How to Rebuild a Dynasty Roster (Fantasy Baseball)
Winning a fantasy baseball dynasty league is hard. Losing gracefully is even harder.
Play in a competitive league long enough, and title contention will eventually fall outside your reach. Barring the formation of super teams, baseball is especially prone to cyclical spurts atop the standings.
One down year could get written off as a fluke. Two, and it’s probably time to consider a dreaded rebuild.
You’re not running a professional franchise in danger of losing stars to free agency, so this is not a guide to tanking. Gutting a non-decaying roster after a pair of fourth-place finishes also isn’t recommended. Neither is starting a new league with designs on a 2020 title run unless you’re an ultimate prospect guru and trade negotiator.
However, if a 2018 championship isn’t reasonably in the cards, it’s time to rearrange the roster to ensure a brighter future. Here are some general steps to properly rebuilding a dynasty team.
Know Your League
There’s no one-size-fits-all rebuild blueprint. Each owner instead must carefully consider the league before deciding how to proceed. Perhaps it’s best to mimic the Houston Astros’ scorched-earth approach in a highly competitive 20-team league.
Given the elevated difficulty of finding immediate help, it’s necessary to flip some solid contributors for some mid-level prospects. Sorry, you’re not getting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for Evan Longoria (or maybe you can; it doesn’t hurt to try).
This same strategy is ill-advised in a relatively casual 12-team mixer, where useful talent is freely available on the waiver wire. Rather than press reset, shop a few veterans for intriguing players in their 20s who still wield upside without significant buzz (i.e. Nick Castellanos and Trevor Bauer). Load up on enough prospects and post-hype players, and some will eventually pay off alongside waiver-wire gems.
It’s likely not even necessary to sell a superstar in this scenario. Especially not one in his prime.
Also, of course, consider the league’s categories and settings. If you can carry an unlimited amount of prospects in the farm, load up on mid-to-late round draft picks and younger, high-upside prospects poised to climb up top-100 lists in a year or two. If the system is limited to just three minor leaguers like one of my 12-team leagues, stash younger players close to receiving a promotion.
It could be possible to tuck away a Scott Kingery, Austin Hays, or Chance Adams on your bench in this shallower setting. That makes it must easier to gradually retool without sacrificing your current foundation.
Trust Your Process
Sam Hinkie made rebuilding cool-for analytical thinkers, at least-when coldly deciding that unapologetic tanking represented the optimal path to constructing an NBA contender. Fantasy baseball showrunners should not necessarily trust his process – there’s rarely an obvious, game-changing MLB prospect worth bottoming out for-but they should honor their own plan.
How patient are you? Nobody should aim to spend the next five years losing. The league could easily fold before finally witnessing the fruits of that labor.
But in an active league that has existed for multiple years, someone might be OK with stinking for two or three seasons. Others may just want to sacrifice 2018 in hopes of a quick turnaround.
Deciding to rebuild during the offseason is one thing, but watching your team lose for weeks, months, or years will test anyone’s patience. Stay the course. Also, loading up on second-round draft picks will probably help you a lot more than it has the Philadelphia 76ers.
Get Comfortable with Prospects
Back in my nascent dynasty days, I regrettably did not put in enough legwork on building a farm system. I was a lazy, preoccupied student content with perusing mainstream rankings not tailored for dynasty formats.
Years ago, when I was suddenly no longer younger than MLB’s newest wave of neophytes, that negligence finally caught up to a sagging 18-team squad. A horrid season forced me to realize my stagnant roster had little reinforcements waiting in the pipeline. Once I committed to a rebuild, I devoured any research I could find.
Knowing that scouting isn’t my specialty, I searched outward to guide my prospect awakening. There’s a litany of indispensable information for those willing to find it.
Bobby Sylvester provides ample dynasty analysis right here on FantasyPros, including comprehensive rankings of the top-1,000 dynasty players. Razzball’s Ralph Lifshitz and Baseball Prospectus’ Bret Sayre also offer terrific prospect insight from a fantasy purview. Some fine folks at Reddit are sharing their prospect knowledge with an ongoing top-100 list.
No offense to Baseball America or MLB.com, but they don’t care about your fantasy team. While that 6’5″ starter might have the frame to mature into a workhorse, you don’t typically want to draft a potential innings-eater with low strikeout tallies (although a durable option doesn’t hurt in a deeper league). Sluggers like Rhys Hoskins and Matt Olson won’t get as fair a shake as slick-fielding middle infielders with little pop.
Any successful rebuild requires shrewd drafting and trading. After accruing in-depth knowledge of the game’s future stars, you’ll find value on both fronts. I’m happy to report that I drafted Ronald Acuna (after trading down for extra picks) and Walker Buehler last year before welcoming Aaron Judge, Manuel Margot, and Luke Weaver to my MLB roster. It just requires some research, which you must be willing to do if you’re reading this article.
Find Damaged Goods for Cheap
You’re not going to hit the jackpot with a guy like Judge often. The ultimate key is finding the misfit toys with profit potential.
It’s remarkable how quickly some gamers will give up on yesterday’s future stars. Trevor Story and Kevin Gausman aren’t doomed after one subpar season. Also look for buying opportunities manufactured from injuries and playing-time concerns.
See if Garrett Richards or Aaron Sanchez are available after injury-plagued 2017 campaigns, or roll the dice on Jose Martinez or Derek Fisher receiving a more prominent role. A contender may not have the patience for Dominic Smith losing reps to Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez, but a rebuilding squad can wait for him to land a full-time gig. Make the most of your situation by taking the long view on semi-risky gambits.
Don’t Trade For the Sole Sake of Change
Most dynasty players have encountered the manager – for those who haven’t, it might be you – who completes a trade every other day and sends an offer every other second. In a never-ending quest to disrupt the status quo, this person will inevitably derail any progress made from successful swaps with a handful of bad ones.
The rush of dealing causes some managers to trade for the pure sake of trading. Don’t get caught in that trap. Focus on deliberate moves that align with your plans.
Identify and keep an open dialogue with the league’s aggressive contenders. Ideally, you’ll form one or two common trade partners regularly willing to strike a favorable deal for both parties. And hey, maybe the tables will turn in three years when you’re contending, and he or she is retooling.
Make your intentions known to the league, especially when engaging in a fire sale. Avoid jumping at the first offer that comes your way if shopping an elite talent.
Alert everyone to his availability and do your due intelligence before accepting a deal. Maximizing your return is imperative.
If that deal never comes, just keep him. Throughout my 18-team rebuild, I kept Madison Bumgarner when no offer merited a move.
He’s 28, so I still have time to ride the ace back into contention or move him if an enticing offer rolls around. Were I just now commencing a rebuild, I’d probably be more aggressive about exchanging him before Father Time and the cruel baseball gods claim their next pitching arm.
Trading can be fun. It can also be a pain in the butt. Taking some risks is necessary, but don’t go overboard because sitting still makes you antsy.
Everyone is going to lose eventually, but not everyone has the perseverance to get back up. The worst thing you can do is abandon your team out of frustration, forcing your league to recruit a replacement willing to adopt a fixer-upper.
Don’t give up. Truck through the dark days, and securing that elusive championship will feel even sweeter. Just ask Astros fans.