Whether or not you have experience with fantasy baseball already, jumping into your first dynasty league can be intimidating. Draft mistakes and poor trades are amplified with implications that can last years. While it sounds like a daunting task, dynasty formats also provide arguably the most exciting fantasy experience. It’s about as close as we can get to simulating the life of a real MLB GM and allows us maximum customization of league settings. With some research and preparation, you can get off on the right foot and enjoy your new favorite fantasy format.
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
Fantasy Baseball Dynasty League Strategy
It goes without saying but startup drafts are the most important thing in a dynasty league. Each team drafts its core players that will ideally be the foundation of championship runs over the next several years. Fumbling this draft can set you back years and ultimately ruin your dynasty experience. Dynasty drafts are very different from the standard yearly-league drafts and it’s important to walk in as prepared as possible.
The best place to start your research would be a comprehensive set of dynasty rankings. My Top-300 list is available here and will soon expand to 500. That list will see regular updates throughout the year to help gauge draft and trade values in dynasty formats. Of course, as with any rankings, these shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but more of a guide to use as a baseline reference.
There are a few different ways to approach your initial dynasty draft and one that I’d highly frown upon is “win later.” Going too prospect-heavy in the first draft is a great way to immediately put yourself behind the rest of your competitors with lottery tickets that may never pan out. Yes, you should be building around young stars like Julio Rodriguez and Juan Soto, but players with little-to-no MLB experience shouldn’t be the foundation of your roster this early in the process. We’ll take a closer look at prospects in general shortly.
On the other end of the spectrum, going too deep into “win now” mode can provide nice benefits early before handcuffing your roster after just a couple of seasons. Aging veterans like Paul Goldschmidt are absolutely still draftable in dynasty formats, but maybe don’t build your rotation around Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. And please, dynasty players around the world are begging, don’t be the person that empties all their firepower to win in the first year and bail on the league, leaving a skeleton of a roster for some poor soul to adopt and try to revitalize.
The best strategy is, of course, to find some balance. Spend the early part of the draft building a long-term foundation of MLB talent. I usually prioritize hitting early, as pitching tends to be more volatile. Focus on those top-tier bats in the first few rounds and snag an ace if one falls into your lap. With one ace, you can usually find solid pitching depth after the first eight rounds or so. I wouldn’t consider drafting a prospect (excluding those that are already in the league such as Corbin Carroll) for at least the first six-to-seven rounds. Once you’re comfortable with a strong core, then you can begin to build the farm with prospects that are close to being MLB-ready.
Prospect/Future Draft Picks Strategy
Speaking of prospects, let’s dive into the future faces of the league a bit more. Prospects are exciting and being right about the successful ones is a great feeling. Unfortunately, more often than not, it doesn’t go according to plan. For every young superstar like Ronald Acuna, there are a dozen Jurickson Profars and J.P. Crawfords. Ideally, prospects should be viewed as trade bait for most dynasty managers.
Of course, the human element gets in the way of us all sometimes. What if you trade away a prospect that explodes the following season and becomes one of the top minor-league players? Maybe you dish a 19-year-old in Low-A that turns into a perennial All-Star and all you got in return was a mid-rotation, veteran arm. The unfortunate reality is: it will happen. As much as we try to avoid it, mistakes are inevitable, but that shouldn’t prevent you from capitalizing during a win-now situation.
In general, hitting prospects have more value than their pitching counterparts. There’s risk involved with all prospects, but pitchers usually take longer to develop and have a much wider range of outcomes. The younger prospects also carry more risk, hence why it’s important to focus on those in the higher levels during the initial draft. That being said, watching the young, rising prospects throughout the season can provide a big payoff. Snagging a name like Jackson Chourio off waivers in May last year would’ve given you one of the top trade chips this offseason.
As for draft picks, most dynasty leagues do a yearly first-year player draft (FYPD). This would include any MLB draft picks from the previous year as well as international signings. This can quickly replenish your farm system if you’ve traded off some prospects. However, in many cases, it makes more sense to move your picks and hang on to your prospects that are closer to making an MLB impact if you’re in the championship picture.
