I need a break. As much as I enjoy fantasy baseball and playing in ultra-competitive industry leagues like Tout Wars, the six-month grind has its way of wearing me out to the point where once the postseason arrives, I look forward to watching baseball from the perspective of a baseball fan and not a fantasy owner. It really is refreshing. You should try it sometime. But first, before I temporarily turn my attention away from 5x5 categories and focus solely on team wins, I like to make a list of things to think about once I'm ready to shift to draft preparation mode. While specific details from the season are still fresh in my mind, I try to look back at those details and combine them into general themes. Not only is it helpful to keep a record of what went right and what went wrong, but the goal should always be to become a better fantasy owner, and this might require modifying draft strategy or in-season management strategy or both. So, using the 2015 Mixed Auction Tout Wars league as the model, here are some takeaways from this season.
I'm still too attached to my players
Every year, I try to change this, but I guess it's just the way I am. When I draft a certain player, I'm drafting him for a reason. I believe in him, and that's why I tend to give my drafted players a long leash should they struggle out of the gate. Sometimes this approach works out and my loyalty is rewarded, but sometimes it doesn't. Knowing when to cut ties with a drafted player, whether it be by trading him or simply releasing him, can make a huge difference in the final standings, but it's easier said than done. My early-August trade of Mike Moustakas, whom I drafted in the reserve rounds, for Rajai Davis, who seemed in line for regular at-bats following the trade of Yoenis Cespedes, looks terrible in retrospect. But when Davis wasn't getting enough playing time to make an impact in stolen bases, I replaced him in my active lineup with Francisco Lindor, a move that I never would have made if I had still owned Moustakas. As it turned out, I would have finished lower in the standings with Moustakas instead of Lindor.
I might be placing too much importance on the FAAB one-week activation rule
The Tout Wars rule that requires all players added via the FAAB process to remain in active lineups for at least the first week after acquiring them makes a lot of sense. It discourages owners from simply stashing a player on their bench if they have no intention of starting them right away. This rule was the reason why I passed on a number of tempting options, like Luis Severino, who was added by eventual champ Fred Zinkie roughly three weeks prior to his big league debut. The negative of getting one week's worth of no stats was easily outweighed by Severino's 2.89 ERA and 1.20 WHIP across 11 starts.
Maybe punting saves isn't such a bad idea after all
Derek Van Riper did it last year and won the league. Fred Zinkie decided to do it early this season and won the league. I've never been a fan of this strategy as it puts a lot of pressure on you to build an elite offense and top-tier starting rotation. But, it has now worked two years in a row and I wouldn't be surprised to see more owners adopt it in 2016. I definitely won't be one of them. Well, almost definitely.
Don't worry about coming out of the draft light in steals
Oh, I worried. I spent most of April trying to trade for steals but nothing materialized. I ended up finishing third in the category. I was fortunate that Justin Upton and Anthony Rizzo, two players who I figured would combine for around 20 steals, swiped 29 combined bags in the first half alone. But the lesson here is that speed can indeed be found on the waiver wire during the season. Billy Burns, Delino DeShields, Cameron Maybin and Ender Inciarte all ranked in the top-25 in steals this year. None of them were drafted.
Be patient with your minor league prospects
Even in a non-keeper league like Tout Wars, if you bother to draft a top prospect who isn't expected to begin the season in the Majors, stick with him. On a few occasions this year, in order to make room for an added player, I was tempted to drop Francisco Lindor. Fortunately, I ditched that idea, though it should be noted that Tout Wars expanding from four to six reserve players made that decision a lot easier. Anyway, the word on Lindor was that he was big league ready from a defensive standpoint but his bat might take some time to develop. Really? In 45 games as my starting Utility hitter, Lindor posted a .384 OBP with seven homers, 27 RBI, 25 runs scored and nine steals.
Hey, attachment can be a good thing too.