One of the fastest-growing aspects of the Fantasy Baseball industry is Best Ball leagues. Between the Fantrax Best Balls, NFBC Cutlines, and many others, there are a number of different sites hosting these leagues. The appeal to these leagues is minimal in-season management. In most Best Ball leagues, the draft is the entire process. You will never have to set a lineup, worry about trades, or place FAAB bids. The site that you are playing on will handle setting an “optimal” lineup for you every week with the highest number of points possible. Then like any other fantasy league, the end of season pays out to a certain number of places. However, on wrinkle to this is the concept of an overall tournament, and that’s where Underdog Fantasy comes in.

 

What Is Underdog?

 

Underdog Fantasy burst on the scene last year right before the Fantasy Football season. They hosted a series of Best Ball leagues that were all part of a large overall contest. The top finishers in each of the different leagues through a certain number of weeks then went on to the “playoffs”. Each playoff week, placed your team in a new league against new competition and once again the winner advanced to the next round. This continued until the end of the season when a singular winner was crowned. That winner won a massive prize. Unlike some other places with large overall prizes, Underdog manages to keep the price point low, with entry fees of only $25 or $5 in order to appeal to the average fan.

Due to the success of their football products, they were able to begin hosting NBA, NHL, and now MLB contests. Their contests differ from their competitors in a number of different ways. One of the staples of typical best ball drafts is deep rosters. For NFBC Cutlines the draft is 43 rounds long, Fantrax leagues have 40 players per team. For Underdog leagues, the rosters are only 18 players total. This leads to fewer dead roster spots first and foremost, but for me, the biggest difference I notice is in the drafts. Each league consists of 12 teams with 18 man rosters and a 30-second pick clock. This means the draft moves extremely quickly leading and certainly does not drag across days at a time. The drafts are insanely fun as a result and even can feel a bit addicting. The other fun aspect of the draft speed to me is that the speed of the drafts allows you to almost immediately join another draft and test out a completely different strategy.

When it comes to any points or best ball league, you need to make sure that you know the rules. Unlike your standard 5×5 Roto league, each site handles points leagues completely differently.

 

The Rules

 

Points leagues offer a unique set of challenges but they also allow players to rank extremely easily. Since each site is unique in its overall scoring system, it is imperative before beginning any points league you get a good understanding of the scoring. However, The design of points leagues makes it extremely easy to download your favorite projections and run them through the site’s scoring to determine a set of projected points. This is much easier to do than a Roto league, where you need to worry about things like category balance and ratios. For Underdog here is the scoring system.

 

 

Before even running the scoring through a system, we can see a few main points.

  • Saves do not earn points – This means that there is no reason at all to be drafting a closer
  • Innings matter – An IP is worth just a much as a strikeout. This means that the big innings eater pitchers will have added advantages in a league like this
  • WHIP Doesn’t matter – There are no negatives for H or BB allowed so no need to necessarily worry about high walk pitchers
  • Stolen Base Value Depressed – In most fantasy leagues a single SB is worth more than an HR. However in Underdog fantasy that is not the case. A solo HR is worth 14 points (HR + R + RBI) while an SB is only worth 4. Let others chase the SB threats and focus on power
  • Also, you’ll see that 1B/2B/3B are all worth different amounts – This means when looking for later round targets Slugging and ISO will be a bit more helpful than AVG or even OBP
  • We do get points for walks – This is big for any points league as it helps add value to the Cavan Biggio’s of the world. A walk is just as good as a single

That is just an overall summary of some quick notes before even passing the scoring through a projection system. One thing that I saw when I ran the numbers through projections was that hitters score more on average, however, the replacement level of pitching is lower. This is something we can get into some more in-depth next week when I cover some strategy.

After we look at the scoring rules, the next key will always be to look at the roster spots. Underdog really likes to simplify the roster spots using only three designations: IF, OF, and P. Your starting lineup will consist of three players from each position and then you have nine bench spots to use freely. Again remember that the system will automatically choose your best performing players so you will want to make sure that your bench is set up properly, again something we will look at next week.

The biggest thing to make note of is that it does not appear that any players have dual eligibility, the site has chosen either IF or OF for each player meaning that Biggio and Tommy Edman are only IF despite being OF eligible as well on some other sites. However, the biggest news here is that the merging of all IF positions into one means we do not need to care about positional scarcity. Catchers are included in the IF position and as a result this likely makes almost all catchers undraftable in this format. The name of the game in best-ball leagues is accumulation and catchers just won’t be able to stack up. With not UT spot it appears that many of the guys who would’ve been UT only have been placed in the OF. This includes Nelson Cruz, JD Martinez, and Yordan Alvarez. In a format like this, their value may be higher than in traditional leagues where they are UT only.

This is just a sampling of some of the main things to consider when joining your first Underdog Fantasy draft. Next week I’ll go into some detail about strategies and draft builds as well as a look into ADP this far. However, if you love Best Ball drafts and want something quick and insanely fun I highly recommend Underdog Fantasy to all fantasy baseball players. They have built a beautiful easy to use site with a really engaging game type that is quick to draft.