What is your draft strategy? Do you like to evenly distribute the early rounds between the best starting pitchers and best position players? Or do you prefer to build your rotation with Aces and hope for upside in quantity of position players? Maybe you like to build your lineup with the first four or five picks, and then you build your rotation with quantity of second and third tier starting pitchers.
There is no right or wrong way to draft, but just taking the best player every round is not going to work in normal leagues with 10-12 teams. This is because at some point you have to round out your roster and have all positions filled. Plus, there is plenty of inventory for all teams to have above average players. But not all positions are as deep as others. We are going to discuss a strategy for drafting pitchers to maximize your pitching points for the year, while having one of the top lineups in the league.
Whatever your draft strategy, you need a plan of how to build your roster. This doesn’t mean you have to strictly follow your plan. Let’s say you want to have an elite rotation, but somehow you are picking 10th and there has been a run on starting pitchers and Giancarlo Stanton has slipped to you. Do you stick to your plan and take the best starting pitcher available or do you take the gift and draft Stanton?
I would take Stanton and adjust my plan accordingly. But you may not, which is why players are available you didn’t think would be and why some players go much sooner than you hoped. The key is being flexible and having an ability to adjust during the draft.
The next part about having a strategy is the rules of the league.
One area that creates a change to how you draft is pitching rules. Most leagues have five starting pitcher slots and two relief pitcher slots. If there are no rules on number of starts per week or number of starters on your roster and even no rules on using starters who have relief pitcher status in the relief pitcher slots, you want to load up on starting pitchers.
Whether in a daily or weekly league, maxing out your pitching points can be done by having lots of mid-tier starting pitchers so that you can get the most starts every week. In a weekly league, with seven pitching slots you can get up to 14 starts. I would want all my bench spots to go to starting pitchers and a few of them having relief pitcher status if possible. If you can’t then I may have one closer to pitch every week and only have one relief pitcher slot to fill on a weekly basis with starting pitchers with relief pitcher status.
In a daily league with a bench of five players, you could have up to 12 pitchers on the roster and get 15-16 starts on average.
I would start by drafting position players and get my lineup set with five to six bats. Then I would turn to starting pitchers and draft them for as long as there are mid-tier guys available. At that point, I would start looking at what is left in the position players for the positions I have waited on until later. I am looking for guys who have slipped for some reason or who have more upside than other guys still available. None of these guys are likely to stay all year on my team, as I will keep watching for someone having a break out year to bring in, but I will almost never keep an extra bat on my bench. I will still favor the starting pitcher over the position player at this point until my all my pitching spots and bench spots are filled with pitchers. In either a daily or weekly league, you will win almost every week compared to another team who is using a five man rotation and two relievers and bench full of bats.
The math on this is simple if you figure out the points per start for mid-tier pitchers versus the elite starting pitchers in your league. Two starts of a mid-tier starting pitcher will be better than all but a guy like Clayton Kershaw and even then your two start guys may average more points than the best pitcher in baseball.
This could be different depending on your point system, but I haven’t seen one yet. But, if you have rules on pitchers you will likely need some quality SP’s in your rotation. This will need to be done in the earlier rounds, versus waiting for the middle of the draft to load up on the mid-tier. Let’s look at some starting pitchers based on ESPN standard point system points per game projections.
1. Clayton Kershaw – 21.5
2. Felix Hernandez – 19.0
3. Chris Sale – 17.9
4. Stephen Strasburg – 16.8
5. Max Scherzer – 16.5
See how fast the points per game drop? Now let’s look at pitchers lower in the rankings.
30. Jake Arrieta – 12.2
40. Jose Quintana – 11.6
50. Collin McHugh – 10.6
60. Matt Cain – 11.8
80. Jake Peavy – 11.3
100. Edinson Volquez – 8.6
Yes, the points still dropped but not as fast as the top starting pitchers. If your roster has 10, 12, 14 starts from the second group you will win most weeks against teams using five, six or even seven starting pitchers on their roster, as they won’t have more than seven to eight starts on their best weeks. You will win just on quantity of starts. Plus your lineup will be as good as any lineup in the league.
A team with 12 mid-tiers to even upper level of the lower-tier starting pitchers and a lineup filled with the top bats from using the first four to five rounds on hitters will put you in the playoffs at a very high rate.
Here is my roster from a CBS 10-team league with draft positions listed using this strategy. I was drafting in the eighth spot in a snake draft.
- Andrew McCutchen – First Round
- Jose Bautista – Second Round
- Anthony Rizzo – Third Round
- Michael Brantley – Fourth Round
- Adrian Gonzalez – Fifth Round
- Ian Kinsler – Sixth Round
- James Shields – Seventh Round
- Alex Cobb – Eighth Round
- Gerrit Cole – Ninth Round
- Jered Weaver – Tenth Round
- Ian Kennedy – Eleventh Round
- Michael Wacha – Twelfth Round
- Zach Wheeler – Thirteenth Round
- Marcus Stroman – Fourteenth Round
- Josh Harrison – Fifteenth Round
- Kris Bryant – Sixteenth Round
- Kyle Hendricks – Seventeenth Round
- Carlos Martinez – Eighteenth Round
- Hector Rondon – Nineteenth Round
- Yan Gomes – Twentieth Round
- Erick Aybar – Twenty-first Round
We will discuss the bats next week, but looking at this group of starting pitchers, I have nine starting pitchers to fill my five starting pitcher spots each week and should have a good amount of starts on a weekly basis by a very good group of mid-tier starting pitchers. Plus, many have upside and could far outperform their draft position. I only ended up with one starter in a relief pitcher spot in Carlos Martinez, but the other good options went very fast and at least three to four rounds too early. My lineup will be in the top few teams and I will be in the top couple teams for pitching points as well by maximizing my starts.