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Comprehensive Guide to Single-League Pools (AL or NL Only)

Mar 3, 2020

Have you ever found yourself scanning other rosters in a mixed fantasy league and thinking “damn, all these teams are stacked?” What about perusing the waiver wire and wondering why there are so many enticing players available to pick up? Or perhaps you are ready for a new challenge and want to deepen your understanding of fantasy baseball. If any of these thoughts have ever crossed your mind, allow me to introduce you to fantasy baseball with single-league player pools.

Single-league pools exclusively use players from either the American League or National League – commonly referred to as AL or NL Only. Joining a single-league pool will challenge all your previously conceived notions about fantasy baseball and require you to have detailed knowledge of every team’s depth chart, as well as familiarity with minor league prospects beyond generic top-100 lists.

Single-league pools are as close as fantasy baseball gets to running your own team like a real MLB General Manager.

In this article, I will discuss strategies on how to best approach the draft, free agency, and trades to help you crush your single-league pools.

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Draft

Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.

Preparation is critical when participating in a single-league pool. It is extremely difficult to compete by walking into a draft and winging it – the player pool is too deep and competition too fierce. There are two key aspects to preparation:

  1. Research

Master the team and player landscape for your league – either the American or National League. News is flying in all directions during spring training and make sure to read everything you can get your hands on – player evaluations, beat writer articles, player comments, manager comments. Look for real and functional information rather than fluff, such as hitters that have changed their swing or pitchers adding a new pitch.

Know the superstars and which direction their careers are trending. Identify the up and coming players ready to break out. Be wary of players in decline. Pinpoint specific player targets and avoids. Locate potential sources for scarce categories like saves and steals. Discover the prospects that are ready to make it to the show this year.

Here at FantasyPros, we have all the tools necessary for you to conquer the team and player landscape in a single-league pool:

Utilizing these tools for draft preparation will arm you with the insight necessary to rock your draft.

  1. Draft strategy

Once you have mastered the team and player landscape, it is time to formulate a draft strategy. Single-league drafts unfold extremely quickly, and a successful draft requires a concrete plan. Practicing mock drafts is the best way to develop a draft strategy.

Use the FantasyPros Draft Wizard to rinse and repeat mock draft after mock draft. Play around with different strategies to see what works and what does not. How does your team look when you draft hitters early? What about loading up on pitchers? Stars and scrubs? Even and balanced? Learn the pros and cons for each roster in order to identify your ideal roster construction.

Mock drafts also establish a foundation of player values. Use the FantasyPros Cheat Sheet Creator to generate a custom cheat sheet that highlights player tiers for each position and category. Your cheat sheet is the culmination of all your draft preparation and will be an essential resource during the draft itself. Recognize where player tiers are deep or shallow, understanding that single leagues have limited player pools that thin out rapidly. This is where the cheat sheet comes in handy – know every tier in order to get ahead of positional or category runs.

Not only will mock drafting help you figure out your draft style and preferences, but it also will prepare you for the inevitable curveball on draft day. The draft never goes exactly as planned, and it is important to be ready to react to different scenarios on the fly.

Once draft day arrives, be confident in the preparation. Stay patient and stick to the strategy that you have been practicing. To that end, do not be afraid to aggressively go get your players – if you need to overpay for a player that you love, then go for it. Do not be a slave to player values, especially early on with the studs. There are very few studs in a single-league pool, so when one falls into your lap, make sure to grab him and never look back.

As the old saying goes – you can’t win your league on draft day, but you can definitely lose it.

Here are a few tips to utilize during the draft:

  1. Target ascending players.
  2. Be wary about overpaying for saves – it is next to impossible to recover from an expensive closer that busts in a single-league pool.
  3. Protect hitting and pitching ratios by avoiding low average or high ERA and WHIP players. Do not chase counting categories at the expense of ratios.
  4. Fill out a pitching staff with high-strikeout bullpen arms in order to speculate for saves with pitchers that will also lower ratios.
  5. Spend a few cheap draft picks on unheralded prospects that are relatively close to the majors and let others overpay for the trendy prospects at the peak of top-100 lists.
  6. Don’t be afraid to leave the draft with dead spots (injured or minor league player in a starting position). You can always fill these spots with free agent pickups or trades.

Be Active on the Waiver Wire

It is impossible to compete in a single-league pool with a draft, set, and forget process. Winning owners are diligent in monitoring MLB news in order to stay a step ahead of their league-mates. The waiver wire will be an essential resource to improving your team.

Every team in a single-league pool will leave the draft with roster holes, and most teams will have holes throughout the entire season. There are simply not enough active MLB players on the 15 American or National League teams to fill out complete fantasy rosters.

Accordingly, minor leaguers and prospects will be the most impactful free agent pickups during the season. MLB teams lean on their minor league system to replace struggling players, both inexperienced and veterans alike. Recognize which MLB players are at risk and target their potential minor league replacements. By the time a prospect is called up to the Big Leagues, the player will either be very expensive to acquire, or he will already be owned. Constantly churn the bottom of your roster and utilize the free agent pool as a personal minor league system.

Proactively monitor pitching prospects and churn through bench spots with minor league pitchers in AA or AAA. MLB starting pitchers frequently get injured and teams will replace them with minor league depth. Pitching replacements are less predictable compared to their hitting counterparts, and it is more important to pinpoint a skillset that will translate to the majors and your fantasy team. Specifically, seek out pitching prospects that demonstrate control of the strike zone – walks are disastrous for young pitchers.

Here are a few waiver wire tips:

  1. Embrace risk and chase upside.
  2. Do not be afraid to swing and miss on a player. If you guess wrong, move on and try again.
  3. Stay patient with minor league pickups and remember why you added them in the first place. Yet, also be willing to move on from a slumping prospect as they are rarely promoted if they are not performing.
  4. Find a careful balance of patience and aggressiveness.

Trades

Single-league pools generally have a robust trade market because everyone is constantly attempting to fill roster holes and upgrade weak points. Take advantage of this activity and engage league-mates with frequent trade offers.

Monitor the trade market and work with fellow owners for deals that help both parties. Capitalize on the piping hot stove and use trades to improve your team.

Here are a few trade tips:

  1. Buy breakouts early while they still may be viewed as just a hot streak. Owners cling to pre-season rankings for too long, even well after the start of the season.
  2. It is perfectly acceptable to buy high on a player that you feel strongly towards.
  3. Stay patient with trade negotiations. Sometimes trades come together in minutes. Other times, trades may take weeks of discussion.
  4. Shop your players around to the entire league and give other teams a chance to jump into the bidding.
  5. If you are playing in a keeper or dynasty league, be honest with yourself about whether your team can compete and make the decision to buy or sell as early as possible.
  6. Buying players early will have a greater impact on league standings.
  7. Selling players early gives you the first crack at acquiring the league’s best keepers.

Most importantly – have fun!

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Jarad Evans is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jarad, follow him on Twitter @jarad_evans.

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