One of the hardest things for fantasy owners to figure out is creating a draft plan or philosophy. In today's fantasy games, most owners know the player pool. Many times winning or losing comes down to planning your attack. Sometimes you can't come up with a plan until you know your draft position.
The first plan is a prevailing theory shared among many top players in the high-stakes baseball market. I'll call it PAPS. This core philosophy is built around power, average, starting pitching, and saves. A fantasy owner may land speed early, but it isn't a target skill for their team development.
Fading Catchers and Middle Infield
A fantasy owner with this draft style tends to push the catcher and the middle infield positions back in a draft. By waiting to add these two positions, they create a buying opportunity for additional starting pitching while willing to roster a third closing option before some teams roster their second closing option.
Their goal is to roster two backend catchers that can combine for a minimum of 100 runs, 20 home runs, and 100 RBI with the hopes of not taking a beating in batting average. Draft flow will be vital to identify the best option each season.
The rise in power does put more pressure not to get beat at the catcher positions. A couple of wrong decisions could lead to weaknesses in three categories.
Typically, the backend pool at second base and shortstop offers power with minimum upside in steals while adding batting average risk or batters with minimal home runs and sneaky speed. Most of the other owners will fade these types of players based on their team development.
If they come out of the draft with one solid middle infielder, they will have plenty of opportunities to upgrade the MI position as the season goes on. In most leagues, you can always find a middle infielder with plenty of at-bats on the waiver. This type of owner’s success will come down to finding the right skill sets to keep their team balanced.
By building your foundation with a high batting average and power, this theory allows room to add home run hitters with batting average risk later in the draft.
Following the Closer Flow
It is essential to understand this theory when you are cheating saves as an opponent. When a fantasy owner owns one closer heading into the middle rounds of a draft and decides to pass on a second closer when competing against this draft style, a PAPS drafter will be looking to steal a third closing option to help solidify his bullpen.
If you own one closer, say at pick four in round 16, you notice all the teams sitting behind you in seats one, two, and three have two closers. At first glance, you think it makes sense to pass on the last available closer until round 17. What you may not see is one of the teams has no catchers and only one middle infielder. This team will have two extra picks on most teams to freelance within the draft. They will look to strengthen their pitching staff or even add a reliable third closer. By having three closers, they avoid committing bench spots to closers in waiting, plus they save free agent dollars if they are right about their closing options.
Landing a pair of elite arms helps set a foundation in ERA and WHIP while also building an edge in strikeouts. Most teams will this game plan will draft their first two starters over the first four or five rounds, depending on league size.
In the past, a typical team will have this draft structure after 10 rounds: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, SP, SP, and CL. A team with a PAPS approach will look like this: 1B, 3B, MI, OF, OF, OF or CO, SP, SP, CL, and CL. There's even a chance they add a third starter inside of the top 10 rounds and push the middle infield position until round 11.
A PAPS team will have strength in four offensive categories, with speed being the weakest category. A fantasy owner with this draft style would be happy to finish in the middle of the pack in steals. Many fantasy owners feel they can find stolen bases on the waiver wire, dependent on league size. Their starting staff should be above average and saves also should be a strength.
It is essential for this type of strategy to stay in the game in speed. At the same time, you can't commit to more than one Judy-type base stealers (one-dimensional speed player) as you don't want to give away your power edge. Before 2017, power was on the decline, making it easier to own a pure base stealer with the right price point. The jump on home runs over the last few seasons will force a fantasy owner to be more creative to reach their category goal in speed in 2021.
There are certain draft positions in each draft that favor this type of style. This year a team starting with OF Juan Soto or OF Mike Trout would have a great start in four categories while both players still offer some steals.
If you start with weaker players than expected, the road to success may be more challenging.
This type of owner gets in trouble when he adjusts his game plan early, and he leaves himself in uncharted territory. A PAPS owner needs to find speed from the middle infield position late while hitting their backend catchers. If PAPS drafter fails to finish their offense, they will fall short of their offensive target numbers within the draft requiring a high level of success on the waiver wire to deliver a winning season.
Using this strategy, a fantasy owner will be shopping in different areas in some rounds later in the draft. Each year the player pool changes, and it is crucial to see the best players available from round 16 to 23. A team with this style may jump a pure base stealer if he feels the speed options are running out.
This style may have more success in individual leagues than an event with an overall prize. It may even have more value in a 12-team league where the inventory runs deeper at the key positions. I've seen this strategy win many times, and it is one I need to respect. If this is your plan, you need to look at the ADPs (average draft positions) to see if you need to adjust a couple of rounds of players to help you better execute within the draft.
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