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Fantasy Baseball Guide: What to Look For In Points League Hitters

Every year I write about hitters who are either being over or under valued in points leagues. Every season I have to explain in the article what makes those hitters either a good or bad value in the points format. But what I have never done is written out a guideline of what to search for in finding a points league hitter. That is until now! You know the old saying: give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he will never go hungry. Well, instead of giving you the values and letting you be fine for a season, I am going to teach you how to find values yourself! With these guidelines to live by, you should be able to successfully evaluate hitters in a points league all by your lonesome. Just promise you will still read my articles every season!

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Evaluating Points League Hitters

How Points Differentiates from Roto

The biggest issue many fantasy players suffer from in points league is they value players similarly to roto leagues. That would be like drafting a team of baseball players and then being like “Oh and we are actually playing basketball today.” Okay, maybe the difference isn’t that stark, but there is certainly a big difference in the scoring.

In roto leagues you are drafting for five offensive categories: batting average (sometimes OBP instead), home runs, runs, RBI, and stolen bases. And that is it. If your batter walks, well you better hope he scores a run or else it doesn’t matter for your roto team. If he hits a double or a triple, well, it may as well have been a single cause that is how it is valued in roto. But that is not the case in points leagues. Points leagues are the format that tends to take more stats into consideration, which is largely why it is becoming more and more popular. When you are factoring in more than just five stats, it not only bolsters the value of certain stats, but it also devalues some. That is never more evident than with stolen bases.

In a roto league, stolen bases are one of five offensive categories you compete in. That means that they are literally worth 20 percent of the stats your hitters can contribute in. Due to that, you will always see a premium put on steals. That has become crystal clear in the early rounds of drafts the past couple of years as speedsters have filled up the first three rounds of roto drafts. But that is simply not the case in points leagues. In Fantrax points leagues, a stolen base is worth two points. That is not uncommon, as actually the majority of points leagues on other major fantasy sites also reward two points for a stolen base. Think about that, they go from being worth 20 percent of the stats you draft for, to just two points. In roto a stolen base is equivalent to a HR, even though it will take more HRs to win the category than stolen bases. But in points a solo HR is worth six points, as you get a point per base (single is one, double is two, etc) as well as a point for the run scored and the RBI. That means at the very least, it takes three steals to be equivalent to one HR in points. Additionally, while Fantrax does not deduct points for a caught stealing, other sites do, meaning that those base stealers will be deducted a point anytime they are caught stealing. It devalues the stats even more. Every year the biggest discrepancies in value between the two formats are those base stealing specialists.

Stolen bases are not the only changes when going from roto to points leagues. I will get into the specific stats later, but another big change is you are playing more week-to-week than you are the season as a whole in points. In a roto league, you can tolerate inconsistent play as long as the end of season numbers are there. One key example of this from past years in Justin Upton. Upton is one of the most consistently inconsistent players in baseball. That means that he would finish with similar numbers every year, but the journey getting there was filled with very high peaks and very low valleys.

In a roto league you can tolerate that because, while you do change your lineup week-to-week, you can tolerate a bad stretch of play as long as you know there will be a good run and at the end of the season, you will get the numbers you paid for. However, in a points league, where you are playing an opponent every week, it can be much harder to tolerate. Sure, those weeks where he explodes for 30+ will be fun and likely ensure you a win. But, those weeks when he is putting up five points will be maddening. Especially if you lose a close week because of him. In roto, you are judged based on season-long stats. Where in points, you start over 0-0 every Monday and the goal is purely to outscore your opponent. In that type of format, you want your hitters to be as consistent as possible. Your win can literally depend on it.

What to Look for in a Points League Hitter

The best ability in points league is availability. That may sound like a cliché, but playing time is more important in points than in roto. That is because you are taking a season-long game and breaking it down into weekly contests. You can deal with a player getting inconsistent playing time in roto if that hitter is able to give you 20-or-more stolen bases. You can tolerate a catcher that only plays three or four times a week if they are productive when they are out there. But in points leagues, a day off simply means zero points for your team. When you are playing for five stats over the course of six months, you will deal with streakiness or inconsistent playing time to get those stats you need. But in points, you are interested in volume. Your player needs to be out on the field to score points and you need to outscore your opponent in order to win. Part-time players simply have fewer opportunities to score points and are greatly devalued in volume-centric contests like points leagues.

