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Fantasy Baseball Playoff Challenge: How to Structure Your Roster

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Sep 28, 2020

And just like that, the 2020 season is over. It’s been such a weird year that we’ll excuse starting this article with the word “and.”

If you won your league, congrats. You had to be active and on top of things in a shortened year with little margin for error. If you lost, of course, just blame it on the shortened season and tell your league winner that their title doesn’t matter. Treat them like the Houston Astros.

Typically, we’d be playing some DFS for the playoffs, putting together some parlays, and looking ahead to 2021 redrafts, along with making moves in our dynasty leagues. While you can still do all of that, you can also keep the fantasy baseball going throughout the playoffs. Fantrax is running MLB Playoff Commissioner leagues, which allows you to squeeze a few more weeks out of the fantasy baseball season.

Fantrax has different setups for their playoff leagues that mimic a regular-season league. You’ll draft a team, and then once your player’s respective team is eliminated, you stop accruing stats for them. It’s a fun approach if you’re looking for a continuation of your fantasy league.

But, if you’re looking for an even more fun approach, set up your league as an eliminator like we’ve seen with fantasy football in the playoffs or with the English Premier League setup, where each team can roster any player they want. The only thing is that each team must be represented, you must fill out a full roster, and once a team is eliminated, you will no longer get stats for those players.

In order to do that, go under the commissioner settings, go to general, and click “allow duplicate players.”

You’re all set.

Before we fill out our roster, let’s look at the playoff bracket:

Knowing that we will lose players after the first round, it’s important to be strategic with your team, as you can’t count on a player if you think they’ll be eliminated after the first round.

There are many ways you can structure your roster, but here is how we’d set our roster in a playoff league.

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C: Omar Narvaez (MIL)
Narvaez has been nothing short of a disappointment this year, so if you opt to go in another direction (perhaps even teammate Jacob Nottingham) here, that’s totally fine. The reason for putting Narvaez here is that the Brewers have the task of going against the Dodgers in the first round, so a quick exit is expected. Narvaez should play with his improved defense, but catcher is the least important position in fantasy, so he’s the obvious choice.

1B: José Abreu (CHW)
Abreu proved everyone wrong this year, as he won the RBI crown for the second straight year. The White Sox have been stalling of late offensively, and they meet the No. 2 Oakland A’s in the first round. Freddie Freeman was another consideration here, but the way the rest of the team was constructed, the swap was made to Abreu here. The White Sox taking down Oakland wouldn’t be a shocker.

2B: Brandon Lowe (TB)
Lowe was red hot this year, and he calmed the concerns of playing time (because, of course, the Rays) in the preseason by leading the Rays in home runs and WAR. The Rays get the Blue Jays this year, and as awesome of a story as the Toronto/Buffalo Blue Jays were, the Rays are the heavy favorites to move on. Lowe provides the most value in Tampa for the long haul.

3B: Manny Machado (SD)
While all eyes have been on Fernando Tatís, Jr. this year (and rightfully so), Machado has been simply amazing in his second year in San Diego. He has 16 home runs, six steals, and a batting average over .300. The Padres get the Cardinals in an interesting 4-5 matchup that could go either way. 

SS: Bo Bichette (TOR)
Figuring out who to use for Toronto in this format was a chore. We expect them to be knocked out by the Rays, but when this Jays offense gets hot, they get HOT. Hyun-Jin Ryu was under consideration, but the Rays just own left-handers, so we pivoted to Bichette. 

OF: Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL)
Like Machado, not enough was made about the strides that Acuna took as a pure hitter this year. He should be the No. 1 pick for years to come, which means that we had to get him in here. Atlanta plays Cincinnati in the first round, which is the most intriguing matchup on paper for the entire playoffs. For Acuna, though, that means a date with Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, and Luis Castillo

OF: Mookie Betts (LAD)
Take your pick when it comes to Dodgers to have on your team. Initially, Clayton Kershaw was the pick, but because the rotation (we’ll get to that) rounded out pretty well without him, I had to go with Betts instead. He proved again this year that he’s a top-five player in the game.

OF: Starling Marte (MIA)
Like we did at catcher, we had to designate another position as one to punt on with a team that we have little confidence in. That’s the Marlins, who draw the Cubs in the first round. If the Marlins were to knock off the Cubs, that would be fantastic, but we’re not expecting it to happen. Hopefully, Marte can pick up some steals for you before he gets eliminated. 

UTIL: Nelson Cruz (MIN)
This position could have been filled by any hitter, but it’s only right to go with Cruz, who continues to defy logic by putting up his second-highest wRC+ season (2008) at the age of 40. Go off, big fella. The Twins face the Astros in the first round as the No. 3 seed.

SP: Yu Darvish (CHC)
Remember when Darvish was nothing more than a streamer in the first half of 2019? Those were weird times when he couldn’t find the plate. Now, he’s a bonafide ace. We want him to at least go two rounds for us, as he gets the Marlins in the first round.

SP: Shane Bieber (CLE)
Bieber won the pitching Triple Crown this year, and he’s in the discussion as the No. 1 pitcher off the board next year, with only Jacob deGrom having an argument to go ahead of him. He was a no-brainer here — even against the Yankees. 

RP: Liam Hendriks (OAK)
For the first time since 2012-13, the A’s have had the same closer lead their team in saves in consecutive years. Hendricks justified his ADP on those who were willing to gamble on him. You’re counting on the A’s to get past the White Sox for Hendricks to lead your team in saves. 

RP: Ryan Pressly (HOU)
With Roberto Osuna hurt, Pressly took over the closer duties for Houston. Punting saves was the right call this year, and while this isn’t exactly a punt situation, it was the last spot we filled in on our lineup. 

P: Gerrit Cole (NYY)
Cole has been hurt by the long ball this year, but Cleveland ranked 22nd in the league in home runs this year, so it’s a pretty solid matchup for him. What’s more, as a team, Cleveland has posted a 91 wRC+. Don’t overthink it. 

P: Trevor Bauer (CIN)
The dream staff continues here, as Bauer proved most people wrong with a Cy Young-worth season. As mentioned above, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Reds beat Atlanta in the first round on the backs of their pitching. If they do, you get a huge boost with Bauer, Darvish (likely), and one of Cole/Bieber going to the second round and hopefully beyond.

P: Jack Flaherty (STL)
Who should we have picked from the Cardinals? No one really popped off the page, so we’ll go with Flaherty. Yes, his surface numbers aren’t great, but it was really one bad start (9 ER) in Milwaukee that hurt his numbers. The strikeouts were still there, and he gives you an upside play if the Cardinals can take down the Padres in the first round. 

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If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.

Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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