Although this site concentrates on deep fantasy baseball leagues, we want more people to fall in love with the game, so we have drawn up a few tips for newer players. These tips were specifically written for participants of the Bat Flips & Nerds 600.
Standard 5×5 roto. 15-team league with 40-player rosters (16 active players and 24 reserves).
The draft takes place before the season, and in this league, each team takes a turn to select a player until every team has 40 players. 15 x 40 = 600 players will get drafted.
It is a standard snake draft, so the last person to pick in the first round gets the first pick in the second round.
The draft order is randomised to give you your draft position. The Bat Flips & Nerds team has the 11th pick, which means they pick 11th in odd-numbered rounds (first, third, fifth, seventh etc) and fifth as it snakes back in even-numbered rounds (second, fourth, sixth etc).
So, in the first four rounds, they pick 11th, 20th, 41st and 50th.
This draft allows one minute to make your pick. If you fail to select a player, the system will choose the top player in your queue or, if your queue is empty, it will select Fantrax’s highest-ranked player.
Tip: Always make sure you have players in your queue. You never know when you will get interrupted or have a power cut, and you don’t want to discover that just drafted a pitcher scheduled for Tommy John surgery.
With 600 player rostered, the free agent pool will look uninviting, so you need to ensure that you have cover at all positions, just in case your star shortstop injures himself in a freak accident.
Standard 5×5 roto scoring is immense. This is the traditional format of fantasy baseball and it requires skill and luck.
There are five hitting categories and five pitching categories
In a 15-team league, each team scores between 1 and 15 roto points for each category. The aim is the have the highest total roto points at the end of the season.
Your players score points while they are in your starting lineup. Players on the bench don’t score anything, so it is up to you to set your best lineup each week. The lineups lock for the week just before the first game on Monday.
Say your team scores 38 runs in the first week. Those runs are in the bank. You can’t lose them, even if you subsequently drop players who scored some of those runs. If two other teams scored more, then you are currently positioned third in runs, so that is 13 roto points. These roto points are not banked, they simply serve to show your position in the category which can change every week.
If you had a poor second week and only scored 12 runs, your total in the bank is now 50 runs, which might drop you from third to 14th, giving you just two roto points.
This scoring format applies across all 10 categories, so in theory, the best possible score is 150 points (if you are top in all 10 categories)
Tip: Don’t overreact to big movements in your league position, especially early on in the season
This league is a low maintenance format, so no trades are allowed, and only one add/drop per week. The players who went unselected in the draft become the free-agent pool. You can add a player to your roster at any time, although you must simultaneously drop a player. The exception is if you move an injured player to the IL (see below). Remember, if you pick someone up on a Tuesday, they cannot start contributing until the following week.
Tip: Think twice before dropping a good but slumping player. Someone else might pick him up and just stash him on their bench until he turns it around.
Tip: Being active in free agency is where leagues can be won, by being quick to pick up the hottest bat, or a soon-to-be-promoted prospect, or a newly-crowned closer
When an MLB team puts a player on the IL, the Fantrax system allows you to do the same. There are three IL slots. Moving a player onto the IL will free up a roster slot so you can pick up a free agent without having to drop a player. Obviously, when the injured player is fit again, you will need to drop a player from your roster to re-instate him.
There are literally millions of web pages devoted to fantasy baseball strategy, so we won’t try to re-invent the wheel here, but instead, we can give you a few pointers.
There are two main roto strategies: (1) Building a balanced roster or (2) Punting certain categories.
If you finish in the top four of all 10 categories, you will probably win the league. That is the aim of a balanced roster.
A player like Bryce Harper is invaluable as he contributes to all five categories. His 2022 projections are:
Whereas a player like Yordan Alvarez offers similar production in four categories, but you will need to get stolen bases elsewhere.
Adalberto Mondesi is projected to lead the league in stolen bases, so he alone would push your team high in the SB standings, but he doesn’t contribute many runs or RBI and his projected .242 AVG will drag down your batting average.
So building a balanced roster means choosing players that contribute to every category, and when that is not possible, trying to balance the roster so you get enough stats in each category.
For instance, Joey Gallo is an awesome player but severely drains your batting average, so by taking Gallo and then someone like Luis Arraez, the stats are balanced.
