Fantasy Baseball Depth is for Dummies

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!

Tags: Balance CF Depth Elite Matt Kemp RF Upton

  • Joe

    LOve this article good info , I must say I drafted Stars and Scrubs this year for the first time in my H2H league and thus far am very happy w/ the results as I am in sole possesion of 1st place

    I do however have a question I am also in a deep ROTO league, I am right in the middle of the pack which isn’t terrible but wont win me any championship either. I drafted Ellsbury first and Pedroia second

    I am getting destroyed in 2 out of the 12 categories I am getting destroyed in RBI & Steals , I was thinking about trading Pedroia ( I dont want to ) but again I wont win any championship in 6th place , and feel I may need to shake things up a bit to make a move in the standings

    I was wondering what everyones thoughts were on trading Pedroia ?
    and if anyone would have any advice about who would be a fair or decent player I could get in return ?

    Thanks everyone I really appreciate your help

    • Clave

      Joe, btw, have you considered getting a gravatar? The cool thing is that you do it once and it follows you to whatever site you comment on.

      It’s nice because it helps everybody get to know one another just a bit more.

  • Clave

    6th place wont cut it, and i like a guy who likes to win. Yeah, trading Pedroia hurts, but this sounds like a case where you’ll have to.

    He’s your asset and this is a matter of maximizing assets. If you can get two solid players, then it sounds like you are needing to get a little depth. Target what you need and go for it. It’s only 6th place on the line, right? Go for it.

    • joe

      Hi guys just a couple quick questions, as i said earlier i am in 6 th place in my 12 team roto league, and 6 th place isnt going to cut it, so in order to shake things up I am trying to move Pedroia, I am getting destroyed in RBI & SB. I was offered Adrian Beltre & Freddie Freeman for Pedroia and Carlos Pena, I would be giving up Pena and Pedroia, I am seriously considering taking this trade as Freeman and Beltre will both get plenty of RBI chances hitting in the middle of 2 solid lineups, any thoughts?

      Also I have Cameron Maybin who has been a big disappointment so my question is I am thinking of dropping Maybin in favor or either Parra from Ariz or Pierre from Philly any thougts?

      Thanks once again guys

      • Dixon

        Who would be playing second base for you if you took that offer?

        And yes, drop Maybin. The San Diego lineup is a fantasy wasteland.

        • joe

          I would be playing Michael Young at 2b, he is 2b eligiable in my league

          • Nash

            Hit me with your categories (all 6 for hitting)

            and what is your roster now and what will it be after the trade, that might help to see if this trade makes you stronger or weaker overall a little easier.

            As for the trade, I do not like it for you are face value, but I do think VERY highly of Pedroia so I am bias.

  • Nash

    First I would like to say that I have yet to crack the top 10 in our Crackerjackleague and each week it makes me feel more and more like a fraud lol…

    That said…I stick by Stars and scrubs! …for now…

  • Joe

    I am also big on Pedroia but right now is his my biggest asset and easiest player to deal

    the hitting categories are
    - runs
    - homeruns
    - rbi
    - batting avg
    - obp

    as of right now my lineup looks like this

    C- Carlos Santana
    1B – Michael Young / Carlos Pena
    2B – Dustin Pedroia
    ss- Alcides Escobar / JJ Hardy
    3B – Mike Moustakas
    OF – Corey Hart
    OF – Austin Jackson
    OF – Cody Ross / Lucas Duda / Gerado Parra
    UTIL – any player
    * Jacoby Ellsbury -DL

    after the trade my lineup would be
    C- Carlos Santana
    1B – Freddie Freeman
    2B – Michael Young
    SS- Alcides Escobar / JJ Hardy
    3B – Adrian Beltre / Mike moustakas
    OF – Corey Hart
    OF – Austin Jackson
    OF – Gerado Parra/ Lucas Duda / Cody Ross
    UTIL – any player
    * Jacoby Ellsbury -DL

    I am getting crushed in RBI & STEALS