One of the hardest things to figure out before a draft is a plan or philosophy to build a competitive team. In today’s fantasy games, most fantasy managers know the player pool. Many times, winning or losing comes down to planning your attack and staying healthy. However, sometimes you can’t develop 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 manager may land speed early, but it isn’t a target skill for their team development.
Fading Catchers and Middle Infield
A fantasy team with this draft style tends to push the catcher and the middle infield positions back in a draft. Waiting to add these two positions creates a buying opportunity for additional starting pitching. At the same time, some drafters are willing to roster a third closing option before other 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 options for each baseball season.
The rise in power does put more pressure not to get beat at the catcher positions. However, 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. Many other drafters will fade these 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, middle infielders with plenty of at-bats are present on the waiver wire. Success with this plan comes 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 cheating saves as an opponent. For example, when a fantasy manager 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 your team has one closer, say at pick four in round 16, you may notice all the rosters in seats one, two and three have two closers. At first glance, it makes sense to pass on the last available closer until round 17 for another player. What may be unseen 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 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.
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Landing a pair of elite arms helps set a foundation in ERA and WHIP while also building an edge in strikeouts. Most teams with 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 C, 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 look to have strength in four offensive categories, with speed being the weakest category. With this draft style, the hope is to finish in the middle of the pack in steals. Many fantasy managers feel they can find stolen bases on the waiver wire, depending on league size. Their starting staff should be above average and saves should also be a strength.
It is essential for this type of strategy to stay in the game in speed. At the same time, a drafter can’t commit to more than one Judy-type base stealer (one-dimensional speed player) without giving away their edge in power. Before 2017, home runs were declining, making it easier to own a pure base stealer at the right price point. However, the return of more home runs over the last few seasons forces a fantasy manager to be more creative to reach their category goal in speed in 2022.
There are certain draft positions in each draft that favor this type of style. For example, a team starting with OF Juan Soto would have a great start in four categories while still expecting some stolen bases. A move to Vladimir Guerrero requires more work later in the draft to roster steals. If a team starts with a weaker player than expected the road to success may be more challenging.
A drafter can get in trouble when adjusting his game plan early, leaving himself in uncharted territory. A PAPS drafter needs to find speed from the middle infield position late while hitting on their backend catchers. If a PAPS team 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.
A fantasy manager will be shopping in different areas in some rounds later in the draft by doing this plan. Each year the player pool changes, and it is crucial to see the best players available from rounds 16-23. A team with this style may jump a pure base stealer if he feels the speed options are running out.
This style may succeed more in individual leagues than an event with an overall prize. It may even have increased 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. However, if this is your plan, you need to look at the ADPs (average draft positions) to see if there is a need to adjust a couple of rounds of players to help better execute within the draft.
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