If you’re familiar with best ball leagues it’s likely from fantasy football. If that’s the only sport you’ve played in a best ball league then you’re missing out. There are fantasy baseball best balls, too (and NBA, and I’m even pushing some of the first-ever PGA best balls). MLB best ball is a bit trickier than the neat 16 game season we love for the NFL. It’s a long season with much more intricate positions. That doesn’t mean it won’t be enjoyable to you. If you’re a fan of fantasy baseball or best ball in general it’s a blast once you learn the dialect and identify the right platform. The four main options are RTSport Draft Masters, NFBC Cutlines, BB10s, or Fantrax Trax10s(25s, 50s, or 100s). I will break down each with some specific strategy tips. The prerequisite courses for MLB best ball are Points Formats 101, Roster Construction 206, and Value Above Replacement (VAR) 400. I will also have more posts in the next weeks to further on these foundations.

RTS Draft Masters

One of the best formats for gearing up your fantasy baseball draft prep. The tight roster size forces tough decisions and keeps drafts from dragging on. The starting rosters are nicely balanced, as is the scoring. These are fun and accessible, yet challenging. 

Roster: 26 total (C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OFx3, UTIL, Px7, BENCHx10), Multi-position eligibility

Scoring:

Batting Category

Point Value

Pitching Category

Point Value

Single

1 point

Win

7 points

Double

2 points

Save

7 points

Triple

3 points

Quality Start

3 points

Home Run

4 points

Strikeout

.5 points

RBI

1 point

Base on Balls

-1 point

Run

1 point

Inning Pitched

3 points

Base on Balls

1 point

Hits Allowed

-1 point

Stolen Base

2 points

Earned Runs

-1 points

Strikeout

-.5 point

Hits Batsman

-1 points

Caught Stealing

-1 point

Loss

-5 points

Hit by Pitch

1 point

 

 

  • 10 bench spots are not many. I love that this format forces you to spend those spots wisely. I want five pitchers on the bench so that means I need someone qualifying at additional positions to cover a backup at each. Actually, more than one would be ideal. Layering flexibility throughout your roster is paramount. I’ll add $2-7 of value to my player valuation for covering extra spots. I’ll have more on this in my Best Ball Values post.
  • The scoring skews to power and on-base ability for hitting. Pitching pays, so it goes fast. Keep an eye towards team context for pitchers, as losses are a -5.
  • Don’t fall in love with the hitter bargains you’re getting. That just means your competition is stocking up on the most useful pitching and will be fine frankensteining a couple positions later. You need to force yourself to keep up.
  • Be careful not to overload on OFs. The position is deep and with only three starting spots you can get into a situation where you’re forced to pass on values later with no room for more on your roster. This applies somewhat to every position. Aim to build evenly so you can take advantage of some sleepers.
  • As in most formats, catchers get a VAR bump. You’ll want a good one with only one back up on your roster.

NFBC Cutlines

The Granddaddy of MLB best ball. Entry is not cheap at $150 per. Payouts are geared toward the overall prize pool so returns are lessened for merely winning a league. That shiny overall prize with lots of zeros is one heck of a brass ring to reach for, though.

Roster: 42 total (Cx2, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, MI, CI, OFx5, UTIL, Px9, BENCHx19), Multi-position eligibility, 2 FAAB periods (April & June)

Scoring: 

Batting Category

Point Value

Pitching Category

Point Value

Home Run

6 points

Win

6 points

RBI

2 point

Save

8 points

Run

2 point

Strikeout

1 points

Stolen Base

5 points

Inning Pitched

3 points

Hits

4 point

Base on Balls

-1 point

At-Bat

-1 point

Hits Allowed

-1 point

   

