Fantasy Draft Strategy: Draft aces early in 2014?

Mike Ehrmann

Ray takes a look at a draft day strategy of drafting aces early, based on early results of some NFBC drafts.

I was going through my Twitter time line on Sunday night, and came across a link to an article written by fantasy expert Greg Ambrosius over at BaseballHQ. The title of the post was "The Next Yu?" discussing the fantasy impact of Masahiro Tanakain 2014. Tanaka is the best free agent starter available in the free agent market this season, so, as expected, many fantasy sites are chiming in with their thoughts/predictions on what to expect from him this season and where he should be drafted/ranked. You already know how much I like Tanaka this season, as I ranked him as my #34 starting pitcher in my Top 100 Starting Pitcher rankings recently.

Anyway, Ambrosius went on to discuss where starting pitchers, or ace starting pitchers are being drafted in the early NFBC fantasy drafts thus far. Here is an excerpt from the Ambrosius article:

This week I competed in a 14-team Rotoworld.com magazine draft and my point was proven. Here were the top SPs drafted and their draft spots compared to NFBC’s ADPs for each of these pitchers:

Player

Rotoworld Draft

ADP

Clayton Kershaw

13

5

Yu Darvish

29

15

Stephen Strasburg

42

34

Adam Wainwright

45

31

Max Scherzer

46

26

Justin Verlander

52

43

Jose Fernandez

53

29

Chris Sale

62

50

Cole Hamels

78

63

David Price

79

53

I’m not saying that the NFBC owners are wilder for pitching than industry writers are, or that industry writers aren’t lured in by the change in pitching stats. But high-stakes players are definitely jumping on the starting pitchers much earlier these days and I think you’ll find industry cheat sheets still are very much offense-oriented. If you’re in a draft like that, don’t be afraid to zig when others are zagging because you may find values like Fernandez and Price like the ones above that are just too good to resist.

Pitching is becoming more important every year in fantasy baseball, so take my advice and adjust to those changes when preparing your draft lists. By doing that, you won’t be caught off-guard when you see earlier-than-expected runs on starting pitchers this year.

Some interesting thoughts here from Ambrosius, as it runs counter to the Wait on Pitching strategy that is so common in fantasy drafts over the past few seasons. Although, I do like to grab an ace in my drafts every year, as your pitching staff needs that anchor who can put up a few solid starts in a row to counter a bad outing or two by one of your 4th of 5th starters.

I also have to say the Kershaw is probably one of the least risky first round choices out there along with Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Andew McCutchen and a few others. I don't mind him at 5 and think that is about right, maybe a spot or two higher than I expected.

The fact that Jose Fernandez is going ahead of the likes of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander tells you that he is a supreme talent, an ace, and that fantasy owners are all in on him in 2014. His ADP in NFBC leagues is that of a second round pick, as these leagues are 15 team leagues, if I am not mistaken.

Kershaw and Darvish in the first round?? I have to say I didn't expect that, but ace starters are the new power hitters. I wonder whether Ambrosius forgot to include Felix Hernandez or that his ADP has fallen that low. Surprising to me, actually.

If you think about it, grabbing a few ace starting pitchers early is really like drafting those two power hitters just a few years back. Even though pitchers are striking out more hitters and home runs and run production is dropping, grabbing a few difference making aces, like Kershaw and Cliff Lee can be the difference between earning 7-8 points in the ERA and WHIP categories to earning a top three spot in those categories.

What do Fake Teams readers think? Are the ADPs on ace starting pitchers too high or just about right?

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