TDG Roundtable: Start Up Dynasty Strategy
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week, our staff give you insight on their draft strategy in a start-up dynasty league.
Hitters only need apply
My strategy for start-up Dynasty leagues, especially the first five rounds, is pretty simple. Take the best MLB hitter available. If that gives me two shortstops, or two first basemen, so be it. Elite hitting trumps elite pitching, for a myriad of reasons. In case you think I do not put my money where my mouth is (which is gross, money is dirty) I wrote an eight-piece Dynasty Start-up last season. I had pick one, and my first five picks were: Ronald Acuna, Anthony Rendon, Freddie Freeman, Adalberto Mondesi, and George Springer. My first pitchers were Patrick Corbin in Round six and Yu Darvish in round ten (could swap those this season, but point is, no reason to take pitchers with those first five picks). The pitching staff I ended up post-draft with was Corbin, Darvish, Kluber, Canning, Caleb Smith, John Means, Miles Mikolas, Spencer Turnbull, and Kwang-Hyun Kim. In a league with daily moves, I go with quantity SPs over quality.
Regardless of pick, I want to compete in season one, and that means taking MLBers, not minor leaguers. Wander Franco, Jarred Kelenic, Marco Luciano, and similar will go in round one or two, and others soon after, but let them go; make a list (I make an aggregated list of multiple top prospect lists) and cross them off as they are drafted. Some prospects will fall, that is a guarantee, and I begin to draft them once my starting roster is (basically) full. My first prospect picks were AJ Puk (ninth round) and Nico Hoerner (13th round), who both already had MLB experience (I took them as starters). During the season I traded both (Puk in a deal for Zach Wheeler – good, and Nico for Osuna – not so good). My next prospect picks were Ke’Bryan Hayes in round 20 and Ronny Mauricio in round 23; Mauricio was also traded for more immediate help this past off-season. While I did not win year one in the Head-to-Head league (I finished fourth), my team will be competitive this season as well. Final, and arguably most important, point: no one knows how long a Dynasty league will be competitive for, especially if all the participants do not know each other in real life, so better to compete immediately than prospect hoard and waiting for season four when all those prospects are primed and ready…and then the league dissolves.
Best Dynasty Player Available
In the first five rounds I go pure value. I don’t draft only hitters. I don’t draft only pitchers. I don’t draft only prospects. I also don’t draft older guys in the first five rounds (over 30). I go after players 25 and younger if I can. Sometimes you can’t pass up the value when the player is a few years older than you would like. In a dynasty draft I was in a few weeks ago I drafted Soto second overall. It was a snake draft so I then took Machado with my second selection. With my third pick I gleefully took Wander Franco. Then I took Yordan in round four and Bogaerts in the fifth round. As you can see, there was no pitching. In a more recent dynasty draft, I took Castillo with my third selection. In that draft, none of my first five picks were prospects because Wander and Kelenic were taken. I didn’t want to reach for less value so I drafted players with high ceilings and waited to draft Bleday in round nine and Hancock in round 11. I also grabbed Waters, Erick Pena, Herbert Perez and Mick Abel.
My goal is to have a really solid core while at the same time not selling out for the short game. I want to compete three years from now. I want to compete right now as well. When you grab prospects early in your draft and they are studs, then you set yourself up for even greater success later. You also have some amazing trade pieces if you decide to go all in early. Stay young and go for value picks.
Choosing the best dynasty player available is generally a good strategy, but it is also important to have a clear vision of when you want to contend for a title. If I start my team with 20-year-old Wander Franco, I’m already way behind in the first season and should be looking to the future. Likewise, if I take 32-year-old Jacob deGrom early on, I better plan to win in the next couple years or I will have wasted a high pick. As much as I like those players, I would not want to pair them together – that’s a path to sustained mediocrity.
I want to pick a lane, but before I do, I need to see how the draft develops and whether the value will be in veterans or in youth. Keeping flexible for as long as possible is important, and the best way to do that is with young MLB talent. I look for players in their early-to-mid 20s, established enough to help me compete right away but young enough to win in the future.
In a 30-team dynasty mock draft full of fantasy baseball writers this offseason, my first five picks were Shane Bieber (25), Corey Seager (26), Matt Chapman (27), Will Smith (26) and Zach Plesac (26). With that core group I felt comfortable nabbing falling veterans or prospects as the draft went on. Taking two starting pitchers in the first five rounds was not ideal, but 30-team leagues full of experts are hard and you have to take the value where it comes.
Stay Young My Friends
My basic strategy in a dynasty startup is to stay young, but to focus on winning either year one, or year two. Obviously, winning is the point of the game, so I do like to see if the draft will fall my way and I can assemble a young team that will compete right away. On the other hand, this is a very popular strategy, many teams will likely try this approach, so sometimes you have to flow with the draft. To this extent I am also willing to draft top prospects early in the draft, that will be up late year one, or early year two if that’s what’s falling to me.
