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Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: The CARS Plan

Every year, a good friend of mine in my NL-Only redraft league comes to the draft, drafting a power hitter and an ace early, going about his draft attempting to balance his roster with solid hitters and starting pitchers. But by the end of April, every year, he has traded all of his power hitters for ace starting pitchers, and works other deals to get leadoff hitters who will score runs, hit for a good average and steals some bases.

One year, he challenged for the league title using this strategy, but missed first place by a few points. I tell him at the draft every year, why don't you just draft the team YOU want and not try to draft a team that is balanced. You see, he loves good starting pitchers. He does everything he can to trade for ace starters like Cliff Lee and Clayton Kershaw.

Dumping power is not for everyone, but if there was ever a year to dump power in an NL-Only league, it is THIS season. With Ryan Braun and Ryan Howard out for the first few months of the season, Albert Pujols taking his big bat to Anaheim (not LA) and Prince Fielder to Detroit, there is very little power to be had this season.

Actually, I think I might try this strategy this season. I call it the CARS Plan. The details of the strategy after the jump:

The CARS Plan involves drafting Closers, Aces, Runs and Steals. Not to clever, but I gave it a shot. Anyway, here is what you need to do to pull this strategy off:

1. Closers - Like the Punting Starters strategy which I wrote about yesterday, you need to draft two decent closers, and probably a third closer late in the draft. You need to draft someone like Craig Kimbrel or Mariano Rivera early as you need a closer who will get you plenty of saves with a solid ERA and WHIP.

2. Aces - here is where you need to draft two ace starting pitchers early in your draft. You don't have to grab one in the first round, but make sure you grab someone like Clayton Kershaw or Cliff Lee in the second round. I would even draft another ace starter in the third round. Some aces who are going in the third round, according to Mock Draft Central, include Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels and CC Sabathia.

3. Runs - this might be the toughest category to draft, but you need to draft hitters on teams that score plenty of runs. In the first round, grab Jacoby Ellsbury who will also steal around 40 bases for you and should score 100+ runs in the potent Red Sox lineup. If you can't draft an Ellsbury or a Matt Kemp, make sure you grab a hitter who will hit for a good average, even if he hits for power. Most early round power hitters will score runs and hit for a solid BA, plus you can use them as trade bait later in the year should you need another ace starting pitcher.

Then, after drafting your two aces in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, grab another hitter who will score runs, hit for a solid average and steal some bases for you. According to MDC, Carl Crawford is going in the 4th round right now. Assuming his wrist injury isn't serious, I think he should have a bounce back year in 2012, and should score over 100 runs and steal 35-40 bases for you.

4. Steals - You need to win the stolen base category, so you need to draft guys who will steal bases. If you need a first baseman, and Eric Hosmer is available, grab him. He has some power, and hits for a solid average. And he steals bases too. He stole 11 bases last year and tied for the major league lead for stolen bases for a first baseman, and I think he can steal 15 bases in 2012.

You will need to focus on leadoff hitters, guys who score runs and steal bases, and hit for a good batting average for this strategy to work. You also need to focus on hitters who play everyday and hit in a good lineup. If it's too early to draft a guy like Michael Bourn or Brett Gardner, grab someone like Michael Young, as Young hits for a very good BA, hits in one of the better lineups in baseball, and scores runs.

Like I said, don't reach for guys like Bourn or Gardner too early, but you may want to take them a round before they are projected because you need guys who steal and score runs for this strategy to work.

Another guy to take a little later in your draft is Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon. He stole 24 bases in just over 200 at bats last season, and could steal 50+ this season. He makes enough contact that he will probably lead the majors in infield hits, and could lead the majors in stolen bases as well.

After the 4th or 5th round, you might want to alternate between taking a solid run scorer/base stealer and a starting pitcher. You want to draft pitchers who strike out a lot of hitters, prevent run scoring and don't allow too many base runners. Sounds easy, right? No, but you can use our rankings and pitcher profiles to help you when trying to decide which starting pitcher to take.

One thing I will say is that if you are deciding between a hitter who steals just a few bases, but hits for a good batting average, like Neil Walker vs a Chris Young who will steal 20+ bases, go with Walker. But you said to draft guys who steal bases and score runs, right? Right. But you don't want Young's .236 batting average. You can find the 15 extra stolen bases he will get you later in the draft.

Actually, this strategy might lead me to recommend Dustin Ackley over Jason Kipnis. I might even recommend grabbing Derek Jeter if you have enough speed elsewhere. Why? They can hit for a good batting average and will score some runs. Well, Jeter will. Not sure how many runs Ackley will score in the Mariners anemic lineup.

So, there you go. Another wacky, zig when others zag, strategy that could lead to another fantasy baseball championship this season. I am REALLY leaning toward using this strategy this season.