HQVAULT: Next Year is Now

Over 20+ years that BaseballHQ.com has been in existence, and going back another decade to the Baseball Forecaster newsletter, we have accumulated hundreds of articles on fantasy strategy. These reside in the Strategy Library section of the site, and many include timeless tips on all aspects of fantasy league play, at various times in the fantasy league calendar. In a series to run occasionally throughout the season, we will be highlighting selected articles from the Library as part of a HQVAULT series. We welcome reader interaction with these older articles in the comments section below. Enjoy! —Ed.

Next Year is Now

by Ray Murphy

If you are doomed to finish out of the money this year—for whatever reason—take some steps to make sure your nightmare season does not repeat itself next year.

As always, refresh yourself on league rules

BaseballHQ.com reader surveys have found that a high percentage of fantasy baseball players participate in more than one league. One by-product of such a finding is that rules can be different from league to league, and a less than diligent owner may get confused from time to time. Do not let this happen to you. Review your league's keeper rules, and verify the contract status of every player on your roster. Be aware of special player statuses, such as league crossovers or FAAB pickups. In short, get a complete and accurate picture of what your options are for next year.

Give something for nothing—sort of

In any league where there is still an undecided pennant race, you will find anxious owners watching the box scores every day, right through September. If your trading deadline has not yet passed, you should be preying on the angst of the contenders. In their minds, every game one of their players sits out is a missed opportunity, and a potential sign of reduced playing time down the stretch.

Use this to your advantage. Sell off anybody you don't consider freeze-worthy for next year. And to sweeten the pot for your trading partner, take back somebody who is not helping them at all right now: someone who is out for the year due to injury, or a rookie who has worn down in the August heat. Make the contender feel like they are getting something for nothing, because of their single-minded focus on the stretch drive.

Scoop up every kid you can

Make use of every allotted transaction or FAAB dollar you have remaining. First of all, if you play in a shallow league where premium callups are still available, then claim these talents immediately. Check out the list of players scheduled to appear in the AFL once they are announced around the end of August, as several players per year seem to leap from Arizona to significant playing time in the majors.

Even if you claim someone who appears blocked at their position, or who is projected to return to the minors next year, that claimee is still another bargaining chip at your disposal. Right now, it's awfully tough to predict who will be the next Mike Trout, but it might be easier in March. So grab as many "lottery tickets" as you possibly can.

Don't be put off by late-summer faders

For the younger players who spent significant time in the majors this year, late season burnout is rather common. Between winter ball, the Arizona Fall League, extended spring training, etc. there are many players who are just flat burned out by now.

While it's true that 2nd-half performance of rookies is an excellent predictor of value in the sophomore year, that does not mean that you should turn your back on second half faders. Even with a 2nd-half fade, a cheap contract could make such a player an attactive keeper. In other cases, this may be your last, best chance to cheaply acquire talent. Again, try to catch a contender who is overly focused on short term value. Even if the players you acquire do not have the profile of players you would consider keeping, take them anyway. Why? Because...

Perception IS reality

Never lose sight of the fact that in any league, there are differences in perceived value of players. You know that rookie pitchers who spend less than a full season in AAA are far more likely to struggle in their initial MLB callup. However, not all of your opponents know these things! The more bargaining chips you can collect now, the better your chance of cashing them in during the winter, for something you find valuable.

So, if your season has been less than successful, it is not too early to lay the groundwork for a return to a money finish next season. Even if you were slow to accept your fate this year, and missed out on the best bargains that were available in dump trades, there is still plenty that can be done. So before you bury yourself in football scouting material, spend a little time ensuring that you are not doomed to repeat this disappointing summer.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.