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Friday 26th May 2017

If you need a break from baseball, accept my apology.

The injury bug that has hit the pitchers the last few years has naturally affected the fantasy world. As a result, some people have padded their bench with more hurlers than in the past. Some others have relied on the inevitable turnover to pick up players from the waiver wire during the season. Both strategies worked well.

Then came 2015. Looking around at various leagues, including the “expert” ones, it became apparent that most fantasy teams that did well this year have started the season with a solid pitching staff. Their draft strategy did not rely on picking up free agents during the season. Specifically, the winning teams did not start the season with one or two pitchers picked up in the last rounds of the snake draft or purchased for $1 at the end of the auction.

Bad pitchers may ruin your ERA and WHIP. To win, one must do well in these two categories.

Having to rely on one or two free agents is of course unavoidable. However, no new pitcher promoted during the 2015 season either matched a Jose Fernandez of 2014 or in any way shined to the point of carrying a team to the crown. Chris Heston was good for a few weeks at the beginning of the season. Mike Montgomery did well for a couple of months in the middle of the season and Luis Severino was a good late-season pick-up. Other highly regarded prospects who were promoted to the Majors in 2015 (Taylor Jungmann, Andrew Heaney, Jon Gray, Aaron Nola, John Lamb, Matt Wisler, Steven Matz and Cody Anderson) all had their ups and downs. That said, it is my expectation that after having acquired the major league experience, most of these players will do well in 2016.

One pitcher who missed the beginning of the season and performed very well was Jaime Garcia, but Garcia is not a prospect.

2016 will likely be no different. Consequently, it may be reasonable to get four pitchers in the first ten rounds of snake drafts or spend between $90 and $100 on pitching in an auction. This amount is a bit more than what the current wisdom tells us about the hitters/pitchers ratio.

This auction dollar amount includes closers. How to draft closers is a perennial question. One valid option is to punt the category. Punting either Saves or Stolen Bases is the easiest way to dedicate auction dollars or early-round picks to other areas. Picking up a top-tier closer and two additional ones at the end of the draft or for $1 at the auction is another valid alternative. There are plenty of turnovers in this position and new closers will pop up on the waiver wire.

However, I found that the best draft strategy is to pick up three mid-tier relievers, at $10 to $12 each, who have solid job security at the beginning of the season. By the time one is replaced by his Major League team, which is quite likely, your team will have accumulated more saves than most.

My first auction for 2016 is coming up less than a month from today at the Arizona First Pitch in Phoenix. The crowd at the AFP is well informed. I will report on how this group approaches the 2016 pitching. It is never too soon to think about next season.

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