The other strategy is to punt a category. Basically, this means you are not actively trying to get contributors for that category. The three main categories where this works are stolen bases, batting average, or saves.
The philosophy is that by drafting players that excel in the other categories, you will fair better overall. There is also the possibility that players who contribute saves or stolen bases could appear midway through the season. Not many people drafted Myles Straw last season and he finished tied-fourth with 30 stolen bases.
Strategy: The 10 categories
Runs: Look for players who get on-base and hit high in the lineup. J.P. Crawford led off for the Mariners and scored as many runs last season as Aaron Judge, yet was available 200+ picks later.
Home Runs & RBI: These are typically the same targets, so look out for the higher-RBI contributors. Cedric Mullins and Jose Abreu both hit 30 homers last year, but with 117 RBI, Abreu almost doubled Mullins’ total.
Stolen bases: This is a tough category as you usually have to make sacrifices in other areas to draft a guy with high SB potential. One idea is to only draft players who will chip in a few steals (Manny Machado rather than Rafael Devers, for instance). Alternatively, players like Robbie Grossman and Jazz Chisholm might hit 20 homers to go along with 20 stolen bases. And as mentioned above, stolen base guys always appear after the draft.
Batting average: This is the toughest of the categories to make up if you fall behind during the season. The first 100 hitters drafted will combine for around .270 AVG. The next 100 combine for about .250 AVG. That 20 point difference might not seem much, but it means it is very unlikely that you can improve your AVG from free agency.
TIP: Maximise playing time. That’s partly why players like Marcus Semien and Whit Merrifield are so valuable. They play every day, and they hit high in the lineup so get more plate appearances than players hitting lower down the order or those who are platooned.
This is far more of a balancing act than hitting. You really need to build your rotation in the draft, and do it without risking extremes in any of the categories.
Wins: Pitcher wins is an erratic category. Bizarrely, Brent Suter had more wins last season than teammate Corbin Burnes, but the general rule is… good starting pitchers on good teams get more wins. There was only one 20-win player last season (Julio Urias) so don’t worry too much about targeting wins in the draft, just use it as a tiebreaker. E.g. an Astros pitcher will likely get more wins than an Orioles pitcher.
Strikeouts: This is far more predictable. A good rule is to draft at least one 200-strikeout starter. This gives you a good base. Once again, when drafting your rotation, just use strikeouts as a clincher (Joe Musgrove 10 K/9, Marcus Stroman 8 K/9).
Saves: The closer role is the most volatile in baseball. Last season, most of the top closers kept their jobs so some complacency has crept into fantasy baseball. However, it is almost inevitable that half of the closers at the start of the season will lose their jobs by the end. The strategies here are to (1) Draft an established closer early, but that means turning down the opportunity of a high-quality hitter/starter. (2) Grabbing a couple of mid-range closers (and keeping your fingers crossed) or (3) Taking a couple of speculative relievers with later picks. Last season, Emmanuel Clase was a speculative reliever buried behind James Karinchak and Nick Wittgren but ended up as one of the game’s best closers with 24 saves and 1.29 ERA.
ERA: This is simple. Draft good starters. Generally, good starters have lower ERA.
WHIP: This is simple. Draft good starters. Generally, good starters have a lower WHIP
Obviously, this is simplistic, but it is true. This is where building a balanced rotation comes in. If you take a pitcher with a low WHIP then that allows you to team him up with a high-strikeout pitcher with a higher WHIP.
TIP: Draft good starters, but don’t overdo it. An ideal scenario in this league is to have three or four great starters that you can rely on every week., and then six or seven average starters that you can use when they have good matchups.
TIP: Good matchups are starts against the worst teams or teams that strike out a lot. The best matchups are two-start weeks. The lineup locks every Monday, so if a couple of your pitchers have two starts that week, it boosts your chances of wins and strikeouts.
TIP: Bad matchups include starts against the best teams and starts at Colorado.
TIP: Utilising elite relievers is handy. Especially if your closer isn’t getting saves or none of your fringe starters have good matchups. Someone like Chad Green could get 100 strikeouts with ridiculously low WHIP and excellent ERA. And there is the outside chance that he gets the closer job if something happens to Aroldis Chapman.
Featured image photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images