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Fantasy Baseball Categories League Draft Primer (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Categories League Draft Primer (2024)

There are three major types of fantasy baseball leagues: rotisserie, points and categories.

Rotisserie leagues are won by accumulating the most statistics throughout the entire season. Points leagues include trying to earn a victory each week against an individual opponent. Categories leagues are gaining in popularity as a hybrid of the two. Category leagues offer the thrill of the one-on-one matchup while also involving the strategy of how you want to attack each category.

In a traditional rotisserie league, it is very challenging to win a championship if you punt a category. Punting just one category puts you at an extreme disadvantage as you try to score as many points as possible. You have to be dominant in the other categories to compensate for the low score in one category. In a category league, punting is not only a viable strategy but often a logical one as it can boost your score in the remaining categories weekly.

Points leagues are often won with volume. The more at-bats a player has, the more likely they are to score points. The only exception to that rule would be in leagues that penalize strikeouts for a batter. If you rostered Kyle Schwarber the past few seasons in a points league that penalizes strikeouts, you know the roller coaster of rostering a player who can lead the league in home runs, walks and strikeouts. Volume is also key for pitchers in points leagues. If a pitcher is pitching more innings, it’s logical that the pitcher is pitching well (don’t look at Miles Mikolas from last season) and earning wins for extra fantasy points.

Categories leagues can be won in a variety of different ways. It is possible to win with volume, but it is also possible to win with very little volume in the pitching categories. It all depends on what categories you are targeting to win each week. What is important is that you have a plan to win your league.

A good starting point is to read some tips and tricks below to get you started.

Categories League Primer (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

League Setup

Traditional rotisserie fantasy baseball categories have changed very little since the game’s inception. Other than leagues perhaps switching out batting average for on-base percentage or quality starts for wins, they are typically the same 10 categories (R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, W, SV, K, ERA and WHIP) that they have been since the start.

However, category leagues are often changed to add to the complexity of the format. Countless modifications can be made to leagues. Such as adding doubles, triples and walks as additional batting categories, and quality starts, innings pitched and holds as additional pitching categories. Each league modification changes the value of every player. Ensure you know what categories you are trying to accumulate before the draft begins.

Before the draft, another important league aspect to know is how your roster configuration is set up. It is common in categories leagues to remove the starting pitcher and relief pitcher designations and just start nine pitchers. Ensure you know how many catchers, outfielders and utility players you can start. The catcher and outfield positions thin out quickly, so if you need more than the typical, attack those positions earlier. Is there going to be a middle infield and corner infield position? Once again, every one of these completely changes your draft plan. Luckily, you can practice different strategies with different categories and roster configurations before your draft using the FantasyPros MLB Draft Wizard so that you will be prepared.

Finally, determine whether the league has weekly lineup changes or daily lineup changes. In a weekly changes league, the starting roster you set on Monday is in for the entire week. In a league with those rules, if you are trying to win via volume, be certain to have two-start pitching options. If you can change your lineup every day, keeping players with strong platoon splits available can be fruitful.

The point can be illustrated with a pair of Baltimore Orioles first-base eligible players named Ryan. In only 142 at-bats versus left-handed pitchers, Ryan Mountcastle still mashed 12 HR for 35 RBI while maintaining a .338 average against them. Conversely, in 320 at-bats versus right-handed pitchers, Ryan O’Hearn hit 13 HR for 58 RBI and a 297 average. Combine the production, and you essentially have the season Nolan Arenado had last season, but with a much higher batting average.

Patience Is a Virtue

Going into Opening Day, every fantasy manager expects to win every matchup on their schedule. That is nearly impossible in a sport with as much random variance as baseball offers. There will be weeks when either your team struggles or the team against you is hitting like the 1927 New York Yankees. First off, don’t overreact, especially early in the season.

Last season, at the end of May, Gunnar Henderson, Triston Casas and Michael Harris were all hitting below .205. You were probably struggling out of the gate if you had drafted them early in your 2023 categories leagues. Some of those players may have even been dropped for the hot hand. From June 1 to the end of the season, Henderson hit 23 HR with a .276 average. Even ending his season early with shoulder inflammation didn’t prevent Casas from hitting 18 HR and almost .300 from June 1 until the end of the season in mid-September. Finally, from June 1 until the end of the season, Harris hit 16 HR with a .326 average.

The question then becomes, “Is there a way to remove the variability?” The simple answer is no, at least not entirely. But you can control it a bit by targeting players with a certain skill set. For batters, players with high strikeout rates, such as Teoscar Hernandez or Eugenio Suarez, are inherently more risky than players who consistently make contact. Batters that walk often also find themselves in positions to score runs and steal bases, which raises their floor.

Reducing variability in pitchers is most often done by focusing on quality innings over quantity of innings, which is partly determined by your pitching plan.

Pitching Plan

First things first, know what the weekly innings minimum rule is for your league. That should be included within the league settings and can skew pitcher rankings substantially depending on how you want to build your roster.

You must draft a few starting pitchers early in a league with a higher innings threshold. Otherwise, you’ll be using streamers often. For category leagues, streamers are more of a last resort. In a daily changes league, streamers can provide you a late boost to win the volume categories if you’re already struggling with the ratio categories.

If your league has a low innings threshold, consider attacking the saves and ratio categories of ERA and WHIP. That can be done by drafting a few top-notch starting pitchers and then using as many relief pitchers as possible. The obvious category where relief pitchers give you an advantage is saves. Effective relievers, though, can also have a larger-than-expected effect on the ratio statistics.

Know Your Opponent

You should know your own team’s strengths and weaknesses. That can help you when determining what roster moves to make weekly. For example, if you consistently win stolen bases already in your matchups, there is no reason to try to acquire more speed off the waiver wire. What may not seem as obvious is the advantage you can have by studying your opponents.

Let’s modify the first example in just one way. What happens if your opponent consistently wins stolen bases with his core of Corbin Carroll, Andres Gimenez and Tommy Edman? Then, you realize you’re unlikely to win that statistic and may sit your speedsters. It allows you to play more power batters to give you a better opportunity to compete in those categories.

The same can be said of knowing your opponents’ pitcher strategy. If your opponent has loaded their team with relief pitchers, it may be a good idea to consider attacking the strikeout and wins categories. No matter how loaded your opponent may seem, there is always a way to attack the weaknesses to give yourself a chance. That aspect is one of the intrigues of the categories league that leads to such an enjoyable format.

Remember some of these basic principles, and the best of luck in your attempts to win in whatever fantasy baseball format you choose.

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