Fantasy baseball 2012 | Adventures in Mock Drafting: Opening with 4 starting pitchers

In mock drafts this year, I’ve found that draft slot and beginning strategy is not as important as it has been in the past.

I can put together a winning team from virtually any slot while following any strategy — only 30-homer players to start, pick all but one of your pitcher with your last six picks. The only strategy I wouldn’t recommend is one that has you picking six pitchers to start. But if your first four picks were pitchers, you can make it work.

I mocked on ESPN, using several different strategies. I used ESPN’s projected standings to determine how my team was coming together.

To win at fantasy baseball you need to accumulate statistics in the categories counted in your league. In head-to-head leagues, dominating six of 10 categories (in a standard 5×5 league) could be enough depending on how your league determines won-loss records. On the other side of the spectrum, you need balance to be near the top of a rotisserie league come September.

If you understand the player pool, you can rally back from any reasonable deficit. Even at home run, where the majors have seen a significant decrease in the last few years, you can come back.

Let’s take a look at that 4-SP start example. I will admit this is a wildly risky opening. Pitchers are more likely to get hurt and one gust of wind with the bases loaded can turn a scoreless outing into a game-breaker. However, in theory, picking the top four (or four of the top six depending on the draft) pitchers puts you in a strong position to win ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and wins.

Now you’re done with pitchers

After making those four picks, you must ignore pitchers until your last six picks (depending on roster size and setup). You must ignore all of those mid-round sleeper pitchers. Target the top sluggers first, regardless of position. Look for chances to snipe key players at scarce positions. In my example, I picked Paul Konerko (30-homer profile), Aramis Ramirez (30-homer profile). Starlin Castro almost fell to me at SS. I settled for Elvis Andrus, which is a pretty good consolation prize. Both players should swipe at least 30 bags.

Steals are actually pretty easy to acquire late. And, frankly, there are a handful of 15-20 homer hitters available late too — J.P. Arencibia‘s 20-homer power, at catcher, was my final pick. The key is focusing on players that also contribute in the other counting stats, particularly runs. If you acquire a bunch of players who could get between 85 and 90 runs or RBI and help with 15 homers or steals, you’re going to pile up enough stats to compete.

Time to pick Tyler Clippard

Then, your final few picks should include high-skill closers and relievers. Don’t worry so much about saves — you holds-leaguers will know where I’m going next. Get high-strikeout, low-WHIP and low-ERA pitchers like Tyler Clippard and Kenley Jansen. Some of them will get you saves. You should also pick up a starter or two. In my mock I was able to snag Jonathan Sanchez.

The biggest “problem” with this strategy is that you’re going to end up with a lot of Angel Pagans, Melky Cabreras and Michael Cuddyers instead of Miguel Cabreras and Albert Pujolses. Again, any strategy that relies on Emilio Bonifacio, Jason Kubel and stud pitchers is more risky than a strategy that includes Albert Pujols.

However, based on ESPN’s projections, this highly unconventional team would finish second.

With the risks in mind, I wouldn’t recommend this plan pick-for-pick in a money league. But understand that there are a lot of ingredients you can mix together to make a winning team. Run a couple mocks and let us know how you do.

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