We all left our March drafts thinking that we had the starting point of a championship roster. Two months later, some of us have proven to be right while others were dead wrong. This article is dedicated to those in 8th place. Or 10th place. Or even 12th place! Things haven’t gone well, and you’re thinking of giving up. After all, football draft season is just a couple months away and there’s no sense in wasting even more time on a losing fantasy baseball team, right?
Wrong!!! Dead wrong!!! First, this team has your name on it. I don’t know about you, but I treat my name with respect. If my name is on something in any area of my life, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to back my name with a sincere effort. And second, others are counting on you. Whether they are your real-life friends or those who were randomly assigned to your league, they are counting on you to do your part in giving everyone a good fantasy baseball experience. And a good experience doesn’t include dead teams in your league. So, you’re darn right — you’re managing this team until the end, even if you run it into the ground.
Besides, this situation is not without hope. With some effort and creativity, you can turn a loser into a winner. A true story — in Tout Wars, which is considered the apex of fantasy expert leagues, I once turned around a team that sat in dead last in May, winning a championship in the final days of the season. Whether you can accomplish the same lofty goal with your languishing squad or not, you can certainly improve where you are right now. Let’s find out how:
Step One: Figure out why you are doing poorly
There are three basic reasons that your team could be doing poorly. Either you’ve had a bad run of injuries (not surprising in 2021), you have a collection of unlucky players, or you have several players who have underachieved without the excuses of injuries or bad luck. Chances are good that your team has some candidates for each of the three categories.
First, the injured players: Separate this group into two categories. The first group is those you still believe in and will be back in the near future. Hang onto this group. The second group is those who you have lost faith in or will be out for a long time. Trade away players from this group, getting anything useful for them.
Second, the unlucky players: Keep all of them. Look at the advanced stats for your players (the Yahoo+ Advanced Stats page is helpful in this area, but you can also use Fangraphs or Baseball Savant), and keep hitters who have notable gaps in their BA and xBA or wOBA and xwOBA. Also, look for hitters who have a low BABIP and HR/FB rate despite strong contact metrics. For pitchers, looking at their ERA vs xERA is a good starting point, and you can also assess their strand rate and HR/FB rate. Those who have been identified as unlucky should be retained, as you want them on your roster when their luck evens out.
Third, the underachievers. Those who have been bad without being injured or unlucky need to be traded. Sure, you won’t get a return that reflects how you valued the player on draft day. But stubbornly holding onto an underachiever is only going to make your problems worse. In fact, underachievers who can’t be traded are candidates to be released. Streaming their vacant roster spot could eventually lead you to the next waiver-wire gem.
Step Two: Assess the standings
Those in a roto league need to find the areas where they can quickly make a big improvement. For example, if 10 homers can get your 5 standings points and 10 steals can get you just one point, then sluggers trump speedsters on your priority list. This may be the point in the season where you choose to punt a category, accepting a low mark in that area in order to focus your resources elsewhere. After all, many leagues have been won by those who punted a category.
Step Three: Hit the trade market
Now that you have a list of those who you want to trade and a list of categories you want to target, it’s time to put your plan into action. To figure out which teams you should approach first, read through this recent trade tips article. Your goal should be to make multiple deals in the next two weeks. If you’re ever unsure of a trade offer, send it to @FredZinkieMLB and I will do my best to give you my opinion right away.
Step Four: Hit the waiver wire
Depending on your league rules, you should be the most aggressive person on the waiver wire in the next two weeks. Look for starters who have a dominant outing, hitters who are earning an increased role and setup men who have recently watched their team’s closer blow a narrow lead. Start cycling players through multiple roster spots until you find someone you really like.
With these four steps, you can have an overhauled roster by the middle of June. And, you can have a lot of fun along the way. There is still plenty of time remaining in the regular season, and you could soon have a lifelong story to tell about your miraculous 2021 comeback.