Stolen bases may be the biggest difference between the two formats but valuing plate discipline is a close second. I touched on it earlier, but in roto a walk really doesn’t do much. In a points league a batter will be rewarded a point for a walk, meaning it is equivalent to a single. When deciding if you want to draft a hitter in roto, there is really no reason to look at his walk rate. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but you will do okay if you don’t factor it heavily in. But in a points league, you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you ignore walk rates because you are literally leaving points on the board if you do. That is why in points leagues, OBP matters more than AVG. Any hitter with a walk rate of around 10 percent or better is a strong pick in points leagues. Make sure to factor both BB rate and OBP when targeting your points league hitters.

Fantrax does not deduct points when a batter strikes out, but some points leagues certainly do. Some will deduct a half-point for every strikeout, while some sites deduct a full point. That means that every strikeout is equivalent to a walk or single. You can lose a ton of points if you have a hitter like Joey Gallo or Miguel Sano. If you play in a format like this, you obviously want to avoid those strikeout prone hitters. I have created Batter K-BB rate due to this. That is a stat that you will often hear used to judge pitchers, but in points leagues it matters just as much for hitters. This is another big change from roto, where strikeouts don’t actually lose you any value.

Another big difference is that you want to target batters who hit a lot of doubles. I know, if you have only played roto you may be thinking why would I care about a double. I don’t blame you because in roto hits are basically judged like this: home run or not a home run. A single, double, and triple all help the average the same. Sure, you may drive in more runs with a double or triple, but in a nutshell a double or triple should be worth more than a single. And in points leagues they are. On Fantrax and other sites, a double will be worth two points. That means they are literally worth double that of a single (one point). I like to target hitters that will flirt with, or surpass, the 30-double threshold. You do not see much analysis on doubles. In fact, they are often used to try and find which batters will hit more homers and that’s about it. Exploit the lack of attention the market places on this stat if you are playing in points leagues.

The move from roto to points also impacts runs and RBIs. When you play in a roto league you will target those two stats individually. But in a points league they are both worth one point. Due to that, you should view them as one stat. This is something I have called Runs+RBI. Think about it, if a batter scored 60 runs and drives in 100 RBIs, you receive 160 points. If a batter scores 80 runs and drives in 80 RBI, you get the same amount of points. This difference is minimal, but you do not want to leave a player on the board because, “he doesn’t drive in a lot of runs.” if he makes up for it by scoring a lot of runs. This is a mistake I have seen new points league players make.

Exploit Roto Bias

While points leagues are becoming more and more popular, roto is still the more popular fantasy baseball format. That means a lot of the analysis you will see in articles, podcasts or on Twitter, is geared towards roto leagues. Often you will see the analysis and stats, but usually there is not an indication that it is for roto leagues. I have learned that fantasy players will often read or listen to something and come away liking a player, not knowing if they should like them in points, roto or both. Also, with roto being the more popular format it has a greater impact on ADP on sites. These two factors are something that I have dubbed roto bias. And there is 100 percent a roto bias in the fantasy baseball community. It is no one’s fault or anything like that, but just something that points league players should be looking to exploit.

Some 2019 examples of roto bias are in the asking prices of players like Carlos Santana and Adalberto Mondesi. Santana has great plate discipline, will always post a high OBP and will provide plenty of counting stats. For roto purposes, he is viewed as a safe but boring 1B. In roto leagues this season he is going outside the Top 10 first baseman off the board. That is nothing new for Santana but know that in points league he routinely finishes as a Top 10 first baseman. In fact, he typically finishes inside the top seven, but you never have to pay that price. He is one of my favorite values, if not my favorite, every year in points leagues. So much so that I have dubbed him my points league bae.

As for Mondesi, he is among the best base stealers in all of baseball. There is no surprise that you have to pull him up draft boards and take him in the third or fourth round of roto drafts. However, in points leagues we know stolen bases are devalued. We also know that hitters with poor discipline like Mondesi lose value in this format. Due to that, Mondesi is barely projected to finish inside the Top 20 shortstops in Fantrax points leagues. Yet, he will get drafted way higher than he should in this format.

Do not draft a roto team in points. You should be looking for hitters that are pushed up the board because of roto bias and avoid them. But those that get overlooked due to that bias, well those are the ones you want to draft.

I hope this is a guideline that you can return to every year when you are preparing for your points league drafts! If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.

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