TDG Roundtable: Post-Draft Pre-Season Prep
Draft season is winding down for most dynasty leagues, and opening day is still a few weeks away, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to slow down. Several of us here at TDG got together to discuss our own pre-season routines and what we’re doing to manage our own teams heading into opening day. Below you’ll find that discussion, where we talk about aggressive rebuilding, prospects as currency, and how much attention we pay to Spring Training, among other things. We hope this gives you some tips or ideas that you can put into practice in the next few weeks to ensure you’ve got a leg up on the competition come opening day.
Tyler Baber: Ok guys for the inaugural TDG roundtable let’s talk about what we’re doing between our drafts and the start of the season. Are you contending or rebuilding? Are you trying to fill in any holes in your roster or trying to move someone before the season starts? What’s your usual pre-season prep look like as draft season winds to a close?
I’ve got a couple teams built to win now, and now that all my drafts are over my focus has shifted toward identifying optimal for my daily-lineup leagues, filling out my watchlist for future FAAB bidding, and zeroing in on my main competition. In daily lineup leagues, I make a point to create a spreadsheet with home/away and platoon splits for my roster, so that I can have a quick reference to ensure I’m making the most of my bench. In most of the leagues I’m competing in, the benches can get pretty deep and when I have a contending team I try to find cheap players who can provide a platoon advantage to stream in and out. I have spreadsheets listing my rosters and career splits by wOBA for hitters and by k/BB and FIP for pitchers. Not necessarily the best metrics, but as a quick reference when I’m trying to set a lineup during my morning commute this works great.
Ben Diamond: In a league I joined last year, I traded away guys I didn’t love and filled the team up with some really good names that I thought could easily contend. Well… I had guys like Ryu and Cobb’s arms fall off and a bunch of other unlucky things happened, and I fell into last place. I decided things weren’t going to get better since this was really a win-now team that…wasn’t winning. I blew it up in spectacular fashion and made a ton of trades, now I have a really great farm system. It’s only a 12-team league, but 18-player minor league systems, and I now have 18 great prospects with the lowest being ranked around #80. My pitching is presently awful but I have a good offense and think I may go from worst-to-meh now, which is a good start. Hopefully I can be contending by 2017 unless I get bored and trade the prospects for young MLB’ers, which is a decently good turn around considering I started rebuilding midway through last year.
Tyler: So Ben, if you’re rebuilding and pretty content with your roster and you’re rebuilding, are you paying any attention to spring training for players on your team?
Ben: I paid much closer attention to it last season, this year it’s a lot more laid back with that kind of stuff…I’d be keeping an eye on the closer battle between Roberto Osuna and Drew Storen, but saves aren’t much of a priority at this point so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The main thing I’m keeping an eye on is injuries…I dealt with a ridiculous roster crunch and an injury would be nice in the most twisted way possible. I had about 7 guys for 1 spot, and dealt all of them for 5 draft picks and Clay Buchholz, which is nice since they would’ve been dropped otherwise (though I’m just delaying another roster crunch next season).
An injury would be nice in that I could stash the player on the DL or just cut him without worrying about it, because I love having an open spot to speculate on saves. I got a couple very good prospects last year by picking up a good RP and cashing them in once an opportunity opened up. For instance, last year I picked Jason Grilli up and traded him for Alen Hanson in a 30 minute span (I ended up trading Hanson for a fourth next year, so the trade branch goes on…)
Mark Barry: I had an interesting reclamation project over the off season. I took over a team in a 20-team league that had 28 prospects on the 40 man roster, and we can only have 15 in minors, so I had to spend some time whittling them down just to field a team.
So I tried to pick up some placeholders for the guys in high minors & young MLB guys. I managed to get it down to 15 top 60ish guys on the farm, so I have some room to play around.
Tyler: So Mark— you have cuts to do to make your roster legal before the start of the season. I’ve got a similar situation where I’m over the salary cap and need to make cuts. For me, I always wait until the last minute— you never know who might need to make a trade due to injury or roster mismanagement— but that can mean I miss out on early waiver wire transactions or things like that. What are you doing to whittle your roster down—are you resigned to making cuts so you’re just going to do it, or are you holding out as long as possible for trades?
Mark: I was in a “tough” spot because all of the excess prospects were valuable. I didn’t want to cut anyone so I just held out & tried to make trades. I’m pretty close to having a complete roster now, so hopefully I’ll be able to make one or two more deals before the season and won’t have to cut anyone.
