A Beginner’s Guide to Daily Fantasy Baseball
If you have been playing season-long fantasy sports for some time, then you have most likely had your season derailed by injuries or other unforeseen factors. For those of us who love fantasy sports, there is no worse feeling than having your season come to an early end. We did the research, we are still interested in the MLB games, and we just want to have the opportunity to compete. Fortunately, Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) contests are available to us all season long.
What is Daily Fantasy Baseball?
The world of daily fantasy sports has grown tremendously over the past few years. The premise is simple: play fantasy baseball without the season-long commitment. Instead of drafting players that will be on your roster until they are cut or traded, DFS contests ask you to select a lineup for a single slate of games.
The scoring of these contests will be familiar to fantasy owners who have played in a season-long points league. Players in your lineup accumulate fantasy points based on their real-life performance on the field. Your lineup of players will compete against other lineups that are entered into the same contest.
In a traditional fantasy baseball league, an MLB player can only be on one fantasy roster within the league. This is not the case in DFS contests. Theoretically, a specific MLB player could be in every single lineup of a contest. Rather than selecting from a pool of available players, your lineup selections are limited by a salary cap.
Each player carries a salary, and your contest will set a cap or maximum salary that you can spend on your whole lineup. In general, the best players are the most expensive. It will be up to you to decide if Mike Trout or Mookie Betts or another stud on the slate is worth the price tag for the given contest. Similarly, you’ll want to look for bargain players, as you will be required to fill out an entire lineup without going over the salary cap.
Where do I get started?
While ESPN and Yahoo rule as the season-long fantasy hosts of choice for many, FanDuel and DraftKings are the leaders in daily fantasy sports. The two are both user-friendly sites that see a lot of volume in all varieties of daily fantasy sports. You can download the official app for each site, and you can also sign up for free at their respective websites.
Before depositing any money onto the site, you should familiarize yourself with the user interface and maybe even participate in some free contests. The free contests will sometimes award a ticket to another contest for top finishers. Once you feel that you are ready to win some money with DFS baseball, you can shop around for a promo code that gives you a good return for your initial deposit.
Selecting a Contest
When first diving into the world of daily fantasy baseball, the large number of available contests can be overwhelming. However, with just a little background, you can find a contest that is a good fit for what you want to achieve. In general, there are two major types of contests:
Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPPs)
Also referred to as “tournaments”, GPPs are big money contests that typically have many entrants. These large contests often allow multiple entries from users, which is a benefit for veterans of daily fantasy and those who utilize lineup optimizers, like the one we have here. For those starting out in daily fantasy baseball, GPPs are likely not what you are looking for, as you will probably just want to submit a limited number of lineups. In addition, GPPs see most of the prize pool awarded to the top finishers, which can be tough to achieve when first starting out.
Unlike the complex payout structure of GPPs, cash game contests award the same payout to all winners. Within cash games, you’ll most often see multipliers, 50/50s, or H2H contests. In a multiplier contest, winners will receive double, triple, or up to ten times their entry amount. To win a multiplier, you must finish within the top 50% for doubles or the top 33% for triple up contests.
A 50/50 contest is exactly how it sounds. The contest can range from a small pool of entrants to a larger number of entrants but in any case, the top 50% of the contest will get paid out. Finally, there are H2H contests in which you only compete against one other lineup in a heads-up matchup.
Cash games are the preferred method for most beginning players, as your limited number of lineup entries can more easily stack up against the competition. The equal pay structure and the limit on the number of entries per user make the contests more appealing to those just trying to get their toes wet in daily fantasy baseball. If you want to maintain the tradition of competing against your friends in fantasy baseball, you can also invite your friends to a cash games contest that you create yourself.
Submitting a Lineup
Now that we have selected an appropriate contest, it’s time for the fun part. We have to choose which players we believe will perform best on this given day for this particular slate of games. After all, the construction of our lineup will determine our success in the contest!
Once you have selected your contest, you will see how much salary you have remaining and what positions remain to be filled. As a reminder, you must fill every position while staying under the total salary cap. You cannot leave any positions blank, but it is perfectly reasonable to choose cheap players for some of your lineup slots.
Click on a position within your lineup to see the eligible players from the slate that fit that position. Each player will have a corresponding salary, and feel free to click on a player to read some recent notes or stats. This can be especially important to ensure that the player is expected to be healthy and in the lineup that day.
As you begin filling out your lineup, you should be able to see how much salary you have remaining. The host will also let you know if you are over the salary cap, but hopefully you aren’t having too much trouble staying within budget. Once you are happy with your lineup and you are under the salary cap, feel free to hit submit.
Submitting a lineup reserves your spot within a contest. You cannot withdraw your entry, but you can make any changes to your lineup up until first pitch for a player’s game. In daily fantasy baseball, it’s a good idea to check that players in your lineup are playing for their MLB clubs that day. More than any other sport, players will receive maintenance days, and lineup changes will occur with very little notice. Being on top of this last-minute news will help you be a successful daily fantasy baseball player.
Points and Scoring
Hopefully, you don’t draft your fantasy baseball squad without first checking the roster and scoring settings for your league. Similarly, you should be familiar with the scoring of your daily fantasy baseball host as you build your lineup for a contest.
As I mentioned in the open, DraftKings and FanDuel are the two leaders for daily fantasy baseball. To see their respective formats, check the scoring guide for DraftKings and FanDuel on their websites. Both sites utilize point formats that will be similar to points leagues in a season-long fantasy baseball league, but it’s a good idea to know exactly how you can accumulate points as you construct a lineup.
The world of daily fantasy sports is growing rapidly. While there are more players than ever, it is not too late to join by any means. I personally don’t think there is a better way to enjoy a slate of games while having a reason to cheer and test your predictive knowledge.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that you should be playing daily fantasy baseball for fun, especially in the early going. Even if you have followed baseball or played season-long fantasy baseball for a while, it will take some adjusting before you get comfortable in constructing your lineups effectively. That is not to say that you cannot have fun from day one.
The best advice is to approach daily fantasy baseball as a means of being invested in the games and getting results rather quickly as a form of entertainment. The good news is that many contests exist that are free entry or only cost a buck or two to play. I would take advantage of these, especially when starting out.
DFS is a form of gambling. You are risking money in an effort to win money. While you can certainly play for fun and small amounts, it is important to make this clear. The sites always display how much money you have in your account and how much is currently “at risk”, or entered in ongoing contests. You can check your current standing in a contest, and the site will tell you how much you are currently slated to win. However, please keep in mind that these amounts can change drastically as the contest progresses and more games start or complete.
If you find that you are having trouble with moderation, do not be afraid to reach out for help.
Daily fantasy baseball is a great way to be involved in a slate of games that otherwise may not be particularly interesting to you. It is a great way to have some fun and maybe even win some money in the process. Whether you are competing against friends or joining a large contest, there is nothing like cheering on your players as you watch the games.
Best of luck as you get started in daily fantasy baseball. Be on the lookout for more in-depth DFS baseball strategy articles on FantasyPros, and feel free to reach out to me on twitter if you have any questions about DFS or fantasy baseball in general.