Fantasy baseball 2018: Wait on outfield to win your league

Jose Ramirez & Francisco Lindor: elite fantasy infielders

Realizing outfield is so deep in fantasy baseball this season is the first step toward winning your league.

With so many outfield options available late in the draft, you need to fill your infield first and load up on pitchers early.

The strategy is so simple; it needed a simple acronym. WOODBASTA (Wait On Outfield, Don’t Be A Slave To ADP).

Tip No. 1: Wait on outfield

There are so many outfielders. You can get whatever, whenever you want it.

If you want batting average, look at Adam Eaton (ADP 142) or Michael Brantley (ADP 236). If you need home runs, Jay Bruce (ADP 144) offers excellent value, or in deeper leagues Randal Grichuk (ADP 384). For runs, look for a player with good on-base skills hitting at the top of a lineup, like Dexter Fowler (ADP 257) or Shin-soo Choo (ADP 261).

Stolen bases more than any other category are available from the outfield late in drafts. I’m a Cameron Maybin (ADP 402) guy. He swiped 33 last season, which was good for fifth place and looks to have a path for regular playing time in Miami.

You cannot get the same level of counting stats from other position as late in drafts, so you need to focus on filling your infield first.

Unless a player drops to value at which you cannot refuse, I don’t think you should take an outfielder in the first 100 picks.

Tip No. 2: Don’t be a slave to ADP

It is so easy to restrict yourself to the players whose ADP puts them in the vicinity of your pick, but don’t stop yourself reaching to get the player you need.

Spot the difference between the projections for these two players. One of them is available 120 picks after the other.

Player A (ADP 59): 20 HR, 73 runs, 70 RBI, 21 SB, 0.256 AVG
Player B (ADP 179): 19 HR, 78 runs, 65 RBI, 21 SB, 0.255 AVG

Their identities are revealed later in the article.

The mock draft simulator from FantasyPros is a fantastic tool to hone your drafting skills without taking up more than just a few minutes of your day. Customize it to your league size and settings.

For this mock draft, we used ESPN standard settings for a 12-team roto league with C, 1B, 2B, 3B, MI, CI, 5 x OF, UT and 9 x P.

Max Scherzer is a first rounder not Bryce Harper

Max Scherzer is the first rounder, not Bryce Harper

MOCK DRAFT

The randomizer worked in my favor. For once I did not want the No.1 pick. And drafting Jose Altuve with the second pick gives a favorably distorted impression of an infield-first strategy.

The sixth pick had Clayton Kershaw written all over it. Unfortunately, he went the third pick, presenting an immediate dilemma of whether I could strictly enforce the WOODBASTA strategy.

If I wanted one of the “big four” starting pitchers, then I had to take one now. Waiting until the second round could be too late.

There is usually never a scenario when I reach for a player in the first round, but I had to stay true to the strategy.

1.06 Max Scherzer
It was a tough decision to reach to take Scherzer ahead of Mookie Betts, Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper but the plan was underway. 250 strikeouts with great ratios spread across 200 innings.

2.07 Jose Ramirez
The fourth of the “big four” starters went just before my pick, justifying the reach for Scherzer. It quickly became apparent that the sixth pick was not an ideal spot from which to execute this plan. I ignored George Springer, J.D. Martinez and Aaron Judge. My choice was between the two Cleveland infielders. They are both favorites of mine and offer similar counting stats, but Ramirez’s .300-plus batting average and 2B-eligibility gave him the edge.

3.06 Stephen Strasburg
Cody Bellinger was still on the board, but there is too much risk for regression, especially with his high-strikeout rate, and there is not much room for profit taking him so early. My eyes were drawn to Anthony Rendon who is second round talent despite his ADP of 54. I gambled that he would still be there for my next pick. He wasn’t.

Backing up Scherzer with Strasburg gives a championship-winning foundation for my rotation. Another 200 strikeouts with elite ratios, and let’s be honest, if Strasburg makes 30 starts, he is one of the Cy Young Award favorites.

Edwin Encarnacion: you need to draft one of the top-8 first basemen

Edwin Encarnacion: you need to draft one of the top-8 first basemen

4.07 Edwin Encarnacion
I want one of the top-eight first basemen, like Miguel Cabrera, Matt Olson and Justin Smoak especially at their lower draft position, but I always want guaranteed reliability at first base, and you can’t get much more reliable than Encarnacion. I would have taken the Indians’ slugger over Jose Abreu or Rhys Hoskins, but as it was, only Encarnacion was available.

