The Rebuild Part Two: The Draft and In Season Management

Doing a total rebuild is one of the greatest achievements of fantasy baseball. If you’ve been successful in competitive leagues and are ready for a new challenge then taking on a new team and rebuilding is what you need to do in 2014. Can you turn nothing into something great? In the first part of this series, I gave an introduction to rebuilding. I also looked at the pre-season and how to look at your new roster as you’d see it 3-4 years down the road.

Finishing off this series, I’ll look at the remaining areas to concentrate on:

  1. The Preseason
  2. The Draft
  3. Trades
  4. The Waiver Wire

The Draft

When you’re drafting for a team you just took over and are rebuilding, the idea is to nab 3 or 4 guys that can help you in your championship run starting in 2017 while also drafting players whose trade value will be high in your league in 2014. The first part is easy; the second requires a full understanding of your league’s scoring system.

Example #1: Carlos Beltran

Beltran was ranked by Jim as the #27 outfielder for 2014. In our consolidated keeper league rankings, he was #34, but in my dynasty outfield rankings he was not listed.

It’s easy to say that Beltran will not be on your 2017 championship team, but that is only one part of the equation. Are your new league’s settings such that they will value the OF position. If it’s a 12 team, 3 outfield league the answer is no. If you’re in a 14 team league with 4 OF slots, it’s a different answer. While he may be a nice piece to trade down the road, I would not take him over one of the 3 or 4 potential 2017 targets you are hoping to draft. If he lasts long enough (ie Round 4) then he’s likely a great piece to target if your league uses 40+ outfielders.

Who are the types of players to target?

I’m going to assume that minor league and major league drafts are separate. If they are not, you are at a huge advantage in your rebuild efforts. In a league I joined in 2012 and am rebuilding, my first three picks were Xander Bogaerts, Dexter Fowler (you can’t win them all) and Taijuan Walker. Yes, I was laughed at during the draft, but I have 2 key pieces for my hopeful 2015 run. I was fortunate that the league allowed minors to be drafted even if it meant I had too many and they had to sit on my bench the whole season. For most, the minors’ system is an area you’ll need to address separately. As for your major league draft, these are the types of decisions you’ll need to make:

Position Player A Player B Verdict Reason
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia Devin Mesoraco Mesoraco 2017 potential keeper
1st Base Corey Hart Chris Carter Hart 2014 potential trade value
2nd Base Chase Utley Anthony Rendon Rendon 2017 potential keeper
3rd Base Matt Dominguez Chase Headley Headley 2014 potential trade value
Shortstop Everth Cabrera Andrelton Simmons Simmons 2017 potential keeper
Outfield Avisail Garcia Brett Gardner Garcia 2017 potential keeper
Outfield Curtis Granderson Michael Brantley Granderson 2014 potential trade value
Starter Sonny Gray Clay Buchholz Gray 2017 potential keeper
Starter Francisco Liriano CJ Wilson Liriano 2014 potential trade value

Some of these, like Mesoraco, are pretty cut and dry, while others are a little trickier. Chris Carter could look like someone you’d want to target for his power potential down the road. It’s very unlikely he’ll ever be a top 10 First Baseman though for you, so I’d gamble on Hart producing and your ability to flip him midseason. The same can be said for Dominguez. It’s a fine line, but you’ll want to list a handful of premium talent you will want to acquire at any cost in the draft, while the lower ceiling prospects can be relatively ignored.

Target players that have the potential to rebound. I’d rather take a flier on B.J. Upton whom I have very little faith in than select Michael Cuddyer. No matter how well Cuddyer starts off, nobody will pay you a premium price for him. I’d rather take a dozen OF prospects before I even looked Upton’s way if given that choice though. So while you want to draft youth, you don’t want all youth; only high upside youth and a mixture of players that may have good value in your league.

I didn’t list Relievers because they are your last target for a rebuilding team. If your league values closers (and you’ll know this by the scoring, but more importantly by the number of closers kept) then it is a very good idea to draft some early. Potential closers, ie R.Brothers, S.Santos, M.Melancon are guys I would grab late as opposed to the usual end game suspects like R.Nolasco and B.McCarthy.

Have a plan in mind for the draft. Use a mixture of dynasty rankings and 2014 rankings. Remember, you don’t care about winning in 2014, so if you don’t grab your starting 2B until your last pick and end up with Dozier or Weeks there, that is okay. Position scarcity is not important to you right now. Draft as many high upside youth as you can sprinkled with just enough bounce back candidates (and relievers potentially) that you can hopefully trade for more youth mid-season. Your goal is to draft 3-4 key members of your 2017 championship run.

Trading and the Waiver Wire

It’s important to be active. The more active you are (in theory) the quicker your rebuild will be. In 2012 when I started this I made 22 trades in a league with little trade activity. I won some and I lost some as is usually the case, but in that group of players I received the following players I’m hoping will be there for my 2015 run: Oscar Taveras, Wil Myers, Anthony Rendon, Jason Kipnis (later flipped for Z.Greinke). I also made 84 waiver claims, with really only Addison Russell to show for it.

It’s fun to go back through previous years’ transactions, but it can be really painful too. I dropped Paul Goldschmidt at one point in 2012 for example. 

While trading proved more successful in my example, a lot can be achieved with waiver wire selections. I put these 2 pieces together for a reason. Whenever you can turn a waiver wire addition into a valuable trade piece you’ve done well. Don’t be the guy who puts his waiver wire selection on the block the very next day, but often you can make a speculative claim that will pay off down the road. The most common example of this is with closers. Don’t wait on a poor performing closer to lose his job before putting a claim in on his replacement. Claim his replacement a week before he loses his job. If he secures a couple scoreless saves and is no longer in immediate jeopardy, you’ve lost nothing. If you’re right, then you’ve come out on top and can have a valuable chip to deal or one that will allow you to trade a different closer on your team. Because you have little concern for adding 2 start pitchers, you will inevitably have an extra bench spot or two for these types of speculative claims. In the past season I traded Mujica, Jansen, Frieri, Parnell and Benoit. Jansen and Frieri I drafted, but the others were waiver claims. I netted Yelich, Almora and J.Gray (whom I traded with Bryant for Cole). Not earth-shattering moves but when you can get something for nothing, you’ve succeeded. You can make a living trading closers as a rebuilding team.

Other things to consider when trading:

  • Not every trade can be a slam dunk win. Marginal gains are better than no gains at all.
  • Let every team be aware of your plan. Don’t be Dombrowski with the Doug Fister trade.
  • Be very respectful and thankful of all trade offers. You need to have all owners happy to trade with you.

Your goal in your first year should be to acquire 4 players via trade or waiver wire for your 2017 team.

Recap

From your newly acquired team your goals are as follows:

Preseason : 3-4 players

Draft: 3-4 players

Trading and Waiver Wire: 3-4 players

What seems like an impossible undertaking when you first start, when broken down is really just a different type of game. Your object after one year is to have 10-12 players that will be key components of your 2017 team. It will require a lot of effort to get there. This will be harder than what you are accustomed to, but mostly because you need to train your mind to measure success differently. Winning is still the ultimate goal, but your smaller goals need to take precedent for a couple of years.

Good luck, have fun and congratulations on taking on this new exciting challenge.

Paul Hartman

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Fantasy Baseball player since 1987. Creator of Fantasy Assembly, yet just fortunate enough to be a part of it.