December 12, 2014
Shortening Your Dynasty Rebuild
Dynasty leagues with extensive minor-league rosters have become more popular in recent years. It’s one of the greatest ways to keep all owners engaged throughout the season, as the action never quits. However, such intensive and deep leagues can be intimidating for first-time owners. For example, I joined my first dynasty league in 2014, and it wasn’t with a bunch of amateurs. I jumped into the deep end and participated in TDGX—a 20-team, 40-man roster dynasty league with fantasy experts from across the internet baseball landscape.
It was my first dynasty draft and my first attempt at fielding my own team. Needless to say, it didn’t go smoothly. I made rookie mistakes in the draft. Grabbing elite prospects is important because the league includes a 10-man minor-league roster, but I erred and drafted prospects too early. That made my big-league roster far too shallow.
Due to mistakes in the draft, injuries to key players, and severe underperformance in April, I fell out of legitimate contention. I recognized the flaws in my approach and decided to engage in a rebuild. After all, it’s not a 10-team league. If you fall out of contention, you have 18-to-19 teams to jump to vie for a pennant.
I want to talk about the best way to engage in a complete rebuild. To do this, I will utilize my TDGX squad, as I believe it offers a concrete way to visualize something rather theoretical. My rebuild hasn’t gone perfectly; however, the goal isn’t just to rebuild the roster. It’s to do it as quickly as possible. Engaging in a three-or-four year rebuild in dynasty leagues isn’t enjoyable. The end-goal is to fast forward what should take several years into a season or two.
First, here is the flawed roster with which I began the season:
It’s not difficult to see what happened. Bobby Parnell, Wil Myers, and Jose Reyes hit the DL early. Carlos Gonzalez experienced a down year, as did Homer Bailey and Gio Gonzalez. I banked on Rex Brothers assuming the closer’s role, and it belly-flopped. Most of all, though, I invested heavily into guys who didn’t begin the year in the big leagues, such as Javier Baez, Kevin Gausman, Andrew Heaney, Joey Gallo, etc. It just put me at a disadvantage.
In short, my team had no chance to compete in 2014, so let’s talk about some suggestions to put your dynasty league rebuild into hyperdrive.
CORNER THE HIGH-MINORS MARKET
This means you have to sell early. You do not want to compete with other owners who are trying to rebuild, so if you can sell early in the year, you have your pick of the litter. You can target which high-minors prospects to buy. For example, I traded Carlos Gonzalez for Jon Singleton, Oswaldo Arcia, Luis Sardinas, Trevor Bauer, and a second-round draft pick. While my return carried inherent risk and lacked upside, my goal was to obtain numerous high-minors players.
That leads me into the second reason why owners want to sell early and amass depth in the high minors. Once other owners decide to sell in June and July, they are forced to either trade for A-ball players—which increases the length of their rebuild—or they have to come to you. This puts you in a position to selectively sell from your amassed depth and grab players who can help immediately. After I made a flurry of trades in late-April and May, I ended up trading for guys like Ian Kinsler, Ian Desmond, and Alex Wood. It’s about selectively choosing your spots to make upgrades from places of depth—but you can’t trade from depth that you don’t have.
Don’t lull yourself into rebuilding through Low-A and rookie-ball talent. You’re just resigning yourself to a half-decade rebuild. Target the high minors, do it early, and you’ll set yourself on the path to competing in just a year or two.
TARGET INJURED PLAYERS
For example, I grabbed Matt Wieters, Jarrod Parker, and Martin Perez. They all came extremely cheap; however, Parker is on his second Tommy John surgery. Perez won’t be available until mid-2015. And Wieters could experience a severe power outage as he attempts to return from elbow surgery. I’m betting on upside. If they can return to their prior form, I acquired young mid-rotation starters and a top-10 catcher for pennies on the dollar.
The added benefit is that injured players can be stashed on the DL, which increases the possible number of players on your roster. TDGX has three DL spots, which allowed me to carry Wieters, Parker, and Perez without impacting my overall 40-man roster. That’s crucial for amassing depth and increases your flexibility throughout the year.
FOCUS ON POSITION PLAYERS
Everyone desperately wanted young position players. Part of that is due to the roster distribution of 14-position-player starters and 9-pitching starters. The other aspect is that pitching has become more readily available due to the decreased offensive environment, and it seems that more pitchers appear out of nowhere on the fantasy radar. Not the same thing can be said for position players, at least anecdotally.
If you truly want competing owners coming to you midseason, you need to amass position-player depth.
In the end, here is my team at the end of the year:
The pitching staff needs upgrading and I’m clearly speculating on saves with Mejia, Smith, and Broxton; however, my squad started finishing in the 6th-to-10th range over the final two months. In essence, even though I finished in 19th position, my TDGX team is on the road to recovery. I’m already dreaming about competing in 2015, and it’s because I was able to avoid falling in love with A-ball players, grabbed injured players, and focused on acquiring bats. If you follow the same advice in your rebuilding project—if necessary!—I’m confident that you can be on the road to a championship much more quickly than otherwise possible.