Lessons from our mock draft: How to approach a points-league draft

Carlos Santana might not play fantasy baseball, but if he does, he definitely drafts himself in points leagues. AP

Our staff recently held its second mock draft for the 2018 season -- you can check out the entire board here. Following the draft, we asked our experts about their takeaways from this latest draft.

In a points league draft, things can wind up looking a lot different than a category-based league draft. What was your single biggest change in focus from last mock to this mock, and which player on your roster best represents that shift in focus?

Eric Karabell: Obviously, the relief-pitcher market changes quite a bit in any points league, but notably when one is in a league with AJ Mass! I still look for value, which in this case had me taking some really good hitters later than expected, and I still was able to secure strikeout starters later.

Also, I look at projected points for this format and then bump up or down based on my opinion, which is why I keep ending up with Nelson Cruz. Fine with me! Most importantly in a points league, ignore stolen bases. You don't want Billy Hamilton in this format.

Tristan H. Cockcroft: In a points-based league, compared to the categories draft we did last week, I tend to take a much more aggressive approach to drafting closers. Starting pitchers tend to drive scoring on the pitching side in a points league, but since the weekly starts cap in our standard game is 12, that means that of the 63 available pitching slots during your weekly matchup -- nine roster spots times seven days -- less than 20 percent of them can be absorbed by a starting pitcher working a given day. (Note that you can always go over the cap on the final day if you remain under it entering play Sunday, so that percentage could be slightly higher in some weeks.) I want to maximize every inning I can, which means drafting an ace -- fortunately, I got Corey Kluber, the final member of the "Tier 1" quartet -- and a few other high-upside, per-game starters and surrounding them with as many closers as I possibly can.

Having AJ Mass, who employs an even more aggressive such strategy, in the draft tends not to help with this, and in fact makes me take closers slightly earlier than usual.

This is why I took Roberto Osuna in the fifth round, which is easily at least two rounds sooner than I'd even consider him in a categories (rotisserie seasonal or head-to-head) league. It also explains why I took Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Fernando Rodney -- three closers with whom I have skills concerns -- as well as why I took four (likely) closers overall, with Luke Gregerson the fifth. In addition, as elite middle relievers such as David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Josh Hader made it through the draft, my strategy of leaving some open spaces to slot in relievers -- I'll likely use the Dinelson Lamet and Jameson Taillon spots for that initially -- seemed to make all the more sense.

AJ Mass: I think you can look at my final team in this mock, where I've ended up with 10 relief pitchers on my 24-man roster, and quite easily see where my mind was at in terms of strategy. In points-based scoring, I'm almost always going to go with the concept of drafting as many closers as possible -- even after Leo poached Kenley from me -- rotating them in and out of my nine active slots on a daily basis (based on workload and team schedule) alongside a handful of streaming starters.

If you went ahead and drafted seven SP, and they all pitch (on average) 1.5 times in a week, you have about 10 chances at a win. If my multiple closers all pitch (on average) three games per week, I could have 25-plus chances at a save. And, given the quality of the closers I've drafted, very few disastrous outings await me. I'm not sure the same can be said from your gaggle of 4.00-plus ERAs. In a head-to-head points league, I'll take my chances.

Beyond that, since I also had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, I was able to grab Mike Trout as my offensive foundation and still compile a strong roster of low-risk hitters, each projected to have 225-plus total bases and 280-plus points. I don't think you'll find another mock roster with this solid a fantasy floor. So, if you do choose to mock my strategy, feel free. I've heard the March laughs before. They're usually nowhere to be found come September.

Kyle Soppe: The single biggest change is clear: the value of closers. In our first mock draft, I was thrilled to land a closer I believe is a bit underrated, in Roberto Osuna, with the 87th overall pick. I made the Blue Jays' closer the fifth RP off the board and paid roughly what I entered the draft thinking I would. Fast forward to our points mock, and I felt fortunate to land Ken Giles with the 67th overall pick (seventh RP), a player I wasn't interested in pre-draft.

The biggest piece of advice I can give for such a draft would be to not get overwhelmed. Sure, the closer run is goofy and tough to get used to, but it results in hitter value emerging. I know that Billy Hamilton isn't a perfect player, but he fell 38 spots from our first mock despite his being ranked higher by our points expert (66th) and our roto expert (72nd). In my opinion, this format requires the most thinking on your feet in the draft room, so make sure you are ready for anything and everything.

Leo Howell: I took Kenley Jansen with my second-round pick. I didn't take a closer in the first mock draft until the 15th round. That's because in this format, in which saves are worth the same as wins, I can feel much better about getting my points wherever I can find them rather than worrying about balance and position eligibility.

However, I think the better example of the difference between roto and head-to-head points can be found in the difference in draft position for Carlos Santana. The new Phillies slugger went No. 110, to me, in our first roto mock. He went 51 spots higher at No. 59, also to me, in this second mock. The league leader in walks in 2014, Santana gets a nice boost from his incredible eye at the plate, as evidenced by his BB/K ranking since 2014 among qualified hitters -- which, according to Fangraphs, was Nos. 7, 8, 3 and 7.

Why does that matter? You get a point for each walk and lose one for each strikeout. So while Santana hovers around an even 1.00 BB/K and effectively cancels out his strikeout penalty, Matt Olson, taken one round earlier in our roto mock, would have lost 38 points with his 22 walks and 60 strikeouts (a sad 0.37 BB/K) in just 59 games.

Extrapolate that out to a full season of about 150 games, and you're likely looking at close to triple-digit negative points from his lack of patience at the plate (56 walks, 153 strikeouts). That sort of penalty would be enough to completely cancel out all of his production (total bases, runs scored and RBI) from 16 solo home runs. Ouch!