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Fantasy Baseball: Ten tips to a successful draft: #7 and #8
by: Jamey Codding
Pg 2 of 2

Tip #8: To punt or not to punt

Going hand-in-hand with the run mentality from tip #7, many people wonder if punting a particular category by simply ignoring it during your draft is a successful strategy. Most often, punting involves avoiding closers on draft day and instead focusing on your remaining three or four categories, but some owners also choose to punt wins and even steals. Its effectiveness is still debatable, but punting definitely has its pros and cons.

Those who are for this risky move say that, because you're not worried about picking up players that your fellow owners hold in high regard -- like closers -- you'll be able to stockpile better players at other positions, giving you a great chance at competing all year in the remaining categories. And if you're an intelligent drafter, you should be able to make up those lost points with other stats, plus positional and categorical runs don't really affect a punter, an added bonus.

But those who advise against punting say that coming out of your draft completely lacking in one category immediately puts you at a scoring disadvantage. While they admit that this strategy certainly can work if done right, the selections you make in place of closers or base stealers have to be quality choices, because if you mess up here not only did you burn a pick on a fantasy bust, but you also missed out on the saves or steals you could have had instead, setting your team back even further.

So what do I think? I believe punting is a viable in-season option. Let's say it's late-August and you're only a couple points away from first, but you haven't done much in the saves category all year because of injuries or inconsistency. If you've got one marketable closer, though, who could bring you the power you need to take over the lead in a trade, there's no reason to hang on to him, assuming his absence won't cancel out your potential gains in the power categories and that you can get equal value in return. Seems like a winner to me.

But what about punting on draft day? Can that really work or is that too big of a hole to willingly throw your team into? I'm not sure, to be honest. It's without a doubt a very dicey move, and personally I don't know if I'd have the balls to pull it off. But I also believe that closers and one-dimensional base stealers are extremely overvalued on draft day. Unfortunately, because of that you also need to overvalue them if you plan on landing the elite saves and speed players. But instead of going for the top-tier closers and passing over some four- or five-category stars in the process, why not wait until the middle rounds to take a couple lower-level closers? While everybody else uses sixth- and seventh-round picks on John Smoltz, Eric Gagne and Robb Nen, you potentially could hang tough in saves all year by getting guys like Kelvim Escobar, Scott Williamson and Braden Looper much later. Plus, there are always a few middle relievers who will pick up a handful of saves throughout the year, and we all know that each year there are at least one or two closers available on the waiver wire if you act fast enough -- did you think Gagne would save 52 games last year? Having one or two elite closers will have you near the top of your league in saves all season but having two middle-of-the-road guys who cost you a lot less on draft day will also keep you in the running.

This, of course, works in an auction format as well -- while other owners go out and invest a ton of money on sure-fire closers, you can spend much less on second-tier guys, giving you more financial freedom to upgrade your offense and starting pitching. I did just that last season in an NL-only league, grabbing Mike Williams for a mere $9 while middle relievers like Octavio Dotel and Felix Rodriguez earned $10 bids.

If you decide that punting works for you, however, I suggest only doing so with saves for a couple reasons. First, with so many five-category stars in the game today, there's no reason you can't walk out of your draft with plenty of speed and power. Guys like Vlad Guerrero, Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu and Carlos Beltran are all capable of giving you 30, 40 or even 50 homers with double-digit steals as a bonus. Second, giving up on wins by fielding a staff of quality middle relievers and closers just doesn't seem like a good idea to me because not only are you giving up wins, but you're also missing out on all those strikeouts, and the best starting pitchers can anchor your ERA and WHIP totals too. That's too much of a gamble for me.

So instead of giving up on a category on draft day, try to find a cheaper way to contend across the board by uncovering some unfamiliar names in the later rounds. You'll get most of the benefits that punting offers without taking on all that risk.

If you've got some fantasy baseball questions you'd like answered or if you just want to comment on this column, drop me an e-mail at

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