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2013 Draft Prep: Nando Di Fino's Head-to-Head strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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More Head-to-Head strategies: Scott White | Al Melchior

You may not like Head-to-Head (Points) leagues, but you're probably going to have to play in one at some point in your life. Or maybe you love Head-to-Head leagues, but you're always looking for new ways to improve your strategy (for instance, did you know that there's a way to set up leagues to play more than one team at a time?) Or maybe you just googled "Medlen squeezes Duchscherer Christmas dominoes" and landed here.

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Whatever the case may be, I hope two things are abundantly clear: 1. You are going to need to develop separate strategies when competing in Head-to-Head leagues and Rotisserie leagues, as they have their own quirks and rules, and, 2. Things are going to get a little weird later in the column.

Full disclosure: I do not like Head-to-Head leagues. But I play in them because I like the people who ask me to join them. It's like making dinner plans for a restaurant you really hate, but agreeing to eat there anyway because the other people going are cool and the drinks are cheap. Suck it up, have some fun, and you can always go to a bar you like that same night (Roto leagues) to balance things out.

If that doesn't get you fired up for my following four Head-to-Head strategies, I don't know what will. Read on and enjoy!

1. Don't reach for sleepers

Unlike Roto formats, where 23 players are drafted as starters, Points leagues have a truncated roster -- three outfielders instead of five, no corner or middle infield spots, one catcher, and smaller rotations that force you to pick a certain amount of starters and relievers. Because of this, many deep-ish sleepers are either marginalized or irrelevant. If you have a lot of love for a player like Lonnie Chisenhall, for example, it may have to continue in secret, as he could be too deep to even use a bench spot on in most standard Head-to-Head formats.

2. Get ready to ignore low-end closers

There are a handful of pitchers who will be starters in 2013, but retain relief pitcher eligibility because of the appearances they made last year. Kris Medlen, Aroldis Chapman, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Alexi Ogando are probably the most high-profile, but there are a few more lower-tier options who could make a case for Head-to-Head relevance (like David Phelps, Andrew Cashner, and Wade Davis). Their eligibility as relievers essentially sets off dominoes and squeezes the lower-ranked closers out of the draft window. And because those closers are then sent to the waiver wire, there's really little reason to use limited bench spots on them, as they'll be available for adding and dropping throughout the entire season. So while Bruce Rondon and Jonathan Broxton have plenty of value in Roto leagues, they may be little more than waiver wire fodder in Head-to-Head formats, at least initially.

3. Don't be obtuse about the scoring quirks

I used to be an idiot, refusing to use starters in RP roles and ignoring doubles and walks when I played in Head-to-Head leagues. Then, one night, I was visited by the three spirits, who took me on a journey through my past, present, and future and showed me the folly of my ways.

The Voided Check of Leagues Past took me to 2008, when I complained in message board posts about how dumb it was to allow starters to be used as relievers, losing to my college roommate, Rob, twice that season because he used Justin Duchscherer in his RP slot and I insisted on plugging in only closers.

The Hundred Dollar Bill of Leagues Present brought me to Rob's fancy apartment in Boston, pointing out all the cool stuff he was able to buy with his winnings from that year.

And the League-Fees-Are-Due E-mail Reminder of Seasons Yet To Come took me to my gravesite, where I died broke and penniless at the age of 41, having given all my money in the form of league fees to my friends (who, incidentally, all pitched in for a nice baseball-shaped floral arrangement). I woke up with a new paradigm: If the rules allow for you to plug in Kris Medlen as a reliever -- which will result in him accruing more points for the absurdly heavily-weighted innings pitched, for instance -- then you do it. You're not going to win any titles sticking to Rotisserie strategies, personal ideals, unfounded feelings of nobility, or anything else that would, in a normal world, fall under the umbrella of fairness and logic. As much as I hate the idea of rewarding a player for hitting doubles, I'm still going to run Alex Gordon up my Head-to-Head ranks. If you don't address these quirks, you are setting yourself up for failure.

4. Persuade your commissioner to enact some playoff changes

One of the biggest gripes from people playing in Head-to-Head formats -- especially those in the standard variations -- is that teams scoring a lot of points end up with mediocre records and eventually miss the playoffs. In my many years of playing, I've found two fixes for this:

1. Convince your league to change playoff requirements. If six of your league's 12 teams make the playoffs, then have the first four be placed by record, with the final two wildcards getting in based on highest point totals. If only four make it, then the top two records should be seeded along with two high-scoring wildcards. This way, you avoid the all-too-familiar scenario of a great team having scored more points than most of its opponents, but getting shut out of the playoffs because it got stuck with an unfavorable schedule.

