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Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Punting a Category to Win (2023)

Feb 24, 2023
Manny Machado

The variance in Manny Machado’s batting average is an example of a reason to punt the category.

When playing fantasy baseball, it is all about value. Usually, in a rotisserie or head-to-head categories league, most people are looking to build a balanced roster. You tend to spread auction money and draft picks on different types of players to make sure you acquire enough of each of the category’s statistics to be competitive in every category. For instance, let’s say in your average 12-team 5×5 league, the winner (on average) usually accumulates 100 total roto points. This would mean that in order to win, you would be targeting third place in each of the ten categories if you employed a balanced approach. However, when you punt a category, you flip the script.

The premise is simple: if you ignore one category during your draft and auction, you can load up on the others. Instead of attempting to finish third in ten categories, you are looking to get first or second in nine and the one point for last in the punted category. The strategy allows you to load up in the other categories without chasing another statistic. This is a strategy that has a bit more risk as you really need to nail the other categories, but if done correctly, punting can be a strategy that allows you to simplify your draft targets by eliminating one (or more) of the categories from your equations while throwing off the values of players for the other members of your league.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

Punting a Fantasy Baseball Category to Win

Punting Saves

We all know the variance in saves from year to year. Closers are the most volatile position in fantasy baseball. It is estimated that in any given year, about 40-50% of Opening Day closers lose their jobs. Punting saves in a draft allows you to put money in other places in your pitching staff and in your offense. You do not want to ignore relievers because they can fall into closing roles or at least help keep your ratios down. Saves often become available in every league, especially in 10 and 12-team leagues. Whether it is because of guys losing jobs or because there is always a team in every league that drafts too many closers, saves are usually easier to acquire after the draft.

Punting Stolen Bases

Year after year, stolen bases have become more expensive to draft at the table because of the scarcity of the position. While we expect to see more stolen bases this year with new rule changes, it hasn’t made them much cheaper in drafts and auctions as of yet. Because stolen bases are a category that does not affect the other offensive categories, it is a pretty easy category to punt.

Punting Average

Just like saves, the average has a ton of variance from year to year. There are players that have a pretty consistent average year-to-year, but that is actually less common than players whose batting average varies. For instance, Manny Machado’s batting averages in the last four seasons have been .298, .278, .304, and .256. Good luck trying to project his average for this year correctly. Punting batting average takes that variance out of the equation. In this process, you devalue the batting average in your ranks or values. The plan is not to finish last but load up on the other categories while hopefully allowing the variance in average to place you somewhere in the middle third of that category. However, I don’t like punting on-base percentage because it can be hard to compete in runs as they are often tied together.

Punting Wins

Wins is a category that I have punted in the past because they are already so hard to predict. However, it comes with its own set of issues as wins are often a category that you can attempt to make big pushes in through streaming, and often the guys who you try to trade for that are good for wins are very expensive. It can definitely be done, but it is my least favorite of the ones I will try.

The Double Punt

The idea is simple. Punt two categories that have no correlation (i.e., Batting Average and Saves.) This allows you to really stock up in the other categories and either gives you the opportunity to later trade for them or allow the variance of ratios to work themselves out hopefully in a favorable way. While I have used this strategy with success in a few different formats, it is hard to employ. I reserve it most for H2H leagues or in keeper leagues a particular category is already being kept by your competitors.

Punting isn’t for the faint of heart but is a fun, different strategy that can give you an advantage, especially in leagues where your competition is pretty predictable. As long as you are not in a league with an overall, it is something to entertain.

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