Dynasty 101: The Draft (Part 1)
Dynasty fantasy baseball is one of my favorite ways to play. It combines elements of redraft strategy, prospecting, and complex evaluation processes that vary from player to player even within a single league. First I’ll start with what a dynasty league is. I consider a dynasty league to be a league that spans multiple years, with a roster of at least 30 players, in which you keep 50% or more of your roster from season to season. Dynasty 101 will be a series here at SPStreamer.com in which I cover different dynasty strategies, including draft strategy, in-season management, offseason, and first-year player draft management, as well as strategies for trade negotiations, and leveraging your league rules to your advantage. First I will talk about the draft.
When entering a dynasty draft, you must have a plan, or else you are likely to get left behind. There are a few ways to go when you enter a draft, You can try to win year 1, win soon, or win later. Winning in year 1 is typically the hardest because in most leagues 75% of the league is going to be doing the same thing. Winning later, meaning four-plus years down the road, is always a fun way to draft, but often a hard way to win the league, just based on the bust rate of even top prospects. My preferred way of drafting is to win soon, between years two and three of the league. Below I will detail the different strategies and how they differ in each part of the draft.
The Early Rounds
In the first two/three rounds of the draft the picks for the winning now, winning soon, and winning later will look about the same, with a few minor differences. When starting a dynasty, your targets in the first few rounds should be young major league stars, regardless of position. The exception is when you are trying to win later, you should be focusing on hitters, who are less susceptible to injury than pitchers. In the early rounds of a traditional dynasty, I will not select a player over the age of 28.
The Middle Rounds
The middle rounds are where the strategies divert, depending on when you're trying to win.
For teams that are trying to win now, this is where the differentiation really starts. Age quits being anything more than a tiebreaker in player evaluation. These teams are essentially playing redraft, trying to get the best line up, balancing categories, and maximizing roster options.
Teams that are trying to win later are going exactly in the opposite direction. Teams going in this direction should not be taking any players over the age of 25. Gather as many top prospects as possible. Most importantly load up on young hitters. Not only are they less likely to get injured, but in most dynasty leagues, hitters under 25 with upside are like gold in trade negotiations.
Drafting to win in years 2 and 3 is a dangerous game, as you can find your team stuck in “purgatory”. Purgatory is the middle of the league in which you are close enough in the top to avoid selling, but far enough away to sell prospects for veteran players. If you are not an extremely active owner and frequent trader I would not recommend this style of drafting. When drafting to win soon, you are intentionally putting yourself in the middle. Teams trying this strategy should be taking young major leaguers when they are near the best players available, taking prospects when they present value, and even taking aging veteran players when they provide excellent value. What these teams are trying to do is build their cores, while also accumulating players they believe will have more rapidly increasing values.
The End Game
Once your starting line up is filled, it is important to make sure that you have enough depth to support the long slog of the season. This is also the stage in which you will be selecting prospects. When selecting prospects for a win-now team, they should be close to the majors with a 50% chance to debut in the first year, or high upside players that could build trade value.
Just keep trucking along, taking your favorite prospects.
When trying to win soon, the end game is all about trade value. These are players that you can trade to teams that go for it and fall short. These are also players you can shoot your shot with, players that you believe in that others might not, either because they are unknowns or they are failed prospects. For example in a dynasty startup this offseason I took Luiz Gohara in the 53rd round of a 60 round draft.
The draft is a crucial part of any fantasy baseball league, but it is especially important in a dynasty format. The players you take early in a dynasty draft are players that you could have on your team for years. But the draft is just the first step in being a good dynasty, in part 2 of this series, I will discuss leveraging your league rules to your advantage.