I am in the market for a fantasy baseball best ball league to get some practice drafting before “real” league drafts start in a few weeks. Not sure what a best ball league is? They are leagues that draft just like a normal fantasy draft. The difference is, there is no in-season management. No starting lineups, no waivers. Set it and forget it.
Advantages of Best Ball
Although best ball is not entirely, “forget it” because you can check in to track your progress. Usually, there are some small stakes on the line, too. This is advantageous over a pure mock draft with no stakes. Mock drafts provide some practice opportunity, but unless you have a solid group of mock draft participants involved, expect some bailers by the round 3-4 turn.
Drafting helps me get a good feel for when to expect players to be selected, beyond reviewing ADP data. Plus, forcing draft decisions provides a reality check to my fantasy baseball rankings. This benefit is probably solely my own, but best balls also help ongoing Draft Buddy testing.
Queue the age jokes, but I do prefer a slow draft. Monitoring a slow draft instead of blocking off three hours for a live draft works well for me for entertainment and time management. I like taking some time to think about my choices, and it helps me get notes down to write a commentary about the picks.
Finding a Best Ball League
My ideal best ball fantasy baseball league uses roto scoring, includes 12 teams, with a reasonable size starting lineup and fairly deep rosters. NFBC Main Event leagues are 15-teams, and start 23 players from a roster of 30. For best ball, slightly fewer starters and 40 rounds (at 12 teams) result in a good size player pool.
I don’t want to break the bank on best ball leagues. A modest entry fee of around $25 is good for me. With these parameters in mind, I went searching and created the following comparison chart:
Fantasy Baseball Best Ball League Comparison
|Fantrax||Best Ball 10s||RT Sports Draft Masters3|
|Lineup||22: 1 C/1B/2B/3B/SS, 5 OF, 3 UT, 9 P||12: 1 C/1B/2B/3B/SS, 2 OF, 1 UT, 4 P||16: 1 C/1B/2B/3B/SS, 3 OF, 1 UT, 7 P||24: 2 C, 1 1B/2B/3B/SS, 5 OF, 1 CI, 1 MI, 2 UT, 9 P|
|Draft Timer||Live or Slow: 2 hours1||Live or Slow: 1, 2, or 4 hours||Live or Slow: 2, 4, or 8 hours||Live or Slow: 2, 4, or 8 hours|
|Entry||$10 and $25||$5, $10, $25, and $50||$20, $50, and higher||$20, $50, and higher|
|Prizes||$25 entry: $250 1st, $25 2nd or alternates2||$25 entry: $250 1st, $12.50 2nd or alternates2||$20 entry: $100 1st, $50 2nd||$20 entry: $100 1st, $50 2nd|
Comparison Chart Notes
1 The timer is not readily apparent on the game lobby main page. Click into the league and scroll down under draft to see the timer details. Although, drafts that indicate they start, “day after filling” seem to be slow drafts.
2 There appear to be three payout options for each of these. Best Ball 10s identify them as Classic, Top 3, and 2X, but they are essentially the same for both – a top-heavy 1st and 2nd place prize structure, a more distributed top 3, or a double-up, where finishing in the top half returns an (almost) equal prize to each team.
3 RTSports Best Ball Championship is identical in format to the Draft Masters fantasy points leagues, except the payout structure. All competitors go into a large pool with overall prizes paid out $10,000 for 1st, $5,000 for 2nd, $2,500 for 3rd, $1,000 for 4th or 5th, and $100 for 6th through 50th. This is offset by smaller league prizes of $60 for 1st and $40 for 2nd. There is a maximum of 5,000 teams eligible to compete in this contest.
What About NFBC?
NFBC did not make the comparison chart because it does not provide any leagues at a price point under $50. At $50, they have two options: NFBC 50s and $50 Rotowire Online Championship Qualifier. Neither are true best ball leagues. Rotowire OC is actively managed with free agent pickups and starting lineup decisions during the season. NFBC 50s do not have free agent pickups, but lineups are set weekly.
On the plus side, both are rotisserie scoring, and each offer 1, 2 and 4-hour slow draft options. Both use the same standard NFBC format starting lineup of 23 players: 2 C, 1 1B/2B/3B/SS, 5 OF, 1 CI, 1 MI, 1 UT, and 9 P. Each are 12-team leagues. Rotowire OC drafts are 30 rounds, allowing for a 7-man bench. NFBC 50s draft 50 rounds, providing 27 bench spots, to help deal with attrition since there are no free agents adds and drops.
There is a Best Ball Cutline Championship contest run by NFBC. This is the closest they’ve got to a true best ball. It is fantasy points scoring. They are 10-team leagues. The starting lineup matches NFBC Main Event format, and teams draft a roster of 42 players.
There are two in-season waiver periods which gives some opportunity to recuperate from a key injury or two. The Cutline is a bigger investment at $150 per entry. There are discounts for multiple entries, and a nice carrot at the end with a large prize for 1st place overall.
Best Ball League Decision
Between my ideal fantasy baseball best ball league format, and the comparison chart, nothing truly hit the mark. The biggest issue is roto does not jive well with best ball. The only roto option uses the entire roster, which is not awesome.
Half the fun of fantasy prognosticating is predicting breakouts for players with low projected playing time who become major contributors to your fantasy squad. In a start-all format, the waiting for that breakout can kill your chances to compete. In a format with a starting lineup and bench, then it isn’t too bad if a player has to ride the pine for a while.
Okay, so fantasy points it is. The starting lineup in the Best Ball 10s is light. The starting lineup in the RT Sports Draft Masters is pretty good. If they expanded rosters to 30 then the starters-to-bench ratio and depth of player pool improves. Those leagues are only 10 teams, so the draft is 260 players deep. At Fantrax, which are 12-team leagues and 40 roster spots, the draft is 480 players deep.
That difference pushes me to Fantrax to start. Once that gets underway, there is a good chance I’ll sign up and try one or more of the other formats.