Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: The importance of 'goals', rankings tiers in auction drafts

Fantasy baseball is all about stats, but not everyone knows how to use them. Fantasy Alarm's Matthew Selz explains how to use the numbers to your advantage when putting together rankings, tiers, and general auction draft strategy.

Goals – everybody sets them. Workout goals, weight-loss goals, even financial ones are set over the course of the year. In fact, many of us use them as good, old-fashioned New Year’s resolutions. So, here’s a thought -- why not use that same idea when putting together a draft strategy for your fantasy baseball auction?

First off, there are no hard and fast rules to help you dominate your draft. Strategies can be suggested, but you have to develop your own style based on your league, your desired targets, and what you want to achieve by the end of your draft.

Setting statistical goals is a great tool to help you achieve that, but keep in mind that stats change from year to year, so your baselines should fluctuate to represent the different trends each season.

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Any stat-based goal starts with looking at the past few seasons and seeing what totals won each of the respective categories. Obviously, you don’t have to win every category, so striving for a top-three finish in each one is a great goal to set. Even if at the end of your draft you find yourself just below those numbers in a few of the categories, you know you will still be seeing solid point totals across the board.

For batting average, a .270 mark is a highly recommended goal, no matter the size of the league. It’s pretty hard to top a team with that number. Over the past two seasons, only three MLB teams have posted team batting averages of that or higher, and a handful of others have been at .260 or better. When building your team, you will only be taking a few of the best hitters in the league, making it imperative to nab a few guys who are consistently .300 or better hitters. If you are in an OBP league, a .330 mark is a good target.

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With so many different styles of leagues, there aren’t going to be many more benchmark specifics we can set here. You have to go back and look at your league archives and see what kind of totals topped each category. However, there are some generalizations that can help -- 230-plushomers, 100 steals, and around 900 each of RBIs and runs. The pitching side of things swings so much from year to year that, again, you’re going to have look at the league trends from the past. Once your goals are set you can now implement them into your draft strategy.

Let’s say you’re in the middle of the proceedings and realize you are running behind the pace on steals. Combine that with knowing about the category scarcity every pundit is harping about and now you know which players you have to target in order to catch up in that category. Your team’s speed should consistently be monitored while you should never really be behind in power. There were 111 batters who hit 20 or more homers last season so piecing together solid totals for home runs and RBI shouldn’t be difficult at all.

As for pitching, remember that is an incredibly deep pool and you can find contributors to your goals for bargain prices late in the draft. But here’s the thing, how do we know these positions or categories are deep or not? Tiers – the next step in organizing your plan of attack.

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Fantasy baseball rankings and tiers

Knowing your position tiers will show you that only 34 players across the league are projected for 20 or more steals this year while 105, or three times as many, are projected for 20 or more homers. That should tell you that going after speed whenever possible is a better idea since everyone can find power. Hitting on the .270 average again, 120 players are projected to hit .270 this season, but a healthy amount of those are part-time players who won’t help you very much in that or any category.

On the pitching side, there are only 11 starters projected for a 3.20 ERA or lower (three with a sub-3.00 mark), and 12 projected for better than 200 strikeouts. With the tier system in place, it’s easy to tell where the cutoff in those categories are, making it easier to pinpoint your targets during the draft.

Here’s the thing, though, don’t just take the site you use or magazine or draft program’s rankings and tiers as set in stone. Create your own. You know what stats usually rank higher in importance in your league or what happens with multi-positional guys, so please don’t just take some expert’s list as unchangeable.

Those publications and programs generally come out at the beginning of March, which means they were likely created in late January or early February -- and most aren’t even updated throughout the month. You think some magazine is highlighting Jung-ho Kang’s work visa issues? Nope. Or how about Tyler Flowers' hot spring, which is moving him up among the top-20 catchers?

Shifting your tiers around is a must before heading into your draft.

Using both your predetermined goals and the positional tiers, when combined during the draft, will tell you exactly how to use your budget to nab those big studs or sit back and take a chance on still unproven talent. When talking with a fellow league owner the other night, we found out that we both share the view that middle infield is a very deep spot to find value this year, but we would have never known that if it wasn’t for setting up our tiers ahead of time.

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