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5 Draft Mistakes for Keeper/Dynasty Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)

by Carmen Maiorano | @carmsclubhouse | Featured Writer
Mar 28, 2020

Dynasty and keeper leagues – they’re exciting. They allow you to show off your baseball knowledge, dream on potential, and build, well…dynasties. However, building a competitive team in these types of leagues takes a lot of draft prep. If you’re not careful, you can enter your draft without a strategy and leave your draft with deep regret. Here are five mistakes that typically are made in drafts of keeper and dynasty leagues, along with how to avoid them.

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Not reading your league’s scoring rules and constitution

Dynasty and keeper leagues can get creative with scoring. For example, in the FantasyPros and Friends dynasty league, we use saves+holds and OBP as modified categories from a standard 5×5 league. There are few things worse than getting to the mid-rounds of your drafts, and not understanding why certain players (like setup men) are getting taken off the board, only to find out that holds or K% are categories in your league.

Similarly, keeper leagues often deal with salaries and contracts, and not knowing the rules and how they impact where players should be drafted can be a team-killer before your draft even begins. Before signing up for a league, ensure that you read the league’s constitution to understand how the league works. If there is no constitution, insist that one be made. If there are no rules in place, it’s not a league that will be sustainable or worth joining.

Being indecisive with winning now or later

Great, you’ve read the league’s roster and scoring rules. Now, you need to decide on if you plan to try and win now, or try and win later. Not deciding on a strategy going into your draft will result in a lot of sixth-place finishes with no bragging rights.  A lot of players play to win dynasty leagues for later due to prospect hype and the “shiny new toy” syndrome. As a result, you’ll draft some high-end prospects in the low minors along with some veterans. To be contrarian, you can typically find a good path to success by trying to win now and drafting old, boring players. You might even call them consistent. If you are in a new league with people you don’t know well, it may be wise to try and “win now,” given that the league is not guaranteed to last 5+ years. If you do know your league mates, you may already know their strategies in these types of leagues. Then, you can game plan accordingly.

Not creating rankings specific to your league

So now you know the rules and have a strategy heading into your draft. That’s fantastic. However, dynasty rankings can be tough to apply specifically to your league. There are base dynasty rankings on our site. Bobby Sylvester even comes out with a top 1,000 prospects list ($)! But, if your league uses settings different from the typical 5×5 categories, rankings can swing wildly. While most drafters do not make their own projections, it is still wise to do research on whose value increases or decreases depending on league settings. This is where you can create the biggest advantage for yourself in any type of league, but even more so in a dynasty or keeper league (since the impact can be multiple seasons).

The research I typically do includes following the best dynasty analysts on twitter (Bobby, FantasyPros’ podcast producer Brendan Tuma, FanTrax’s Eric Cross, RotoWire’s James Anderson, and CBS’s Scott White are must-follows), along with following minor league writers (Emily Waldon and John Sickels being examples from The Athletic). I recommend keeping a Word doc of notes about players. Accumulating those notes throughout the offseason (i.e., highlights from the Arizona Fall League) will help you gain an upper hand come draft day. Even further, you can download publicly available projections from FanGraphs and tweak them to your league settings. The Zips projection system typically does three-year projections.

Drafting prospects at the wrong time

Sure, you have a draft strategy now and tailored your rankings accordingly. However, you will still face a temptation to draft those high-upside players. Seeing the top prospect in the game sitting in your queue in round four may be really tough to pass up. But, if you decided to win now, he isn’t going to help if he’s starting the year in Double A. Similarly, if you are trying to win now and draft high-upside prospects in rounds 35-40, you are sacrificing crucial bench bats who could step in for above-replacement level production, or a sixth starter that is extremely talented that will be called on in case of injury. Alternatively, if you are trying to win later, you should be taking lottery tickets on players in the minors, rather than stocking up on stable veterans.

Another mistake that drafters make is not understanding the ETA of prospects. If the research is not done properly, and you haven’t kept up with the news in Spring Training, you may not know that a guy like Kyle Tucker is slated to start the season in Triple A in 2019, even though you were counting on him to be a source of production as early as May that year. Sidenote: I didn’t do that. I definitely didn’t do that (learn from my mistakes!).

Losing focus

Fantasy baseball drafts are long – typically double the amount of fantasy football positions (and thus draft time). Adding the keeper or dynasty league format typically results in even more roster spots, which can increase the draft time at least an hour. Then, throw in an auction-style draft on top of that (auctions are more fun and allow you the pick of the crop for dynasty leagues), and you may not be seeing your pet or significant other for a long, long time. It can be difficult to keep focus for that long period of time, resulting in rash and regretful decisions being made. The last thing you want to do in round 51 is draft yet another bench bat when you’ve already loaded up on those, only to discover that a pitching prospect on an overlooked team is waiting in the wings at Triple-A to provide solid production.

To remedy this, I recommend getting the league on board to take a couple of breaks during the draft – every 15 rounds, perhaps. This will help you stay focused on strategy and enhance your decision-making. In addition, taking the time to set a queue before your draft is extremely helpful. The player pool is huge in these types of leagues, and it is quite easy to overlook someone you were targeting because the website you are drafting from has a player at the bottom of the player pool. Referring to this queue will be critical as the draft goes on, so you won’t have to search for minor leaguers and other sleepers on your radar.

Keeper leagues and dynasty leagues are an absolute blast, especially if you love baseball with your whole heart and soul. These leagues keep you engaged all year. Take the time to draft correctly, and you’ll reap the rewards no matter your strategy.

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Carmen Maiorano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Carmen, check out his archive and personal fantasy blogand follow him @carmsclubhouse.

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