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Accumulating Surplus Category Value (Fantasy Baseball)

by Alex Altmix | @Altmix_23 | Featured Writer
May 10, 2020

When is it beneficial to accumulate surplus category value in fantasy baseball? Let’s start with a story.

My father plays in a fantasy football league every year with some other members of my family and myself. A few years ago, he decided to…try a new strategy. He spent three of his top picks on quarterbacks; it’s a standard, one-quarterback league folks. For two months straight, my father tried desperately to trade any of his three QBs. No one bit. Why? Because quarterback was really, really deep that season, and my father was trying to get the value in return that he spent on draft day. It just wasn’t going to happen. To make a long story short, he ended up dropping one of his coveted quarterbacks after the trade deadline and limped his way to the finish line. 

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Now, apply that to fantasy baseball. If you do, you’ll see how easy it is to figure out when and where to accumulate surplus category value; you’ll also see when it’s a terrible idea to do so. How about we take a look.

What exactly does it mean to accumulate surplus category value?

Exactly what it says! It basically includes anytime you draft to accumulate a greater amount of a category than what you likely need to succeed. For example, in a 12-team head-to-head league in 2019, 8 stolen bases was likely enough to win that category on a weekly basis. Grabbing Ronald Acuna Jr., Adalberto Mondesi, and Mallex Smith alone would have easily been enough to accumulate surplus value in steals.

Why would you want surplus category value?

First and foremost, sometimes it just happens. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Adalberto Mondesi are both excellent players who could easily be randomly drafted together. Otherwise, accumulating surplus value can be beneficial for two reasons. First, you’re essentially guaranteed success in that category: easy enough. The second and more important benefit can be trade value. Remember though, trading surplus category value is typically only possible if that category is in demand.

So, which categories are best for accumulating surplus value?

Stolen Bases
There were 2280 stolen bases across MLB in 2019. The last time numbers were that low? 1994. Everyone hits home runs. No one gets on base. Therefore, no one steals bases anymore. Hmm, makes sense! All of that makes stolen bases incredibly valuable. It’s not a bad idea to stock up on stolen bases in drafts nowadays.

Average/OBP
See the above paragraph for an explanation if you’ve been living under a Major League Baseball rock lately. But because of the way players are approaching at-bats, the average…average across baseball is much lower than it used to be. Really, it’s tough to have a fantasy roster that consistently hits for a high average.

OBP hasn’t fallen nearly as far as average has across the league, but the same still rings true. If your league includes OBP, it might not be a bad category to target as well.

Wins
Starting pitchers don’t go nearly as deep into games as what they used to. Consequently, relief pitchers who aren’t rostered in most leagues are snatching up wins right and left. Wins can be very tough to come by some weeks.

Saves
The more runs scored, the higher the likelihood for wider margins of victory. Hence, saves fell in 2019 to the lowest mark since 2008. Plus, managers like to trade for saves anyway, as closers can be a very volatile position to nail down throughout a season.

And which categories are worst for accumulating surplus value?

Home Runs
People, there were 6,776 home runs in 2019! You know, that’s only like umm over double what was hit per year 25 years ago: no big deal. In the present times, managers can hop over to the waiver wire and casually pick up a 30 home run type of player. No one needs to trade the farm for home runs anymore. Purposefully drafting to accumulate surplus home runs while neglecting other categories is a terrible idea.

Strikeouts
Oh yeah, I guess I forgot to mention anywhere above that players are also striking out at a ridiculous clip in today’s game. You probably already knew that, but you may not have thought about it in this regard. No one wants or needs to trade for strikeouts. Again, managers can grab a random starter off of the waiver wire and accumulate 10-15 strikeouts from him over the course of a week. It’s great to have enough strikeouts to find weekly success, but don’t ever count on being able to flip that for value in other categories.

How do you amass surplus category value in a draft?

Really, it’s quite easy. Let’s find an example. We’ve already established stolen bases as a great category to target. (From year-to-year, the names and faces here will differ, but the strategy itself will not.) Heading into the 2020 season, the 2019 MLB stolen base champion, Mallex Smith, is ranked 163rd in the FantasyPros’ ECR. That means a 13th round pick can likely net you a player who could lead the league in steals. And we already know, stolen bases are scare today. I’ll be targeting him around the 13th round of nearly all of my 2020 drafts, and I’ll be doing something similar every year into the future. As a former 2019 manager of Mallex Smith, I received numerous trade offers for him, all because other managers were desperate for more steals.  Do your research, and plan out your draft. It’s not hard to find undervalued players who can amass steals, wins, saves, and/or hit for a high average. Find them and pounce.

Managing Surplus Category Value

Finally, what do you do throughout the season with the excess stolen bases, wins, saves, etc. that you’ve drafted? Exploit your league with it. At some point in every fantasy season, a member of your league will become devastated with injuries. Slide right on in and become their saving grace. “Oh no, your top two closers went down? Here, let me help.” Before you know it, you’ll be flipping an unneeded closer on your roster for another area of vital need. That’s how you get more bang for your buck than what you spent in the draft, and that’s how you win fantasy baseball leagues.

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Alex Altmix is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive or follow him @Altmix_23.

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