11 Tips for Building a Fantasy Baseball Foundation (2020)
It is exciting for this old scout to be part of the FantasyPros fantasy baseball world. Hopefully, these columns will help the reader get the most from the fantasy baseball experience.
As fantasy baseball continues to grow, these columns will be directed at both new and seasoned fantasy baseball team managers/owners. What may seem way too obvious to one, may be important new information to another.
A symphony orchestra is built from the individual components of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion that blend together to form fantastic music. The same can be said for a fantasy baseball team. The team is constructed of various parts that come together as a unit to produce quality results. How one gets to those parts is crucial.
It is always good to visit the basics of team construction before every new fantasy baseball season.
Know the rules of the league or contest being entered.
Countless fantasy players have been shocked and disappointed to learn they didn’t know the rules of the game. Strategies are totally different depending upon the particulars stated on the league’s platform. Everything begins with the number of players in the league and the categories used for scoring. Some categories are tricky, and a team manager/owner must know the intricacies of the categories. The waiver wire claiming procedure and trade deadlines are crucial factors in league management. Sometimes team managers/owners forget to check out the particulars.
New categories are being introduced in leagues almost every year. For example, wins are being replaced by quality starts or numbers of innings pitched. Holds are being added to saves. Saves are being eliminated in some leagues. Know the rules of your league.
Fantasy baseball is about opportunities.
The more at-bats a player receives, the better the chance to compile counting stats. Platoon players offer fewer opportunities for the fantasy player. Left-handed hitting platoon players get more at-bats than right-handed platoon players. Pitching categories may dictate a greater number of innings pitched to be beneficial. Opportunities matter.
Be certain you know the depth of the player pool and the quality of that depth at every position.
In all likelihood, a shallow position pool dictates greater emphasis in a draft or auction. Shallow positions go quickly. Poor quality at a position can be costly in net point results. Taking the last available shortstop may mean a weak batting average, poor counting stats and possibly even limited plate appearances and opportunities. It may be very helpful to strike early regarding shallow position depth.
Evaluate home park hitting and pitching factors.
Some might argue that the baseball was manipulated to add home runs last season, reducing the importance of the home park hitting factor. It could be said that any major league player could hit a ton of home runs. That may have been true. However, fantasy team managers/owners can’t rely on the composition of the baseball to plan for home runs. The baseball can change from game-to-game without our knowledge. Plan accordingly. MLB teams may deplete their supply of baseballs in stock and then use a new, changed 2020 baseball. Nobody knows.
Know the tendencies of every MLB manager.
This is much more nuanced. Does the manager like his players to steal bases? Does the manager use the shift? Does the manager bench his designated hitter in National League parks? There are several new managers with no track record or history. Be careful. Indians manager Terry Francona benched slugger Franmil Reyes in National League road games. That was costly to fantasy players. Know the MLB manager tendencies.
Know the position in the batting order of the hitter.
A leadoff hitter gets more at-bats. That’s obvious. There are fewer at-bats at the bottom of the batting order. That’s obvious. They can count for hundreds of opportunities over the course of a season. The real key is the middle of the batting order. This writer is a huge believer in hitter protection. Who hits in front of and behind a player in the middle of the order? Are there RBI opportunities? Are there runs to be scored? Will a player get an intentional walk because the next hitter is an easier out for the pitcher?
Know the place in the rotation of starting pitchers.
Again, it is about opportunities. The No. 5 starter on a club is often skipped depending on the team’s schedule. Top starters often face top starters of the opposition.
In leagues where saves are counted, be aware of the end of the game reliever depth on every MLB club.
Closers are often tough to predict. Some managers are quick to change the team’s closer. Others are more patient. Know the manager and know which pitcher might assume a closing role if the team makes a change or if there is an injury. Of course, the set-up men in a bullpen are a great source of holds, but they are also potential closers.
Know your opposition.
What are the tendencies of your league opponents? Will they favor their home MLB team or a certain team in their drafts or auctions? It is to your advantage to know their history in drafts and auctions.
For most fantasy teams, balance is key.
Blending the components of power hitters, speedy runners, guys that get on base and guys that hit for average makes sense. It isn’t always possible to construct a team with balance. It depends upon who is available on the board when you draft or bid. Balancing pitching strengths is as important.
Remember that fantasy baseball is a combination of skill, luck, and opportunity.
Fantasy players can’t control injuries. That’s just bad luck. Fantasy players can control planning for injuries. That’s just good roster construction. Targeting versatile MLB players with position availability at various positions may be a good strategy.
In the coming articles, this old scout will offer opinions based upon personal observations at spring training games in both Florida and Arizona.