Last week, I wrote a piece introducing the addicting best ball platform, Underdog Fantasy. The small format drafts with an overall component are an extremely fun way for a more casual fan to play best ball without needing intense knowledge of league depth. Combined with the low price point Underdog Fantasy has easily become one of my favorite fantasy platforms. Today, I am going to peel back my own personal thought process a little bit and I’m going to give a glimpse into the strategies I like to use.

As I stated in last week’s article, the first thing I will always do in a best ball/points format is run the scoring through projections. I used The BAT for these to have both hitting and pitching projections from the same source but you could use whatever system to prefer including our very own RotoFanatic projections.

NameTeamPoints
Mike TroutLAA1743
Juan SotoWSN1686
Mookie BettsLAD1646
Ronald Acuna Jr.ATL1645
Christian YelichMIL1611
Cody BellingerLAD1605
Bryce HarperPHI1597
Freddie FreemanATL1583
Fernando Tatis Jr.SDP1557
Jose RamirezCLE1544
Trevor StoryCOL1526
Manny MachadoSDP1488
Eugenio SuarezCIN1470
Alex BregmanHOU1467
Trea TurnerWSN1458
Anthony RendonLAA1425
Marcell OzunaATL1413
Francisco LindorNYM1404
Pete AlonsoNYM1395
Anthony RizzoCHC1392

Above are the top 20 projected hitters for 2021. What you’ll see is that this top-end looks much different from the first round of most fantasy leagues. Players like Trea Turner and Fernando Tatis Jr appear lower than most Roto leagues and as you get more towards the back of the top 20, guys like Anthony Rizzo begin to sneak in. This is largely due to the depressed value of stolen bases. Since the SB is not valued nearly as highly as hitting for power, those guys who get a significant value bump from SBs are going to drop in leagues like this. Additionally, Mike Trout and Juan Soto appearing 1-2 is a good indication of how valuable OBP and drawing walks are in this scoring.

NameTeamPoints
Jacob deGromNYM1388
Gerrit ColeNYY1268
Shane BieberCLE1226
Trevor BauerLAD1219
Max ScherzerWSN1202
Aaron NolaPHI1128
Yu DarvishSDP1103
Jack FlahertySTL1087
Luis CastilloCIN1085
Lance LynnCHW1079
Lucas GiolitoCHW1058
Brandon WoodruffMIL1035
Walker BuehlerLAD1016
Stephen StrasburgWSN1011
Kevin GausmanSFG965
Patrick CorbinWSN964
Blake SnellSDP957
Clayton KershawLAD936
Robbie RayTOR933
Tyler GlasnowTBR930

Looking at pitcher projections, things near the top don’t look too different. However, a huge shock is Robbie Ray projected to finish as a top 20 pitcher. This is largely a function of the scoring system. Strikeouts are just as valuable as innings pitched and there is no penalty for hits or walks allowed. The only negative value is for earned runs. This helps flawed strikeout artists like Ray and can help make him a steal in this draft. One thing you will notice though is that pitchers are projected significantly fewer points than hitters. This may make it seem like taking an early pitcher is a waste but I look at it slightly differently.

NameTeamPointsRelValue
Jacob deGromNYM13881.99
Gerrit ColeNYY12681.82
Mike TroutLAA17431.81
Shane BieberCLE12261.76
Trevor BauerLAD12191.75
Juan SotoWSN16861.75
Max ScherzerWSN12021.72
Mookie BettsLAD16461.71
Ronald Acuna Jr.ATL16451.70
Christian YelichMIL16111.67
Cody BellingerLAD16051.66
Bryce HarperPHI15971.65
Freddie FreemanATL15831.64
Aaron NolaPHI11281.62
Fernando Tatis Jr.SDP15571.61
Jose RamirezCLE15441.60
Yu DarvishSDP11031.58
Trevor StoryCOL15261.58
Jack FlahertySTL10871.56
Luis CastilloCIN10851.56

The above table shows the top 20 players by what I am calling RelValue. This is a shorthand for Relative Value and it shows how much better a given player is than the 80th ranked player pitcher and 160th hitter. This is essentially a shorthand for a replacement level. Why did I choose those numbers? Well, assuming 3 starters for IF/OF/P and then 9 bench spots I am operating off the fact that each team will likely roster around 6 pitchers and 12 hitters. With 12 teams in each league, this means around 80 pitchers rostered and 160 hitters.

So when comparing deGrom and Trout, although Trout is expected to heavily outscore deGrom, deGrom is twice as good as a replacement-level pitcher which Trout is projected to be 80% better than replacement. In my eyes, this makes deGrom the easy top pick in any draft. I tend to loosely follow these guidelines for team and roster building.

The second major piece to the puzzle is positional allotment. In any best ball format, you need to make sure that you have the necessary pieces to cover any potential injuries. The drawback of the format is that there are not any multi-positional eligible guys but regardless we can still build out a rather string bench to cover any concerns. I have usually gone one of two ways with bench construction. The first is a fully even approach, rostering 3 additional OF/IF/P each to have 6 of each spot on my roster. This will likely lead to me avoiding zeros all season but I feel it may be the safer approach. If I do not land a super high-end pitcher early, I will likely be pivoting to the second approach, 2 bench OF/IF, and then 5 bench pitchers. This is mainly because once I do not get a top-end guy I am attacking pitching from a more is more approach. Instead of trying to remain balanced, I will front-load my offense and then take several different high-k flawed pitchers chasing the big point weeks. Overall, this should afford me some more upside potential especially if a few of those arms take a leap.

This is just a general idea of my personal Underdog Fantasy thought process and approach and I think it should be extremely helpful for you in building your rosters and for making a run at those big overall titles. Best of luck in 2021 in every league you do.