2. CBSSports.com has a pretty awesome option, where a commissioner can opt to have teams play more than one opponent each week. So if you score the second-highest amount of points in a week and get pitted against the team that scored the most, you still have another game against another opponent that same week. Instead of finishing the week 0-1, you have a 1-1 record. The downside to this is that it kind of squashes the anticipation and fun of playing just one friend each week, as you have to spread your attention over two games. The upside, though, is having a larger sample size in terms of win-loss record, thus avoiding those weeks where the second-highest scoring team gets stuck with a loss.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Braves sign pitcher Eric Stults to minor-league deal
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(5:49 pm ET) The Braves announced Thursday they signed pitcher Eric Stults to a minor-league deal, per MLB.com. He also was invited to spring training.

The 35-year-old Stults went 8-17 with a 4.30 ERA in 32 starts last season for the Padres. He is 4-2 with a 4.26 ERA in four career outings (two starts) at Turner Field.


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(5:43 pm ET) The Red Sox announced Thursday they agreed to terms with outfielder Daniel Nava, avoiding arbitration. Nava's 2015 salary will be $1.85 million, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Nava is in his first year of arbitration. He made $556,500 in 2014.


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(5:39 pm ET) The Rockies announced Thursday starting pitcher prospect Tyler Anderson will not be ready to pitch when spring camp opens Feb. 21, per The Denver Post.

"We are taking our time with this and we think it's best to take a conservative approach," trainer Keith Dugger said. "He will participate in camp, but he won't pitch. He'll take part in PFP (pitchers' fielding practice) and other activities. We think the prognosis is good for the long term."

Anderson had his season end in the Double-A playoffs last season due to elbow soreness. General manager Jeff Bridich said in December that Anderson's rehabilitation was going well and said it was "conceivable" he would be in the mix for a roster spot this spring. However, his slow recovery from the elbow injury could hinder his chances of making the opening day roster.

Anderson had a great year in 2014 before getting hurt. He went 7-4 with a 1.98 ERA in 23 starts for Double-A Tulsa. The 2011 first-round pick is 23-10 with a 2.39 ERA in 59 minor-league starts.

"We are going to do what's best for Tyler's long-term future with our club," Bridich said of having no specific timetable for Anderson.


Twins OF Torii Hunter plans to mentor Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton
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(4:38 pm ET) Twins veteran right fielder Torii Hunter said one of his goals this season will be to mentor outfielder Aaron Hicks and top outfield prospect Byron Buxton, per MLB.com.

"I know Hicks can play, but with Buxton -- I haven't seen video or seen him play, but every word I hear is good about him," Hunter said. "I definitely think when we get to spring training we'll sit down and I'll work out with them and evaluate what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong."

Hicks said he will lean on Hunter this spring, as he competes with Jordan Schafer for the starting job in center field.

"I'll be all in his ear the whole time," Hicks said. "He might get annoyed I'll be in his ear so much. He's definitely a guy I'm going to go to.

"I believe that I have the ability to play center field here for a long time. I've just got to go out there and show people that I can be the center fielder that everybody wants me to be and also that I want myself to be."


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Free-agent pitcher Brandon Beachy delays contract decision
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Werth was pulled over in July by Virginia State Police after driving 105 mph in a 55 mph zone and Werth did not necessarily disagree with the assessment.

"It's possible I exceeded 90 miles per hour," Werth said in court.

Werth was initially convicted of reckless driving Dec. 5, but appealed the verdict. He was originally sentenced to 10 days in jail, but it was reduced to five after Werth's guilty plea.

The prosecutor said Werth will turn himself in Friday and begin serving his sentence, according to NBC4's Northern Virginia Bureau. 


White Sox DFA Dayan Viciedo to see if any trade interest remains
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(11:07 am ET) White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said putting outfielder Dayan Viciedo on waivers could be the final step to trading him, which is something the team has explored all offseason. Viciedo was designated for assignment Wednesday, which means Chicago has 10 days to trade, release or outright him to the minors.

"It got to the point where Dayan didn’t very likely fit on this club in a meaningful way for 2015,"  Hahn said, per CSNChicago.com. "The thought with designating him was flesh out any interest over the next 10 days or so and find him a better home going into the next season."

Viciedo, who will turn 26 years old on March 10, has hit more than 20 homers in two of the last three seasons. But he has yet to reach his full potential, batting just .254 with a .424 slugging percentage in five MLB seasons. 

The White Sox seem OK if they deal Viciedo and he finally reaches his full potential with another team.

"He's still young and he still has a world of talent and a great deal of power that we’ve all seen on display over a number of years," Hahn said. "It's not going to surprise any of us in the least if he goes on to have a very successful career elsewhere."


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(10:54 am ET) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated catcher Devin Mesoraco could see a lot more time behind the plate in 2015, per the Dayton Daily News. He appeared in 114 games in 2014, starting 109 at catcher.

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