capitalize.

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Know Your Settings and Leaguemates

This sounds obvious, but it’s crucial to having a successful draft. Regardless of the type of league (roto, head-to-head points, head-to-head categories), know the scoring. If it leans pitchers, adjust accordingly. If it’s OBP and not average, that changes a lot. If it’s saves plus holds, move those setup men up in your queue.

If it’s a league that continues each year, you should have a feel of your leaguemates. You know their tendencies and which way they lean. This will help you get a feel of which players might fall to you and when a positional run may start.

Know Your Service’s ADP

ESPN, Yahoo, Fantrax, CBS—they all have their positives and negatives when it comes to the fantasy service offered. A critical part, though, is to research the average draft position (ADP) on the service that you use. The four will differ drastically on different players each year, and you can use this to your advantage. If there is a player that CBS has going in Round 4 but Yahoo has him in Round 7, you can probably snatch them in Round 5 or Round 6 in your Yahoo draft. While each fantasy player should evaluate players on their own, the majority don’t produce their own rankings before entering a draft room.

Track Those Surrounding You

We discussed knowing your leaguemates, but if you don’t know or have a good read on them, you can still anticipate actions or moves. If you’re in the 10 spot, pay close attention to what Teams 11 and 12 are doing with their roster. By their roster makeup, you can try to identify where they may be going with their next few picks.

Say it’s the third round, and your pick is coming up. Team 11 took two hitters to start, and Team 12 took one hitter and one pitcher. You also went hitter and pitcher with your first two picks. You’re staring at your queue, and you see Trevor Bauer, Luis Severino, Walker Buehler, and Carlos Carrasco there as your top pitchers. But Starling Marte and Whit Merrifield are also there, and you really, really need speed. We know that Team 11 is likely to take at least one, if not two, pitchers with the next two picks. Team 12 could take one hitter and one pitcher or double up on one of them. What do you do in this situation?

You take the bat and the speed. If you group those pitchers together, you’re OK with one of them coming back to you. With the way the teams are constructed, you know it’s unlikely that both Teams 11 and 12 double up on arms at this point in the draft. Which leads us to …

Creating Tiers

Those four pitchers above are in the same tier. Along with two or three others. Tiers can be as small as one and as big as, well, whatever you see fit. A tier is grouping together players that you feel have similar value at a position. If you have Bauer, Severino, Carrasco, Buehler, and Noah Syndergaard as a pitching tier, it means that you’re OK not taking the top-ranked pitcher (Bauer) to instead go in another direction. You’ll be fine with Syndergaard instead. Tiers are crucial in drafts.

Wait on Catcher

For real, just do it. Outside of J.T. Realmuto and Gary Sanchez, fantasy owners are just looking for a pulse at the position. Grab one in the last round of your drafts, and for everyone’s sake, please stop playing in two-catcher leagues. It’s not a better strategy or a true test of your fantasy ability. It’s forcing you to roster two players that, if positions didn’t matter, shouldn’t be rostered at all.

Balance Ceiling and Floor

We all love shiny toys. We prefer them in drafts, and every year, you see them go higher and higher. This year, it’s Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Ronald Acuna. Acuna is nearly a first-round pick, while Guerrero is going to go in the third round in redraft leagues. While they are exciting to have, we know shiny toys come with risk. Guerrero and Acuna are no-doubt superstars, but others like Zack Godley and Luis Castillo last year didn’t quite live up to their pre-draft hype. Always look to get someone who will return value on where you draft them.

If you draft one of these shiny toys, be sure to try to take a safe, boring player later with a safe floor who can balance the shiny toy’s risk. Old guys matter, too.

Utilize the Utility

Nelson Cruz recently landed in Minnesota, which is great for his fantasy value, as Target Field favors pull-heavy, right-handed power hitters. But because Cruz has the utility tag, you’ll see him fall in drafts further than he should. If Cruz is going in the ninth or 10th round, you need to capitalize and take him in Round 8. Sure, he’s 39 years old, and he’s going to perform slightly worse this year than he did last year. That’s just how it works. Yet like David Ortiz for so many years, fantasy owners were hesitant to pull the trigger on a player who only has utility or DH eligibility. It’s OK to “clog” up that spot at any point in the draft. Don’t believe the fallacy that it isn’t. Just make sure to capitalize and grab Cruz at a value.

Speed, Speed, Speed

Using an arbitrary number, only four players stole more than 35 bases last season. Steals continue to be at a premium for fantasy owners unless you’re in one of those leagues where you pick a team and get all of their players and have the Royals. You need to decide how much it means to you to reach for steals early. It’s why players such as Trea Turner, Marte, and Merrifield are so coveted early. Please, though, don’t be the person reaching for Adalberto Mondesi this season. He can’t possibly repeat the stolen base numbers from last year. Seventh or eighth round? Sure. Third or fourth? Easiest pass of the draft.

Decide if Position Scarcity Means Anything to You

It depends, first, on how you define positional scarcity. To risk not going on a 500-word tangent, I’ll direct you to Amazon to check out the Fantasy Black Book, where Joe Pisapia breaks down the fallacy of positional scarcity and relative position value (RPV). Catcher is thin. We all know this. But trends are changing at other positions this year, as first base is shockingly light in the talent pool while shortstop is as deep as ever. Decide if this means something to you and adjust your rankings accordingly.

Write Your Plan in Pencil, Not Pen

We’ll end with an obvious one that gets overlooked too often. You may plan on going pitcher-pitcher at the turn in the first round, but all of the sudden, Nolan Arenado and Jose Altuve are staring you in the face. Don’t force yourself to go pitcher-pitcher just because that was your plan. A snake draft is all about adapting and adjusting throughout.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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