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March 24, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Two Deep-League Lessons From the Preseason

by Ben Carsley

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Ah, deep leagues. They test your knowledge and patience, your ability to follow a draft strategy and your sanity, as injuries always tend to ebb away at the weakest spot of your rosters. As 18- and 20-team leagues continue to become more popular, it's worth looking at some unique strategies that don't apply to shallower leagues, but can give you a decided advantage when you're in a league that goes 500-800 players deep.

I'm lucky/stupid enough to participate in several uber-deep leagues of both the redraft and keeper variety, and the more I play in said leagues, the more I grow to appreciate them over their shallower counterparts. The deeper the rosters go the more knowledge is required to succeed and the more victory has to do with skill and not luck.

With that in mind, here are two lessons that have really been hammered home for me as I've completed several deep league drafts this season.

1) Prospects are overvalued; post-prospects are undervalued
My fantasy boss/internet father Bret Sayre often makes the point that the deeper the league you play in, the more valuable replacement-level fantasy players become. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: if you have to replace Matt Kemp in a 12-team league, you're going to get a decent replacement along the Norichika Aoki/Josh Reddick line. If you need to replace Kemp in a 20-teamer, I hope I can interest you in some David Lough!

This emphasis on adequacy means that selecting prospects is an even riskier proposition in deep leagues than in leagues of a standard size. Sure, the allure of a George Springer or a Gregory Polanco is very real, but what if neither player receives more than 250 PA this season? You might want to pop Javier Baez in the fifth round of a deep league, but if he's in the minors until July you're putting a serious dent in your ability to compete this season.

In dynasty leagues the picture gets even more muddled, but if we stick to evaluating redraft leagues here, you should be valuing boring production (think Michael Brantley) over high-upside, high-risk propositions (think Jake Marisnick). There's a fair counterargument to be made that landing this year's version of Yasiel Puig in the 20th round could win you your league, but players like 2013 Puig don't come around very often.

One strategy you can take to land younger players in deeper leagues is to target post-prospects with a good chance of getting a second chance in 2014 rather than spring for more promising minor-leaguers who might not see much MLB time. For example, consider taking Trevor Bauer (aggregate ADP of 474, courtesy of fantasypros.com) a few rounds later than someone else pops Noah Syndergaard (aggregate ADP 331). This works for hitters, too: you can take Mike Olt (443) much later than Kris Bryant (365).

You're not going to get many oohs and ahhs in the draft room for taking guys like Bauer or Olt, but they have just as good a shot as impacting your 2014 team as do sexier prospects who've yet to expose their flaws to the world, and you can target these players much later.

2) Outfield is really, really thin
The staff collectively addressed this a bit when we went over all of our outfield rankings this preseason, but it bears repeating here: outfield is much thinner than you think. In shallower 10-to-12-team leagues, you can get by with one or two big names and then guys you personally identify as sleepers later. But in leagues with 16 or more teams, good luck.

Allow me to be captain obvious for a moment: in 20-team leagues with five outfield starters, you're going to see around 160-180 outfielders selected. Do you know who the 100th-best outfielder by aggregate ADP is? It's Garrett Jones. Sitting at 120 is David DeJesus, and after that the ADP aggregators pretty much give up. It's fine to select a Cody Ross or a Matt Joyce or a Nate McLouth with the expectation that that player will give you some counting stats off of the bench. But if you're counting on that ilk of player to start, you're in trouble, even in really deep leagues.

To whit: In the TDGX league (20 teams, five starting OF, standard 5x5, dynasty), I ended up with an outfield of Hunter Pence (round.overall: 3.55), Oswaldo Arcia (7.135), Curtis Granderson (8.146), Ben Revere (13.255), and Josh Willingham (17.335), with Carlos Quentin, Jon Jay, and Logan Schafer all on my squad, too. The context is a bit different here since this is a dynasty league, but nonetheless I think I clearly prioritized outfield over some other positions as my draft went on, including occupying my two primary UT spots with outfielders in Quentin and Jay. (And if you’re looking at that outfield and thinking it's a sorry bunch, you should see some of the other collections of outfield "talent" in the league.)

