Writing this story led me to the tip about pig farmer Lindy Hinkelman’s fantasy baseball expertise, which I wrote for the New York Times.
Follow this fantasy baseball advice to build and manage a winning lineup.
The movie Moneyball made it clear: Anyone with a computer, a head for stats and a love of America’s pastime can put together a winning baseball team—if not in “the show,” as players call the major leagues, then in fantasy baseball, where prizes can reach $100,000.
In fantasy baseball, you “draft” major league players and then get points based on their performance on the field. Whether you’re playing for high stakes or just for bragging rights among friends, you’ll need a few pointers to get started. Put the tips in play, and you’ll be ready to manage like Tony LaRussa, whose teams won three World Series (most recently the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011), and take home that trophy.
Play by the Rules
When you join a league, the most important thing to know—even more than who’s the best hitter—is the league’s rules. “That seems basic,” says Pete Schoenke, president of fantasy sports firm RotoWire.com, “but lots of times, what you think of as a great baseball player isn’t necessarily a great fantasy baseball player.”
If your league gives points for stolen bases, then you might want to pick up a speedster, even if that player isn’t necessarily a star in other facets of the game.
Peg on Pitchers
Like the real game, pitching has grown in importance, according to Greg Ambrosius, founder of the six-figure NFBC tourney. “Starting pitchers really dominate,” Ambrosius says. “Not many people get 20 wins anymore. An elite pitcher like Verlander or Clayton Kershaw can become your rock.”
Study the Stats
Get your geek on. Study the stats at sites like fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com. Don’t just look for last year’s stars; try to anticipate who’s on the verge of a breakout season. Lindy Hinkelman, the two-time champ in STATS LLC’s National Fantasy Baseball Championship, won it all last year by anticipating star turns from Matt Kemp, Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson, who hadn’t lived up to past expectations.
Know the depth at various positions. There aren’t many star catchers; you’ll want to grab a Joe Mauer early, and hope he stays healthy.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Prepare for the draft. You can tinker with your roster during the season, but drafting top talent is critical to a successful season. Most major fantasy sites, like ESPN and Yahoo, offer mock drafts, or you could try mockdraftcentral.com, where you can practice.
Scout the Minors
Finally, keep an eye on the minor leagues. “You’d be surprised how many rookies get called up these days and have prominent roles,” Ambrosius says. “You cannot win without scouting AAA and AA. You have to know the top prospect in each organization. They will get called up, and they will make an impact.”
Dan Fost is the author of Giants Past and Present, and lived his baseball fantasy in 2010 when San Francisco won the real World Series.