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Pocket Rockets – 2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

Feb 26, 2019

Max Scherzer and Chris Sale are set apart from the other pitchers

When most are preparing for a draft, they find the values they like compared to ADP, highlight those players and call it a day. For me, I’m always looking for the holes to exploit in each league’s settings. Maybe that isn’t fun for you, but if you don’t do it, someone else will and I’ll bet my bottom dollar they win your league. Roto leagues and especially head to head leagues have a weakness in that your team can carry a 99.99 ERA and 0 homers yet still win, just so long as you are great in every other category. Now, you know those aren’t the best examples, of course, because high ERAs heavily correlate to high WHIPs and partially to low Ws, Ks and saves. Likewise, homers tie into RBIs and runs.

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I’ve written quite a bit on the Marmol Strategy being my cheat code of choice over the last few years. It still is the best for some league settings and depending on where you pick in the draft (I’ll get to that later), but this year, Pocket Rockets has surpassed the Marmol in my mind. In Marmol, perfect execution sees you punting wins and Ks while finishing top three in the other eight standard categories. Essentially your maximum outcome is about 100 roto points out of 120. That should win your league, but the room for error isn’t as high as I would like it to be. Since you aren’t picking a pitcher until the 11th round, and zero starters the entire draft, your lineup is loaded so it becomes easy to dominate the hitting categories. Likewise, rostering only relievers will help tremendously with saves, ERA and WHIP.

There are strategies where you are forced to punt only one category, but it becomes more difficult to place near the top in all nine of the other categories. That is until last year when the landscape of baseball so quickly evolved. Suddenly, 170 innings for a starting pitcher is great durability. We’d be thrilled if Clayton Kershaw or James Paxton reached that mark, and those are some of the safest pitchers. In 2019, I see 16 starting pitchers who I trust, and in Pocket Rockets (named for getting two aces early), I now want three, or even four of those top 16 starting pitchers. Doing so will virtually guarantee my teams will dominate ERA, WHIP, Ks and Wins. Since my rotation is lights out, I can wait on closers and grab four third-tier ones late, which won’t kill me in ERA and WHIP, but will place me in the top three for saves as well. Wait, if you are only drafting one hitter in the first five rounds, how can you compete in ANY hitting category.

Remember how I said homers correlate so closely with RBI and runs? Well the reverse is true with batting average. If you want to compete in batting average, you’ve got to go out and get your players early. meanwhile, if you entirely punt batting average, value opens up all over the hitting side of the equation. Suddenly, Joey Gallo soars to a top 20 fantasy hitter. You can wait until the 10th round to grab him. There are countless examples of the same type of thing. If you wait on offense then load up with power-only bats late, you can still win Homers, RBI and runs. Oh, by the way, Billy Hamilton‘s ADP is depressed because of his batting average as well. I’ll take 50 steals in the 14th round, thank you very much.

Pocket Rockets has always been a solid backup option for those leagues where minimum innings or starting roster requirements block you from destroying your league with the Marmol. This year, however, it is my go-to and I’m recommending it to almost everyone else as well.

What are the main goals of Pocket Rockets?

  • Draft four of the top 16 starting pitchers
  • When you fill out your rotation, get guys with inning concerns, but great ratios
  • Wait until the 15th round to work on your bullpen, then grab four safe closers
  • Don’t pick any hitters with a projected batting average over .270. It is a waste of draft capital
  • Feel free to reach for the best power hitters in the game and especially Billy Hamilton
  • Punt batting average completely
  • Dominate the other nine categories

When should I use Pocket Rockets?

If you pick 1st or 2nd, you must still take Mike Trout or Mookie Betts. There is no excuse, even for a great strategy. Now, if you can trade either for some great picks, go for it, but otherwise, you’ve got to go with the Marmol Strategy or the Bichette Strategy (more on that next week). If you pick 3rd or later, I’m grabbing Max Scherzer. Yeah, I’d “reach” that high for him. Once Scherzer is gone, take Chris Sale in the first round. If both Scherzer and Sale are gone, you can turn to Jacob deGrom, but I’d prefer to just grab Trea Turner or Ronald Acuna. Turner will jump start your team on steals and runs, which are the weakest categories in this strategy outside of batting average. Acuna, meanwhile, is nearly as valuable as Trout and Betts once you remove batting average from the equation.

If your league uses on-base percentage instead of batting average, this works even better, since power correlates well with OBP. If your league uses both, feel free to still use the strategy, as although OBP won’t be a strong point, you are still only punting one category. Virtually every other league allows for the execution of Pocket Rockets, which affords you a ceiling of 109 roto points. I’ll show you how to get there in a moment.

Who should I target?

Four of the safe starting pitchers

  1. Max Scherzer
  2. Chris Sale
  3. Jacob deGrom
  4. Blake Snell
  5. Justin Verlander
  6. Trevor Bauer
  7. Gerrit Cole
  8. Corey Kluber
  9. Aaron Nola
  10. Luis Severino
  11. Noah Syndergaard
  12. Walker Buehler
  13. Carlos Carrasco
  14. Patrick Corbin
  15. Zack Greinke
  16. Stephen Strasburg

Late starters to round out your rotation

  1. Josh James
  2. Ross Stripling
  3. Yu Darvish
  4. Rich Hill
  5. Tyler Glasnow
  6. Alex Reyes

Safe closers after round 14

  1. Kirby Yates
  2. Will Smith
  3. David Robertson
  4. Jose Alvarado
  5. Arodys Vizcaino
  6. Archie Bradley
  7. Cody Allen
  8. Mychal Givens
  9. Drew Steckenrider

Shots in the dark at elite saves

  1. Jordan Hicks
  2. Trevor May
  3. Matt Barnes
  4. Pedro Strop

Elite power values

  1. Matt Carpenter
  2. Justin Upton
  3. Nelson Cruz
  4. Gary Sanchez
  5. Josh Donaldson
  6. Joey Gallo
  7. Rougned Odor
  8. Matt Olson
  9. Travis Shaw
  10. Brian Dozier
  11. Salvador Perez
  12. Mike Moustakas
  13. Miguel Sano

Late power bats

  1. Paul DeJong
  2. Randal Grichuk
  3. C.J. Cron
  4. Yonder Alonso
  5. Max Kepler
  6. Kyle Seager
  7. Jorge Soler
  8. Joc Pederson
  9. Trey Mancini
  10. Kendrys Morales
  11. Mark Trumbo
  12. Justin Smoak

Power/Speed combo hitters

  1. Cody Bellinger
  2. A.J. Pollock
  3. Jonathan Villar
  4. Wil Myers
  5. Andrew McCutchen
  6. Yoan Moncada
  7. Byron Buxton
  8. Ryan Braun
  9. Steven Souza
  10. Domingo Santana
  11. Ian Happ
  12. Todd Frazier

Super Speeders

  1. Raul Adalberto Mondesi
  2. Billy Hamilton
  3. Dee Gordon
  4. Mallex Smith
  5. Victor Robles

Now, I’ll show you a sample roster that I created using a 12-team roto league in Draft Wizard.

I built this team picking from the three spot just to demonstrate that even in the worst-case scenario, it still works. As you can see, the lineup is unbelievable despite picking four pitchers in the first five rounds. ERA and WHIP are a gimme with that group at the top of my lineup. In other drafts, Ks and wins were at the top, and I often finished 2nd in saves, but at the expense of dropping a few spots in stolen bases and runs. Here are the players that brought me this 103 score:

If you have any questions about the strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @BobbyFantasyPro. Thanks for reading and good luck!

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