What this tells me is that in deeper leagues I really need to make sure that at least three of my outfielders are reasonable, no-doubt starters and that at least three of my utility/bench spots need to go to outfield-eligible players, roster permitting. This means you might need to condition yourself away from viewing outfield as a lesser position on the positional value scale, particularly in the earlier rounds.

If you have any strategies you've tailored specifically to deep leagues, feel free to leave them below and perhaps I'll parse them out in a column in the future. Deep leagues are a really interesting format that I think is just starting to gain mainstream fantasy coverage, and the need to refine and eventually to adjust these strategies is something that truly appeals to me.

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

22 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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RotoLando

Good article. OF depth is something I realized I had always taken for granted until I joined a really deep league. Now, it's a struggle to cover it every day.

Platoon guys are my bench. I'd rather have a guy that plays 2-3 times a week, than a guy that plays 0 games until maybe September. They are often overlooked in drafts, and can be snuck into trades as "throw-ins". Stuck on a trade? Tell you what, toss in Michael Choice, just so I don't have an empty roster slot.

Mar 24, 2014 03:48 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

Using platoon players in deep leagues with daily changes is an excellent idea, especially if you're an attentive owner. I've been targeting Choice and Daniel Nava frequently in leagues of this nature.

Mar 24, 2014 07:59 AM
 
boatman44

I sit not too early to call Choice the thin end of a platoon or does what he has achieved in the minors count , in your opinion Ben ? p.s I ask this knowing he gave Duffy a ride on Sunday , but also thinking he could be better than a platoon player in the future.

Mar 24, 2014 10:34 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

He might be a platoon guy, but I think he eventually gets the chance to succeed against righties. Mitch Moreleand's non-but-maybe-kind-of-oblique injury might help him get that chance.

Mar 24, 2014 10:41 AM
 
boatman44

Cheers C.D top stand in :)

Mar 24, 2014 12:52 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

I think Choice is better than a platoon player in the long run but that he's largely used as a platoon option in 2014.

Mar 24, 2014 12:54 PM
 
boatman44

Thanks Ben.

Mar 24, 2014 13:27 PM
rating: 0
 
BloodStripes

Good topic Ben. Deep leagues are great. Sifting the FA pool for just a sniff of value is a lot of fun and drafting Matt Dominguez in the 300's and Josh Willingham in the 400's in a 20 team mixed and thinking you scored a bargain is pure joy.

I am sure this will be obvious to most but was not mentioned above. Players with multi position eligibility should be valued highly as well. Even in a shallow league its valuable but moving a Martin Prado type around for an injured Machado or a just recently injured Profar is gold.

Also, when the pitching starts to thin late, I like a good reliever or two instead of a dodgy starter to hold the ratios down and keep the K's flowing. I have noticed Brian Wilson being a little forgotten so far this year. Jansen is a stud and Wilson may only get a save or two but the skills are there for some quality innings as a late round pick up.

And don't forget John Jaso this year. Catcher eligible playing mostly DH on a good team. You can probably get him at pick 500 or even later. That's about where I drafted him in both my 20 team mixers. So if you want a high on base guy with a .270 average and up to 10 bombs at catcher he can't hurt. Getting him that late he helps!! Mauer light and virtually for free. He is my deep league draft day bargain of the year.

Mar 24, 2014 05:28 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

I agree with both your versatility and set-up points. In the TDGX league I wrote about above, I ended up with Alberto Callaspo, Macier Izturis and Jeff Keppinger as bench players and Luke Gregrson, Brett Cecil and Darren O'Day as pitchers.

Mar 24, 2014 07:57 AM
 
Mike W
(830)

Deep leagues rule. I have a few things I always try to do.
1. I like to have very good and deep catching talent. In a two-catcher league, you can essentially force one or two players to start terrible and/or part-time catchers by grabbing an extra guy. Especially in a deep league, it is very hard to surrender that many at-bats, even at a low-production position like C.
2. It's very, very hard to go stars-and-scrubs in a deep league because the scrubs are actually, well, scrubs. For that reason, auction values are often flattened. You can take advantage of this by identifying a couple cheap guys who are pretty much guaranteed to play every day. A couple $1 guys who get 550 ABs is a beautiful thing.
3. Because of scarcity and the fact you will be playing some guys you'd really rather not have to by midseason, it's very nice to have at least one player who can switch from IF to OF, like the aforementioned Prado, to maximize the utility of the guys you don't mind playing. Inevitably at some point you'll have three guys playing the same position all hurt at the same time.

