I recall a few years ago, maybe five or so, when the first pitcher went off the board in the sixth round. How things have changed! Today you should not wait that long.
Whatever the logic was at the time for waiting on pitchers, generally that hitters are reliable while hurlers are unpredictable and more prone to injury, that was then. This is now. Consider yourself lucky if you have an early first-round pick and are able to grab Clayton Kershaw. That’s exactly what our Lord Zola did in the Mixed LABR league last month.
Kershaw was the only non-hitter to be drafted in the first round in that league. But four pitchers went in the second round and nine were selected in the third round.
This year’s Tout Wars Mixed draft had a similar distribution. Kershaw went in the first round, one more pitcher went in the second and eight were drafted in the third round.
What about the old 65/35 rule, the guideline that we quasi religiously followed for so long telling us to spend 65% of our budget on hitters and the remaining 35% on pitchers? Tossed out the window.
In the NFBC auction leagues that I scanned, at least 10 out of 15 participants exceeded the 35% budget limit. In my own NFBC league, 11 teams met or exceeded 35% with one team spending an enormous $130, a 50/50 split.
AL or NL-only auction leagues are not a good example to learn from because many participants tend to use the stars-and-scrubs method due to the scarcity of players available to fill the rosters. That said, in the Tout Wars AL-only auction that took place this past weekend in NYC, our own Lawr Michaels dedicated 42% of his budget to pitching.
This change is not new in 2016. It begun last year and you have been reading about it here on this site and elsewhere. They say that the rationale for paying attention to the pitchers early in the draft is due to hitting not producing as well as before, most evident by a declining number of home runs. Moreover, we have improved pitching overall. I don't see it like that. You play only against other participants in your league. What you need to focus on is how your opponents draft. You ought to pay attention to the flow of the players selected or nominated. When your turn comes, hit hard. Hit hard on pitchers, that is. The third round for your first hurler sounds just about right. Then fifth round and then seventh and so on. In an auction, do not shy away from bidding on one elite pitcher in addition to one near elite hurler.
In order to spend on the top-tier guys, your draft strategy should consist of identifying several pitchers that you can acquire for cheap, in the late rounds of a snake draft or for a buck at the end of an auction.
For that purpose, here is a short list of players to target who could return a substantial profit on your investment: Brandon Finnegan, Robbie Ray, Tyler Duffey, Adam Conley, Matt Moore, Hunter Strickland and Tony Watson.