The winning formula

At the beginning of each baseball season, I like to draft my public leagues weeks before the season starts. This strategy is contrary to many who believe you should wait as late as possible to draft. This year, I drafted two teams in February – before the shutdown.

That seems like a long time ago. Things have changed in the past three months. The fantasy stock of some players has risen in the past eleven weeks. Consider a trio of New York Yankees players – Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and James Paxton – who have benefited.

I also have some beneficiaries on my rosters. Rookie sensation Yordan Alvarez has had time to heal from the soreness in his knees and should be ready to play. On my other team, Andrew McCutchen is raring to go after having extra time to heal from his ACL surgery.

If you haven’t drafted your fantasy baseball team yet, you’ll certainly be considering some changes in the rankings since March – assuming we actually have a baseball season.  If you have drafted your teams, like me, you also considering the changes in the rankings.

The draft is just the first step. What you do after the draft is more important. My key to success in season-long leagues with daily moves is working the waiver wire. every day, and twice on Sunday. Your willingness to grind daily is your guaranteed way success. I wouldn’t have won four league championships without doing this.

Daily moves fantasy baseball is different than fantasy football, where there is a fraction of the number of games and also a smaller player pool. The draft matters more in football than baseball, but the waiver wire is still very important. In baseball, the waiver wire is critical.

Case in point is one of my championship teams from 2019 – Team Revenant. By the end of the season, I had six players on my roster that I had drafted in February. In fairness, I’ll say eight since I dropped Mike Trout and Aaron Judge late because of injuries.

Even with those eight draft picks rostered in September, I had dropped 68 percent of my original team. There is a caveat to this is – I played in an ESPN league where there is no player acquisition limit for the season and players can be added and dropped daily.

Just for grins, let’s go back in time to early February of 2019. I drafted Mike Trout in the first round of the draft. That’s never a bad thing. Trout is like the Mississippi River – Ol’Man River – he keeps rolling. I did drop him in September when he went on the IL.

My second-round pick was Aaron Judge. Drafted No. 20 off the board, I held on to him until late in the season. Judge electrified the sports world in 2017 and has spent more time on the IL than in active duty since that time. He’s overrated, and I will not draft him again.

My third-round pick was Justin Verlander. Verlander, my first pitcher drafted, was gold. I wasn’t going to trade, or drop Verlander unless he  got hurt. At 38, he’s proven to be very durable.

I drafted Anthony Rizzo in the fourth round and Eugenio Suarez in the fifth round on this team and held both of them throughout the season. These were (and still are) two solid players. Rizzo always hovers around 100 runs and RBI. Suarez hit 49 homers last year.

I drafted James Paxton in the sixth round last year after he was traded from the Mariners to the Yankees. I dropped him midyear – which might have been a mistake. I drafted Matt Carpenter in the seventh round, which definitely was a mistake. I dropped him midyear.

I drafted Felipe Vazquez in the eighth round, my first relief pitcher off of the board. He racked up 28 saves before he was suspended on September 17th on child pornography charges. Obviously, I dropped him then. Losing an elite closer hurt, but it happened late in 2019.

I drafted Scooter Gennett in the ninth round. Gennett was exhibit A of what a difference a year makes in baseball. After a breakout season in 2018, he was a popular pick until a preaseason injury. When he returned from injury, he was awful.  I dropped him early.

Tim Anderson, my 10th round, was (is) an underrated player. Last year, he hit .335, with 18 home runs and 17 stolen bases. That was his third straight season with 15-plus HR and 15-plus steals. Amazingly, he was being drafted in the 13th and 14th rounds this year.

After the 10th round, I wound up dropping every drafted player during the season except for Carlos Martinez (16th round) and Yasmani Grandal (17th round). I thought about dropping Martinez because he was erratic as a closer. I held Grandal, who was a true asset.

Enough about history. Let’s look at 2020. In a month, I had 17 acquisitions off the waiver wire on one team and six on the other. I completed two trades on each team. The reason why I picked up so many players off the waiver wire was because they were available.

On the Roto Dragons, I acquired position players Danny Santana, J.D. Davis, Kyle Tucker and Ryan McMahon. I also acquired pitchers David Price, Mark Melancon and Jordan Hicks. The latter was on the 60-day IL. He was the Cardinals closer before his injury in 2019.

One player I picked up off the waiver wire and then dropped was Willie Calhoun. Calhoun got hit in the face by a 95 mph fastball from Dodger left-hander Julio Urias. The pitch broke his jaw. The delay will help Calhoun, and he’s still on the waiver wire as of now

On Team Seltzer, I nabbed position players Scott Kingery, Sin-Soo Choo and Nick Solak off the waiver wire. I dropped Ryan Braun to pick up Solak. This was before it became apparent that the the universal DH was coming. Braun could get more at bats in the DH.

Solak, who has ADP of 292, finished last season with 32 combined homers, 91 RBIs and a .290 batting average. When he was promoted by the Rangers in mid-August following the injury to Nomar Mazara, Solak produced and hit in the cleanup spot in September.

I also acquired pitcher Josh James off the waiver wire. James is expected to be moved into the starting rotation for the Astros. He had a 37.7 strikeout rate in his first full season as a reliever in 2019 – seventh best among pitchers who had at least 60 innings pitched.

I love fantasy baseball, and I love drafts. They are always exciting. Things never go the way you expect, and you have to think fast and often during for an hour, or so. Then the draft is over. But the season goes on, and the championship is won in the trenches.

In the trenches, the waiver wire is your weapon. In 2019, I won three league championships in three tries because I was willing to grind it out.  You can do the same thing, but you must keep your head in the game for season (which will be shorter in 2020).


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