5/16/2014 3:16 A.M. ET
Go all in on power, speed in mini fantasy game
By Jonathan Bales / MLB.com
Your daily fantasy baseball strategy should be tailored to the type of league in which you're playing. In large-field leagues such as the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com from DraftKings, you want to try to hit a home run -- literally and figuratively. You aren't going to win a big tournament without an elite score, so you want to increase your team's upside as much as possible. When there's no difference between a decent lineup and one that tanks, there's little incentive to play it safe.
Baseball has enough night-to-night variance that pretty much anything can happen during the course of a single game, but that doesn't mean that we can't improve our chances of winning by playing the percentages. There will be nights when a rarely-used utility player goes deep twice, but it's always going to be the Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Troy Tulowitzki-esque players of the league who will continually provide the highest ceilings. To increase your team's upside, it's crucial to know the scoring system. The most points you can accumulate, unsurprisingly, come via a home run. When your batter goes yard, you get 10 points for the home run, two points for the run itself, and two more for each RBI. A solo blast is worth 14 points -- almost four times as many as a single.
For the most part, it pays to chase power in the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com. You don't need to chase potential home runs at all costs, however. The other primary way to increase your team's upside is to rack up stolen bases. Steals are worth five points, and certain players such as Dee Gordon can give you multiple stolen bases in a single game with relative ease. With that said, here's how you can construct the ultimate high-ceiling group of hitters by maximizing your chances for home runs and steals.
We all pretty much have a good sense of which players hit the most home runs. Some hitters are in better situations than others on a given day, however, so we want to maximize our exposure to the batters most likely to go yard in their individual matchup.
One thing to analyze, of course, is lefty/right splits. In most situations, right-handed batters are better against lefty pitching, and vice versa. This applies to power stats, not just on-base numbers. Derek Jeter isn't known as a power hitter, but he has a .533 slugging percentage against left-handed pitching across the past three seasons, compared to just a .349 mark against righties. In addition to splits, you should also monitor the weather in each batter's game. You can significantly enhance the chances of a home run by targeting batters in warm-weather games, when the wind is blowing outward. If you're looking at two hitters who are otherwise equal, but one is playing in the Arizona heat and the other is in Minnesota with the wind blowing in, that's a big potential difference in home run probability.
If you're searching for steals, the first thing to estimate is a hitter's chances of getting on base. If he's unlikely to get on base, it doesn't really matter how fast he is.
You also want to monitor his place in the order. When Jacoby Ellsbury moves from the top of the order down to the third spot, he gets more RBI opportunities, but his chances of hitting a home run don't really change and the probability of stealing a bag declines. When he's the leadoff man, there's a higher chance of no one being on second base when he makes his way to first.
Finally, you want to check the pitcher-catcher combination. Left-handed pitchers usually are far superior to righties at holding runners on first base, so it's a big advantage when your base-stealer is facing a right-handed starter. But even against southpaws, the fastest players in the game can steal pretty easily against a weak-armed catcher.
Jonathan Bales contributes DraftKings-related content to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.