Nothing feels worse than exiting the draft room and hating the team you just spent the last three hours building, but fantasy owners across all sports have been there at one point or another. We feel like we reached on every pick, like our season is already over, and worst of all, we feel powerless in this situation. Whether it manifests itself through aggression or apathy, don’t allow dejection to overtake your actions when managing this team. You can work your way out of a bad situation and contend regardless of your draft missteps. Nobody is eliminated in the first month, not Carlos Carrasco owners, Steven Matz believers, or people that went Trea Turner 1.1. By following the first four steps of my twelve-step program, you can turn your team around.
Identify the Problems with your Team
It sounds obvious, but if you come out of a draft hating your team chances are you only see the negatives. Maybe you drafted early and got stuck with David Price or Carlos Carrasco, or maybe you panicked and picked Zack Grienke when the timer was running low. Whatever the case, the team you absolutely hate probably has between 1-3 category deficiencies that need to be addressed. In a roto league, focus on correcting ratio-based categories first (ERA, AVG, WHIP, etc.) and volume-based categories (HR, K, SB, etc.) second. In a H2H categories league do the opposite because ratio-based stats are hard to predict on a weekly basis.
If you hate your team after a draft, the last thing you want to do is send out mass trade offers to everyone in your league. It tells the rest of your league that you don’t believe in those players, which will devalue them in trade talks. People that like their players don’t try to make trades right away, which is why I avoid trade discussions for the first couple weeks after a draft. Since the season is underway we’ve all drafted by now, but if you’ve drafted recently keep this in mind because this principle does extend into the season. If another owner offers you a trade after the draft they probably don’t like their team or that player themselves, so unless the offer is already lopsided in your favor, try to squeeze a little something extra out of them. They may feel desperate.
After the draft is no longer fresh in people’s minds, you can begin to offer trades. If it’s the first couple weeks in the season, look for a team with an obvious weakness that, ideally, is low in the standings because of it. An early dip in the standings can cause owners to panic. Is someone banking on Manny Machado as their primary steals source? Send an open-ended text or email offering to send some speed their way in exchange for taking one of those pesky extra closers off their hands. When they reply, give them a choice between two or three players, but don’t make a concrete offer. Whenever possible let the other owner make the first offer, that way they’ve shown their hand. You know how they value their players, and you can craft a trade based on that.
Be prepared to surrender a player or players that you like to complete deals. Contrary to the belief of our league-mates, trades don’t have to be totally one-sided in a single owner’s favor, effective trades help both teams a little, and if you make three effective trades with three different owners you benefit a lot while they each benefit a little. The trades don’t have to be blockbusters that change the dynamic of the league, a few small swaps can balance the team you abhor into a contender.
The Waiver Wire
Much like trading, I recommend avoiding add/drops after the draft unless major news (i.e. closer change, injury) arises. Constantly cycling out bench players before the season starts shows desperation and uncertainty. The lottery tickets that no one drafted probably aren’t much better than the ones on your bench. Once the season starts keep a keen eye on players that are performing unexpectedly well, and be smartly aggressive with your FAAB budget or waiver claims. An impact player added in April or May is twice as valuable as one added in August because your team benefits from their performance all season instead of only two months. The problem is, the first couple weeks are such a small sample size it can be hard to determine who is legit and who is a fluke.
For pitchers the most important numbers to look at are K/BB ratio, velocity and pitch usage, and swinging strike percentage. It’s a small sample size for all of these stats, but ERA predictors like FIP and SIERA need more data before they can be trusted for accuracy, and batted ball profiles take hundreds of batted ball events to normalize. For hitters, look at their plate discipline, BABIP, and HR/FB ratio. BABIP and HR/FB ratio certainly won’t normalize in such a small period of time, but they can be laughably absurd early in the season allowing owners to identify players that are getting extremely lucky. For both pitchers and hitters consider track record and pedigree, if the player is a regarded prospect or was one in the recent past I’d be willing to take a chance on them. If a player has had some major league success I’d look at them more closely too. When they come completely out of nowhere it’s usually worth passing, for every Aledmys Diaz there are twenty Chris Sheltons.
If pitching is your main issue, do not try and overcome it by streaming starters for volume. In a roto league it can take two weeks to undo ratios from a blowup start, and volume stats are easier to obtain than ratio stats. Baseball is strange in that it tends to be predictable over the course of a season, but unpredictable on a day to day basis, meaning that you cannot rely on waivers and trades to fix ratio stats.
Above all else, managing your team diligently can allow you to rise ahead in the attrition that is unique to fantasy baseball. This means staying on top of breaking news and injuries. If your league has daily lineups manage them every day, make it part of your morning or evening routine. Swap out guys on off days and get some bench players with large platoon splits. Getting all the at-bats against righties from someone like Justin Bour is getting the production of a 30 HR slugger on a per-PA basis.
If your league has weekly lineups stay on top of two start pitchers, call-ups, and injuries so you know who to add mid-week after lineups are locked or on Sunday when you put in FAAB bids. Beware, because there is such a thing as over-managing your team. Too many moves can cause you to drop a breakout player or make a lopsided trade in hopes of filling a category. Diligent ownership can be a challenge if you’re in a lot of leagues, but it is the most important factor to fantasy success in any situation, and its importance is magnified when the team makeup is not ideal. Combining diligent ownership with the aforementioned roster management tips can turn your season around before it’s sunk.
Massive trades and tons of add/drops are not the way to get yourself out of a bad situation, in fact, if poorly executed they will cause a snowball effect and turn the team into a truly unfixable situation. It’s April 3rd, the official opening day of the major league season. No matter how much you hate your team, no matter if your pitching rotation was Price, Carrasco, Matz, Rodon, and Smyly, your season is not over. No team is unfixable with a little work, and since you’ve already paid your league dues, what’s the harm in trying?
Please direct all questions, comments, and hate mail to @Elliott_TFR