It is only January, but you may know that this coming season will not be kind to you. Perhaps you dealt all of your cheap keepers for this year in last year's push for the Yoo Hoo. Or, you have calculated your league's inflation rate at 40 percent, and your keepers simply do not measure up. Maybe you're just hungry for a different challenge.
Here is a comforting thought: You can take steps right now that will give you a serious head start toward your league championship ... in two years!
Here are the key elements in building your long-term contender during the upcoming season:
1. Pursue top-tier talent at auction: Even if you are playing to build for the future, top-dollar talent still has a place on your roster. Even older players who may be suspect next year are still fair game. Sinking your dollars into the $30-plus players is basically a deferred payment: Purchase that stud now, then trade him at midseason for an under-priced, up-and-coming keeper.
Two side benefits here: First, you may actually purchase a top-tier player who ends up being freeze-worthy for next year, should you decide to hold him rather than deal him away. Second, you price-enforce at the top end of the player pool, which draws money out and makes your life easier when you move to Step 2 of the plan.
2. Go the extra dollar on youth: After acquiring a couple of big fish to use as trade bait, turn your attention to players who are in the growth stages of their career. Go the extra dollar on any player who figures to be better next year than their projections for this year.
3. One man's trash is another man's treasure: In expanding your horizon past this season, you open the door to a class of player who is not likely to appear on your competitors' radar. One type is the seriously injured, who will have no value in the upcoming year but could have great value in the future.
4. Remember, it's folly to build around young pitching: Certainly, you want to speculate on some undervalued or young arms that might mature into valuable members of your future pitching staff. And that is even easier when you are not shackled with concerns about their current performance. But use moderation in this area. Between now and a year from October, more than a few young arms will break down. Make some plays in this area, but do not bet your future on a stable of young arms, for the percentages are not with you in this area.
5. Know your keeper rules, and consolidate accordingly: When seeking out trade partners during the year, certainly look to unload your $30-plus purchases to the contenders, and take their best keepers in return. But do not ignore the rest of the league when seeking out trade opportunities.
Another important action is to consolidate your keeper list to fit your rules. For instance, you do not want to end this season with a roster of 15 protectable players, if league rules allow a maximum of eight players to be retained. In some leagues, off-season dealing is forbidden, or considerably less active. So, the best time to mold your keeper list may be before the end of the season. And your best trading partners will likely be your fellow also-rans.
Following these steps, it is possible to build a team that will be very formidable one year from now. You will still have to close the deal when that future season actually gets here. But with proper execution and a little good fortune, you will enter that auction in a much more favorable position than you entered this year's auction.
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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