Ten Things You Need to Win Your Fantasy Baseball League

The National Fantasy Baseball Championship hosts live drafts in Chicago at the end of the month. I’ll be there, hobnobbing, sniffing the rarefied air, and well, fantasizing about playing against some of the nation’s sharpest would-be general managers.
The NFBC players are my kind of guys, and I’m pretty sure I can hold my own with them, but the entry fee, at $1,400, is too rich for my blood. Besides, NFBC is a mixed league—American League and National League players jumbled together—with no trading. What fun is that?
For me, there’s only one way to play fantasy baseball: Ultra.
In an Ultra league—more commonly known as a “keeper league”—you play either with AL players or NL players. No mixing. Players are auctioned off, and after that reserves are drafted. You need to know prospects and how close they are to the majors. You need to know guys who are not getting much playing time but could succeed if given the chance. You need to know scrubs. In short, you need to know your baseball.
You might say, “Why would I want to play in league in which Bryan LaHair is my first baseman?” My response would be, “Because you’re a Major League manager, Mr. Sveum.” Actually I’d say that playing in a deep keeper league more closely resembles real baseball. You have some stars (unless you’re the Astros), some above-average players (unless you’re the Astros), and the rest is filler (Astros!) In a shallow league, your team is made up of great players. You may think your team is stacked at first, but you soon realize that everybody’s team is stacked. In Ultra there’s more strategy. It’s all I want to play.
But it’s not easy to win an Ultra league. You need to put in a lot of work, and you need a lot of luck. You also need some narcissistic online writer to come up with a list of Ten Things You Need to Win Your Fantasy Baseball League.
Ten Things You Need to Win Your Fantasy Baseball League
This is probably the most important thing I use to prepare for the auction. Even if you don’t bring your computer to the draft, you still need some way to organize all your preparation. I make a sheet for hitters and a sheet for pitchers with projected stats and estimated cost. I add a column for notes. I highlight guys I like one color and guys I want to stay away from another. Do that every day for a couple of months, and suddenly you have a lot of information for draft day. I can also use this to keep track of the other teams in my league – once they decide whom they’re keeping, I can see who was smart and who was Chuck. Keep an eye on the smart ones on draft day – you’ll want to try to screw them at every opportunity.
You need time to do this right. You may have to sacrifice some of the NCAA Tournament or pass on that spring break trip (with Northwestern out, a lot of time has opened up in my life.) If you’re married, your spouse better be very understanding. And under no circumstances should you agree to have your parents, or hers, come visit three weekends before draft day.
$1 pitchers and catchers you can live with
You need the names on a little piece of paper: three or four catchers you can pick up at the end of the draft (I like Welington Castillo of the Cubs and Tyler Flowers of the White Sox as good $1 backup catchers). About a dozen pitchers with upside who will cost you nothing. That’s it.
A projected budget for each open spot on your roster
If you have $180 to spend on nine spots, don’t just say, “I can spend $20 per player!” Jot down how much you want to spend in each open spot. If you want to spend $1 on the last catcher and $1 on the last pitcher, that means you have $178 to spend on seven spots, or about $25 a player. You can go up to $45 or $50 for one stud if you budget for it.
One fantasy baseball magazine (preferably RotoWire’s)
Bring it with you and don’t be shy about it. Make sure it’s one that has games played by position last year so that you can consult it in a hurry.
List of everyone’s rosters
You can fill in the keepers beforehand. Make sure you have pens and a calculator, and keep track throughout the draft. Knowing another owner’s maximum bid, and their remaining needs, couldn’t be more crucial. True story: Two owners wanted Rafael Betancourt last year and both had a maximum bid of nine bucks. One owner, thinking he’d “save a buck,” bid only eight. The other owner bid nine. The owner who tried to save a buck got second place and would’ve won with Betancourt instead of Hong-Chih Freaking Kuo.
One good luck charm
My family has been tearing the house apart looking for DunKenn, a basketball-playing ear of corn I got in a Happy Meal in 1993. He’s been with me at every draft since. This picture was taken a few weeks ago, but he hasn’t been seen since. There is a reward if found.
Know your rookies
Find a website you trust and spend a day or two learning about the prospects. Mark big stars next to the guys you like. Tattoo the name “Anthony Rizzo” inside your forehead, for example, just like Sveum surely has. Sure, you might get snide comments for picking Addison Reed when no one else had heard of him. The snidest comments will be from the guy who just wasted a roster spot on Aaron Miles.
Don’t stay up drinking or even preparing for the draft. Get to sleep. Draft day is not for the weary.
Don’t have children
Oh, they’re great and all that, but they take time away from fantasy. And definitely try to not have them born in March while you’re trying to prepare. (In an unrelated note, happy first birthday, Evan Ruby!) 
Note: This article originally appeared on


By: MaineSkin
On: 3/19/2012 12:11:00 PM
I love it, but m wife does not. True story, last year in my 10 team 25-man NL only 15-keeper auction, my wife was called to work 3 hours before the draft. I had no way of getting a sitter and had to bring my 2 year old son with me. What did I do? I played the famous Stars and Scrubs to an extreme!
Honestly, this is my problem as I know more than anyone at my draft, but I do not have a way to organize it at the table. How about a sample "spread" of what your spot on the table looks like?
By: quails144
On: 3/19/2012 4:54:00 PM
Excellent article. Good laughs. And good advice!

I also use the Excel, and personally like to cram everything onto one page with very small type, mainly to confound the jackass who always sits next to me and tries to crib. Once in a while I will write the name of some stiff in big letters in the margin, pretending I'm looking at him as a sleeper. Usually that guy buys him. That part is awesome.

Still have never been able to get a good night's sleep the night before. There's always SOMEthing to tweak.

Good luck!
By: kennruby
On: 3/20/2012 7:48:00 PM
Thanks for the kind words guys. Love both of your stories. I always worry someone is looking at my cheat sheet, but I agree - it's so tiny and so full of stuff that if anyone glanced at it during the draft, they wouldn't be able to decipher it quickly enough. I think I'll try the "big stiff" ploy though - love it.

As for organization at the table, I've never heard anyone ask that before, but it's an interesting question. I'm going to take a picture at my next draft. I think I have a lot of stuff that I never use at the draft. I try to keep my rookie info WAY out of the way during the auction, and only pull it out for the rotation draft. During the auction, I have a sheet right right in front of me or maybe a little to the right (I'm right-handed) with everyone's roster. My magazine is underneath it, so I have something to write on. I then have all my hitters in a pile printed to the left of that, and then all of the pitchers printed in a pile above it or below it (depending on which I need at that time). A couple of pens out of my bag (and like ten more inside my bag). Calculator. DunKenn. Bottle of water. Frappaccino for the morning. Where's the laptop, you say? Generally it's in my way. I'll probably bring it to my draft, but I don't like using it. I'm used to doing things the old-fashioned way, but I like the RotoWire software, so I may bring my laptop just so I have the information all plugged in. Oh, and bring a power strip, laptop charger and phone charger too.

Oh, and I always listen to Bob Dylan before a draft. Specifically "Tangled up in Blue" and "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts." Old tradition.
By: quails144
On: 3/20/2012 11:46:00 PM
Find your corncob yet?

You know, new traditions can be just as good, especially if you haven't won for a while (not saying that, just offering). Highly recommend some sort of bobblehead, especially if it looks vaguely like you.


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