Fantasy: Your Guide To A Healthier Dynasty Roster
The good news: You just joined an established dynasty league, which is the perfect fantasy format for any Baseball America reader.
The bad news: Your farm system is fallow and your major league team isn’t exactly dynastic.
BA is here to help with the following 10 guidelines to a healthier dynasty roster, which will make your team relevant as quickly as possible.
While you will need both talent and luck to win your fantasy league, your job, much like a major league manager's, is to choose the players with the greatest chance of success. Following these team-building strategies will help you achieve that goal.
1. Projections And Rankings Are Only A Snapshot
A statistical projection represents a plurality of outcomes, not always a majority of outcomes, and never a guarantee. So use preseason projections or prospect rankings as a guideline—not an imperative. Every year, touted prospects and supposedly safe veterans fail to deliver. That’s just baseball, the most unpredictable of sports.
That’s why in dynasty leagues it’s important to be flexible and think dynamically. Yes, you should hang on to your team’s core players, but be prepared to bail on—or at least minimize the role of—underperformers who are not considered essential for the present or future.
Bottom line: Expect to turn over the back of your roster in a given season as you clear the way for new growth. Preseason projections and prospect rankings are useful but represent only a snapshot in time, and that isn’t always reality.
2. Make Every Roster Spot Count
Every one of your organization’s roster spots should be occupied by a player who will help your team win, whether today, tomorrow or via trade. Players who contribute present major league value or project to do so are easy to identify, but many dynasty managers misread trade value.
That’s why it’s important to honestly assess the trade value of your prospects. Bear in mind that open roster spots have value, too, sometimes more value than “your” guy who, if you’re being honest, has a low probability of success. It will be more beneficial to your team in the long run to build an inventory of prospects for whom other owners want to trade.
3. Trades Are Essential To Winning
Major league organizations don’t build winning teams solely through the draft and player development—and neither do fantasy teams. Supporting every World Series-winning team are players acquired in shrewd trades, almost always when their value was lower than it would ultimately become.
Have confidence in your player evaluations and keep trade dialogue open with multiple managers. You never know when your team’s needs will match up with another team for a mutually beneficial trade. That’s the key. You shouldn’t be trying to wipe out the other manager. You should be trying to exchange fair value that makes sense for each team in the context of its competitive window.
4. Keep Stacking Good Decisions
As Brewers manager Craig Counsell told general manager David Stearns at one of their early sit-downs: “Keep stacking good decisions on top of each other, and it’ll happen faster than we think.” It worked. Milwaukee fielded a winning team in 2017 and reached Game 7 the National League Championship Series in 2018, in just Stearns’ third season at the helm.
Fortunately for fantasy players, it’s easier to win in fake leagues than it is in real life. In a fantasy league, one makes decisions only on prominent major league players and the 99th percentile of minor leaguers, i.e. the prospects with some combination of pedigree, performance and track record.
Don’t swing for the fences with every trade or waiver claim. Just keep making acquisitions that improve your team incrementally. The accumulated value will pay off eventually.
5. Think In Terms Of Building, Not Rebuilding
Expunge the word "rebuild" from your vocabulary. That line of thinking introduces a defeatist mindset and fails to recognize the role variance plays in baseball. For instance, if your team experiences several player breakthroughs and your opponents are hampered by injuries, then variance can be your friend.
So don’t bar the door to a winning season by making self-defeating moves in the name of “rebuilding.” Think of your strategy as building toward future success.
This applies to your dynasty draft, too. All but the most elite prospects are volatile, and most June drafts don’t have a clear-cut No. 1 overall pick. Therefore, it’s often unwise to pin all your hopes to choosing first in your dynasty draft. This is yet another reason to build for the short term, rather than tanking in the name of “rebuilding.”
6. Don't Chase Youth For The Sake Of Youth
Don’t assume youth is always synonymous with value or upside. Pitchers and catchers who sign as teenagers take much longer to develop into regular major leaguers than do players at other positions. That's because the endurance required for pitchers and catchers to navigate a six-month season is unlike anything else in baseball, perhaps in all of sports. The occupational risk of injury is also much higher.
This is why it is generally wise to let others gamble on high school or international pitchers and catchers in the early rounds of your draft.
Think of it this way: Even the best high school pitchers drafted this decade take many years to develop. Noah Syndergaard returned major league value for the first time in his sixth pro season; Jameson Taillon and Blake Snell didn’t return value until their seventh pro seasons. It’s a similarly slow track for catchers, where J.T. Realmuto returned value for the first time in his sixth pro season and Gary Sanchez in his eighth.
So before you draft that teenage pitcher or catcher, make sure you’re prepared to invest six to eight years in his development.
7. The Shortstop Gold Standard
That is not to say that all high school players should be avoided. The top high school or international shortstops in a given draft or July 2 class are generally wise investments, in spite of their youth. The old adage is true that the best athlete on a team is often the shortstop, and the best athletes are often capable of making quick adjustments in pro ball, which can spell rapid promotions up the ladder.
The top teenage shortstops also have the most avenues to success in pro ball because they are the most likely candidates to be adaptable enough to handle a position switch, most often to second base, third base or center field.
The top college third basemen are generally wise investments, too, in part because many of them once were high school shortstops.
Caveat: Elite hitters who throw lefthanded are limited to the outfield or first base, so the shortstop rule doesn’t apply.
8. Don't Double Down On Bad Decisions
You are going to lose trades. That is a fact of baseball, both real life and fantasy. But rather than retire in shame from trading, you should learn from your mistakes and move on.
The most important lesson of all is to avoid doubling down or become entrenched based on a bad decision. Don’t cling to a player you overpaid for simply to appear consistent to your league-mates or to appease your ego. Sometimes the correct path is to admit your mistake—to yourself and to others—by cutting bait on a player.
Ultimately, you can gain wisdom from an unwise decision.
9. Get Friendly With Advanced Metrics
Attributes such as pitch velocity, exit velocity and plate discipline metrics stabilize quickly in the major leagues. This can help you confirm whether a player’s breakout is authentic, or whether a big step forward might be imminent for an up-and-coming player. Use that data to inform your add/drop and trade decisions.
In 2018, breakout power sources like Jesus Aguilar, Max Muncy and Daniel Palka all showed strong rates for exit velocity, hard hits and Statcast barrels on the BaseballSavant.com leaderboard long before they were household names.
On the pitching side, plate discipline metrics at FanGrahps.com, such as swinging-strike rate, confirmed the full breakouts of pitchers like Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Zack Wheeler, German Marquez and others.
10. Follow Baseball America Writers On Twitter
Most dynasty leagues aren't deep enough to require managers to know every amateur prospect who will sign in 2019. But you should still be conversant when it comes to the best players from the college, high school and international ranks. This will help familiarize you with the top talents for your 2020 dynasty draft and allow you to see the pros and cons of each player and how they might fit in your particular fantasy league.
A subscription to Baseball America will keep you updated on the top college prospects, high school prospects, international prospects, minor league prospects and, now, dynasty prospects. Additionally, I heartily recommend the following BA Twitter accounts:
College: Teddy Cahill @tedcahill
High School/Draft: Carlos Collazo @CarlosACollazo
International: Ben Badler @BenBadler
Minors: J.J. Cooper @jjcoop36, Josh Norris @jnorris427, Kyle Glaser @KyleAGlaser
Minors/Dynasty: Matt Eddy @MattEddyBA
Ben, Carlos and Teddy are the most active BA writers on Instagram.