Apr 2, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) in the on-deck circle against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Baseball Strategy: Depth is For Dummies


Nash and I were in a league together and each of us 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 (OK, average) 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 caliber of player that was changing teams. The message board lit up and other owners were calling us crooks for taking the trade. If I had feelings, they would’ve been hurt by it.

The funny thing is that everyone who was actually involved in the trades were happy.  Both owners who were offering the trade were looking to create depth on their teams by getting two solid players in return. Nash and I were of course happy that we got the studs in the deal. That’s what I like to call a win/win, folks.

The thing that 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 are very few elite players in the MLB, get them if you can.

There is certainly a strong argument that the best fantasy baseball strategy is to build a deep team, 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:

 

“Stars” are irreplaceable.

In the same way I am drawn to cupcakes, I’m drawn to elite talent, to high ceiling players. You can certainly replicate Andrew McCutchen‘s production by adding Desmond Jennings and Hunter Pence‘s lines, but I’d rather have McCutchen in CF, then scour for a 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.

 

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. And you need to be willing to pounce on any opportunity to improve your team.

 

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.

 

Scrubs aren’t that bad!

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 exact stats you need.

 

Experience has helped me find my balance.

You can get carried away with the fantasy baseball 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 league, 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: Andrew McCutchen Fantasy Baseball MLB Scrubs Stars