How to Play Fantasy Baseball to Win (without betraying your home team loyalties)

*Disclaimer: This article is meant for the novice fantasy baseball player who has some idea of traditional fantasy baseball rules and scoring, especially in reference to Head to Head leagues, although the information is still roto-relevant.  Because I am a Giants fan, and this being giantspod.net, I will use the 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants in my examples. (That never gets old)

Pre-Draft and Draft:

Know your home team and what to expect from them.  Who is fantasy relevant, and who has more team oriented contributions which don’t necessarily matter in traditional fantasy baseball scoring?

Example:  Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey are rosterable; they will help your Runs, Avg, Home Runs, RBI’s. Cody Ross is no guarantee; he may help the Giants, but his impact may not make him a relevant fantasy player.

Don’t draft guys who bat low in the order or are not considered everyday players.  If one of these guys hits a streak, moves up in the order or sees an increase in playing time due to injury, they will most likely be available to pick up in free agency.

Example: Pat Burrell if he wins the LF job and plays at least 4 games a week, Mark DeRosa if he wins the LF job or 2B job if Sanchez starts on the DL.

Know where your home team players are being drafted, and where they rank at their position in relation to other players.  Don’t reach on someone because you want them on your team, instead go after another position and draft your desired player in a later round.

Example: Pablo Sandoval may be primed for a giant season at 3B (and I sure hope so) but due to a lackluster 2010 season he should drop a few rounds in the draft from last year (when he went around the round 4-5 turn). He may turn in early round value but you should be able to hold off until the later part of first ten rounds.

Similarly, don’t pass on value early on because they play for a division rival.  If you have a chance to draft an elite player; a Tulo or a Cargo, do it.  This “ensures” two things.  Value for your early round pick, and trade bait in the event someone else drafts the player you want.  Often times you can receive more value for trading one of these elite division rivals as opposed to reaching for your home team players in the draft.

Example: Trading Troy Tulowitzki (average round drafted 1) for Pablo Sandoval (4-5) and Jonathan Sanchez (14-15) would return investment and snag you your home team favorites. *When drafting a player for value, knowing you will trade them, don’t forget to draft a viable back up option if you do make the trade. Yunel Escobar (10) could be a good example of a SS to supplement drafting and trading Tulowitzki.

Realize that you have more emotional investment in your home team favorites than the competition.  Don’t waste mid- and late-round draft picks on players that no one else even considers. Instead let them prove themselves in the free agency (FA) pool.  Just because they are a starter on the MLB team, doesn’t mean they’re better than the other 29 starters at that position in the league.

Example: Cody Ross may have been spectacular for the Giants at the end of the season and during the playoffs, but based on the fact that fantasy baseball asks you to play 3 OF without having to denote RF, CF, LF, there are probably faster and/or more powerful players (usually LF) who at least project more value.  I am tempted to use Tejada in this example as well, but based on the scarcity of SS, and his ability to play 150-155 games a year, I wouldn’t consider a late round draft pick an emotional move, so Tejada could be a decent pickup.

As a result of letting players prove themselves in FA, don’t waste your last picks on bench players, unless you have insider information considering injury or player club conflict which will directly increase a bench players time in the field.  There is still value in the later rounds; i.e. Rookies/youngsters who are unproven but have earned starting jobs, and closers, or guys in line to be closers should the current pitcher get injured or lose their job.

Example: Mike Fontenot, Sergio Romo

It is totally legitimate to allow the deciding factor between two players of almost equal projected value to be the league/division they play in; i.e. Ian Stewart and Gordon Beckham. The differences may be small, but your home team loyalties will be tried almost 20 less times.

Roster and Starting:

Roster space is limited, so there is no need to stash your team’s best prospects at the beginning of the season.  They can’t help your fantasy team from AAA, so wait to pick them up, until, ideally, a call up is imminent.

Example: Brandon Belt

Of course it is in your best interest to start a player at every position on your fantasy team, but you don’t always have to.  Here are suggestions on how to manage your batters and pitchers when they face your home team in real life.

-Batters:

When your fantasy team’s batters face your home team, you can sit them completely or start someone from your bench.  Traditionally, you will draft a backup at every position in case of injury, but this is another time to find use for them.  Unless your fantasy players are in the same division as your home team, this will happen very minimally, if at all over the course of the season, so it has a small impact in H2H leagues and an even smaller one in a Roto league.

-Pitchers:

Pitchers are a little bit more situational.  If you have a pitcher starting against your home team, take these things into consideration.

If the pitcher is an Ace, you need to start them.  Ace’s usually set the precedent for your pitching statistics in a weekly H2H league.  They tend to have better a better ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, and they usually throw more innings which helps weight those categories. If you play with Wins, they also have the best chance of earning them (relief pitchers can too, but very seldom do in relation making closers the only bullpen arm worth rostering because they earn Saves) and if you play in a league with Quality Starts (QS) instead of Wins, then only the starting pitchers can earn them.  Keep in mind that Aces often face each other and a one- or two-run game is completely likely in many cases, meaning you can start your Ace against your home team, watch your home team win 2-1, and still get a nice outing from your pitcher for your fantasy team.  This is an added bonus of tracking QS over Wins.

If your pitcher is a middle of the rotation guy, you may want to take more recent history into consideration when deciding to sit or start them.  How has the pitcher performed lately, and how has your home team been hitting lately?  Are they pitching at home or away, or in a pitchers/batters ballpark?  Right and wrong answers only exist after the game is over in this scenario, and hopefully, if you find yourself in this position it’s at the end of the week, when necessity can help dictate your decision.

Player # of games vs. home team in a season
Different Leagues (AL/NL) 0
Same League; Different Division Approx. 8 (this also goes for interleague play)
Same League; Same Division Approx. 20

I hope this is a good jumping-off point for loyal fans to use as they start to envision their own fantasy baseball championships.

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