Baseball season is just ten days away.
Itâ€™s a glorious statement on multiple levels. First, baseball marks the beginning of warm weather and all the activities that go along with it.
But more importantly, it signals the start of fantasy baseball, which just so happens to be my nerdy obsession. Iâ€™m one of those guys who pay attention to a pitcherâ€™s WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched) and a hitterâ€™s on-base percentage.
Fantasy baseball is actually a lot more fun than fantasy football but only if you are willing to follow it closely throughout the year.
So for all my fellow geeks, nerds, dweebs and gurus, here is my personal guide to building a champion.
Unless you play in AL or NL-only leagues, you should consider which league a given player resides and draft accordingly. The most significant difference between the American and National Leagues is the amount of runs scored throughout the season.
The American League is annually the more offensive-oriented of the two because of the presence of a designated hitter in the batting order in place of a pitcher. As such, pitchers in the National League generally have a lower ERA (earned run average) and WHIP because they get to take advantage of facing a pitcher three to four times a game. It may not seem like much, but it adds up over the course of a 162-game schedule. Donâ€™t believe me? Look at the standings over the past several seasons and youâ€™ll see that American League teams generally score and allow more runs than their National League counterparts.
Baseball is unique to other American sports in that it doesnâ€™t enforce uniformity in the dimensions of the playing field. This means some teams can construct massively expansive outfields that allow for a defensive style of baseball (good for pitchers, bad for hitters) while other parks are so small that routine fly balls can easily turn into home runs. There are other factors that create a ballparks offensive-friendliness (or hostility), but Iâ€™ll save you the research and give you the teams that have good offensive and defensive parks:
Offensive Parks: Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies
Defensive Parks: Oakland Aâ€™s, St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres
Top notch hitters are more important than top notch pitchers
Over the past few seasons Iâ€™ve come to realize that itâ€™s much more important to use my first few picks on elite hitters than it is to collect several ace pitching prospects. You can get wins and decent ERAâ€™s just about anywhere in the draft if you are savvy enough. But the 30-home run, 100-RBI types are much harder to come by. Conversely, it seems that everyone and their dog is usually looking for a quality pitching option by midseason, so it might not hurt to stock up on arms and look for a desperate manager to make a trade with sometime in June or July. Iâ€™ll stick with my strategy for now.
Forget position scarcity
If you are doing research before the draft youâ€™ll undoubtedly come across some expert stressing the importance of knowing POSITION SCARCITY! Theyâ€™ll preach that short stops are in high demand and that first basemen are somehow less valuable because there are so many quality options. Iâ€™ve always employed a â€œtake the best man on the boardâ€ mentality while drafting. I am much happier selecting a guy like Ryan Howard with my third pick and settling for a terrible option at short stop later than overpaying for Jose Reyes and settling for a less desirable first baseman. If you fill your team with as much talent as possible, you give yourself more options for trading and filling in holes in your offense.
Iâ€™ll close by giving you a few guys I like this season. Iâ€™m going to leave out the Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirezâ€™s of the world, we all know they are in for big seasons. These are the guys I think will go from good to elite:
Breakout Players: Martin Prado (2B), Buster Posey (C/1B), Andrew McCutchen (OF), Jason Heyward (OF), Jonathan Sanchez (P), Jeremy Hellickson (P), Brett Anderson (P).
Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.