After the initial draft, the most impactful moves in a dynasty league come from trading. Active trading makes the league more fun and can help keep a healthy balance (as long as one team isn’t dominating every deal). It’s also the quickest way to accelerate a rebuild or take a good roster and turn it into a real title contender.
some say the only fair trade is when both sides feel like they gave up a bit too much. That’s often the case with dynasty baseball trades and it can take quite a bit of negotiating to get to that stage. In general, the top teams and bottom teams should be looking to link up for deals. The rebuilding managers will be selling off older veterans and acquiring picks and prospects from those competing teams.
The “rebuilder + win-now” isn’t the only beneficial trade type in dynasty leagues. No matter how good a roster is, there will always be places to improve. Because of that, two competing teams can help each other by swapping a bat for an arm, or a slugger for a base-stealer. You may be concerned with helping another team during your competitive window, but as long as your roster is improving, it can be a smart move. In this same realm, two non-competing teams can swap young talent and prospects depending on their timelines and team needs.
However, not everyone values players the same way. A manager that loves to stockpile prospects likely won’t get rid of them for anything less than top dollar. Make use of your preferred fantasy platform’s resources to find the best trade partners. With Fantrax, users have several options, including private and group messages, a trade block, and notes within trade offers. Send out some starting offers, keep your trade block updated, and try to learn your opponents’ habits. Knowing how your competition values certain players can go a long way in striking a good deal.
As for waivers, it’s essential to keep an eye on prospects just as much as veterans. With so many moving parts in dynasty leagues, teams may drop prospects to add a replacement-level player from free agency. There’s no exact science when it comes to letting a player go in dynasty formats, but being active on the wire is important to fill out any roster holes.
Pushing for a Championship
The goal in every fantasy league is to win. Whether it’s a cash prize, your friend group’s coveted championship belt, or just bragging rights, everyone wants to end the year on top. In dynasty formats, you usually have a good idea as to whether or not you’re going to compete in any given season. It’s imperative to capitalize during those windows.
If my roster looks like a potential winner, I prefer to add during the off-season. Everyone tends to have higher hopes before the season, so prices are sometimes higher. However, improving your roster before your competitors have the chance to is a great advantage. It’s also not a bad idea to move some prospects that gained offseason helium before a potential crash during the regular season. Deals made during the season present a great opportunity to flip any hot prospects you’ve snagged to acquire immediate reinforcements.
There’s a fine line between adding to a roster and pushing all in. The latter is mostly frowned upon. Remember, this is a dynasty league and you want to build, well… a dynasty. Emptying all of your ammo on one championship run is dangerous and risky. At the very least, there needs to be a backup plan. Hang on to at least a few solid prospects or draft picks to restock each offseason for the sake of longevity.
Best Ways to Rebuild
Finally, there’s an unfortunate reality that most of us will face at some point or another: the rebuild. No one wants to pack it in and admit defeat but sometimes you just have to rip the bandage off. Before you go selling off every player over 26 during your down season, it’s important to make the distinction between a full tear-down and a “retool.” The latter will get you back in contention quicker, but the former sometimes makes more sense.
Like in real-life sports, being stuck in “purgatory” in your dynasty league is a nightmare. You’re stuck in the middle of the pack without a shot at winning or getting a top draft pick. When you’re in fantasy purgatory you need to make a decision: tear it down or make a push. No one ever wants to punt a season away but moving valuable trade assets off of a roster that may not be good enough to win it all rarely works out.
In this scenario, you’ll most likely opt for the retooling option. Get rid of a few aging veterans for younger players and begin thinking about next season. When acquiring those new players, focus on some areas of need for MLB talent and, for prospects, aim for those in the higher levels. Ideally, a roster in this situation will at least have a few solid pieces to build around in the next few seasons. Without that foundation to build on, the dreaded tear-down option looks more promising.
If you’re looking at your roster and don’t see any way you can compete in the next two or three years, it may be time to slam the reset button. This is usually a last resort option because these holes can be tough to climb out of. Picks and prospects, no matter how highly coveted, are never a sure thing. It’s still important to focus on quality over quantity, but snagging prospects that are further away from making an MLB impact is okay at this stage.
In a reset, I wouldn’t pay much attention to positional needs. Many prospects will be pushed to other positions before debuting, so focus on the tools. Prioritize hitting prospects with elite bat-to-ball skills that at least have some power and/or speed projection. Pitching prospects are less valuable but those with plus command and some interesting stuff can be stashed away as well. Without solid command, many prospects eventually move to the bullpen where they don’t bring much fantasy value.
Got any nuggets of fantasy baseball dynasty strategy to share? Drop your wisdom in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!