[NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared on this site in 2014, however, the advice is still relevant today and after a few updates, I feel it is a good way to relaunch the site.]
When I joined my current keeper league a few years ago, I had no idea what I was actually in for.
I was an experienced fantasy baseball player at the time, having finished in the Top 3 in several single season leagues, and when I looked at the situation I was entering I saw plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Several of my players were coming off great years and compared to the other teams in the league, I felt I could compete right away.
That first year, I fell flat on my face and my experience is the reason I actually started this site in the first place. When I went looking for advice on how to improve my team in Year 2, I couldn’t really find anything and being a sports writer by trade, I decided the best way to solve that problem was to fix it myself.
So, to kick off the relaunch of Keeper Experts, I thought it would be a good idea to start at the beginning – that is, here are the things I wish I’d known when I joined my first keeper league.
1. Decide upon a plan of action and develop a strategy to execute.
Are you playing to win now or are you building for a future season?
The guy who joined my league the same year as I looked at what was available to him and decided to build for the future. In that first year, he took every player he had of value and traded them away for young talent.
Several owners in the league griped about his deals, claiming he was giving away studs for pennies on the dollar but in a few short years the players he traded away stumbled significantly while he steadily climbed the standings to a second place finish last year. Because he stuck to his plan, he won’t be a one-year wonder as his keeper core is good enough to compete for the title this year.
If he had listened to the other owners and bailed out on his plan halfway, he’d still be waiting for his team to be in a position to compete.
The point is, there are many ways to build a winning squad but you need to stick to your strategy, even if at times it seems you might never get out of the basement.
2. Know the player pool and how your league’s settings impact player values.
I know you can name all 25 guys on your favorite team’s roster but how many guys can you name on the 40 man roster? How about in the minor leaguers?
What do you do when you are drafting 12th in a 12-team league and the other 11 guys have all drafted offensive players? Do you take Clayton Kershaw?
There are many scenarios that come up during the offseason, preseason and regular season where a deep knowledge of the player pool is vital. In the examples above, the last one happened to me in a H2H league. I took a hitter and a pitcher and a few rounds later, when the best players on the board were closers, even though none had been drafted yet, I went for it.
I won the league that year and I attribute all of that success (at least the portion that wasn’t pure luck) to my understanding of the rules of the league and how they affected player values.
The only people that can accurately quantify player values in any league format are the owners involved in the league because they have the unique insight of how the other owners view certain players and are versed enough in the rules to know how they impact a player’s value.
My keeper league has a few Orioles and Nationals fans and I know that whenever I talk about a player on one of those teams with an owner that’s a fan, the price will always be on the high side.
I can offer Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout in a deal for Bryce Harper which seems ludicrous but knowing the Harper owner, I know he will reject the deal. So whatever value the experts have placed on those players is moot because in my league, Harper is untouchable, regardless of what is offered in return.
3. Don’t focus so much on execution of a plan that you miss opportunities when they arise.
When we focus too much on ourselves, we lose sight of potential opportunities around us.
For years, another owner tried to get me to trade him Billy Hamilton but he never offered anything I was interested in. I got so fed up with the constant offers (I probably had 20-30 just for Hamilton over a 2 year span) that I would only tell him I’m not interested in hopes of killing the conversation.
In 2014, he came at me with another offer I wasn’t interested in but instead of trying to get out of the conversation, I decided to counter with something I was sure he would turn down.
To my surprise, he was actually interested in pursuing the discussion and I wound up landing Starlin Castro for Hamilton and another minor leaguer. Had I continued to let my frustration get the best of me, I’d still be stuck trying to decide if Jonathan Villar is really worth burning a keeper spot on because SS is so thin in our league (of course now Villar has shown enough to stay in the keeper conversation while Castro is another discussion for another time).
These tips can be a lot to take in and get comfortable with but the quicker you do, the more comfortable you will be in executing your plan to build a champion. And with the Super Bowl only days away, there’s never been a better time than now to get started.
Good luck in 2017.