Building a Balanced Team: Catchers

With draft season upon us, you’ll soon be reading multitude articles related to draft strategies. Some will recommend that you spend the vast majority of your auction budget on “stars”, and fill in the gaps with “scrubs.”  Others will suggest that you punt certain categories and instead focus on winning the rest. While it is always valuable to examine the different ways you can approach your draft, there’s a big difference between understanding strategy in theory and executing it in practice. Over the years, I’ve found myself taking a more balanced approach and diversifying my fantasy baseball portfolio. It hasn’t been a conscious decision, but rather something that has happened organically. Maybe it’s because I’ve reached an age where I spend far more time thinking about my retirement account than my destination on Friday night. Or maybe it’s just a subconscious reaction to some of the disappointing seasons I endured in the past using an extreme draft strategy.

In any event, I’m become a proponent of mitigating your risk when constructing a roster. This means drafting a balanced team so that you’re not relying on any one asset to carry a category. Sure, Billy Hamilton presents an opportunity to lock up a category with a single player, but what if he gets hurt? Worse yet, what if he just sucks and ends up being a drain on all of your other categories? I don’t know about you, but I spend too much time preparing for each fantasy baseball season to have it be derailed by a single stroke of bad luck. This isn’t to say we should avoid specialists as a rule of thumb, but rather focusing our efforts on drafting five category contributors will afford us the opportunity to roll the dice on the Billy Hamiltons of the world to compliment a solid foundation.

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I Love Prospects, I Hate Prospects!

It goes without saying that a good knowledge of prospects is mandatory for long-term success in dynasty leagues. No matter how good your team is right now you still need to plan for the future. If you can build up a solid core of the top prospects in baseball chances are your team is going to be good for a long time, right? That is true — but maybe not to the degree we all expect.

Let’s face it: prospecting is like rolling dice. Sometimes you get boxcars sometimes you get snake eyes. No matter how good you are at evaluating prospects you are going to be wrong a lot. You can study all the major Top 100 Prospects lists each offseason, watch tons of video and go to minor league games and still make the wrong decisions regarding which prospects to invest in.

Let’s take a look at the 21 players who appeared on one or more consensus top five overall prospects in baseball lists in the last five years (2011-2015). We will organize them into three groups depending on how they have fared since being ranked as uber-elite prospects: Continue reading

Dylan Bundy and the Post-Top Prospect Problem

Dylan Bundy is no longer fun to read about. You can trace the history of ‘Dylan Bundy Reading Enjoyment’ in headlines over the past 3 years here at TDG: The Number One Prospect for 2014 Is… (April 2013), Early Injuries to Three Major Prospects (April 2013), Forgotten/Undervalued MiLB Players (October 2013), Dylan Bundy and TINSTAAP (June 2014). You can trace Dylan Bundy’s rise and fall in Bret’s top 500 over the past 3 years:  

Feb 2013 June 2013 Feb 2014 June 2014 Feb 2015 June 2015
Dylan Bundy’s TDG Top 500 Rank 83 167 138 146 134 180

 

It was just a few years ago Bundy was a consensus best arm in the minor leagues. If he wasn’t the first Minor League arm picked up in dynasty leagues in 2012/2013, he probably should have been.  Since  2013, Bundy has pitched all of 63 innings. He heads into 2016 out of options, and has to be in the big leagues or will be exposed to waivers. He’s still got huge upside, but carries more risk than the average SP with injury concerns plus questions about the Orioles’ ability to develop arms.

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Embrace The Weird Format to Make Your League More Interesting

Regular TDG readers or TINO Podcast listeners will be familiar with the concept of what I’ll paraphrase as “weird formats.” Those same readers will be aware, then, that not everyone enjoys the weird format.

To me, the weird format is what separates our great game of dynasty fantasy baseball from the plebeian redraft leagues and nominally strategic DFS games. The weird format is a natural evolution within the closed ecosystem of a league, a microcosmic metaphor for human society and culture. It is in the weird format that we see dynasty baseball holding a mirror back on our society and saying “This is your vision of utopia. Given all the options before you for harmony, this is what you ended up with. Look upon my works, ye mighty.”

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Managing Major Changes In Your Dynasty League

Change is hard. We accept the status quo, even if we see flaws in the way things are. Trying to enact change can cause anxiety, fear of the unknown, or interpersonal strife. This is true in all walks of life, fantasy leagues included. Leagues that have been around for a while will inevitably evolve, but unfortunately the process is rarely painless. Leagues might move to a new site, implement new rules, add or remove teams, or close loopholes, and making changes to your fantasy league can lead to long arguments or hurt feelings. When managed incorrectly, little changes can blow up into huge problems that threaten to destabilize the entire league.

Fantasy leagues are microcosms of the same sort of group dynamics we all interact with daily. There are fields of study dedicated to change management, and how to disrupt organizations or cultures without destroying them. If you’re a commissioner trying to coordinate or manage a change to your league, or if you’re in a league currently going through changes and things aren’t running smoothly, the field of change management can provide some strategies to help improve your league without your attempts blowing up in your face. As Winston Churchill once said- “To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.”

Even if your league allows for major decisions to be made unilaterally by the commissioner, or by a small group of managers, it’s always important to ensure everyone in the league is given adequate opportunity to buy in to any change. If they don’t buy in on a change, other managers in your league might feel resentful, deceived, or distrustful of the league’s future.

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I Hate Relief Pitchers

Unfortunately, every single one of the dynasty leagues that I am a part of require ‘Relief Pitcher’ as a position that has to be filled on a given roster. As an extension of that, these leagues also all have ‘saves’ as a category and almost all of them now include holds. As a dynasty league owner, this requires a certain amount (hopefully very little) of attention to be paid to relievers. In shallower leagues, the major league relievers are the focus, but in deeper leagues where the top two or three guys of each bullpen are owned in some capacity, often times owners have to turn to the minor leagues to find the next batch of relievers that will step into high-leverage situations at the big league level in order to be remain competitive. It certainly is not advisable to look at relievers in the lower levels of the minors in the same manner that you can with other positions, because of the volatility of relief pitchers in general, and it is almost certainly not a good idea to invest with regularity in relievers at any level. They should be viewed purely as a necessary evil.
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Digging for Diamonds: Underowned Shortstop Prospects

Shortstop is certainly one of the most important positions to keep stocked as a dynasty league owner. I love shortstop prospects, almost to a fault. Other owners in leagues that I play in have joked that I should look into joining an all SS dynasty league because of my roster being continuously filled with them, particularly on the minor league side. There are many reasons why I do this, starting with the fact that many shortstop prospects will end up moving to other positions down the line and establish eligibility at other fantasy positions (like Addison Russell this year), and because the ones that do end up sticking at short can almost always be used as trade chips, even as minor leaguers, as they climb the ladder. This is especially true in deeper leagues, where there’s almost always somebody looking to upgrade from the (pre-2015) Zack Cosart experience. Once shortstop prospects reach Double-A, it’s often too late to grab them cheaply in dynasty leagues, so you’re often left scouring the lower levels in search of help. Even prospects just getting their first taste of full-season ball like Jorge Mateo, Amed Rosario and Ozhaino Albies are almost assuredly gone in your league.

Let’s take a look at three shortstop prospects that should be owned in more leagues than they currently are:
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