Tyler: So after losing that many good prospects, do you feel like you’re ready to contend now or did hoarding those prospects mean you’ve had to deal them sooner than you wanted to?
Mark: I’m definitely closer to contention than I thought I’d be when I took over the team. I tried to map out which prospects I didn’t want to give up, and was able to mostly deal from the excess, so I think I still have probably one of the better systems moving forward.
Frank Sides: My strategy is to build with prospects, but only, and I mean only by trading them for assets. I’ve been in my biggest and favorite league for over six years now and no player I’ve drafted in a minor league draft has ever been in one of my lineups.
I spend lots of time attempting to determine who is going to take a step forward and then I make my move.
Tyler: Frank— I do that a lot too and it’s come back to bite me hard as I’ve dealt away Bogarts, Odor, Harvey, and others but it did result in a team that’s expensive but perennially contending. One thing I struggle with is figuring out when my prospects are at their peak value— for some of them, right now is the most valuable they’ll ever be because of placement on top 100 lists relative to actual fantasy value. Do you have any special tips about deciding when to deal your top prospects, or do you always take the best deal regardless of whether you think a prospect you’re moving has a 50% chance to improve value in the next 6-12 months?
Frank: My goal is to constantly raise the floor of my teams. And yeah, the top 100 lists are gold. A lot of the owners have trouble differentiating between real life and fantasy value.
If a player isn’t going to contribute meaningfully to my team this season, they are only currency to me. Once they are gone, I don’t worry at all about what happens with them. It’s really the only way to be competitive every year.
In a league you and I are in together, Tyler, you’ve seen my strategy in real-time. I’ve raised the team’s floor while restocking the farm with post-hype guys in one off-season.
The team will be competitive and I’ve got currency now.
I can look back in some leagues and say “My God, imagine where I’d be now if I’d kept Miguel Sano”, but that deal kept my competitive window open.
Mark: That’s interesting. I need to break myself out of the “what-if” projecting and be a little better about treating prospects as currency.
Frank: It’s infinitely more fun as well. The trade offers never stop and the other guys don’t care that they are making your team better in the short-term.
Tyler: Mark, I think the “what-if” projecting can be helpful in identifying a prospect’s value. I’m like Frank in that I’m always looking to make moves, and in my mind even if I lose 25% of the trades I’m making, if I’m making enough moves I can overcome those mistakes. But, some teams can recognize that and try to take advantage of it, so it’s important to know specifically what you want in return for the different tiers of prospects on your farms.
Frank: Exactly. I target players specifically. I’m not just a carousel of prospects. The other day I targeted Mookie Betts and I ended up moving 4 semi-valuable prospects with varying degrees of ceilings ranging from SP3 to OF1.
But Mookie is and will be an OF1 for 5 years. None of those guys were going to meaningfully contribute to my team this year.
The only way to keep this strategy viable is to sell early on the other side. Braun is gone this offseason, Cano was gone last offseason and Tulo is next.
Tyler: It sounds like all of us take a pretty aggressive approach to rebuilding, no one is setting a three year plan and then just waiting it out. So I’ll ask you guys what I asked Ben: how much attention are you paying to Spring Training, besides just following injury news for your players? If you are paying attention, what are you looking for?
Frank: Early in Spring Training is where I attempt to find cheap pitching to help down the road this season in deep leagues. I’m looking for velo spikes, weird usage patterns, etc.
Cody Anderson in Cleveland has my attention. He’s throwing hard and Tomlin is crapping himself. Juan Nicasio throwing 4 innings yesterday combined with giving up zero runs in 10 IP and Locke & Vogelsong struggling is something I’m all over. The Matt Cain disaster that’s coming has me looking at Heston and Stratton.
On the hitters side of things, I’m looking at out of options guys that are struggling this spring. The worse they perform in these meaningless games, the better the chances are that they end up on another roster this season.
I’m looking directly at you Oswaldo Arcia.
Jesse Meehan: I’m in three dynasty leagues, with three entirely different situations. In one, my 16-team salary home league, it’s entering year seven . We sign guys at auctions for a max of six years. Last year I went all out trading some top prospects to field a championship team. It worked at the start, as I ended up with the #1 seed, but lost in the first round of the playoffs. So this year, leading up the auction two weeks from now, I traded guys like Chris Davis, who has one year left on his contract. Now I’m starting from near scratch leading into the auction, where there are a lot of top players available. I’m faced with two options: Go for big names, trade them for prospects and rebuild; or get a handful of sleepers, spread my money across all positions and try to field a competitive team. I’m never one to wave the white flag early, so I’m planning the latter.
