Fantasy Baseball: 4 Keys to Nailing Your Draft

It's draft season, y'all.

January was all about the NFL playoffs, and the NFL draft looms. March will have its college basketball madness. February is fantasy baseball draft (prep) season.

But nailing your draft -- perhaps the most fun aspect of any league -- is really hard. Taking the right steps, though, and you can slay it.

Here are four tenets to keep top of mind as you navigate your fantasy baseball draft.

Load up on the power-speed combo players early.

The lack of 20-homer, 20-steal guys is quite sad. In 2019, only nine players hit the plateau, as speed has dipped to an all-time low.

So how does this influence your drafts? Well, power boppers like J.D. Martinez and Nolan Arenado continue to backslide in drafts, and guys like Trea Turner, Jose Ramirez, and Trevor Story are rocketing up draft boards.

The major problem is that drafters have recognized this and speed, in total, has become a valuable commodity.

Name Team SB ADP Round
Adalberto Mondesi Royals 47 31.67 3
Mallex Smith Mariners 41 144.50 12
Trea Turner Nationals 39 9.17 1
Ronald Acuna Jr. Braves 34 1.33 1
Jonathan Villar Marlins 33 36.17 3
Victor Robles Nationals 32 59.00 5
Jose Ramirez Indians 27 16.00 1
Starling Marte Diamondbacks 27 28.83 2
Christian Yelich Brewers 24 2.33 1
Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres 24 14.50 2
Elvis Andrus Rangers 24 127.83 12
Tommy Pham Padres 23 75.33 7
Francisco Lindor Indians 22 8.00 1
Dee Gordon Mariners 22 258.00 22
Whit Merrifield Royals 21 51.33 5
Garrett Hampson Rockies 21 165.50 14
Tim Anderson White Sox 21 104.83 9
Oscar Mercado Indians 21 111.17 10
Jon Berti Marlins 21 259.83 22
Trevor Story Rockies 20 9.67 1
Tommy Edman Cardinals 20 139.50 12
Byron Buxton Twins 20 155.17 13

Using the ATC projections provided by Ariel Cohen, only Elvis Andrus and Mallex Smith are projected for 24-plus steals and look to be drafted after the 10th round, and that's because they provided zero to no pop. You don't want to get stuck in a situation where a rabbit that doesn't homer needs to be on your roster.

Be cognizant of these power-speed players and be ready to draft them.

Draft a workhorse ace early.

Just like there has been a lack of quality arms at the top of fantasy baseball, those that throw a high volume of innings are even more of a unicorn.

In 2019, 15 pitchers broke the 200 inning threshold. Of those arms, only seven posted an ERA of 3.50 or lower -- Justin Verlander, Shane Bieber, Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Jacob deGrom, and Patrick Corbin. End list.

Of those seven, Greinke has the lowest ADP (67.59), meaning that all of these arms are going in the top six rounds of fantasy drafts. That makes snagging an ace even more imperative.

While you may see pros and cons to any of those arms, and certainly pitchers can be an injury-prone, tough-to-predict commodity. Just beware that they are getting pushed high up the draft boards, and you need to be ready to spend.

Be savvy at the Catcher position.

This one is imperative to nail, and a lot of it comes with knowing your league. If playing in perhaps a more traditional, home-league format where only one catcher is employed, the strategy is simple. You wait. There's not a ton of viable options, so make sure you grab players at other key spots.

In an NFBC type of format, where you roster two catchers, this strategy becomes a lot more critical. In 2019, to compete successfully in NFBC leagues where an overall component is utilized like the Online Championship or Main Event, a target of 1,200 runs (80% or better of all participants) is what people were shooting for. That gives you some context.

For some backdrop on the position itself, keep in mind that in 2019, only 14 catchers registered 400 or more plate appearances. Only seven of them posted 60 or more runs scored, and one of them (Mitch Garver) recorded a mere 359 plate appearances.

J.T. Realmuto (92 runs, 83 runs batted in) and Yasmani Grandal (79 runs, 77 runs batted in) topped 70 in both categories. That's it. Full stop.

Check out what Toby Guerin, better known on Twitter as @batflipcrazy and one of the sharper minds in this little game, is doing at the Catcher position:

If you turn this exercise on it's head, and let's say you draft Wilson Ramos (52 runs scored) and Carson Kelly (46 runs scored), you need to average 91.8 runs at the other 12 batting positions. Only 47 players total scored 92 runs or more last season.

Don't shy away from an early catcher, or you'll be playing catch-up.

Don't be afraid to wait on drafting a shortstop.

While this certainly wasn't the axiom we espoused in past years, the shortstop position is absolutely loaded in 2020. Check out their relative draft position:

Rank Player ADP Min Pick Max Pick
1 Lindor, Francisco 8.42 5 16
2 Turner, Trea 10.08 3 21
3 Story, Trevor 10.87 5 18
4 Bregman, Alex 11.12 4 23
5 Tatis Jr., Fernando 16.95 8 29
6 Torres, Gleyber 29.57 15 47
7 Bogaerts, Xander 37.59 20 55
8 Villar, Jonathan 39.51 15 92
9 Mondesi, Adalberto 39.68 16 82
10 Baez, Javier 40.53 18 62
11 Machado, Manny 61.21 32 86
12 Bichette, Bo 71.65 46 100
13 Semien, Marcus 87.89 49 122
14 Correa, Carlos 97.17 57 134
15 Anderson, Tim 98.32 63 135

That is not a typo -- there are a whopping fifteen shortstops going in the first 100 picks. That's absurd.

But I'm going to let you in on a little secret -- there's value even in the guys going later in drafts, like Paul DeJong of the St. Louis Cardinals who hit 30 homers with 9 steals last season but is the 22nd shortstop off the board:

And it doesn't stop at DeJong. Jorge Polanco scored 107 runs with 22 home runs (ADP: 154.32). If you are short on speed, Elvis Andrus swiped 31 bases (ADP: 133.74). Didi Gregorius (ADP: 203.87) moves to a hitter-friendly park, and after returning from successful Tommy John surgery last season, bopped 16 taters in 344 plate appearances.

Francisco Lindor and Trea Turner are studs and should be drafted early, but if you miss out, don't panic -- there's value to be had.