Mar 24, 2014 06:59 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

If you're playing in a two-catcher 20-team league, you're even more of a glutton for punishment than I.

Mar 24, 2014 07:57 AM
 
arlo4321

1. Good point, and I followed this one as a way to force other guys to start sh**. In a 15 team league with 7 keepers year to year, the draft gets shallow in a hurry. I grabbed Santana very early. Followed with Pinto despite playing time issues, & then grabbed Grandal (its an obp league) before we got to the real dregs of the Cs. It might look like excess, but have covered so many issues that I hope I have avoided the black hole...& someone desperate might eventually overpay.
2. not much to say, but I got me some
3. Hello Mr. Ackley (my MI), Zobrist (my SS), Nava (my CI). Naturally have backed them up if need be...
>> but this strategy worries me because I see a lot of marginal talent on my starting roster. Have prepared for failure and injury, but at possible cost.

Mar 25, 2014 15:41 PM
rating: 0
 
adrock

I'm very much enjoying the Fantasy Freestyle series. Interesting posts with relevant theory for those of us who are in deep leagues.

Also, I wanted to express my appreciation for the Bat Signal. I've used it several times, and always received prompt and useful advice.

Keep up the good work!

Mar 24, 2014 07:50 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

Thanks for the kind words!

Mar 24, 2014 07:58 AM
 
misterjohnny
(925)

Is the OF situation worse in the NL or AL? I'm in a deep NL league with only 1 OF keeper.

Mar 24, 2014 10:30 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

Paul Sporer covered that a bit in his State of the Position piece here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/a/22840

Mar 24, 2014 12:55 PM
 
Robotey

Ben

is a 20 team mixed equal to a 10-team NL only? Which do you think forces an owner to come closer to scraping the bottom of the barrel?

Mar 25, 2014 12:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

I suppose they're fairly close, but I imagine you have a little more flexibility in a mixed league since you're open to a wider pool of sleepers overall even though the ratio is the same.

But most NL leagues don't have 40-man rosters like the TDGX league above did, so in that case a standard NL-only league would still be significantly shallower.

Mar 25, 2014 12:26 PM
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

You also don't have to worry about players losing eligibility in mixed leagues. Basically I hate only leagues.

Mar 25, 2014 12:26 PM
 
Robotey

40 deep rosters? Lord save us.

I prefer 'only' leagues for precisely that reason. The prospect of losing a player to the 'other' league only adds--or detracts-- from his value. Back when Alfonso Soriano was a National he went for cheaper than he should've because no one believed he'd still be there in August.

I always believe that more choices makes for more chances which makes things more competitive.

Mar 25, 2014 13:44 PM
rating: 0
 
brucegilsen
(999)

I think most leagues grandfather those guys for the rest of the season, even my old school 4x4 24 (14H 10 P) / $270 NL only league.

Mar 25, 2014 18:49 PM
rating: 0
 
MaineSkin

Looking at the skills displayed by Corey Dickerson in 160 AB last year, this may be a giant waiver wire steal in just a month. Stubbs is 29, he's not adjusting to shit, but Coors does show positive influence in the BA category, so an early elevated BABIP may post-pone the Dickerson era. Also, the Rockies may sit content w/the order and continue to run out Stubbs to replace Fowlers leather. It's not like Cuddyer is covering much green at present, but of Mornaeu falters, Cuddyer may man 1B while opening up RF for my new BFF Corey Dickerson.
Like Craig says above, the top prospects are not at a value due to their ADP, but players such as Lake, Dickerson and Arcia are true prospects with tools to provide mid-round value (based on 15Tm mixed+).

Mar 25, 2014 22:44 PM
rating: 0
 
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Ear... (03/24)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Ear... (03/24)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: My ... (03/26)
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