Frank: That seems like the toughest spot to be in. Stuck trying to decide whether to make a run or plan your run for next year.
Jesse: It really is, Frank. Being in fantasy baseball purgatory is the worst. Always 1-2 players away, but not having the farm system to trade for those players, or wait for those players on your team to make it to the pros. Tough spot.
Frank: I like to trade the guys with the lowest floors (regardless of the ceiling)for a couple of less risky pieces in those situations. Springer probably fits the bill for your team. there.
Ben: Fantasy purgatory is my nightmare. That’s why I went from competing to rebuilding pretty quickly, being in the middle in dynasty leagues are not good
Frank: I completely agree. If I’m going to need luck to win, I switch gears very quickly.
Jesse: There’s something in me that just can’t concede to rebuilding. A potentially fatal flaw in dynasty leagues. It hasn’t killed me yet, but it’s always there lurking!
Ben: It’s hard to accept it sometimes but it’s pretty easy to tell whether or not your team will be able to win. You don’t want to blow it all up but doing that is better than sitting in 5th place for 3 years
Tyler: Jesse, I think there are different types of rebuilding. But I agree with Frank and Ben— it’s important to identify early on what your path to contention is, and this is the time of year to do it. If you are a few pieces away, then maybe there’s enough chance of luck or decent trades in the near future to plan on winning now. If you’re more than a few pieces away, it’s much easier to get a leg up and start making moves that give you a good shot at 2017.
For me, I have a team that will require a lot of work to contend this year— I’ll need to be all on it, combing the waiver wire for deals, and making trades to supplement the fact that I’ve got an elite pitching staff and a lot of hitting depth but no real stars on the offense side. I believe I can win with the core I have if I manage it right, but it’s going to be more work in that league than in some of the other leagues where I’m contending.
Ben: One thing about rebuilding is that if you have decent young MLB talent, you can bail on the vets and get prospects, then sell high on the prospects for more young MLB talent once they start getting high on prospect lists and hype builds. Significantly shortens rebuilds, if that’s a route you want to go.
It just sucks to trade prospects that you invest in.
Tyler: I think you also need to be able to pivot quickly if you’re on the bubble in a “win now or later” situation. If there’s a team clearly rebuilding now who has a stud (like Mookie in Frank’s league), and you’re on the cusp, sweeping in and doing what it takes to get those studs can make a big difference especially if you can identify those moves early in the season.
Jesse: I agree. There are almost always those opportunities, which is why I’m not making any quick decisions now.
Tyler: When I’m on the bubble, one of my favorite things to do is target SP1 and SP2 players who go down with TJ early on. There aren’t as many of those this spring as there were the past couple seasons, but often a contender has a great pitcher and you can get them at a slight discount if you’re willing to sacrifice your hopes of this year in exchange for next year.
Mark: The Flexibility to pivot is important. I tried to just amass young guys and then waited to see what happened. Another new guy entered the league and decided his first move was to trade Kershaw. I apparently had enough to get it done, which significantly changed my timeline. Haha
Frank: If I do hold onto a prospect, it’s to wait until the day they are called up to make my move. They are usually at max value then. The excitement is at it’s highest, the what to expect from John Doe articles are out. Your league-mates can’t avoid being excited about them.
Nick Williams is my guy this year. I own him in every dynasty league I’m in. I don’t build around players with contact/strikeout issues, so he’s the guy I’m waiting on to be promoted so I can move him for a massive profit.
Tyler: Frank you are going to end up getting that massive profit from me I know it. I love Nick Williams.
Frank: One more thing that I do is reply to every “on the block” update regardless of whether I have serious interest or not. Knowing how my league-mates value their players helps me tremendously down the road.
It’s tedious and annoying sometimes, but I hate to lose more than I enjoy winning. A simple… “Hey, take a look at my roster and tell me what it would take.”
Then you have an easy out. “That’s a bit steep for me right now, I’ll touch base later.” Now you know this guy wants Javier Baez for Rubby De La Rosa (actual trade proposal I received).
That wraps up this Pre-Season roundtable. We hope you got some useful thoughts and strategies you can apply to your leagues. What are you doing in the next two- to three-weeks to ensure your team? Let us know in the comments.