Fantasy Baseball: So you’ve put together a team and the season is underway – what now?

By | April 2, 2024

Brady Singer number 51 of the Kansas City Royals

The signal fantasy managers received in Brady Singer’s first start is too loud to ignore. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

You’ve been preparing all spring as a future fantasy baseball champion. You ranked and you mocked, you practiced and you planned. You filtered out the headlines and separated news from noise. You drafted once or twice and started dreaming of the upcoming championship season.

Draft Day is a blast, perhaps the best day of the year. But the next six months will be fun too. Let’s try to steer you in the right direction.

[It’s not too late: Join or create a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for the 2024 MLB season]

Today’s assignment: early season strategy. Here are some points to consider. The usual disclaimers apply: every league is different, you know your group better than an outsider could and one size does not fit all.

Some stats (usually saves and steals) have low barriers to entry

If a pitcher in the MLB starts racking up saves, I’m interested. Period, period.

I don’t need to know much about pedigrees and past achievements; if his team wants him to throw in the ninth, I’d have to strongly consider a pickup. And keep in mind that most clubs have short lines of closers, so there are constant changes. It appears Jason Foley has already taken over in Detroit. There are rumblings in Texas, where Jose Leclerc has struggled and the Rangers have several other suitors who could step in.

I want you to be proactive with your bullpens. Every closing is important, and every save is important.

On offense, we’re always looking for category juice: the players who hit home runs and steal bases. Anyone who does both of those things is probably already on the list, although the occasional Will Benson (29% on the list) slips through. But if you can’t find players who cover both columns, consider players who are capable of stealing bases in bunches.

A few exemption candidates are currently doing that. Milwaukee’s Brice Turang needs to prove he can hit lefties, but four steals keep him on the radar. Jose Siri has three steals and a homer for Tampa. The Angels finally dusted off their running shoes on Monday, as post-hype prospect Jo Adell packed a few bags. He is one of the top performers, with only 1% in Yahoo.

Pick up every starting pitcher with a 10-strikeout game

This is the Salfino rule, something like that Mike Salfino came up many years ago when we were recording The Breakfast Table Podcast. It’s one thing for a pitcher to get lucky with balls in play, but if someone gets double-digit strikeouts in a game, it can turn on the Significance sign (Bill James’ concept that the remarkable magnitude of an isolated event often means the player has great skill, regardless that we are dealing with a small amount of data). And I think ten strikeouts in starts mean more today – where short starts are common – than they did ten or two years earlier.

Many of the pitchers with 10 strikeouts obviously won’t be available at the wire. The star throwers dominate this area. But you might be surprised how often an unknown pitcher jumps on the sheet. Tanner Houck smelled 10 Oakland batters Monday; that’s clearly a statement about Oakland and the importance of streaming against weak opponents, but it could also mean Houck is on his way to a breakout year. Jared Jones still ranks at just 45% of Yahoo’s picks despite a 10-strikeout debut and a brilliant preseason (16.1 scoreless innings). Jones also has a pedigree. Brady Singer is a post-hype arm who shut out 10 Twins last week; this week he gets the shuffling White Sox. Singer also offers some back class as a prized prospect.

Start filling those IL slots

Honestly, I hope you’ve already done this. But depending on when your league was drafted and what your league’s free-agent cadence is, you may not have had the chance to do that yet. IL spots are free opportunities to store waiting talent and bring in some new reinforcements. The first wave of IL stocks is the richest, so I hope you didn’t miss it if your league was drafted a while ago. But every time your squad gets unlucky with injuries, you want to hit the wire as quickly as possible.

Be patient with your top players, fickle with your bottom players

This should be obvious to any experienced player, but we’ll mention it anyway. Any star who can’t make a lick in April gets a pass from me, assuming there’s no major injury or change in playing time. But the bottom of your grid should be set to ‘churn mode’. As much as we try to make informed decisions about late-round picks in March, the information coming from actual games should carry extra weight, especially now that playing time is something tangible and no longer a matter of speculation. When the competition gives you more information to think about, you can use it to your advantage.

Get ready for your free-agent routines

Each competition has a different cadence and format for free agent movements. Some leagues offer first come, first serve, which requires an active manager. My preferred leagues have periods where you can add players. Sometimes it’s once a week, sometimes it’s several times a week. Often it is linked to a series of FAB offers, which require strategy and a bit of those poker instincts

If you’re in multiple leagues, this requires some planning. Your cell phone has a calendar app; start filling it with your free agent schedules. Your life is dynamic, with all kinds of school, work, family or social responsibilities. “Yes, I’ll remember that” won’t work for most of us – it certainly won’t work for me. Receive your reminders in your phone.

And if you play in multiple leagues, use that as a shortcut cheat code. I appreciate that some leagues have a parallel structure, and an interesting addition in League A could be your new first for free agents in League B. Four of my competitions have FAB offers at different times on Sundays, and I always think about the results of the early FAB runs when setting my offers for the later competitions. Every little piece of information helps.

If you have multiple Yahoo leagues, get acquainted with the “League Availability” tab on each player’s individual page. That will tell you which squad (if any) the player being viewed belongs to. It’s a godsend when you’re trying to figure out where a new pickup might be available, and it’s also a quick and convenient way to find out which players you have on multiple teams. It’s a critical click for the highly committed fantasy manager, and I’m one of those guys.

Did I miss your favorite early season strategy tip? Tell me all about it: @scott_pianowski on Twitter/X.

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