The Rebuild Part One: Pre-Season

Fantasy baseball is a wonderful game! If you’re new at it, you can join any of thousands of free leagues with any type of format you like. As you start to dominate these leagues over time, you’ll find that you become attracted to larger leagues. Keeper leagues and dynasty leagues are your next step with more experienced owners. But what comes after that?

If you are looking for a new challenge for the 2014 fantasy baseball season, taking over and rebuilding a team can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your fantasy career. I’m not talking about taking a .300 team and turning it into a .500 club and being recognized by your league mates for the fine “turn-around”. I’m suggesting you take your knowledge and skills and put it to the ultimate test.

Can you turn nothing into something great?

For fantasy baseball and all of the fantasy sports, winning is the goal. “Flags fly forever” is the credo preached by every fantasy guru giving advice. And while I appreciate every single one of those experts, I think sometimes there can be greater things at stake. While I can, in no uncertain terms, declare that I like to win I also want to enjoy the process. But can the process itself become as enjoyable as the end result? In order to do a full rebuild, you are going to have to think this way. The ultimate goal in rebuilding is to take a lousy team and turn it into a dynasty. This will require not only patience but absolute dedication to the end result. Enjoying losing is not an easy thing to do, but with your eyes focused on the end result, you can have more fun than in any of your other leagues.

Let’s look at the Houston Astros, whose rebuild is the closest I’ve seen attempt this in the major leagues.

Year Win Loss GB
2009 74 88 17
2010 76 86 15
2011 56 106 40
2012 55 107 42
2013 51 111 45

At 74-76 wins in the NL central before heading to the AL, Houston was not going to make the playoffs. Have the last 3 years been fun for the organization and fans? Likely not, but they’re in a much better position now than they were in 2010. Fortunately in fantasy baseball there are no disappointed fans, lost revenue or difficulty attracting free agents. For the owner, you can actually enjoy this process.

Winning has always been the ultimate goal for fantasy sports, but now you have a new objective. Once you condition your mind to enjoy the process rather than the results, you’ll find this to be the greatest fantasy baseball experience. Like any change, you’ll have obstacles. There will be times that you’ll want to quit. There will be times that you’ll want to deviate from the plan for a few extra wins. There will be times that you’ll be embarrassed at your team’s performance.  I have been guilty of all of these things, but hang tight because it will all be worth it.

In this series, I’ll look at these different areas to concentrate on:

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

The Preseason

It’s very likely that the team you have inherited sucks. Owners don’t generally abandon all-star rosters. Rejoice because the worse your team is the more fun it will be.

Step One: Determine what year your team can be competitive.

Set a realistic target. If you have little depth in prospects and your keepers are well behind the league average, aim for 3-4 years. I understand there are league fees you don’t want to “lose” for that long, but remember your goal is not to win right away, but to rebuild a team and enjoy that process. Repeat after me: Winning is not my goal this year! You’ve got a higher calling and that is to transform your roster into a dynasty that will dominate the league for years.

Step Two: Keep players that will be a part of that year’s championship roster.

Also keep any players who have the potential to increase their trade value. Here is an example of a deserted team’s roster:

B.Posey, B.Butler, G.Beckham, T.Frazier, Y.Escobar, D.Uggla, V.Martinez, D.Jennings, J.Werth, R.Braun, O.Arcia

B.Anderson, T.Cahill, D.Fister, T.Hanson, C.Wilson, F.Rodriguez, T.Wilhemson, K.Gausman

Minors System: nothing of value.

There are various ways you could attack this team, but my first move would be to make Posey and Braun available. Posey’s value is likely at its near-peak right now and Braun is still being taken in the first round in mock drafts for 2014. The idea is to accumulate as many key pieces to your 2017 championship team as you can. With this roster, I’d suspect only Gausman will be a part of it currently. You don’t want quantity though in trades necessarily over quality. I’d prefer to trade Posey for Bogaerts than for Rendon and B.Miller as an example. With Posey and Braun I could see getting 3 key pieces for future championships. I’ll look more at trading in the second installment. You want to make sure that every owner knows who is available so that you can maximize the offers.

Doug Fister is another interesting case. While his perceived value may have gone up with the trade to Washington, his real peak value may be down the road as he succeeds in the NL. The same can be said for Victor Martinez, Jayson Werth, C.J. Wilson and Billy Butler, who may not have a lot of value currently. While none of these players will be on your first winning team, it’s important to hold on to them until their value is at its peak. Obviously if someone presents an offer with young talent involved now, all of them are expendable.

Desmond Jennings and Oswaldo Arcia are interesting cases. Both have decent ceilings that haven’t been realized yet and they’re young enough to potentially help you in the future. Neither will likely ever be a top 20 outfielder. If there is a market for them, I’d move them too.

The rest of the team, with the exception of Y.Escobar, T.Frazier and B.Anderson is complete garbage. While none of these three are likely worth rostering, they won’t hurt you a ton in 2014 and there is the outside chance they can substantially increase their value while on your team.

The easy thing to do with this roster would be to try to build around Braun, Jennings and Posey while holding on to Gausman. This might work for the short term, but that is not your goal. With no pitching and no infield and no minor league system to speak of this team is not destined for long term greatness. Remember that is your goal!

So while you’ve inherited a team of 25-40 players in reality you have one man for your string of championships starting in 2017. Your goal before the draft is to get to 3 or 4. It’s small steps but once your draft is over you’ll hopefully be closer to 6-8 players.

I look at the draft, trading and the waiver wire HERE.  Remember nothing worthwhile was ever built easily. If you’ve been succeeding in your leagues for a few years, it’s time to give yourself the next 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.