Preparing for an upcoming fantasy baseball draft does not have to be tedious or difficult. However, to adequately prepare for draft day, owners will need more than a Top-300 player list. One useful tip I’ll gladly share is to understand every Major League Baseball teams depth chart and lineup during Spring Training.
Fantasy baseball professionals in the industry will suggest different strategies owners can implement to help win their leagues. As a veteran, I believe understanding every team’s depth chart and lineup will give you a severe advantage.
Some may say studying depth charts and lineups sounds too simple, but it could make a huge difference. Many fantasy players rely on doing the minimum to try and win their league. Well, to separate the minimalist drafter from the rest of the pack, let me make my case.
If an owner relies heavily on projections and their Top-300 list, yes they could get through the draft, but they may be wasting picks. Depth charts and lineups change almost every day during Spring Training, so it’s likely a Top-300 player list constructed at the beginning of the preseason will quickly become out of date.
Study every team’s depth chart during Spring Training
The offseason leads to many players progressing and also regressing. A fantasy baseball player owner has to pay attention to every roster to avoid missed opportunities that could win them the league.
Also, if an owner prematurely drafts a reserve or platoon player who won’t receive many favorable opportunities, it could cost them the season. So it’s important for owners to do their research to make sure they are drafting reliable, starting players who will get plenty of plate appearances.
Studying the depth chart will also allow owners to pick up on sleeper picks later on in the draft. Not all starting players have excellent job security. Making a note of the next man up if a starter fails to produce or suffers an injury could lead to a significant investment.
Pay attention to Spring Training lineups
During Spring Training, an owner would be wise to see where hitters are batting in the order. Even though the games do not count, managers towards the end of Spring Training will write out their lineup as if it was a regular season game.
And one cannot rely on lineups from the previous year to determine where a batter will be in the lineup. Players progress immensely over the off-season, and teams change their coaching staffs.
For example, the New York Yankees have a new manager in Aaron Boone. In Boone’s first game managing during the preseason he had an exciting batting order. Even though Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were not in the lineup for the Yankees, Boone batted Giancarlo Stanton second and Greg Bird third, while hitting Aaron Hicks fourth in front of Didi Gregorius.
Typically, the best power hitters receive the most opportunities to maximize their production potential by batting in the strong middle part of the order. Drafting a player who doesn’t have much protection behind them or a decent pair of hitters in front of them could minimize their fantasy potential.
What good is a 25-plus home run hitter if he is on a bad team that struggles to get on base to help him drive in more runs? And what if the team also struggles to drive him in? Now that player becomes a one dimensional home run hitter.
With no protection in the lineup around him, chances are he will also be pitched around and walked a lot. That could help his on-base percentage, but it doesn’t help them in runs, runs-batted-in, batting average, or runs scored.
Same rules apply for a fast ballplayer. Except his value relies on his stolen bases and runs scored. An owner should make sure they are drafting this type of player if they are batting leadoff or in the top of the order. Batting in front of the big hitters will lead to more runs scored.
If a player only steals bases but doesn’t score runs because the hitters behind him are not good at driving in runs, then he also becomes one dimensional.
An owner wants to make sure they are drafting players that offer the most production for their team. While projections can give an owner a good idea for how a player will perform in 2018, no one can predict the future.
One can, however, make smart decisions that could increase the probability of success by drafting players with more favorable opportunities.