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Draft Strategy: Punting Starting Pitchers

You need this guy if you choose to use the punt starting pitcher strategy.
You need this guy if you choose to use the punt starting pitcher strategy.

About a month ago, I wrote an article telling you that you should not wait to draft ace starting pitchers in your drafts this season. I also analyzed an NL-Only league mock draft that I participated in over at Mock Draft Central and advised you that ace starting pitchers are the new power hitters in 2012, as 8 starting pitchers were drafted amongst the first 25 picks.

Today, I am here to let you know you can win your league by punting starting pitchers. Yep. It's true, you can win your league with this strategy. I have used it to win two NL-Only 5 x 5 leagues over the years. Actually, every year I used this strategy, I placed in the top 3 in the league and was in the money. Now both leagues have rules that require a minimum innings requirement. If your league has no such rule, you should ponder using this strategy. It works, but it is certainly not easy.

What you need to know to win with this strategy after the jump:

Like I said, punting starting pitchers, which involved punting two pitching categories-strikeouts and win-is not an easy strategy, but if done right, you can win. The idea behind the strategy is to draft hitters early in the draft, draft a few solid closers early and fill in the rest of your pitching spots with set up men and relievers with an excellent ERA and WHIP. To win the league you have to win or finish very high in the hitting categories, and win the saves, ERA and WHIP categories.

Here is how you execute this strategy:

1. Draft Closers Early-draft two stud closers early, like in the 6th-8th rounds, because you need closers who will not lose their job and who will put up 35-40 saves with a solid ERA and WHIP. Draft two of Craig Kimbrel, John Axford, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon or Drew Storen.

2. Draft a Third Closer- draft your third closer in round 15-17, and then fill the rest of your pitching slots with the set up guys for closers who are on thin ice on Opening day. Draft Javy Guerra or Rafael Betancourt.

3. Draft Future Closers - to fill out your pitching slots, draft guys like Jonny Venters, Mike Adams and Kenley Jansen, as they all could save anywhere from 5-15 games in 2012. Actually, I think Jansen has a chance to be the Dodgers closer at some point in 2012. It all depends if Guerra can repeat his excellent rookie season.

4. Draft 4-5 Category Hitters - Draft hitters who will help you in 4 or 5 categories early. I don't have to tell you who these hitters are, but guys like Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun (well, not this year if he gets suspended), Miguel Cabrera, etc in the first round, then follow that up with the best hitter available in the second round such as Carlos Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, or Andrew McCutchen.

5. Draft Batting Average - one thing you don't want to do is draft a hitter like Jayson Werth over a hitter who will hit for a better average than Werth, but may not steal 15 bases in 2012. Werth has an ADP of 99.85 right now, but Howie Kendrick is available a few spots lower, and will hit for a better BA and provide 80% of the power and speed that Werth provides. And if you have to choose between a mid-range power hitter or a solid BA guy in the middle rounds, choose the solid BA guy. Why? Because it is easier to make up ground in home runs than it is in batting average.

6. Draft Speed - if you don't draft a 4-5 category hitter with good stolen base totals in the early rounds, you have to draft a top 5 stolen base guy such as Michael Bourn, Brett Gardner or even Dee Gordon in the 7th-12th rounds. You need to win the stolen base category or place in the top 3, at least. Speed guys also score runs, so don't miss out on a few of the top 10 base stealers.

7. Work the Waiver Wire - If one of your later round hitters isn't getting the playing time you projected on draft day, don't wait to drop him and grab someone who is playing everyday.

8. Draft At Bats - to win the counting categories like runs, home runs, RBI and stolen bases, you need guys that play, EVERYDAY. This is easier to do in mixed leagues, than in AL-Only or NL-Only leagues.

So, to win your league with this strategy, I am assuming your league does not have a minimum innings requirement. If it does, you need to draft a few starters who will not kill your ERA and WHIP. You don't care about strikeouts or wins, just ERA and WHIP. You need to win saves, ERA and WHIP.

You also need to place in the top 2-3 in each of the 5 hitting categories. So, when other owners are drafting ace starting pitchers in the 3rd-5th rounds, you will be scooping up the best hitters availalble. You need to draft your first 10 hitters before you draft your third closer. You can also try drafting your first 10-11 hitters before your second closer, but then you really need to work the waiver wire for that next closer, if he isn't already on your team, or draft your second and third closers back to back in rounds 13 and 14. Knowing the draft day tendencies of your fellow owners will help you decide when you should draft your second and third closers.

Like I said a few times, this strategy isn't easy, and isn't for everyone. Why? Because you are punting not one, but two categories, with this strategy. But it does work.