Last time I shared some thoughts on how not to screw up the first overall pick in your fantasy draft. This time, we turn our attention to the other end of the snake, the late rounds of the draft and figuring out just what to do with those future drops.
Attention spans start to wane by the time round 15 starts. I love to play the waiver wire. In fact, I usually check the waiver wire before bothering to look at my own lineup. Now I play in a league that charges $2 per transaction. That changed my perspective on the waiver wire a little bit. To prevent dumping oodles of cash into a one-week replacement I now focus more intently on those late round picks I used to think of mostly as just a grab bag.
There is a strategy, several strategies, for making your last ten picks or so. It depends largely on the kind of league you play in and what kind of rules govern it. The reality is that you want to mix these different takes in with your final picks, likely depending on which players are available.
For the most devoted of baseball fans, the kind of people who have prospect lists committed to memory, the later part of the draft is time to shine … and annoy friends with obscure baseball knowledge. If you play in a keeper league, this will be your most important track for late picks. The biggest names in prospects, last season’s call-ups ready for prominence, will probably be off the board by round 15.
Go deeper into those top prospect lists. Identify players in opening day lineups likely to be on shaky ground by the first of May and whether or not teams have youngsters wainting in the wings for their shot. This is not just a ploy for keeper leagues. Grabbing a top prospect with a good chance to crack the starting lineup by Memorial Day is an easy to way to reinforce weak spots on your own roster.
Pitching, Pitching and More Pitching
I play in a head-to-head league these days, where starting pitching, even of the most mediocre variety, can still produce points. Loading up on two-start pitchers every Monday morning is also cost prohibitive at $2 per transaction.
Rounds 15-20 in standard leagues with 25 roster spots are meant for adding third and fourth starters. Here you can even chase wins, giving back-of-the-rotation guys on contenders a flyer for your roster. Of course, there are more than wins to be had from this group of pitchers. Look for potential breakout players, guys who had a strong September or someone whose peripheral statistics indicate better things in 2012.
Replacement closers are another option, eighth inning guys ready to step in for a shaky or oft-injured ninth inning guy. I tend to lean on the wire for in-season closer replacements since those decisions tend to be less predictable and less productive than starting pitching. However, if you miss out on closers earlier in the draft, this might be the place to grab some potential saves.
This is a Billy Beane favorite. Remember when the Athletics signed an unwanted Frank Thomas in 2006 and got 39 home runs and a .926 OPS out of him? They might do it again with Manny Ramirez this season, once he gets past that 50-game suspension. Aging greats can surprise everyone with bouts of productivity, and you will more than likely find a few in the late rounds of the draft.
Every year one or more of your starters, your top picks in the draft, will struggle at some point in the season. Colorado’s Todd Helton was probably an afterthought in most league’s last year, assigned to more teams via the robot draft than a purposeful addition. However, he had a pretty solid start to the season. Helton had 17 extra base hits in the first two months of the season to go with 21 runs scored, 22 RBI and an .870 OPS. It was hardly the line you want out of a starting first baseman, but it was good enough to be a fill-in for stragglers drafted in the early rounds.
Third base is notoriously thin again this season. There are never enough shortstops and second basemen to go around in a 12-team league. Adding a few backups at those positions, even if you do somehow manage to get a top tier player for all three, is a smart idea for a couple reasons.
Try to find a young player poised for a breakout or even a rebound candidate sitting in the right circumstances at one or more of these positions. They can serve as a fill-in if your starters are injured or in a slump. If they really get going, they could also give you some bargaining power as other owners deal with slumps and injuries.
A productive draft will use all of these strategies to get through the later rounds. It just might be the difference between fantasy gold and another wasted summer on the internet.