Failing to know the league rules front-to-back and side-to-side is the No. 1 place where fantasy owners err on draft day.
Don't throw away your entry fee before the season has even begun. Before you study players, study the format.
You have to know whether it is a Rotisserie league with ranked categories (5x5 -- AVG, HR, R, RBI, SB; W, ERA, K, WHIP, SV) or a Head-to-Head points league where all that matters is the total points accumulated in a given period. The differences in those two standard structures can wildly alter how your draft will unfold.
In general, Roto puts more emphasis on rare commodities such as steals or saves. In points leagues it doesn't matter which stats you gather; the goal is just to put together the most points possible.
So, let's point you to the most fundamental difference between Roto and points leagues: Starting pitching. In Rotisserie, pitching matters far less and pitchers go far later in drafts and cheaper in auctions. In points leagues, stud pitchers should get the upper hand.
It is pretty simple to see why. There are just more chances to rack up big numbers for the staff workhorses, especially if your league rewards three points per inning pitched (one point per out recorded). Two-start pitchers in Head-to-Head formats are gold mines, especially aces.
The staff at SI.com teamed with some analysts from the fantasy baseball industry in a mock draft Feb. 9. The format was a H2H points-based league with the following scoring categories:
Let's break down what transpired round-by-round, outlining the reaches, steals and notable runs on positions.
This is a fairly standard first round, perhaps even something closer to how a Rotisserie draft might go. Pitchers didn't crack until Halladay at No. 11. In this format last year, Halladay was the No. 1 scorer (698.5) over Albert Pujols (676).
The catcher seal gets cracked in Round 3 as Mauer falls out of Round 1 from a year ago. Rightly so. This is a much better round for Mauer.
This is a pitcher-heavy round and it should be like that in many formats, Rotisserie included. It is the point where the biggest sluggers are off the board, so the aces have to follow before the middlin' hitters come in.
This is usually were the elite closers should start to go. They didn't, curiously. It could be because the top of the closer board is a bit less stagnant than it was been in the Rivera heyday.
Still no closer, eh? And we finally see last year's breakthrough homer leader go off the board, Bautista.
Still no closers. The differing opinions on pitchers continue and have some arms going that might not have been as sure of picks as the elite closers.
Finally, closers! Interestingly, Marmol goes before World Series hero Wilson, not to mention Rivera, Papelbon Bell and Feliz.
There is a justifiable run on outfielders here. Keep that in mind. Start hitting your outfielders before Round 9 if you take the advice above to wait on them after the top trio.
If Round 9 was one for outfielders, Round 10 is one for pitchers, starters and relievers alike.
The closers are getting gobbled up faster now. You will want to have your first closer before this time.
After this round, a fantasy draft tends to morph into collecting pitchers and outfielders or back-filling the other positions. It is noteworthy Wieters goes in Round 12. That is roughly the round he has gone in each of the past two disappointing years. Maybe this is the year he puts it together.
Here is the back half of the draft:
There is not much in the way of surprises here, but the quality depth of the outfielders and pitchers should be noted. There are good values to be had at those positions after the midway point.
It certainly raises the question why anyone should go stud pitchers early. But, finding those mid-round guys that perform like aces isn't an easy thing.
The best advice in this format is to draft pitchers early and often, even if yours truly didn't do that above.