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Remember the old Coke versus Pepsi taste tests? People would blindly drink from two different cups and see which one they thought tasted better. Obviously one would consist of Pepsi and one would contain Coca-Cola and they would choose their preference.

When my cousin and I were younger we decided to host our own taste testing. I came into the experiment claiming Coke as my preferred cola and my cousin was a Pepsi guy. The blindfolds, the two cups, we played out the entire rigmarole. To absolutely nobody’s surprise we each selected the soda we repped pre-experiment. At the end of the day, people are happy with their own personal preferences.

In some fantasy baseball leagues, you sort out the draft order using the KDS method. That stands for Kentucky Derby Style. Team builders list their preferred draft slots one through however many teams there are. At the end of the process, every team is allotted a draft spot based on the members of the league’s preference.

KDS Preference

I have used the word ‘preference’ multiple times. That wasn’t by accident because now I will break down my preferred draft slots using KDS.. 

1st, 2nd, 3rd Draft Slots

Nobody enjoys waiting forever to make their second pick (which I completely understand) but having the ability to lock down 25-30 stolen bags without sacrificing other offensive categories can be so beneficial to a team’s build. 

Drafting first, second, or third guarantees that team builder one of Trea Turner, Fernando Tatis Jr. (well maybe not anymore), or Jose Ramirez. Starting your team with any of these three players can put you on a path where you do not need to reach for steals later on. For a guy with way more points league experience, this would be a welcome development. 

Immediately, the concern becomes waiting so long to make your second and third selections. Typically, a top-eight starting pitcher or one of the best closers are there to pick. And if the team builder wants another bat then a top 12-15 outfielder, a top 5-8 infielder, or one of the best catchers. Enough talent to complement Tatis, Ramirez, or Turner.  

15th, 14th, 13th Draft Slots

I like to call this, ‘the modified Ricky Bobby.’ The fictional NASCAR driver loved to state “If you’re not first…you’re last.” If I cannot get a top-three draft slot then my next range of preference is the end of round one. Matter of fact, I am drafting from spot 14 in TGFBI.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Waiting until the end of the first round to make your first pick means you get the first crack at round two. This has worked for my team-building plan because Rafael Devers has been available at the end of round one. Devers has shown the ability to be a four-category monster. In ‘21 he batted .279, hit 37 home runs, and contributed over 200 runs and RBIs. He has never reached double-digit steals but he does fill a thin position in fantasy baseball.

This picking late in round one strategy isn’t fully dependent on selecting Rafael Devers. Ronald Acuna, Corbin Burnes, Mookie Betts, and Ozzie Albies have all slid to the end of round one in certain drafts. Adding one of the first picks in round two to one of these guys is a good base to build off of. 

Like I mentioned, drafting late in round one means drafting early in round two. Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Manny Machado, Freddie Freeman, and Yordan Alvarez are tabbed to go in this range of the majority of drafts. Team builders looking for early steals can go Marte. The Mets outfield swiped more than 40 bags last season. Team builders that want massive upside in four categories can take Yordan Alvarez (a favorite of mine in ‘22). The overall point is that there are multiple avenues to build a strong core with a late round-one selection. 

4th, 5th, 11th, 12th Draft Slots

These picks are essentially one notch worse than the first two pick ranges. Drafting from these spots won’t get you a top-three player or a super quick one-two turn but it is the next best thing. Albeit slightly, I’ll admit.

The strategies may not even change too drastically with these picks. But for the sake of covering more bases, let’s imagine that a pivot is required. With the earlier picks, the move is to attack the four category batters or grab the best starter (i.e. Cole or Burnes). The four cat guys are players who will supply enough in all offensive categories other than steals. Guys like Juan Soto, Vlad Guerrero Jr, and Bryce Harper come to mind. The eleventh and twelfth picks allow for team builders to grab high upside with a slightly cloudy floor. Names that come to mind are Kyle Tucker and Luis Robert.

Regardless if you start with pick four or five or 11 or 12, team builders can deploy the same game plan. In my eyes, the move to make is steals or starting pitcher in round two. Players like Starling Marte, Ozzie Albies, Walker Buehler, and Max Scherzer are some of my favorites in this range. 

6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th Draft Slots

My league mates and I use a term for the grouping of teams battling for the final playoff spots. That term is ‘the muck.’ The muck is sticky and it creates an uncertainty. For me, drafting in the middle of each round is eerily similar to the muck in my home league. Drafting in the muck does not mean you’re done. Some team builders prefer a shorter turnaround. It is just not my cup of tea.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of good players available in the early rounds. Starting with Bo Bichette, Ronald Acuna, Mike Trout or an ace isn’t the worst thing. But what I find to be most frustrating deciding what path you want to take. When you have a quicker swing around the strategy of what players to select is a bit more clear when you spot approaches.

Whenever drafting from the muck, the strategy to leave your draft pleased is to stay ready to pivot. Because each selection is evenly separated from round to round there isn’t a chance to grab multiple players from a grouping in the way that you can when you have a quick swing every other round. Do not be overly dependent on a particular player landing in your lap. Be ready to pull a Ross Gellar and “PIVOT!”

Conclusion

Winning isn’t about where a team’s draft comes from. Preparation, game planning, and flexibility are far more important. It is possible to build a championship team from any spot in the draft. I just so happen to like selecting from the ends. Waiting a longer time to draft is fine by me (another Ross Gellar reference) as long as I can get that quick turnaround. 

Kentucky Derby Style draft slotting is new to me but I find it to be pretty fun. The more strategy and tactics that can be added to fantasy baseball, I am all for. Taking into account a team builders’ draft slot preference is exactly that. More strategy. 

Does your league use KDS? If so, how do you like it?

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Matty Kiwoom

Matty Kiwoom

My name is Matt and I'm a sports-a-holic. *pauses for warm welcome*

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