Earned Runs

-2 points

  • This is probably the most balanced scoring system of the bunch. It’s designed to play as close to a roto league as possible.
  • Pitching drops off quickly and boy will you need a lot of it. I want at least 17 pitchers but am happy around 19-20. That goes crazy deep into the rankings. We’re talking Tanner Roark deep, here. Don’t get stuck scrambling for arms. Your leaguemates won’t. They also won’t let up on the pace of pitchers drafted either.
  • Closers can compete with second-tier starters *if* they manage to hold the job all season. That job risk makes them a profile I tend to minimize in the early rounds. As the later rounds arrive the less sexy names can be bargains, though. The Hansel Robles -types aren’t setting your world on fire but could be a nice profit if closing most of the year.
  • Catcher is more valuable here than anywhere with two starting spots. You want one of the top three or four whenever possible. My personal approach is to wait for the first to go and make my coming selection a catcher. If you’re on the turn and get nervous the sixth round is generally early enough to start the run.
  • You have to win your league first and foremost but if your goal isn’t placing in the overall you’re on the wrong platform. Don’t stock your team with Joey Votto ’s who won’t have much of a chance to outearn their cost.
  • You’ll want to take a stab at a few rookies with the huge benches. The important thing to consider here is whether the rookie is adjacent to the majors. Will Wander Franco be a stud someday? Very likely. He is not likely to net you a single 2020 point, however. We’re looking for names like Dylan Carlson and Matt Manning . These players are in the upper levels, have pedigrees, and are age-appropriate for 2020 call ups. I’ll give you more names like these in my coming Best Ball Deep Dives post.
  • As the only format with a FAAB period, the deep rosters are an excellent place to string together back ends of uncertain rotations. The Braves and Brewers were two prime examples from 2019. Getting Max Fried or Brandon Woodruff in the final rounds was immensely profitable. You increased your chances of doing that by taking as many fringe starters from those teams as was feasible.
  • I strongly encourage you to set calendar reminders for the two FAAB deadlines. There are surprise rookies and unforeseen starting pitching available at both. Just don’t be overly impatient cutting someone you were high in the draft who is hurt or slumping.

BB10

BB10s are one of the more unique formats. I don’t know what was behind the decision to only start two outfielders, maybe a desire to keep things accessible, but it alters the VAR drastically. Catcher’s values are pushed up considerably. Outfielders are virtually worthless due to the depth of the position. It’s a format that could use a tweak but is an easy draft, which is the 10’s platform end goal.

Roster: 32 total (C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OFx2, UTIL, Px4, BENCHx20), Multi-position eligibility 

Scoring: 

Batting Category

Point Value

Pitching Category

Point Value

Home Run

6 points

Win

6 points

RBI

2 point

Save

8 points

Run

2 point

Strikeout

1 points

Stolen Base

5 points

Inning Pitched

3 points

Hits

4 point

Base on Balls

-1 point

At-Bat

-1 point

Hits Allowed

-1 point

   

Earned Runs

-2 points

  • Catcher is huge, as mentioned. I’m not advising taking one in the second round but that’s where their value is pushed to for the top guys. I want one of the top three by the fifth round at latest.
  • Pitching is important but not as wide of a net is cast. I like some high-end arms backfilled with solid depth.
  • I aim for eight to ten pitchers on the bench here. You want as many bites at two-start weeks as you can jam in.

Fantrax

Trax10 leagues are my go to ADP tuning tool. They’re a great price point and tend to play out close to what you can expect from your home league draft. There are a few sharks in the waters, so consider opting for more of the 50/50 payouts if you prefer less risk on your return.

Roster: 40 total (C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OFx5, UTILx3, Px9, BENCHx18), no multi-position

Scoring: 

Batting Category

Point Value

Pitching Category

Point Value

Hits

1 point

Win

3 points

Home Run

3 points

Save

6 points

RBI

1 point

Quality Start

3 points

Run

1 point

Strikeout

.5 points

Base on Balls

1 point

Base on Balls

-.5 points

Stolen Base

3 points

Inning Pitched

1.5 points

   

Hits Allowed

-.5 points

   

Earned Runs

-1.5 points

  • Optimal roster construction is a big part of the game on Fantrax. Without multi-position eligibility, you’ll need to back up each spot and be shrewd about it. The places to forego a third man are at catcher and shortstop. The reason being that the talent pool will generally be dried up when you’re looking to draft a third. The points they can offer are less than another pitcher can earn you. 
  • Speaking of pitchers, your target here is at least 17 total. If you feel comfortable leaving an extra position or two thin you can run that up to 18 or 19. 
  • The common theme of catcher importance is present here, too. You can get away with a little more since you’re only starting one in a deep roster, though. Well placed gambles later on can pay off. 
  • Injuries in this format hurt more than anywhere. If you plan to only take two shortstops, don’t make one of them a guy coming off of a serious injury. You’ll also be surprised how hard it is to field nine pitchers by August despite having double that number on your roster. Beware the Andrew Heaney ’s of the league.
  • All in all, Trax10s give you the most avenues to cashing in a wide open sandbox. The price point is affordable to put some volume under your belt, as well.

These tips will get you started in MLB best ball. To be the best player you can be you’ll need to continue sharpening your tools, though. Use projections (like Fantasy Alarm’s) to figure out who is a better value in a points league, tailor your existing strategies (like the SMART system), and reach out with questions. I’ll be following this piece up with two more in the best ball series: Deep Dives and Value Picks. Good luck best balling.