Disclaimer: Below I have listed 5 guidelines we can use to help win our fantasy baseball leagues in 2016. While I believe these tips will give us the best possible chance to win it is important to note that there is always more than one strategy to winning at fantasy baseball. It would be ignorant to think otherwise. So do with this information what you believe will work and always trust your own rankings over any so called experts. If you have any fantasy baseball questions reach out @toomuchtuma on twitter.
*Note that these guidelines are for standard 10-12 team ESPN/Yahoo/CBS mixed leagues*
1. Pay for power
Baseball ain't what it used to be. The steroid era is over and guys simply aren't hitting as many homers as they used to. Just 20 players in the league last year hit 30 home runs. Back in 2006 34 different guys accomplished the same feat. The decline in power has caused a shift in fantasy baseball draft strategy. Similar to running backs in fantasy football, if you don't load up on power early it will be very difficult to find it later in the draft. Therefore with our early round picks we should opt for well rounded power hitters (Goldschmidt, Stanton, Abreu) over starting pitching. I consider these type of guys well rounded because hitting homers means they also contribute in RBI, runs scored, and sometimes batting average. We should also disregard position in the early rounds and take the best possible player. Shortstop isn't as deep as 1B/OF but that's not enough of a reason to take Carlos Correa. The main point here is don't value Correa so highly just because he fills a thin position. If you like Correa that much take him but it will be easier to find a shortstop later on than it will be to find power.
2. Use no more than one early round pick on a starting pitcher
Starting pitching is DEEP. We live in a pitching dominant league in 2016 and player's stats are reflecting it. Throughout the course of the season there will be so many new options to the starting pitching market due to injuries and minor league call ups. This strategy coincides with loading up on offense early. In most of my drafts I use say 9 of my first 10 picks on offense. I will pay for one ace and then load up on upside pitchers late. Worst case scenario? The upside guys don't pan out and we use the waiver wire to fill out our rotation. In 10-12 team leagues starting pitching is that deep. Starters also have a tendency to get hot for a while. I remember a couple of years ago picking up Aaron Harang for a spot start and he did well so I used him again in his next start. He ended up having a strong couple of months before the wheels fell off but this is an example of how we can exploit the depth of starters on the waiver wire. By taking an ace early we give ourselves someone to depend on. Just make sure it's not in the first two rounds. I'm passing on Kershaw in the first but would certainly take a David Price or Madison Bumgarner type in the third.
3. Don't pay for saves
This is a common fantasy baseball opinion that closers aren't worth the mid round pick ESPN and Yahoo rank them at. The thing with closers is that you only want them for one stat, which is saves. While it's nice to throw in Craig Kimbrel's 100+ strikeouts it's just not worth the cost of where he usually gets drafted. Saves are fluky and are entirely based on opportunity. Every year only half of the league's saves leaders at season end began the spring as their team's closer. There is so much turnover among closers year to year (due to injury or general ineffectiveness) that there will be guys to pick up on waivers throughout the season. A prime example of this last season was Jeurys Familia, who went undrafted in fantasy leagues yet finished with the third most saves in all of baseball. Our plan, as opposed to taking Kimbrel in the middle rounds, should be to load up on closers/potential closers late in the draft. When everyone else is scrambling for offense/power we can draft a surplus of closers/potential closers and hope a few of them stick. If recent history is any addiction than this strategy (in addition to closely monitoring team's bullpens to find the next Familia on the waiver wire) is much more optimal than paying the price for the elite relievers.
4. Draft your catcher late
This one comes down to simple math. There are 30 major league teams yet most fantasy leagues require we start just one catcher (as opposed to other infield positions where you need to fill a 1B/3B or a 2B/SS spot). So if you're in a 10 team league odds are only 10 catchers will be drafted. Once a team drafts a catcher they are going to be out of the market for another. Therefore by waiting to fill this position we can get value. Buster Posey is the best player at his position but he isn't worth taking with an early round pick because catchers 2-10 are all pretty much the same. And since the teams that took a catcher early aren't going to take another later in the draft we will be able to get what should be a mid round pick in the later rounds.
5. If you like somebody then take them
There is no worse feeling than seeing another team draft a player we love when we didn't pull the trigger on taking him just because ESPN didn't rank him as high as us. In 2016 there is an abundance of fantasy analysis available to us, both free and for purchase. You can listen to the experts all you want but at the end of the day it's your team. So while I suggest taking into account what others have to say it's important to develop your own rankings and strategy and merely use others advice/opinions as a guide.