Much like empires, stock markets, and the Vengaboys (obscure Europop reference, ftw), baseball players have their ups and downs. Because of this volatility, fantasy owners are stuck w0rrying about what lineup will get them the most points. In my experience, this problem is exacerbated after the Trade Deadline, ie when the playoff races start for fantasy leagues. Seriously, if you did not realize that your league ends before the MLB regular season ends either: 1. You have a commissioner that needs to learn about fantasy sports or 2. You really need to start paying attention. In other words, now is the time that a lot of fantasy owners make moves in order to get in better position for a run in the playoffs. This post is going to discuss general strategies for each position and throw in some players that should be considered or avoided. Let the playoff hunt begin!
Position #1: Dead Last/Near the Bottom
At this point you are either mathematically eliminated from playoff contention or you will be facing a crazy high seed that will destroy you in the first round. If you are in a non-keeper league that only lets the top four teams into the playoffs, then congratulations your role is secured! You are now the 'spoiler' trying to win a few weeks to knock your rival out of contention. Don't be 'that guy' who just gives up-- that shows bad sportsmanship and is a jerk-bag thing to do. Instead, stay on the waiver wire, continue to steal some 'hot' players and then trade them for actually good players, etc. For example, I still do not understand why Alex Rios is only starting in ~70% of Yahoo! leagues. Are other leagues, like, 4 player leagues? He has been a dependable utility player for me all season. Ryan Roberts is being talked about, but his torrid pace will probably slow down, so maybe trade him quick for some of that elusive relief pitching. And if you got rid of Evan Longoria because of his injury... well, that's probably why you are struggling. Don't be stupid next time. You know who are you, good friend who asked me about needing a third baseman...
Position #2: Middle of the Pack
Ok, so you have kept with your team all season long. You made sure to start your pitchers correctly and have made decent trades. Perhaps a few injuries have hurt you at all the wrong times. No matter the reason, being in the middle is not a bad place to be. The goal is to, obviously, maximize your upside. That being said, the 'risk-reward' curve is forcing you to take more risks. If you notice the people ahead of you are taking foolish risks, then by all means back off and wait for their collapse. However, 99.9% of the time, being on the playoff bubble will require you to be bold. What does this look like? For one, hammer the waiver wire. As soon as someone drops a good but 'cold' player, pick him up quickly. For example, Brandon Morrow is going to make one more rehab start before coming back to the Majors. It is very possible he is still sitting on the DL wire, so grab him before his former owner gets him back. This is not a place to be timid. Pay attention and maybe try a good old fashioned 'trade rape'.
Position # 3: In Playoff Picture
For most leagues, this means top four teams. The key here is to keep doing what you are doing.Your strategy has gotten you this far, don't get too risky. That being said, if you are in a keeper league, this is where you maybe lose an older player for a young minor leaguer/ rookie. Look to trade to an owner who wants to make the playoffs this year. You can always add a little bit of risk and get someone like Heath Bell, who should be moving back into the closer role. Sidenote, finding a group of reliable closers has been a huge issue this year for most teams. Unless you got crazy lucky, this is one position where risk is pretty mandatory. Another good add for any league would be Mike Aviles. He can play a handful of positions and is still flying under the radar (owned in 66% of Yahoo leagues), probably due to the Red Sox struggles. Josh Hamilton is struggling and a lot of owners might dump him (like idiots) for a cheap trade. Just a thought.
Position #4: First Place, jerks
If you are in a league where your friends are not into baseball, you could be cruising. For example, in one league I am 15-2 and have already won my division. If you are like the 'Wacky Deacs', then congratulations on choosing friends who are terrible. If this is the case, jut make sure you are managing your team enough to not lose a heartbreaking game in the playoffs. If its a keeper league, you should restructure some contracts (if you can) and add some great young talent for cheap. If your first place hold is more tenuous, then do what you need to stay in first-- it is the easiest way to a championship. Justin Masterson has been playing much better recently and could add some average strikeout numbers. Aaron Harang is also under-appreciated. Sure, the Dodgers are fizzling ( and therefore won't add wins for him) but he is a great guy to have to add innings and average all -around stats. What you want to do in this position is make small changes that give you slight advantages. Big trades could hurt you down the road. Realize that the other owners will be doing what I wrote about early (ie making bold moves to get ahead). Stay the course.
And for the love of all that is good, get Manny Machado.