Last week we talked about the differences between keeper and dynasty leagues and some different approaches to each. This week, we will focus on keeper leagues and the determination of your freeze list. By means of a quick review, the defining difference between keeper and dynasty leagues is the turnover of available talent is much greater in keeper leagues. Every year, there is a fresh supply of top-tier talent available for draft or auction. So much so, in fact, that you should design a strategy to compete every season and only bail and rebuild if necessary. But before we discuss means of approaching your draft or auction, we must first decide on your freeze list.
Here are some general rules of thumb when it comes to deciding on keepers. These are applicable to either drafts or auctions. Later, we will look at tips pertaining specifically to drafts and to auctions.
In general, you want to concentrate on a strong hitting foundation. This is not to say to completely ignore pitchers if you have them at a solid value, just that all things being equal, it is better to go into the draft or auction with solid sticks, as you can usually find more quality arms either in the draft or auction or in-season via free agency or waivers. It is also easier to manage a pitching staff using middle relievers and streaming starting pitching so you want to make sure you have a base of offensive counting stats to build upon.
While it is always exciting to own the next big thing, your keeper list should focus on solid, less risky entities and not the hot shot sophomore that took the league by storm, unless the cost to freeze is minimal. Yes, you will need to take chances to win, but save the chances for your draft or auction. Owning the new shiny object is fun, but winning is more fun. And the path to winning is paved with boring and steady, leaving the chances to your opponents.
The final general piece of advice is to consider balance on your freezes, but the bottom line is to protect the best players at the best cost. Do not toss back a better first baseman for a lesser shortstop even if it means you are tying up your corner infield spot. This is especially true if your league has any level of the so-called dump trade, where one squad deals away future value for help to win this season. If keeping two star first basemen leaves you with a subpar shortstop, you can look to upgrade your shortstop later by trading a keeper for a star shortstop that is not a viable keeper.
Now we will look briefly at draft league keepers and close out with tips for auction formats. But this is as good a time as any to remind everyone we have a message forum that is perfect for asking questions pertaining to your own keeper decisions. You can provide us with all the pertinent details and get opinions from the Mastersball staff as well as our intelligent forum regulars, many of which are not shy about sharing their knowledge.
In draft leagues that do not penalize you a draft pick for freezes, you obviously just keep the best talent. But some leagues require you forfeit a draft pick per keeper, sometimes the same round you originally drafted the player and sometimes the round is two or three rounds sooner than the original pick. What you need to do here is figure out what players will be available in the draft and “count backwards.” You keep players so long there will not be someone better available at that pick. It is a little more than looking at an average draft position list and keeping players if their cost is after their ADP. The decision needs to be done and in hand with what else is available.
Perhaps the biggest mistake made by those in auction keeper leagues is the reticence to freeze high salaried players. Many believe it is best to look for the cheap keepers and have a lot of money to spend at the auction. And sometimes this is fine. But others, freezing salary actually makes sense. The reason for this is it is not just about the profit from your keepers, it is about the talent on your squad at the conclusion of your auction.
If you are not familiar with the concept of inflation, in keeper auctions, talent is frozen for less than the projected value. This means there is more money available to spend than there is available talent. So in order for everyone to spend their entire budget, they are forced to pay inflated prices. Paying inflated prices absorbs some of the profit derived from your keepers.
Let us look at some numbers. A typical inflation rate for a keeper league is 25%. If you freeze $100 worth of talent for $40, that leaves you $220 to spend. In keeper leagues, the inflation always abates and you can usually realize profit on your last $20 spent, at least according to your projections. We’ll be generous and say you get $30 of talent for your final $20, so you have $130 worth of talent for $60, not bad. Since the inflation rate is 25%, you will buy about $150 worth of talent with your $200, bringing the grand total to $280, which is $20 profit on the $260 cap. I decide to freeze $220 worth of talent for $200, I have $60 left to spend. To be fair, I get the same $30 talent for my final $20. That leaves me $40 and I get the same 25% inflation effect, so I pick up only $30 more worth of talent. This leaves me the same $280 total you bought. Obviously, I massaged the numbers to make my point. But the actual numbers are not important. The take home lesson is that sometimes freezing salary is not a bad thing.
The other major tip for keeper lists is to consider if you can buy back the same player or his equivalent, or even someone better for the same price. I know this sounds obvious, but it is more apropos for the cheaper players, as that is where you can often get players you like more than others on the cheap. So even if the projected value for a player may be $5 and you have him for a buck or two, there is a very good chance you can get even more profit from that spot since everyone has different opinions about players in the end game. Your $7 player is someone else’s reserve, and vice versa.
Next week we will talk about how to put together a killer freeze list in dynasty formats. But in the meantime, please do not hesitate to use the forums for your keeper questions.