Four In-Season Tips for Rebuilding Dynasty Teams
Many dynasty owners will enter the 2018 season without much hope to contend for their league’s championship. However, it is a mistake to sit back and let the fantasy season develop around you. Here are four things you can do to improve your team for 2019 and beyond.
Play Waivers/FAAB Aggressively
You probably have some spots available on your bench. You should use those spots to try and grab high-upside players, not to store potential replacement players for your starting lineup. I’d focus on three types of players: closers-in-waiting, post-hype breakouts, and unknown prospect call-ups.
Closers-in-waiting are the obvious picks all season. All but a few closers are short-term assets, and you should have already traded many for prospects. Closers-in-waiting can become very valuable assets (both to trade in-season or to hold for your next contending season) very quickly. The obvious ones will be taken, but look for those third-string, young guys who could become solid closers with an injury or two.
Post-hype breakouts are your early season picks. Last year, someone probably picked up Tommy Pham, Eugenio Suarez, Zack Cozart, Chris Taylor, etc. off waivers in April for free. If you buy enough lottery tickets, you may be able to hit on more than one of these players. However, the window on picking them up will close pretty quickly, so be aggressive in your first few weeks.
Finally, unknown prospect call-ups are your late-season picks. Teams will call up their breakout pitcher from Double-A around July, giving you an opportunity to take a cheap flyer on a potential long-term asset. For example, I picked up Jakob Junis late in the season last year. Austin Barnes somehow survived the full season on waivers in one deep league as well. Look out for September call-ups as well.
Take Advantage of Contender Injuries
Contenders have something at stake. In very deep leagues, they may not have replacement players to cover injuries, particularly with position players. If you have a solid option to replace their injured hitter, you may be able to extract a higher price during the season than during the offseason. For example, it might be a good time to approach the Greg Bird owner and see what they would be willing to give up for your Justin Bour.
This is an especially strong strategy in deeper leagues, where replacement levels are very low. In my 24-team league, the best replacement player at first base is currently Adrian Gonzalez. If you can do much better than that, the Greg Bird owner should be willing to pay up. It might even be a good idea to offer to take the (better long-term) injured player on in return for the replacement player.
Consider Buying at the Deadline
In the major leagues, non-contenders do not buy players at the trade deadline. However, in my experience, it’s a lot easier to buy fantasy players at the trade deadline than in the off-season. If your team is going to contend next season, it might be a good idea to do your Christmas shopping early.
I did a hard rebuild on one team in a 24-player league one offseason. I traded for a bunch of the top prospects in baseball, several of whom had successful rookie debuts by July of 2015. As a result, I had a surplus of top shortstop prospects in the minors. I traded those players for Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Craig Kimbrel, even though my team was not going to make the playoffs that year. My team, however, did contend in 2016 and 2017, largely as a result of those three players.
Real major league teams have fans who buy tickets to see competitive baseball. Although there are rewards in the draft to winning less, teams rarely purposely try and lose games. As a fake team owner, you don’t have that same incentive to put your best possible team forward every season. However, you still should put your best team out there every single week, and avoid benching your best players just because you might get a higher draft pick as a result, for two reasons. First, you have an obligation to your fellow players to play fairly; some contender shouldn’t get a free week just because they get to face you late in the season. Second, tanking destroys useful information about how good you can expect your team to be next season. Are you one big trade away from the playoffs, or should you play for the season after next? You won’t know if you don’t play your best lineup.
One league that I play in has a great anti-tanking rule: draft picks are awarded in reverse order for non-playoff teams. The top-8 teams make the playoffs, so the first pick goes to the #9 team, the second pick goes to the #10 team, and so on. The rule encourages teams to stay competitive.