Dynasty leagues are the ultimate form of fantasy baseball. A dynasty league championship is not just the culmination of a great draft or a great year; it’s the culmination of a successful process which spans across seasons. It’s the closest you can get to being an actual GM without leaving your couch. The depth of your knowledge will be tested, proportionally with the depth of your league. If you play in a format with 10+ man minor league rosters, you’ll need to know what’s happening all over the map – from the top prospects knocking on the door, like Dylan Bundy and Oscar Taveras, to the emerging prospects who may be those guys next year, like Xander Bogaerts and Jose Fernandez. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, the gateway drug. Before you know it, you’re obsessively checking short season box scores.
If you’ve made it to this sentence, you’re either ready to speak my language or you are already well-versed. So no more wasting time, let’s get to the task at hand. Rebuilding a dynasty league roster is not a challenge for the faint of heart – it requires knowledge, organization and patience. But on top of that, it requires the ability to step back and determine what course of action you need to take in order to be competitive. The most difficult decision a dynasty league owner can make is whether or not it is necessary to rebuild in order to compete in future years. To look at a team that you put together and say “OK, this hasn’t worked out like I had planned and I need to blow it up and start again” is tough to do and some owners hold onto hope for too long, delaying their rebound to contention. This is usually a much easier decision if you are taking over a neglected team (which you did not build) in an existing league.
Much more on this after the jump…
So let’s take a step back first: there are two ways to enter a dynasty league: the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is that you are there for the initial draft and can select a team that you are happy with right off the bat. At some point this off-season, I will write a separate diatribe on strategies for a league’s initial dynasty league draft. The hard way is to take over a team which has been abandoned. There’s a good reason why the hard way is a Ken Burns-ian 12 part series (and growing), while the easy way can be tamed in a single shot.
There are fifty ways to leave your lover, and many more ways than that to leave a fantasy league. Some owners leave a league on their own accord and some owners are kicked out against their will. Some owners don’t have the time to keep up with a dynasty league the way they need to in order to compete and some owners just look at their team against the top couple of teams and think it’s just too much ground to make up. Both of these options are not ideal for the incoming owner, as they often imply a non-competing, and potentially neglected, roster.
At the beginning of June, there was a post on the message board of one of my leagues asking for replacement owners in a 16-team H2H points dynasty league. Now I already play in too many leagues, but I had been looking for a new long-term project which I could use as the basis for a series like this. It is one thing to write a manifesto about how to rebuild a dynasty league, but to be able to walk through the stages with an actual team in real-time and track its development would be a much more beneficial way to look at it. So when the poster got back to me that one of the teams was still open, I gladly accepted and waited for the invite to come in so that I could see what I was in for. I was openly hoping for a serious rebuilding project, and when I finally clicked that link, I was not disappointed.
Before we take a look at the roster I had to work with, I’ll give some of the league details for context. Active lineups are 17 players and break out as follows: C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, 3 OF, 2 Util and 7 pitchers. Teams also have 8 bench spots, 2 DL spots and 25 minor league spots – which makes the player pool pretty deep. Pitchers seem a little more valuable than hitters in general in this point system, so most competitive teams stock their benches with starting pitching (though there’s a 14 start limit per week). My other first thoughts from looking at the scoring system were that big IP, low WHIP pitchers are very valuable, with strikeouts being slightly devalued compared to other points leagues. From the offensive side, it seemed pretty standard for this type of format – pretty OPS focused, with some skewing based on walks and strikeouts. Steals are a factor, but not a huge one.
That’s enough background, let’s close this introduction with our first look at the team I’ve taken over. This is the roster on June 1, 2012:
C – Matt Wieters
1B – Albert Pujols
2B – Jemile Weeks
SS – Yunel Escobar
3B – Chris Davis
OF – Alex Rios, Jayson Werth (DL), Yonder Alonso
Util – Aubrey Huff, Eric Young Jr
P – Jonathan Broxton, Kyle Drabek, Jeremy Hellickson, Derek Holland, Lance Lynn, Brandon Morrow, J.J. Putz
BN – Kevin Youkilis, Jeff Francoeur, Chris Johnson, Chris Marrero, Zach Britton, Danny Duffy, Travis Wood, (empty spot)
DL – Chase Utley, Carlos Carrasco
Minor league bats: Yasmani Grandal, Max Stassi, Matt Davidson, Edinson Rincon, Jiovanni Mier, Julio Borbon, Brett Jackson, Ryan Kalish, George Springer, Michael Taylor (OAK), Zack Cox, Donavan Tate
Minor league arms: Carlos Perez (ATL), Stetson Allie, Phillippe Aumont, Dellin Betances, Chris Dwyer, Christian Friedrich, Kyle Gibson, Luke Jackson, John Lamb, Ethan Martin, Brett Oberholtzer, Adys Portillo
In the end, there’s some talent there (read: I’ve seen worse). Unfortunately there are also plenty of gaps. And in case you were counting, that’s four pitchers who were recovering from Tommy John surgery (Duffy, Carrasco, Lamb, Gibson) at the time I took this team over. Oh, and also the team was 2-6 through the first 8 weeks of the season. In Part Two, we’ll talk about establishing the time horizon for contention based on the make-up of your dynasty league roster.