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2021 Fantasy Baseball: Roster Churning Strategy to Maximize Productivity

Don't be complacent. Churn the bottom of your roster and replace poor performing players with productive options off the waiver wire

Roster management is a crucial tool in fantasy baseball. One of my weaknesses is not churning my roster. Every year it seems like I'm holding a couple of young players that could make a difference later in the year. The longer I keep them and get no production from that roster slot, the more opportunities I miss when valuable players are on the waiver wire. 

Some of the best fantasy owners in today's games are excellent churners of the roster. They don't get emotionally tied to any player on their bench. They understand a player's skill set, and they know the replacement value on the waiver wire. I'm sure there are times when they drop a player that later becomes a difference-maker. Sometimes they reacquire these players because they are so in tune with the player pool. 

The baseball season is a marathon, but it is essential to maximize your opportunities starting in week one. You would be surprised how many teams take zeros from their pitchers over the first week of the season. They didn't think far enough ahead, and they didn't take the time to look at the possible starting pitcher rotations before they draft their team. Many times these leagues are so close an extra win or a handful of strikeouts can be the difference between winning and losing. 

In 12-team leagues, it's almost like the free agent pool is an extended bench if you have the proper roster structure. You can find many helpful outfielders and corner infielders. The backend pitching inventory is deep, but it doesn't come without risk. The goal is to maximize at-bats while continually looking for possible pitching improvements, whether it is a starter or a new closer. It is extremely tough to carry mediocre injured players.

After the season starts, I need to review my bench players to see if I have any problems. My first goal is to look at the end of each week's stats and see where I stand as far as at-bats and my pitching goals. The first week of the year is tough to gauge, but I need to know if I have enough depth in my starting rotation. It's too late to save some of the teams if I made mistakes during the draft. I need to live with my draft day decisions and hope my opinions are correct. There's nothing worse than dropping the best available free agent for next week's waiver period, so it is vital to take a deep breath when deciding to release certain players. 

Each week, a player will get hurt or lose playing time, opening up more at-bats or innings for other players who are most likely found on the waiver wire. There are many times during the year when players play well for short periods, while some even develop into substantial contributors to your fantasy team. 

In 2019, Danny Santana (.283 with 81 runs, 28 home runs, 81 RBI, and 21 steals) turned into fantasy gold via the free agent pool, which came after four empty seasons. Dominic Smith fell into the category last year.

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In the past, I've been a fantasy snob when looking for a player to upgrade my team. Beggars can't be choosy during the heat of the season-long battle in baseball. I remember not picking up Ryan Howard in 2005 because I thought his batting average had risk due to his high strikeout rate. He ended up hitting .288 with 22 home runs over 312 at-bats. Howard was a difference-maker that I overlooked because of a possible weakness in one category. You can never dismiss talent, and you take every at-bat upgrade that you can find. Over a short period, any player can hit for a higher average than expected, and sometimes those players stay locked in all year. 

A fantasy owner needs to evaluate every player and every situation. These decisions are so much easier when your team is playing well. When you are behind, a fantasy owner tends to make mistakes trying to make things happen. Either they bench a star player that goes off after a slow start to the year, or they cut a player because he's playing poorly. 

When you are churning your roster, you are looking for players with upside who are buy-and-hold candidates. There are other times when you need to take a zero to protect a roster spot. A fantasy owner hates to fall further behind, but there is no guarantee the player you pick up will have a good week. Sometimes you have to weather the storm. A fantasy owner will never know when a player starts to turn the corner or if a few players will get hot on your team. You need to keep your head down and continuously grind throughout the season. 

This season I'd like to keep one bench spot to rotate in possible double starters and another slot on my bench for the "hot hitter of the week." 

Everyone plays in different formats with varying league sizes. One decision may work well for one league, and it may be a poor decision for another. Usually, the player pool will answer your questions. There is a fine line between patience and churning. Each owner needs to find a balance between the two in their quest to win a league championship.


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