Late-season targets

by on July 19, 2010 @ 16:00:00 PDT


Whether you're looking for that final player to secure your place in the standings or to put you over the top, or you're searching for some cheap talent for next season, it's not too late to make a significant move. At a time when as much as half your league might be losing interest, impact players often become available to the GM who remains active.

Getting help this season

If you're trying to make a move for this season, look to the teams who need to rebuild for next season. A stud in the final year of his Rotisserie contract can often be gotten for a reasonably priced lesser player with a longer contract. Tight category races can be tilted in your favor with star players that are in their final year and on a losing fantasy team. Suggest the possibility of helping another GM rebuild with a younger player who might break through next season for that now useless star they're going to have to cut anyway. Since this target team is out of contention anyway, there's no reason to hide your blatant attempt to get that final player to put you over the top. And he'll be improving his team for next season knowing he's not helping you.

In AL or NL only leagues, players to target include those about to become free agents. Sometimes the threat of leaving the league in the off-season is enough to get a star from another team. So talk up that possibility, then offer a lesser quality or a younger player from your excess that might fill another hole on his team.

Other players who might help you in the short run are those oft-injured ones another GM might be tired of carrying. Such fragile players might provide just enough statistical impact the rest of the way to make up a small gap in certain categories. It's important, of course, to be aware of the long-term health (and salary cap) of your whole team, and these are players the astute GM will usually avoid, but for the short haul to October, don't overlook the possibility of eight weeks of health.

Targeting specific categories

At this point in the season, it becomes difficult to improve in the averaged categories -- batting average, ERA and WHIP. Unless the difference between you and the team ahead of you is in the range of the third decimal place, your chances of pulling an impact deal are slim.

Even wins and saves are relatively difficult to come by this late. Starters aren't going to get many more than eight or nine more starts. Subtracting what you'll have to give up may mean no more than three or four wins over the rest of the season. The best closers may get another 10 or 12 save opportunities, but unless the owner of one of them is ready to punt, you might have to find a part-time closer to provide a half dozen more saves -- maybe.

Close races in home runs, runs, RBIs, steals, and strikeouts provide the best opportunities to improve late in the season. Look to trade your excess in any category that's already decided for your team. Should your excess match another team's weakness, especially in a category that will have no effect on your position, you might be able to get that power or speed you need for your stretch run.

One other way to improve your team is through a trade that will hurt your competition. Should you be able to sacrifice some speed, for example, to a team that will pass your nearest competitor in that category, go for it. Addition by subtraction is often beyond the scope of the less experienced or less dedicated GM, sometimes making it an effective strategy.

Targeting players for the rest of this season

Regular players on pennant contenders will continue to get their ABs or IP, so it makes sense to target them. But since regular contributors will be harder to pry away from their owners, look to losing ML teams who are giving their regular stars some late season rest. Many a future star first makes his name in August and September.

A number of young players don't find their grooves until August. And these players are sometimes overlooked by owners of losing fantasy teams. In addition to watching their category stats, make sure to check for improving batting eye ratios for offense and control ratios for pitchers.

Rookies and September call-ups aren't normally targets for contending teams. But if your team has the strength to carry a prospect, a few probably deserve a look and may actually help more this year than next when the league will get a longer look at their stuff.

Next year and beyond

Look for players ready for significant growth next year. Batters in the 24-27 year range are more likely to make the big jump in production. Pitchers generally mature later, between 26-29 years old.

Players with potential for more playing time next year can become impact players. Changes in playing time can occur because of numerous factors including a trade to another team, a new manager, learning a new position, or establishing a name while filling in for an injured player. Any of these changes may provide the opportunity for a young player to become a regular Rotisserie bargain.

Some players who had an off-season will rebound next year. These guys can often be gotten below value, either through a late- or offseason trade, free agency, or next year's draft.

Rookies and September call-ups tend to be over-valued in competitive leagues. Some do, however, maintain their stuff through their second season. It's usually better to pick up batters, since they often have earlier success than pitchers. But watch closely for signs they've been figured out, and be ready to move them off your active roster.

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Ron Shandler began publishing statistical reports for baseball analysts and fantasy leaguers in 1986. Since then, his enterprise has grown into one of the largest information providers in the industry, producing quality products continuously and over a longer period than any other fantasy baseball company.

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