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Lessons to Carry Over Into Your New Season (Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Dec 4, 2019

Name a sport, and I’ll show you an example of it being a copycat league. For the NFL, you remember the “wildcat” and read-option times? The Dolphins popularized it, but other teams followed suit. 

For baseball, it’s been the implementation of shifting, pitch-framing, using the opener, and a slew of other advancements that can help teams try to get the upper hand on the league. Legally, of course. We aren’t banging any drums here.

The same train of thought should be applied in your fantasy league year over year — especially if you are playing in a league with the same people again.

Here are some techniques that I apply in my leagues to try to give me an advantage over my league-mates.

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Draft Prep

Whether your league uses the standard snake-style draft or if you auction each year, looking over past draft results can be huge for you heading into the new season. Do the people in your league usually draft by using custom rankings, or are they married to the server-specific ADP? 

Playing with the same people year after year can help you get a feel and prep better for your draft. There’s always the prospect hound who will reach a couple of rounds for the shiny toy. There’s always the player who prefers pitchers over hitters and will do everything they can to get an ace. And of course, there are those who don’t prepare and just take the best available player. 

Get to know how the people in your league draft. Pull up last year’s draft results. Compare them to two years ago. If you’re in a snake-style draft, you can get a feel on who they make take and who may drop to you. If you’re in an auction, you can add a couple of dollars of value to certain players. Do the work ahead of time. 

Waiver Trends

Ready for the first waiver run, but not sure how much FAAB to put down? Pull up the transaction report from last year to get a feel of how much FAAB you should put down for the first big waiver wire bid of the year. 

If there is someone like Yordan Alvarez, you may have to go 80 percent on them, depending on when they get called up. 

What I tend to notice is that people seem to make similar bid amounts. They’ll often go $6 or $7 instead of $5. Or they’ll try to sneak in as many $1 bids as they can. If I can spot a trend, and I have a feeling that that person is trying to get someone that I am after, too, I’ll make sure to throw down a couple of extra dollars to get them. 

League Winner

What did the winner’s team look like last year? Did he or she go big with pitching early on, or did they discover some high-upside arms who put it together for them? In most leagues, the winning team will let you know that their team was, in fact, the best. I mean, the third-place team may say that too, but we all know they “just got unlucky.”

Sure, Paul. Sure.

Going back to the copycat discussion in the lede, you may see some teams try out a similar strategy as the team who finished in first last year. Is that one ace and all relievers? Maybe punting steals? Whatever it is, keep an eye on it during the draft and pivot when you’re able to. 

League Trends

Different year, same deal. Every MLB season, there’s some new big trend that takes off. It could be the opener, home run records being shattered, bullpen by committee, two-way players, etc. 

Stay up to date with the changing landscape, do some research, and figure out how much you want to bring those findings into your season prep. Was Ketel Marte’s 2019 season really what we should expect from him going forward? Or was his home run rate simply due to the different ball?

In turn, notice who didn’t have an uptick with the rest of the league, and look into why that happened. If league hard-hit percentage or launch angles are up league wide, I’m going to be concerned if a certain player is seeing a decrease in his. 

Pleasure to Meet You

Get to know your leaguemates. I don’t care if you are in a league with random people, or if you are in a league with the same people each year. Do your best to build a relationship with them. Now, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying you have to be best friends with them, and I’m also not saying that you should be nice to them to take advantage of them for a game like fantasy baseball. No, not at all. However, it is a long season, and it’s great to be able to establish a relationship with them when talking about your league or about baseball in general. 

It also helps when it comes to trade negotiations to be able to have an honest conversation where the person can trust that you aren’t just trying to rip them off. It saves you from the tired explanatory offer: “Christian Yelich’s HR/FB ratio is unsustainable, but he’s in a great ballpark that can save his value. While Caleb Smith won’t rack up the wins for you in Miami, he will help you in the other categories. You should look at his FanGraphs page.”

Just stop with those.

Get to know the person and have an honest discussion with them. It helps lead to better transparency, fewer league-wide issues, and easier trade talks.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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