It is hard to find a solid argument for taking Encarnacion over Abreu. They are both incredibly consistent hitters, but despite being four years older, I like Encarnacion’s patience at the plate and the better lineup. Sometimes you have to go with your heart rather than your head.

5.06 Kenley Jansen
I don’t really like the second half of the top-100. Robbie Ray was the best pick according to ADP, but he is another player who appeared to overachieve last season. He will need to reduce the walks before I take him in the top 60.

I ruled out Tommy Pham, the best hitter available, as I still wanted to fill my infield first. I was attracted to Elvis Andrus, but once again I can’t see any sustainability of his power breakout. He hit more home runs last year than he had in the previous three seasons combined.

The Dodgers’ closer is the best player at his position and Jansen will offer 35-plus saves with 100 strikeouts and exceptional ratios.

6.07 Craig Kimbrel
There were lots of outfielders available: A.J. Pollock, Khris Davis and Byron Buxton. All great players but I was expecting to be able to draft similar production later in the draft. I’ll refer you to the Player A (Byron Buxton), Player B (Kevin Kiermaier) comparison on the first page.

Taking two elite closers in the top-100 picks was unexpected, but Kimbrel adds another 100 strikeouts with 35 saves. I’m almost guaranteed to be in the top three in saves.

Xander Bogaerts: obvious bounceback candidate?

Xander Bogaerts: obvious bounce-back candidate?

7.06 Xander Bogaerts
I needed to turn attention my attention to filling the rest of my infield and Bogaerts’ ADP makes him a fantastic value. The 25-year-old played with a hand injury for the entire second half and despite a dreadful 2017, the Red Sox’ infielder has averaged 104 runs with 16 home runs, 76 RBI, 14 stolen bases and .285 AVG over the last two years.

8.07 Travis Shaw
There were plenty of power options available to fill third base, with Shaw, Adrian Beltre and Miguel Sano at the top of the list. Not only did Shaw hit 31 home runs with 101 RBI last season, but he also swiped double-digit bags. Without one of the elite stolen base speedsters (Trea Turner, Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton), I need to pick up contributions where possible.

9.06 Miguel Sano
Having weighed up Sano vs. Shaw for the last pick, it was very satisfying to see Sano still on the board. This is a high-reward pick. Although he only hit 28 home runs in an injury-hit 2017, Sano exuded power and was on pace for a 40 home run and 110 RBI season. He has the threat of a suspension hanging over him, and he has arrived at Spring Training not in the best shape of his life, but he offers top-20 fantasy potential. It would not be that surprising if he finished as the top home run hitter this season.

10.7 Alex Wood
I had to be careful that I did not become too complacent having Scherzer and Strasburg as an elite pair spearheading my pitching. I still needed to complete my rotation. Wood is probably not as good as 16 wins and 2.72 ERA suggest, but he will still be a great value if he drops to 12 wins with 3.32 ERA (which matches his FIP in 2017) and 1.05 WHIP.

Carlos Santana: underrated Philles' slugger

Carlos Santana: underrated Phillies’ slugger

11.6 Carlos Santana
I just don’t get why Santana doesn’t get more love. Yes, I know his batting average takes a hit because he walks so much, but the on-base skills equate to a high floor. A minimum of 80 runs, 85 RBI, 25 home runs and a few stolen bases works in every format. Also, drafting Santana for his consistency gives the opportunity to take a few more risks later in the draft. Although I took the switch-hitter for my UT slot, the software put him in my outfield, so my first outfielder was taken with pick No.126.

12.7 Jay Bruce
My second outfielder followed immediately. Bruce, like Santana, negatively impacts my batting average but you can rely on about 32 home runs with 96 RBI every year. Having missed out on the big bats in the early rounds, I needed to get some power.

13.6 Evan Gattis
My plan was always to wait on catcher until the very last pick as there is not much difference between the fifth-ranked catcher and the 12th ranked catcher. Knowing that I was still a little short on power, Gattis, with his potential for 30 home runs from a catcher, was too good to pass up. Unless the Astros pounce on one of the remaining free agent sluggers, Gattis should see the majority of at-bats at DH and has the potential to finish as a top-3 catcher.

