2018 Fantasy Baseball: Roster Management & Churn
Roster management is an essential 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 useful players are on the waiver wire. Some of the best Fantasy owners into 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 skill set, and they understand the replacement value on the waiver wire. I'm sure there are many times when they drop a player that later becomes a difference maker. Many times they can reacquire these players because they are so in tune with the player pool.
The baseball season is a marathon, but it is crucial to maximize your opportunities starting in week one. You would be surprised how many teams are taking 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 drafted their team. Many times these leagues are so close an extra win or a handful of strikeouts can be the difference in winning and losing.
In 12 team leagues, it's almost like the free agent pool is an extended bench if you have the right 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 improvement, whether it is a starter or a new closer. It is extremely tough to carry mediocre injured players.
When I look at some of my bench players in my leagues, I can see where I'm going to have problems already. 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 is tough to gauge, but I need to get a feel 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 right. There's nothing worse than dropping the best available free agent for next week's waiver period, so it is important to take a deep breath when deciding to cut certain players.
Each week there will be a player that will get hurt or lose playing time opening up more playing time for other players that are most likely on the waiver wire. There are many times during the year when these types of players play well for short periods of time while some even develop into solid contributors to your Fantasy team. A few years ago Ben Zobrist (2009 - .297 with 27 HRs, 91 RBI, and 17 SBs via the free agent pool) fit this mold. Garrett Jones (.290 with 16 HR, 37 RBI, and seven SBs after the All-Star break) was a low-end waiver wire difference maker in 2009. I know 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 K rate. He ended up hitting .288 with 22 HRs in 312 at bats. Ryan was a difference maker that I overlooked because of 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.
You need 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 that are buy-and-hold candidates. There are other times when you need to take a zero to protect a roster spot. You hate 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 constantly grind throughout the season.
Everyone plays in different style formats and all different size leagues. 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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