Welcome to our seventh season of fantasy baseball coverage. During the next month, we will help you get ready for your drafts and prepare for the upcoming season so you can become a champion.

Throughout the month of March, I will dive deep into fantasy baseball draft strategies, reveal my breakout players, bounce-back candidates, undervalued players and overvalued players.

As a refresher for those who followed our coverage throughout the years and to any new readers, in fantasy baseball there are different league formats that are used, but the traditional is the five-by-five rotisserie league format, and that is what I will base my opinions on.

For those who are not familiar with what that means, there are five hitting categories — consisting of batting average, home runs, runs scored, RBIs and stolen bases. For pitching, the categories consist of wins, strikeouts, ERA, walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) and saves.

On-base percentage (OBP) continues to become more popular as a replacement to batting average, so I will refer to that stat as well since it could change how we evaluate certain players.

I personally feel fantasy baseball is at a crossroads with the current format. Major League Baseball teams are not valuing starting pitchers, closers and stolen bases anymore and we need to adjust as an industry. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened.

Even though roto leagues are still the standard, I encourage commissioners to think about implementing head-to-head formats along with total points. By adding more categories and getting the fantasy football feel of going against an opponent every week will only help enhance the fantasy baseball experience.

When referring to draft rankings for particular players, I will use the average draft position compiled by many of the experts on FantasyPros.com.

To get you started, I have listed the consensus rankings and auction values from FantasyPros.com.

HOW IMPORTANT WAS THE 2020 SEASON?

This is a tricky question as the season counted and I don’t think we can totally dismiss what happened. However, we need to realize that after months of a long layoff there was a quick ramp-up to the season, and hitters — along with pitchers — accumulated a little more than one-third of their usual stats.

We always preach fantasy baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. However, that was far from the case in 2020.

For example; Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich finished with a .205 batting average. The former National League Most Valuable Player has never hit lower than .282 in his career. Has Yelich become a bad player or did he have a bad couple of months?

In a normal year, Yelich would have struggled through May and we would have said he’s too good of a player and will turn things around through the remainder four months. We didn’t have that opportunity.

The same can be said for a player that dominated like New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit. The slugger hit 22 home runs in 2020. Should we draft him like he will hit more than 50 home runs in 2021? I don’t think so.

There’s a happy medium, and I believe adding the 2019 stats along with the 2020 season is the right way to go — or looking at the player’s stats throughout his past 162 games. This becomes harder when dealing with rookies from 2020. However, rookies are always overdrafted; this happens when most people only look at their minor-league stats. We at least now have data of the player going against the best competition in the world.

DRAFTING MULTIPLE-POSITION PLAYERS:

Flexibility is crucial in fantasy baseball and having multiple players who you can move around to different positions will set you up for success. This is especially important for those who are in leagues that make daily moves.

This may be one of the most important strategies, so I can’t stress it enough. Targeting players who can help at multiple positions is important.

The shortstop position is extremely talented in 2021. Fourteen shortstops rank in the top 75 overall players, according to FantasyPros.com. Out of those 14, four are eligible at other positions. It’s not out of the question to draft multiple shortstops this season due to the ability to move players around.

However, this does bring me to my next point. Fantasy owners need to know what site they are playing on. For example, Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks is eligible at outfield, shortstop and second base on Yahoo! Sports. Marte is only eligible at second base on ESPN and Fantrax. His value increases significantly on Yahoo, but not as much on ESPN or Fantrax.

Another important aspect to know is finding out how your league determines when a player is eligible at a certain position. In some leagues a player has to play five games, others it is longer than that. This will help planning ahead.

Using Marte as an example again, he did play other positions in 2020, but not enough to qualify in fantasy on ESPN or Fantrax due to the truncated season. It’s expected that he will play around the diamond again so he should add multiple positions, but it may take a couple weeks for that to happen.

Recognizing these things will go a long way in constructing a strong roster that is capable of competing all season long and can be used as a tiebreaker on draft day when deciding similarly-valued players.

DRAFTING MULTIPLE-CATEGORY PLAYERS:

In order to build a strong, well-rounded team, we need to target players that will help in every category.

Eugenio Suarez of the Cincinnati Reds hit 15 home runs in 2020, a top-15 mark in baseball. However, his .202 batting average ranked 134th in baseball. The home runs helped, but that average would have killed our rosters, especially since he doesn’t steal bases.

We don’t need the top performer in every category, but we can’t afford to have the worst, either.

This is something we do throughout the season when we attack the waiver wire, but you can withstand a guy who may not have a high average if you at least build a strong base in the early-to-mid rounds. This can be said for the other categories as well.

Phil Backert

See all posts by Phil Backert. Follow Phil Backert on Twitter at @PhilBackert