1. Don’t Prospect Hug.
We’ve all heard the term “prospect hugger” before. We’ve all likely played with prospect huggers before. Many of us have probably been prospect huggers before, but if you want to be a successful dynasty player, then you want to avoid prospect hugging. It’s important to note here that there is a difference between properly valuing your prospects and prospect hugging.
There’s nothing wrong with holding on to guys who you think are more valuable than what you’re being offered, but what I’m talking about is guys who will rarely move prospects, or even consider moving prospects, even when they get offers that are more than fair. As someone who writes almost exclusively about prospects, I understand how exciting the unknown can be, and I see the appeal in prospects, but it’s also important to be realistic and understand that a large percentage of prospects never really amount to anything. You should never value a prospect at what their ceiling is, but rather a fraction of their ceiling based on how far they are from the majors. This is especially true the more shallow a league is, as when there are fewer prospects rostered, there’s always going to be solid guys available to replace anyone you trade.
I saw a trade offer posted on twitter recently by @Prospects365 which was Sonny Gray and Matthew Liberatore for Kristian Robinson, and the Robinson side somehow got 40% of the vote. Personally, I would take the Gray side in any league, but what makes this even worse is that this was a league where only ~100 prospects are owned, meaning that there’s plenty of solid prospects available to replace Robinson with. To be completely honest, prospects should mostly be considered trade bait. When I play dynasty, I’m always looking to move prospects in 3-for-1 type deals for major leaguers, and then replacing those prospects with potential breakout guys who I can trade after they breakout, and it’s an endless cycle.
2. Always Believe the Breakout.
What I mean by this is that any time someone shows the slightest sign of a breakout, you should be rushing to pick him up. This is especially true for really young players and former top prospects. Too often, I see a guy in the midst of a breakout, and people will wait around to see what happens before acting.
For example, when Jacob deGrom was called up in 2014, he immediately showed signs of a breakout, but he still sat around on waiver wires for weeks before people actually wised up and picked him up. For those who hesitated on deGrom in 2014, they missed out on a future ace, when there was essentially no risk in picking him up. It doesn’t even have to be a future Cy Young winner for this to be true; anytime anyone shows potential that they hadn’t previously shown, you should really consider picking them up.
Another example of this would be Hunter Dozier last year. Only a couple weeks into the season, I was touting Hunter Dozier as a potential huge breakout guy, but people kept telling me to “wait and see.” In dynasty leagues, you usually don’t have the time to wait and see, and there’s almost no risk to just picking the guy up. There’s plenty of cases every year just like Dozier, where people aren’t quick enough to act and they miss out on a valuable asset to their team. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll certainly miss on a lot of guys, as sometimes it is just a hot stretch, but when the risk to pick them up is so low, there’s really no reason not to.
3. Do not Invest in Relievers.
This is a sentiment that could apply to fantasy baseball in general, but it’s especially true for dynasty. Relief pitchers are easily the most volatile players in all of baseball. A guy can quickly go from the best closer in baseball to a completely useless fantasy asset in no time, and people wouldn’t even be surprised.
In 2018, Edwin Diaz and Blake Treinen were two of the best closers in all of baseball. In 2019, the two of them combined for a 5.25 ERA in 116.2 IP. People who invested in these guys, whether through trades or draft picks, were punished greatly. Don’t get me wrong, I still really like Edwin Diaz, but the point is that you really can’t trust any reliever to produce consistently over time.
And of course, there are exceptions like Aroldis Chapman who’s maintained steady dominance over the course of 10 years, but even guys like that can lose it almost instantly (see Craig Kimbrel) and are very rare cases. The only top closer I would likely invest in long-term for their cost is Roberto Osuna. Other than that, I believe that investing in young relievers like Munoz, Clase, Karinchak, etc. or waiting for top SP prospects to move to the pen is the best option in regards to relievers.
4. Patience with SP Prospects is Key.
This one is pretty self-explanatory but is arguably the most common mistake I see in dynasty leagues. Please do not drop your top prospect SP after they put together a rough stretch of starts at the beginning of their career. Don’t drop them when they struggle for their entire rookie year.
Depending on how talented they are (i.e. a guy like Lucas Giolito), I would even say that you should almost never drop them unless the team themselves give up on them. Giolito might have been the worst full-time starter in all of baseball in 2018, and now he’s considered an ace in dynasty leagues. When Jose Berrios got called up in 2016 he was so bad that he was worth -1.6 rWAR in only 14 starts. In his first two years Tyler Glasnow could not throw strikes if his life depended on it, and was so bad that the Pirates moved him to the bullpen, and now he’s a top starter in dynasty leagues.
The point is, the risk of keeping a guy like Giolito on your bench is far outweighed by the reward of him becoming the guy he is today, even if some guys never make that development. Also on the other side of this point, if guys in your league drop pitching prospects when they struggle then always rush to pick them up.
5. Don’t Undervalue Older Players.
Again, this one is pretty simple, but something that I see way too often. I’ve seen so many people draft in dynasty leagues where they refuse to draft guys older than 26-28, which is really limiting yourself.
In 2010, people thought that David Ortiz’s career was winding down, and especially in dynasty leagues, he was drafted very late. People who did draft Ortiz in dynasty leagues around that time were rewarded with elite output until he retired, as he was arguably a top 5 fantasy player over that time. Nelson Cruz has had a similar late 30s to Ortiz, as have many other players. Obviously some players don’t age as well, but it can’t hurt to have a few older, established players on your roster.