In my season-long fantasy leagues, I almost always decide against keeper or dynasty leagues. Why? I don’t like the commitment. Join a poorly run league, or one with obnoxious competing managers, or one in which you pick up crappy players, and you’re seemingly stuck for life. Well, something like that.
For some reason I decided to change it up this past spring and I joined a fantasy baseball keeper league. The name of the league is “Legit Dynasty”, and true to its name, it’s a true keeper league. In other words, you draft players once, and that’s it. No limit on the number of players to protect.
This format created an intriguing angle that I haven’t experienced in any fantasy sports league. In non-keeper leagues, you keep good guys on your team until they stop performing, they get seriously injured, or you need to stream hot players in the playoffs. In the Legit Dynasty league, I had to evaluate players that I would drop to figure out how it would impact my performance next year, or maybe the year after. This was especially the case with younger players; you don’t want to be the manager who drops the next Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant because of a temporary setback.
|Draft type||Auction ($500 budget)|
|Roster positions||C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, IF, LF, CF, RF, OF, Util, Util, Util, SP, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, RP, RP, P, P, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, DL, DL, DL, DL, NA, NA, NA|
|Batter Categories||Runs (R), Home Runs (HR), Runs Batted In (RBI), Stolen Bases (SB), Batting Average (AVG), On-base + Slugging Percentage (OPS)|
|Pitcher Categories||Wins (W), Saves (SV), Strikeouts (K), Holds (HLD), Earned Run Average (ERA), (Walks + Hits)/ Innings Pitched (WHIP)|
When auction draft budgets are abnormal (different from the standard $200 budget), as they were with this league, adjustments need to be made. Most cheat sheets or fantasy sites list auction values based on the standard $200 budget, and other players are likely to accustomed to values based on this budget from other fantasy sports leagues.
The savvy manager can use this to his advantage if he makes adjustments to determine player values as a percentage of overall budget rather than in absolute terms. If a manager uses an auction budget cheat sheet that lists an auction price for the number one player at $50 using a standard $200 budget, then you know that the value of the top player is 25% of an overall budget. But in in the league I was playing in, the budget was $500, which meant a reasonable price for the top player would have been about $125.
As you can see from my draft results, I was able to draft three of the top five overall players at pre-draft value or cheaper, which was a tremendous boost for my fantasy team. Here’s how it went down:
|1.||(1)||Mike Trout (LAA – CF)||$103|
|2.||(9)||Mookie Betts (Bos – RF)||$105|
|3.||(11)||José Altuve (Hou – 2B)||$108|
|4.||(30)||Brandon Belt (SF – 1B,LF)||$17|
|5.||(44)||Corey Kluber (Cle – SP)||$36|
|6.||(64)||José Abreu (CWS – 1B)||$28|
|7.||(69)||Robinson Canó (Sea – 2B)||$25|
|8.||(85)||Yu Darvish (LAD – SP)||$41|
|9.||(164)||DJ LeMahieu (Col – 2B)||$6|
|10.||(173)||Salvador Perez (KC – C)||$2|
|11.||(180)||Francisco Liriano (Hou – SP,RP)||$4|
|12.||(193)||Jake Lamb (Ari – 3B)||$3|
|13.||(216)||Jake Odorizzi (TB – SP)||$1|
|14.||(226)||Dexter Fowler (StL – CF)||$1|
|15.||(227)||Michael Brantley (Cle – LF)||$3|
|16.||(235)||Marcus Semien (Oak – SS)||$1|
|17.||(239)||Dylan Bundy (Bal – SP,RP)||$2|
|18.||(244)||Trevor Bauer (Cle – SP,RP)||$1|
|19.||(252)||Jerad Eickhoff (Phi – SP)||$1|
|20.||(267)||Zack Wheeler (NYM – SP)||$1|
|21.||(273)||Jarrod Dyson (Sea – LF,CF,RF)||$1|
|22.||(278)||Kevin Siegrist (Phi – RP)||$1|
|23.||(282)||Luke Gregerson (Hou – RP)||$1|
|24.||(286)||Alex Cobb (TB – SP)||$1|
|25.||(289)||Koda Glover (Was – RP)||$1|
|26.||(292)||Corey Knebel (Mil – RP)||$1|
|27.||(295)||David Phelps (Sea – SP,RP)||$1|
|28.||(298)||Chris Tillman (Bal – SP,RP)||$1|
|29.||(299)||Daniel Norris (Det – SP)||$1|
|30.||(300)||Jeanmar Gómez (Sea – RP)||$1|
With Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Jose Altuve anchoring my team, I was able to then focus on other areas with plenty of budget left to spare. Getting pitchers like Corey Kluber and Yu Darvish solidified my starting pitcher core, and other players like Jose Abreu, Robinson Cano, and D.J. LeMahieu provided very solid production in certain categories throughout the year. Filling in other positions, Salvador Perez and Jake Lamb turned into surprising sources of power, though this was not necessarily something that I could have predicted with much accuracy.
Although it doesn’t always work, this stars and scrubs approach to drafting worked because I did not overpay for my stars. I paid a collective total of about 63% of my budget for my first three players, any of which could have ended up as the top player in all of fantasy. Normally, I would have expected to somewhere between 75% and 85% of my budget on three such players, so I received tremendous value for my money.
My approach did leave me exposed in some areas, particularly relief pitcher. In my experience, this is position that can most easily be filled with pitchers off waivers during the season, so I predicted that it was not an urgent position to fill during the draft. After the season started, I targeted players on waivers who could help me in saves or holds. Since holds are more plentiful than saves, this was an easy stat to target. I tried to put as many relief pitchers in my RP spots, P spots, and even SP spots (for those with SP/RP eligibility) so that I could accumulate saves and holds. At the end of the season, I was in the middle of my league in saves earned, and at the top of my league in the number of holds earned.
Rest of the season
I had significant success during the season and I regularly won in my weekly categories matchups. After getting trounced by my opponent 10-1 in the first week of the season, I went on cruise control. I won quite a few weekly matchups, and at one point went 11 straight weeks of besting my opponents. At the end of the regular season my record was 156-100-8 (.606 winning %) and was 10 games in front of the second place team.
Although my team had great foundational players, it did experience some turbulence, and I made some mistakes as well. Darvish was mediocre at times and he did not bounce back quite to form as I thought he would. Trout and Kluber and Michael Brantley were injured for long stretches of the season. I dropped players that ended up as top-70 players, such as Whit Merrifield and Avisail Garcia (I dropped the latter to pick up Albert Pujols, only to drop Pujols a few months later).
When the playoffs came, I was the number one seed and got a Round 1 bye. Evidently the party could not last forever, though, and I lost in the semifinal round by a score of 7-4 to the number five seed. This was a devastating blow, but I managed to pull my team back together to beat my opponent in third place game by a score of 9-1. I ended the season at #3, and importantly I ended the season in the money.
Looking to the future
Despite the loss in the playoffs, I think I had a very successful fantasy season. It’s worth noting that the fantasy manager’s primary task is to make the playoffs since that is most directly the result of skill. Winning a championship is less the result of skill and more the result of other factors. Therefore, when I evaluate fantasy performance, I think it’s more important to see how I did at the end of the regular season than how I did at the end of the playoffs.
Because my team was stacked with high-performing players, I can look forward to next season with optimism. I said at the beginning that I was not always a fan of keeper leagues because of the fear I would get stuck in a league I didn’t like. After this past baseball season, I realize the opposite can hold true as well; I could benefit by hanging onto a great team with great players, which means I’m already one step ahead for next year.