Passing Judgment: Going Against the Fantasy Baseball Grain
Generally speaking, conventional wisdom in fantasy baseball Roto leagues is to wait before drafting pitching. Starting pitchers can only contribute in four out of five standard categories at most twice a week, and saves are fickle and can be acquired much later on. But when I was assigned the 5th overall pick in the 2014 KFFL Baseball Analysts Draft (“BAD” fantasy league), my gut instinct told me to go against the grain. The BAD league is a 15-team, 5×5 mixed Roto league hosted on RTSports.com and is comprised of many of the brightest pundits in fantasy baseball. You can follow the slow draft as it progresses here.
I knew that Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew McCutchen would be the first four picks in some order. If one of them happened to slip to me then I would have taken them. But, in fact, those four were gone and I was left with a critical decision to make. Sure, I could have taken any one of the next tier of players such as Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Davis, Robinson Cano, or Hanley Ramirez. Instead, I decided to be bold and follow my instincts. I drafted the reigning National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw with the 5th pick. There is no dispute that he is the best pitcher in baseball and is as sure a lock to contribute elite production in four of the five pitching categories. After struggling with my pitching in this league last year, I wanted to ensure that I had at least one ace to count on. Who better to count on than THE ace?
I know I am not the only person to think this is a worthwhile strategy as Patrick DiCaprio of Fantasy Pros 911 shares a similar sentiment in his analysis. But I am aware that this is not the majority viewpoint, and that is just fine with me. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts and take chances. Sure, Kershaw could blow his arm out in spring training and miss the whole season. But Mike Trout could trip over first base and blow his knee out too, so there is is inherent risk in any player.
As it turned out, I was able to draft Freddie Freeman (1B-ATL), Jose Bautista (OF-TOR), Carlos Beltran (OF-NYY) and Adrian Gonzalez (1B-LAD) with my next four picks. So despite passing over an elite hitter in the first round, I have still accumulated a lot of power and run production to go along with the best pitcher in the game. It remains to be seen whether this will be a successful strategy, but there is sound logic behind it and demonstrable proof that enough offense can be drafted later on despite being in such a deep league as this.by