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If you’re like me and unfamiliar with Best Ball, it’s a fun format. One of the many contests offered on Underdog, best ball is a middle ground between DFS and season-long in that you’re not drafting a new team every day, and you don’t have to agonize over starts and sits. There’s no waiver wire. Once you draft your team, you’re done; That’s it.
Rosters consist of three IF, three OF, one FLEX, three pitchers, and ten bench players. In Best Ball, you’re highest-scoring roster is tallied every week.
This was a 12-team standard snake draft with a 30-second timer. Full disclosure, this was my first time playing this format. And after an offseason of slow drafts, I was very much flying by the seat of my pants. I plugged in the scoring settings into the PL Pro draft tool and eyeballed the projections, but other than that, this was just a freestyle.
Knowing how volatile hitting is game-to-game, I wanted to build a good pool of hitters. And plus, there are just more ways for hitters to score points. So I wanted to prioritize plate appearances, which pushed down catchers and players that might lose some at-bats to same-handed pitchers like Joc Pederson or Jesse Winker.
Note that Underdog does have projections listed for every player, but here I’ll refer to the projections on PL.
At first, I didn’t focus on positions, but as we’ll see later, there might be an advantage in drawing one of the first eight picks and securing an OF in the first round. That includes Shohei Ohtani, who is OF on Underdog. I drew the ninth pick and chose Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Nick Pollack drew the eleventh pick and started with Freddie Freeman. The projections on PL have Freeman ahead of Vlad, so I might’ve messed that up.
The PL projections loved Team 4 the most through the third round; They started with Juan Soto, Austin Riley, and Marcus Semien. Team 10, another of the three teams that started with three bats, was projected in second.
Conversely, Team 7, which started with Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, and Jacob deGrom, was projected at the bottom. The difference between the two teams was 534 points. But, again, it’s Best Ball, so that doesn’t matter a ton.
One of the fun things about Best Ball is that it encourages you to embrace volatility a little more. Dylan Cease having the highest BB % among qualified SPs makes him dicey in standard season-long leagues, but in this format, he makes sense because the clunkers get tossed out. They still hurt, because you have to lean on another one of your pitchers, but his good starts should be worth the price.
Looking at it again, going with George Springer as a second OF might have been a better route; He should have some monster weeks hitting atop the Jays lineup.
Team 8 rolled the dice on Bryce Harper in the 7th; He’s projected for just over 800 points in about 300 at-bats. For reference, Tyler O’Neill, who I drafted right after Harper, is projected at just over 1,200 points. It’s a gamble, but I like Harper there, he should be a game-changer in the second half of the season.
If you’re playing NFBC without an IL, you might be avoiding players like Giancarlo Stanton or Byron Buxton. But in Best Ball, their volatility could pay off. Similar to Cease, this format is a fun way to embrace players that you might otherwise avoid.
As mentioned earlier, I think this is where we started to see the OF pool shrink. An arbitrary cutoff, but the PL projections have 26 OF, including Ohtani, with a total of over 1,200 points. Nick Castellanos is the last of that group.
Meanwhile, there are 39 IF projected with 1,200 or more points.
Dansby Swanson, as the first pick of the eighth round by Team 12, looks like a great value; His points projection is not all that far off from Nolan Arenado.
This is the big blob for pitchers. To give an idea, the first pick of the ninth round, Kyle Wright, is projected about 20 points ahead of Jordan Montgomery, who went in the middle of the 14th. Again, it’s Best Ball, so total projections are only useful to an extent. But this seemed like the spot of the draft where I wanted to forego pitching in favor of plate appearances. Starting with Max Muncy, I drafted five bats in a row. As you’ll see later, there were a ton of innings available late.
There were plenty of interesting SPs available late, which makes me think I might’ve been better off swapping the José Berríos pick in round 14 for another hitter like Lourdes Gurriel or Gleyber Torres.
Instead, I got stuck with Adam Duvall as my last hitter in round 18.
I finished with Michael Kopech and Noah Syndergaard, two arms that I think have some rebound potential. Undrafted pitchers included Mitch Keller, Tyler Anderson, Alex Wood, Tylor Megill, David Peterson, Domingo Germán, Taijuan Walker, and Steven Matz, just to name a few. Brandon Pfaadt wasn’t in the player pool.
For pitching in Best Ball, it’s about finding arms that could eat innings while netting Wins and QS. On that note, José Urquidy went undrafted, which I think might’ve been a miss on our part. Digging deeper, arms like Cal Quantrill and, even Kyle Gibson, both undrafted here, could prove worthwhile in this format. Hey, they’re going to give you innings, at least.
An interesting strategy might be to take two arms in the first five rounds and then wait until the final four or five rounds to fill out your pitching staff. What could go wrong?
This was my first time playing on Underdog, and I really enjoyed it. I thought the user interface was sharp, and the draft went by quickly. As much as I enjoy standard 5×5 season-long leagues, scouring for saves and steals while fretting over ERA and WHIP can be tedious, so Underdog’s Best Ball format was a really entertaining change of pace.