Keeper/Dynasty Strategy with a High Number of Premium Picks (Fantasy Baseball)
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So it wasn’t your year. You know what? That’s OK! At the end of the season, there’s only one winner. If it wasn’t you, the hope is that you realized it early enough to set yourself up for future success.
A friend in high school, who was a standout football player whose dad caught the game-winning pass from Dan Marino in the 1982 Sugar Bowl, often joked that there are “Browns and wannabes.”
In fantasy keeper and dynasty leagues, there are competitors and sellers.
You should always try to identify as early as possible which of the two your team is. If you can’t make that distinction, you’re going to consistently finish in sixth or seventh place year in and year out while the others lap you.
Part of the allure of dynasty leagues is building a team that you feel can compete for years to come, even if that means punting a season or two in a rebuild.
One way to accelerate your rebuild is to sell your assets for draft picks when you don’t have a real chance to compete. If you can stockpile picks, especially early ones, you give yourself a chance to compete next season.
Before looking at ways to utilize those draft picks, let’s get the caveat out of the way. We don’t know how many players you can retain from year to year, and we don’t know the skill level of those players. We have no idea how player contracts work in your league either, so we are going to simplify this as much as possible for those who acquired early picks for the upcoming season.
Best player available
If you have all of the early picks, well, not all of them, but all in the sense of Ron Swanson asking for all the bacon and eggs that the diner has, you need to stockpile the elite talent that comes your way.
It can be easy to fill a void or team need early, but your main goal in the first few rounds should be to take the best players available, even if they aren’t the best fit. If you already have two outfielders, but a Charlie Blackmon-type outfielder slips to you and you don’t have a catcher yet, don’t you dare take Gary Sanchez over Blackmon just to fill that need.
By the end of the draft, your team will take shape. Prioritize value and talent over needs in the early goings.
Balance floor and ceiling
You don’t want to mess up your early picks by passing on elite potential for boring floors, but you also don’t want to take a risky player who has a lot of helium just for the drooling potential and miss out on a sure-fire contributor.
As you take the best player available early, use that to drive your draft strategy. Taking someone like Tyler Glasnow or Luis Castillo — who are both fantastic pitchers with ace-type upside — is fun, but it also comes with risks. Look to pair them with a boring pitcher like Kyle Hendricks to give you some of that floor and ceiling balance.
You can take the same approach with your hitters, too. If you select a player who may hurt your batting average in order to get much-needed steals, look to target a boring, but safe option later in the draft who can provide solid contributions in the other categories.
Striking the right balance between ceiling and floor players allows you to take those chances on breakout picks, while also providing insurance should they not hit on their full potential.
Take veterans over rookies
Speaking of potential, it’s hard not to be intrigued by rookies. After the performances that we’ve seen from Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr., Yordan Alvarez, and Fernando Tatis Jr., who can blame fantasy managers for wanting to get a piece of the action with the next big thing?
All fantasy managers should … but at the right cost.
It’s fun taking the shiny toy, but not if it means overpaying and taking them over a player who you know will return value. Prospect pedigrees are big, and it’s smart to trust the experts and scouts on players. But with the success of the aforementioned young players who came out of the gate swinging (literally), we’ve set expectations for every rookie to produce at that level.
It’s a dangerous game to use a few names who had success — or failure — as the reason for following that same draft path. The Athletic’s Keith Law wrote about this very bias in his book “The Inside Game.”
It’s fine to draft those players, but remember, you sold your team and punted on a season or two to be in this position. Capitalize and look at the future instead of banking on a rookie to be a fantasy mainstay for you in his first season.