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Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Early, Middle & Late Rounds (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Early, Middle & Late Rounds (2024)
Whether you are in one league or a dozen, preparing for the fantasy baseball season can be overwhelming. Gathering as much information as you can about the player pool can be the difference between fantasy playoffs and losing a humiliating league bet. The draft is really about three sections: start, middle and end. Using a standard 26-round, 12-team draft, here are some things to consider throughout:

Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

Starting Your Draft: (Rounds: 1-8)

Roster construction starts here. Remember that the depth for each position is different. Outfielders and pitchers have more players that are in the top 100 ADP (Average Draft Position). Waiting for these positions is doable. Positions without much depth like 1B and 2B will take more strategy. Having a cheat sheet with your players in each position broken down by tier level will serve you well.

Be realistic going into the draft. You won’t get an outfield with Ronald Acuna Jr. Juan Soto and Kyle Tucker. Have an idea what your team could look like. This is when the mock drafts will come in handy. These early rounds are creating the foundation of your team. Go with safe and reliable production from players. Stay away from injury-prone and inconsistent players. For the most part, depending on league settings, avoid relief pitchers and catchers in these rounds. If your league is a two-catcher league, then you might want to reevaluate. In these early rounds, consider drafting a couple of top tier pitchers. This is even more important in points leagues. A Gerrit Cole or Spencer Strider combined with an Aaron Nola or Zac Gallen would be better than a Mitch Keller and Eduardo Rodriguez combo. This goes for roto leagues as well. These rounds will take you nearly through the top 100 in ADP.

Be patient on sleepers in these rounds. Your team won’t fill out, but you will be setting up your roster configuration for the whole draft. Resist the urge to draft multiple players at one position thinking that you will be able to trade one later in the season. Other owners will figure out what you’re doing and either refuse to give you good value for your player or they will refuse to deal with you at all.

Even if you’re not playing in a Roto league, you can and probably will practice “punting categories.” It’s hard to be dominant in every category and a balanced team is a great way to approach the draft, but everyone tends to lean heavier in one area. Punting categories is way to set your team up to be better than others in that one area. You could be a power team, a high batting average team or a speed team when it comes to hitting. When it comes to pitching, you could have a team of starters that can give wins and strikeouts or have relief pitchers that will give mainly saves/holds and good ratios.

The Middle: (Rounds 9-17)

Here are the rounds where you will want to take some risks but wait for a few more picks. In Round 9, there will still be players who are in the top 100 in ADP; good talent will still be available. Rounding out your lineup should be the priority. You should also be getting at least two, preferably three, starters in this section of the draft. Hold off drafting relief pitchers until later since saves/holds is the easiest category to “punt.” In the past, punting stolen bases was an easy category, but with the rule changes you can have a lot of hitters who can contribute at least 10 stolen bases. If most of your starters and bench players are predicted around that mark, then those will add up and you can remain competitive in that category. In my experience, this is the section of the draft when relief pitchers will start to go.

The stars will go quickly, so if you want to be a leading team in saves/holds, don’t hesitate to grab some of the elite players here. For the 2024 season, there are around 10 top-100 ADP relief pitchers (RP). There are about that many between 100-200 in ADP rankings, too. You will probably have the option to get some top RP after round 10, but once they start to go it will be quick.

Looking towards the end of this middle section, your team should be taking form. Have your lineup set by the end of this middle section in the draft so you can get some good bench players. Stay away from prospects here, especially in re-draft leagues. If it’s a keeper and/or dynasty league, then don’t wait long to grab your favorite prospects. Remember that some owners get in a “prospect frenzy” and take as many as they can. Rounds 15-19 are the rounds in which to take some risks on prospects and sleepers. You might have to reach for them, but if you feel good about them, this is the time to strike.

End of Draft: (Rounds 18-26)

You’re in the home stretch now. You will need to have your starters in place before entering the twenties rounds. Remember that some good players could still be available here. These late rounds are looking at 200 in ADP to just over 300. Players such as Carlos Correa, Kenta Maeda and Jake Fraley could be here. Sure, they’re not “must have starters,” but they are players to be rostered.

The “high upside” players are the ones that you should be looking for here. Fill out your pitching with relief pitchers. Also pay attention to players who could get more playing time. This could range from players in Triple-A, backups or players who are currently injured. There’s no reason to throw away picks here and it would be a great time to make a steal of the draft. For example, if you’re not in a two-catcher league, you don’t need three catchers – that’s just throwing away a pick. It’s also important to pay attention to the two teams that drafting before and after you. This way, you can make educated guesses about where they might go with their next picks. Looking at their rosters can give a better idea of who will still be available for you and which players you should snag to keep them from falling into the opposing teams’ hands.

Closing thoughts

You’ll want to do your research and plenty of mock drafts to prepare for draft day. Take advantage of the 2024 Draft Kit on FantasyPros. You can do mock drafts and create your own cheat sheets. These cheat sheets can be created to fit your own leagues. You’ll be able to find rankings and in-depth analyses of players that you are considering or players that you should consider. Try a mock draft lobby as well. The simulator can detect what makes sense, but it can’t always get the human element. Using FantasyPros is great because if you know an owner in your league is a die-hard Red Sox fan, you can add that in your league mock draft. Upload your league in FantasyPros and take advantage of all the tools available.

Know your league settings. Innings limits for pitchers, positional eligibility and salary cap settings are just a few items to consider. Look over them and make sure you understand everything. Your league settings can determine what type of team you want to build. You can’t win your league in the draft, but you can lose it. You can never do too many mock drafts and remember to not panic when a player you want gets taken. This usually happens right before your pick. It’s a cruel world. Good luck.

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