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Fantasy Baseball

Zinkie: Recap of Yahoo Friends & Family draft

MLB.com @FredZinkieMLB

There are few days on my calendar that bring me more excitement than the date of the Yahoo Friends & Family fantasy baseball draft. Organized by Scott Pianowski of Yahoo Sports, the Friends & Family league is one of the most competitive, lively leagues in the industry. The league is also available for public view, which allows many owners to glean tips from the draft results.

My initial experience in the league was respectable, but somewhat underwhelming. I finished in fourth place, learning the nuances of the Yahoo roto format along the way. For those who are attempting to navigate the standard settings of the Official Fantasy Game of Major League Baseball, here are a few tips from a recent newbie:

There are few days on my calendar that bring me more excitement than the date of the Yahoo Friends & Family fantasy baseball draft. Organized by Scott Pianowski of Yahoo Sports, the Friends & Family league is one of the most competitive, lively leagues in the industry. The league is also available for public view, which allows many owners to glean tips from the draft results.

My initial experience in the league was respectable, but somewhat underwhelming. I finished in fourth place, learning the nuances of the Yahoo roto format along the way. For those who are attempting to navigate the standard settings of the Official Fantasy Game of Major League Baseball, here are a few tips from a recent newbie:

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1. With an innings limit of 1,400, the strikeouts category essentially turns into a strikeouts-per-nine-innings battle between the owners who are active enough to maximize their innings. The limit makes top closers especially valuable, as they can produce more than 35 saves, a handful of wins and roughly 100 strikeouts, while using approximately 70 innings. In addition, ace starters who can compile many strikeouts are coveted assets.

2. With just one catcher spot, the value of backstops is not especially high. After the elite catchers are off the board, the remaining options are best left for the late rounds.

3. With small reserve lists (four bench spots, two disabled-list spaces), drafting injury-prone players is a risky proposition. The DL spots are usually in high demand, making the draft-and-stash plan a less appealing option.

4. Transactions are capped at 100 per season, and the league contains 15 teams, which makes streaming starters from the waiver wire an unlikely path to success.

Armed with a better understanding of the league format and the eighth overall pick in Round 1, I nabbed the following players in the March 1 draft:

The hitters (round selected in brackets): Aaron Judge (2), Justin Upton (4), Tommy Pham (5), Lorenzo Cain (6), Rougned Odor (7), Ian Desmond (8), Kyle Seager (9), J.T. Realmuto (11), Ian Kinsler (12), Zack Cozart (14), Adam Duvall (15), Kole Calhoun (18), Ryon Healy (21), Gerardo Parra (24).

Quick hits on hitters: I believe the Statcast™ data on Judge, from whom I'm expecting 45 homers and 110 RBIs. He hits the ball hard, which compensates for his frequent whiffs. My outfield is especially strong, with Upton capable of driving in 100 runs, Pham having the potential to score 100 times and Cain being good for at least 25 steals.

Odor, Desmond, Seager and Kinsler all fit the description of players who have bounceback potential after being selected much higher in 2017 drafts. Realmuto was not a target heading into the draft, but he keeps me from dealing with the lower tiers of catchers. And finally, Cozart's 2017 breakout was much more skill-supported than he gets credit for. Overall, I expect to be near the top of the league in the four counting-stat categories, while hopefully finishing in the middle of the pack in batting average.

The pitchers: Corey Kluber (1), Kenley Jansen (3), Jeff Samardzija (10), Kenta Maeda (13), Addison Reed (16), Carl Edwards Jr. (17), David Robertson (19), J.A. Happ (20), Pat Neshek (22), Marco Estrada (23), Dominic Leone (25), Drew Steckenrider (26).

Quick hits on pitchers: There was a method to the madness here. Grabbing one of the top four starters (Kluber) and arguably the top closer (Jansen) gives my staff an outstanding ratios base and a great starting point for K/9 rate. And rather than using another early-round pick on a second closer, I decided to load up on skilled setup men who could see ninth-inning opportunities at some point this season.

Even without getting saves, pitchers such as Reed, Neshek and Robertson will compile many whiffs and a handful of wins in just a relatively small volume of innings. Each of Reed, Edwards, Neshek, Leone and Steckenrider were selected for a combination of their own skills and the vulnerability of the current closer on their club. Along the way, I will stream starters such as Happ and Estrada in favorable matchups.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.