Fantasy Baseball Depth is for Dummies

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In the Crackerjack reader league Nash and I each received a pretty significant trade offer immediately after the draft.  In each we were offered a “stud” player in exchange for two of our solid players. Both of us pounced on the “Accept Trade” button like a starving lion jumps on a sickly gazelle.

A “foul” was called on both trades when our league-mates saw the calibre of player that was changing teams. But everyone involved was happy as both owners who were offering the trade were looking to create depth on their teams by getting two solid players in return. Fair enough.

I won’t get into why some owners were upset (although in future posts I will put on my pop psychology hat and look at why fantasy baseball owners can be as emotional as we are) about the trade.

No, what was interesting is that these trades highlighted two radically different strategy sets: building a team with depth vs. having a team comprised of stars and scrubs.

There is certainly a strong argument for building a fantasy baseball team with a lot of depth, meaning you have a solid player at each position, even if that player isn’t necessarily the best at their respective position. If your team has depth you spread your risk among more players. If one guy doesn’t pan out, no worries. You have a solid lineup around him to minimize the fallout. It’s the safer strategy.

But I rarely go for depth. Instead, I’ll jump on just about any 2-for-1 trade where I’m getting the 1, if the one is an elite talent that is. In fact, I don’t want depth on my fantasy baseball teams. Here’s why:

  1. To me “stars” are irreplaceable. I’m drawn to elite talent, those high ceiling players. You can certainly replicate Matt Kemp‘s production by adding B.J. Upton and Hunter Pence‘s lines, but I’d rather have Kemp in CF, then scour for a scrub replacement in right. There are very few elite players in the MLB, get them if you can. Let me temper this advice by saying that there are times when you absolutely need to couple players to maximize stats. You won’t have a perfect lineup like this. That’s why I like to start with elite talent and pair him with someone I can get for dirt cheap.
  2. I like roster flexibility. I’ve played with several guys that have turned down several great offers or passed on great waiver claims because they didn’t want to drop any of their players. Really, there isn’t anyone you can drop in order to make a move. By putting your eggs in fewer baskets you gain some roster flexibility, making you nimble when an opportunity pops up.
  3. I can move stars more easily in trades. Later in the season if I need to make some strong moves to make a run (and I make sure I’m always close enough to make a run!) I can reverse course and trade my elite talent to target to stats I need. Recognizable names move more easily in trades, and after you’ve gotten months of their great stats on your roster, you can flip them easily and effectively.
  4. When I say “scrubs” it isn’t quite a scrubby as it seems. Sometimes the cheap replacement can fill the exact role you need, cheaply. There are always some undervalued players on the waiver wire that can be paired with an elite talent and be highly effective. Plus, you have the flexibility to really target the stats you need.
  5. Experience has helped me find my balance. You can get carried away with the stars and scrubs strategy. Too many scrubs and not enough stars and you can’t field a team with enough talent to rack up the stats. Additionally, if you aren’t deep enough you can be in real trouble if one of your stars goes down. With experience though, you learn to intuitively find that magic balance you need.

So I’ve found that playing a game of stars and scrubs is a winning strategy team. This doesn’t necessarily mean that looking for depth is a losing strategy or for dummies, despite the title of the post. Eh, I was just fishing for a provocative title.

The reality is that the trade that was offered to me nudged me down this path in that particular league, a path that I’m very comfortably with. In another team I can’t seem to beg my way into first round, top tier talent so I’m going to work hard to find the stats I need across multiple positions and go for depth.

But I did want to identify two potential strategies that might fit your play style and give you some tangible benefits of one in particular.

How about you? Do you hoard talent or do you prefer to spread around your risk? Let us know in the comments!

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Tags: Balance CF Depth Elite Matt Kemp RF Upton

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