One of the popular refrains I hear about MLB best ball is, “I wish there was a roto version.” Points leagues lack the nuance many fantasy baseball managers crave. RT Sports actually has a roto best ball offering in their Draft Masters packages. The way they achieve this is by eliminating bench spots. You draft a starting roster and that’s what you get. There’s certainly some risk that injury or suspension could sink your team. If you think about it, losing an early pick can often be just as problematic when you can replace them, though. I’ve been drafting more of these this year and here are some key differences to address in this particular flavor of best ball.

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  • Health: Obviously, you don’t want to take on undue risk in the format. Certainly, don’t draft players currently hurt unless they’re at a steep discount. That isn’t to say avoid players tagged as “injury risks.” Giancarlo Stanton isn’t going to play 162 games. That doesn’t matter if he gives you the 30 or so homers you have him projected for. If that comes in half a season it’s all the same to your categories. Find a balance between “safe” players and upside gambles.
  • Innings: This season is going to get wild with unknown innings caps on arms that didn’t have to be tested for durability last year. The Gerrit Cole ’s and Max Scherzer ’s will likely be free from major concern but after the first 10 or so pitchers most haven’t thrown close to 200 IPs. My general guide post is somewhere between what they handled in 2019 and what their progression for 2021 would have been if they’d taken the next step in 2020. You also want to get some cheaper starters that are at the top of their team’s rotation. Names like Chris Bassitt and John Means aren’t the flashiest options but they’re going to anchor those rotations and get you two start weeks.
  • Spread contributions: This is a crucial point. You can’t afford many specialists in this format. If they go down, you’re sunk in a category. Every hitter you take should have a floor of 15-20 HRs, 10-15 SBs, and not kill your average. If you start taking too many Adelberto Mondesi’s and Joey Gallo ’s and your draft becomes a game of Tetris gone awry with blocks choking up your screen. Speed is the biggest challenge, as usual. Squeezing even a few steals from first and third baseman matters. Anthony Rizzo and Alec Bohm are two good examples that are affordable.
  • Position flexibility: This isn’t quite as crucial since players won’t shift around in-season as swiss army knives the way they do in points best balls. Having some flexibility will help absorb values later in the draft, however. You only get one UTIL spot. Try not to clog it early. Being able to move someone like Tommy Edman or Andres Giminez to different slots helps. Plus, the UTIL-only guys get a pretty sizable discount in most drafts. Having the luxury to grab a cheap Nelson Cruz or J.D. Martinez is nice.
  • RPs with category juice: Closers are always tricky to manage. Now you have to pick three and be set for the season and see how that goes. I definitely want one or two earlier than I normally consider them. Likely a name from RP6-RP10. The guys you want to stay away from are the Alex Colomé types. If they don’t earn saves, they’re actively hurting you in every pitching category. I’d prefer anyone in the late closer tier that can at least chip in Ks and help on ratios should they miss out on save opps.

So, play hard and remember to play Best Ball Draft Masters for fun, practice and cash or the Best Ball Championship where you can turn $20 into $10,000!