July 12, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
Quit Wasting Your Depth
Consider this situation: you’re in a 12-team AL-only league, and your roster boasts Jason Kipnis at second base, Derek Jeter at short, Trevor Plouffe at middle infield, and Brian Dozier on the bench. While Dozier is not exactly a superstar, he is still a full-time player with non-negligible value in a league of this depth. In fact, according to our PFM, Dozier is actually worth $9 in such a league. My question is this: does it make sense to keep a player like this on your bench as depth/insurance/in case of injury, or are you wasting him in such a role?
It’s my contention that, in general, it’s a waste. At the auction back in March, each player is given $260 to accrue as much value as possible. While “value” in this abstract sense doesn’t correlate perfectly with points in the standings, it does serve as a pretty good proxy and continues to do so throughout the year. You’d have a hard time losing your league with a roster full of $30-plus players, no matter how the categories fall. And on the flip side, you’re not going to win your league if you have a roster full of $5 players, even if they’re all highly specialized. Accruing value is one of the most important things a fantasy player can do, and to take that a step further, one must make sure to actually make use of the value accrued.
In the case of Dozier, a big chunk of that $9 is being wasted. If you project the days Kipnis, Jeter, and Plouffe will miss due to injury over the rest of the season, you probably won’t find it to be more than 20 percent of the remaining days (and that might be generous). That means that $7 of Dozier’s value is being wasted as he rots away on your bench while your middle infield trio is healthy. Yes, there’s huge variability around that (a season-ending injury would push Dozier into full-time duty for your squad), but probabilistically speaking, why would you waste so much value? It’s overly cautious and is likely to cost you valuable points in the standings.
Think of it another way: you’d never willingly sit a healthy Kipnis on your bench for half a season, so why would you sit Dozier? PFM calls Kipnis an $18 player, which makes Dozier half as valuable. Why is it okay to sit Dozier and waste all of that value when you’d never waste the same amount of Kipnis’ value?
So what are your options? That’s pretty simple. The cleanest solution is simply to trade Dozier for a player that you can fit in your starting lineup. If you have a hole at another position (say, if you drafted a guy like Chone Figgins), you could simply trade Dozier for a similarly valued player at that position. If you don’t have any holes (lucky you!), you could try to package Dozier and another player for an upgrade. Say, Dozier and Delmon Young for Austin Jackson.
That sounds nice in theory, but no one in my league actually values Dozier as a $9 player! Yes, critical hypothetical reader, this is a problem many of you might face. Lower-tier players are often undervalued by fantasy owners and disregarded as replaceable or nearly worthless. (If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t have a reason to write this article in the first place!)
Which brings us to option three. If you’re confident in your valuation of Dozier as a $9 player, if you’re confident that he will deliver $9 in value to your team, then you should be just as confident in trading away a guy like Kipnis or Jeter. Trade one of them for similar value at another position and plug Dozier into the resulting hole. Yes, it sounds scary to trade one of your top players to make room for Brian Dozier, but if you’re trading a $24 Derek Jeter for a $24 B.J. Upton, why not? Since Dozier’s value is being wasted on the bench, you’re not really making an even-value trade. You’re making a trade that significantly helps your team, since you’ll be funneling Dozier’s previously wasted value into the lineup. $24 of Upton plus $7 of Dozier (excluding his estimated $2 of value as a bench player) is worth well more than $24 of Jeter alone.
Of course, this is all easier said than done. My example assumes a league with a perfectly liquid trading market where owners are active, love to deal, and are willing to make even-valued trades. That’s certainly not always the case, so you may need to tweak my suggestions to fit your specific situation, but the general principle holds.
While it’s comforting to have a security blanket like Dozier on your bench—after all, replacing a stud like Kipnis should he get injured would be a nightmare—and seems like no big deal since he’s not really that good, you’re actually wasting a lot of value by keeping him as insurance. Whenever possible, you should funnel the value of your bench assets into your starting lineup. It ups your risk a bit, but it increases your overall chances of winning your league.