14.7 Mark Melancon
None of the infielders or starting pitchers in this area of the draft appealed to me. Lots of high-upside outfielders were available (Manuel Margot, Kevin Kiermaier, Kyle Schwarber) but I still wanted to fill middle infield before adding more outfielders. The players that I was targeting were further down the draft board and I did not need to reach for them.

Melancon offers the potential for an additional 35 saves, and as the 14th closer off the board, sometimes you need to take the value when it presents itself.

Jonathan Villar: late speed

Jonathan Villar: late speed

15.6 Jonathan Villar
A few rounds ago, I decided that I wanted Villar’s speed to fill my middle infield. It was just a matter of timing. It was only back in 2016 that Villar led the league with 62 stolen bases. If he manages half of that, I will be happy. The roster is short on speed so this helps and the rest will be addressed with the remaining outfield slots.

16.7 Charlie Morton
This felt like a reach but there were not many pitchers left of whom I was confident that my ratios wouldn’t be too badly impacted. Morton, of course, comes with injury risk, but like Rich Hill (who I missed out on in round eight), he will offer 12-15 excellent starts.

17.6 Bradley Zimmer
Now to fill the three remaining outfield slots. I had a shortlist of nine players and maybe Zimmer is the most underrated. He is the best center fielder in Cleveland and their former top prospect, so expect him to get everyday at-bats. Injury shut the 25-year-old down last season and has extinguished all post-prospect hype. He is a serious 20 home run, 30 stolen base candidate. I’ll settle for 10 home runs and 25 stolen bases, with the runs and RBI that come from hitting in the Indians’ lineup.

18.7 Mitch Haniger
Another player that went from an over-hyped hitter in last year’s drafts to an afterthought this season. In his first proper taste of the majors, Haniger was on pace for 25 home runs with 90 runs and 75 RBI. That’s Yasiel Puig-level/round nine production and I’m getting him more than 100 picks later.

Chris Davis: late power

Chris Davis: late power

19.6 Chris Davis
It proved to be a fortunate glitch that Santana was flipped into my first outfield slot, as I still had an empty UT slot. Davis slipped and as he offered the most power left on the draft board, it was too good to pass up. Although he endured a down season of 26 home runs and 61 RBI last year, Davis has averaged 38 home runs and 94 RBI over the last four years. It is a low-risk/high-reward pick, but yet another hit to my batting average.

20.7 Delino DeShields
Obviously, I drafted him for the 40-plus stolen base potential but his high OBP fueled by a 10% walk rate will get him pushed up the Rangers’ lineup, and regular playing time could result in 100 runs.

21.6 Miles Mikolas
I love high-upside picks in the late rounds. Very little is lost if it doesn’t work out. Mikolas enjoyed a sustained stretch of success in Japan with 2.18 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 8.02 SO/9 over three years. He has the potential to return excellent fantasy value.

22.7 Tanner Roark
The Nationals’ fourth starter is another underrated option. Although he does not have the ceiling of Mikolas, he should churn out 200 innings with around 8.00 SO/9 and an ERA below 4.00. Wins is a tough category to predict, but backed up by Washington’s awesome offensive power, Roark’s potential for 15 wins is great.

Bench
Alex Reyes, Chad Green, Michael Kopech. You have to shoot for the moon when drafting your bench players. Who knows what will happen in Spring Training but all three possess the talent to be exceptional fantasy contributors.

The results are available on the full draft board.

Don't be shy about reaching. You could land the next Aaron Judge

Don’t be shy about reaching. You could land the next Aaron Judge

FINAL QUICK TAKE

Let’s be honest. Every fantasy baseball prediction/projection is a best-guess. Don’t be dragged down by the weight of ADP. If there is a player you want and you have to reach to get him, then do it. Jose Ramirez had an ADP of 106 last season. People who reached two rounds to draft him were still in possession of immense value. And as for Aaron Judge with his 246 ADP. He was nothing more than an outfield flyer.

Try out different strategies on the FantasyPros mock draft simulator. I had similar success in shallower, three-outfielder leagues so maybe WOODBASTA will work for your league format.