It doesn't take a fancy formula, a subscription to an experts web site or unlimited disposable income to be a daily fantasy baseball champion.
All it takes is common sense. And a little luck doesn't hurt, either.
But in order to succeed at daily fantasy baseball, you'll need a basic understanding of how winning rosters are built. Here are 10 tips to get you started:
1. Choose your pitcher carefully. This can't be stressed enough: A great pitching performance is critical to taking down a large-field tournament - and a poor effort from your starter can sink your team no matter how great the rest of the lineup fares. Whether you spend up for an elite option like Corey Kluber or Clayton Kershaw, or play the matchups game by targeting pitchers facing poor offensive teams, the selection of a high-value pitcher should be your top priority when building your lineups.
2. K potential is everything. When deciding on a pitcher, always consider the strikeout potential above everything else - even the win potential. Especially the win potential. In some cases, the choice is obvious; guys like Kluber, Kershaw and Chris Sale are priced that high for a reason. But there are ways to identify sneaky K candidates - consider the opposing lineup's collective K rate, or whether that team is resting any of its regulars. You don't always have to spend up for Ks, but you should always try to have them.
3. At-bats matter. You can't earn negative points in offensive categories, so your primary focus here should be on accumulating as many at-bats as possible. This goes for every position; for example, when deciding on which catcher to choose, you should aim for players who hit higher in the batting order (since the majority of backstops hit in the bottom three in the order). Seek out leadoff hitters whenever possible, with precedence given to those who hit a lot of home runs or steal a lot of bases.
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4. One home run is better than six singles. In FanDuel scoring, a home run is worth 18.7 points (12 for the home run, 3.2 for the run scored and 3.5 for the RBI). By comparison, a single is worth just three points - making six of them worth less than one long ball. That is to say, you should try to favor home-run hitters over singles hitters in daily fantasy. While that might seem obvious, some players look for the security of a .300 hitter over the risk of a .215 hitter with power. Choose the latter, especially in GPP play.
5. Watch that weather! There are few developments more frustrating as a daily fantasy player than to build a solid all-around lineup, pile up the points in the early games ... and then have his or her lineup destroyed by a rainout. FanDuel offers late swap games in which you can replace players up to the start of their game, but in cases where you don't have that luxury, you should do your best to avoid investing too heavily in games where inclement weather is a possibility.
6. Punt at your peril. There is a line of thinking in daily fantasy that players can occasionally maximize their point output by "punting" a position - purposely selecting a minimum-salary player who may or may not contribute anything - in order to spend up elsewhere. And while this might work in isolated cases - for example, if you load up on high-priced Colorado Rockies players and the team scores 15 runs - you're much better off building a balanced lineup in which you maximize your plate appearances.
7. Ignore BvP matchups. Some players get caught up in evaluating how a batter has fared against a particular pitcher in his career, and vice versa. But the sample sizes are so small that this data is largely unreliable. Consider that, if a batter has gone 0-for-6 against a starter, then bangs out three hits in three at-bats against said starter, he's now 3-for-9 - completely flipping the matchup around. Stick to more helpful metrics when deciding which players to add to your roster.
8. OBP is A-OK. You won't necessarily be able to load your roster with sure-fire home-run threats; you'll probably need at least one or two roster spots set aside for low-salary hitters. You'll still want power potential here, but there is also some merit to seeking out a player who also has a good shot at getting on base. Don't rely on batting average alone - with walks worth as many points a single, you'll be far better off choosing low-cost batters based on their OBP. Those three-point at-bats add up!
9. Go against the grain. You don't need to be completely contrarian to win a deep tournament, but you'll need at least one or two players owned by a minority of your competitors. There are countless examples of players who fall into this category, but the ones you should seek out most are hitters entrenched in slumps, batters facing a negative splits matchup or streaky (read: inconsistent) hitters. You'll need some luck to hit here, but the upside is immense.
10. Study. The more research you put into daily fantasy, the better off you'll be - and we're not talking about quitting your job and spending 16 hours a day online. Check out the winning lineups in every tournament you enter, and look for commonalities between them. Study which of your lineups succeeds - what did you do right? Conversely, go over your lineups that didn't do so well - what did you do wrong? A little investigating can go a very long way in the DFS world.