With this type of strategy, I like to get a good young established hitter in round one. Say someone with power and some speed, and hopefully 24 years old or younger. I know this sounds easier said than done, but honestly most of these types of players will go in the first round of a dynasty startup anyway, so what I’m really trying to do is avoid veterans who had career years who snuck into the round one conversation. With pick two, you can see who’s available now, who might be in pick three, and hopefully get a sense how the draft is going. Did a couple of vets go that you didn’t expect, did some prospects go early, and a couple of teams focused on competing in year two? This tends to be the point of the draft, I know which direction I’m heading.
As the draft continues, I do put hitting over pitching, but don’t be afraid to take what comes to you either. Some pretty strong teams will emerge if most of the league is straight up avoiding a certain type of player, so there are times towards rounds 7-10 I will price enforce if nobody matching my general strategy sticks out to me. I also will stray from my youth movement after the first 200-250 picks, becoming more willing to take a couple of players just over 30 if they’ve fallen in the draft, even though it doesn’t entirely suit my strategy, or even team needs. After all, we are allowed to trade and that’s one of the most fun parts of the game.
Final thought on a dynasty startup, is chat up the draft-room both as a group and one on ones. This is a group of people you’ll probably be playing this game for several years together, hopefully a decade or more. There’s likely to be at least a handful of new faces, and not only should you get to know them and build a report for fun, it’s important to build a good basis for future trading. Let the league know you’re responsive and into trading, reach out to them regularly, and chat them up. This is the best way to let them know your door is always open.
Win Now and Always
During my family’s Easter gathering, my soon to be two year old son received a child’s bean bag toss game as a present. So we opened it at his request and took it outside where he quickly became distracted as any toddler would by anything else and wandered away with it untouched. A short time later I noticed three of my cousins (ages ranging from twenty-something to fifty-something) engaged in seeing who could score more points on my son’s new bean bag toss game. I nudged my wife as we looked on watching their game and said, “and you wonder where I get my competitive nature?”
I told that little anecdote, which most of you likely don’t care about, to simply show that like all members of my family, no matter what I am engaged in, I want to be competitive and win. This easily applies to a start up draft where I am taking players to help me win immediately in the league, while also not losing sight of the roster’s outlook in the coming few years. Age does factor in as I aim to populate my roster with “prime-age” players, which I consider to be 26 years old. Focus on players with the most overall talent instead of other variables such as category specialists and position scarcity. I want the most players I can have who will contribute in multiple categories immediately. With that approach I rarely find myself with any of the top prospects in the game, but I can still manage to grab several top-100 names for my minor league roster spots. I look for draft day values in players who may have struggled initially in the big leagues or suffered the sophomore slump, but are still young and have strong prospect pedigree. It’s also ok to me to sometimes take the “boring veteran,” who I know will be a solid contributor I can count on for this season and next.
Prepare, do mock drafts, make spreadsheets, but above all, be free and have fun. It’s important to have a strategy going into a draft, but it’s equally important to remain open-minded in order to make necessary adjustments through-out the process. Drafts are one of the very best parts of this thing we call fantasy baseball which is why we all find ourselves in way too many leagues year after year.
My draft strategy is simple: draft a winning team. But I assume that’s pretty standard – I mean, we all want to win, right? Now before I get too deep into how I typically handle the first five rounds, I’m going to take a step back and say: I think the two best ways to draft a winning team are to 1) know the league rules front and back, and 2) know the player pool better than anyone else. How do you achieve those goals? Well, the first one is self-explanatory. Just read them, thoroughly. The second requires a bit more work, but can also be the most fun part of your offseason. Draft, draft, draft. Or, mock draft, mock draft, mock draft, if that’s what’s available. The best way to get ahead of your opponent’s game is to have the best understanding of where players are being drafted and their skill sets, and that is best discovered through practice.
Once you get to the draft itself, remember to stay flexible. Oh, someone sniped you? Who cares!? You know the player pool better than anyone else, and you already know where categorical value can be made up later in the draft. I’ve never been in a dynasty draft that was ruined by missing out on one player.
As far as players go, I tend to go with hitters through at least the first two rounds, potentially the third if I see that pitchers have not gone on a run yet. I’m talking about the stable types, the ones who contribute across multiple categories. They provide the base for your hitters in the back half of the draft, and I specifically tend to lean towards high average or on-base percentage guys in this area so I can take more chances later on. By the fourth round, I almost always have at least one pitcher on my team. Regarding pitchers – I definitely like to have younger arms on my team, but I typically am not scared to take pitchers in their early-thirties as the core of my staff. They don’t turn to dust when they hit thirty, I promise! The fifth round is usually the best player available on the board regardless of position, and is the point in the draft where I’ll feel most comfortable reaching a round or two for players I really like. For what it’s worth, I very rarely come out of the fifth round with any prospects on my team unless it’s an extremely deep league.
Let’s recap: always aim to draft a winning team by coming into the draft with a thorough knowledge of the league rules and player pool, have a flexible mindset and a goal to create a base of statistical goodness across all categories from the start. And don’t be turned off by veterans!
Good luck this year!