All-Star week in Major League Baseball usually means there isn’t much going on in the sports world (except the ESPY’s of course). But for some, this is the best time to set up their fantasy baseball teams for the stretch run.
For those of you out of the race I say this: don’t give up! You still have plenty of time to make an immediate impact on your place in the standings if you play your cards right and take advantage of your complacent front-running mates. In 2006 I started a season 8-2-1 and fizzled out at 4-7 and was overtaken in the last couple weeks to finish fifth that season. So it isn’t impossible to put together a nice run. Here’s how it can be done:
- Don’t be opposed to the idea of trading All-Stars: Look I understand how nice it sounds to have six or seven All-Stars on your team; but if you’re 35-games out of first place that’s all it is, a nice thought. Here is an example: you have Chris Davis, Pedro Alvarez, David Wright, Craig Kimbrel and Joe Mauer on your roster. That is just to name a few, but it is a good lineup. Problem is, you’re almost 40 games out in your race. How? Well, you have David Price (3-5, 3.94 ERA, and currently on the disabled list) and a staff full of pitchers that aren’t going to get you anything in your important pitching categories. What would I do? Trade the lineup to fit your strengths! Pedro Alvarez is an All-Star, but you have David Wright behind him whose second-half splits almost mirror the first. Depending on how things break down for your roster, you could package an Alvarez, or David Wright, or a lineup regular like that for a couple of pitchers that will put your team back in the hunt.
- Know your prospects: Here’s the thing, it was easy to know about Bryce Harper and Mike Trout because everyone talks about them, right? In fact, I’m willing to bet that a majority of your league are unfamiliar with names such as George Springer (hint, hint) who is currently hitting .315 with 26 home runs and a .418 OBP across two levels in the Astros farm system. Those are the names you need to make yourself aware of because they have the best chance of playing immediately when they’re called up. The best chance you have of getting lineup or pitching help from unconventional sources not usually is to look at teams out of their respective races (Twins, Astros, Mariners, Miami, Cubs, etc.) and stock up on what you need. Once the salary purges begin those prospects could shine for you. Some names to consider: George Springer (Astros), Byron Buxton (Twins), Sean Nolin (Blue Jays), Taijuan Walker (Mariners), and Ethan Martin (Phillies).
- The Disabled list is your friend: Derek Jeter, David Price, Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford all have something in common. They all have missed extended time this season because of injury and all have something to play for in the second half coming back from it. For every fantasy manager that lost patience with those players occupying a roster spot, there’s a fantasy manager looking for All-Star caliber shots in the arm. There are no guarantees that these players will come back and play at a level most are accustomed to, but if they are there for the taking what do you have to lose if you’re the guy clawing your way back into a race? Think about those owners who were rewarded for waiting for Brian McCann (.291 BA, 12 HR, 32 RBI, .372 OBP, 2013 All-Star selection) after he returned in May.
- Waiver wire philosophy: pickup, drop, repeat: I know it’s a hard concept to grasp. I understand, as a baseball guy, the importance of patience. I understand where you’re coming from when you say “if I can just hold out one more week Justin Upton will get back to what he was doing in April”. Or you’re the guy that says “Cole Hamels might be 4-11, but he’s gonna hit his stride soon”. Well I’ve got news for you, folks: Justin Upton’s April was historic, and it appears all those home runs Hamels gives up appear to be catching up with him (that and he’s at the age his velocity will start approaching Zito levels as a lefty). So I want you to repeat after me. Ready? “pick up, drop, repeat. pick up, drop, repeat.” Going forward that is your philosophy on the waiver wire. Don’t be afraid to drop anyone. I find that I get in the most trouble when I get too attached to the name than the production. It’s something that I keep in check very well in fantasy football, but baseball it is harder because of the amount of games. But here’s an example: 2009 I held out on the Manny Ramirez craze in Los Angeles. I put up with the suspensions and the risk because my thinking was “if I hold out just a couple of months, I could have a game-changing force at a point in the season when no one else does”. I passed up on waiver wire streak after waiver wire streak with that singular thought in mind. I even passed up on a third-year outfielder who finished the season with 70 stolen bases and a .301 batting average (that includes a September/October of .305 BA, 2 HR, 14 RBI’s, 13 BB, and an OPS of .803). The outfielder I passed on was Jacoby Ellsbury, who was on the eventual champions team. I finished second, and Manny “rewarded” me with a .218 batting average; and while his other numbers were respectable, the overall production of Ellsbury was what I needed more.
- Don’t be that guy, be the other guy: No one likes a quitter, the guy who dumps all of his best players and swings a league on a dime (usually at your expense). But everyone loves a spoiler. Be the spoiler! Before long the victories will start adding up, the statistics round out, and just like that you’re in the playoffs! Spoilers do their homework while the top of the league is content with gliding into the fantasy postseason. You might as well make a game of it, and if you get in, you’re already better equipped than the leaders to make a run that won’t be expected. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a six-seed blitz through the playoffs because they didn’t give up and collected pieces that made them the best team to end the season. Funny how fantasy mimics the reality of sports, isn’t it?