Last week we talked about the construction of a freeze list in keeper leagues. This week, we will focus on the principles of keepers in dynasty leagues. By means of reminder, the root difference between keeper and dynasty formats is the rate of player pool turnover. In keeper leagues, there are expired or cost prohibitive contracts that reenter the available player pool, while in dynasty leagues, the vast majority of useful players are retained, with fringe players and minor leaguers comprising the draft or auction.
The approach in dynasty is a little different than deciding on keepers, as usually, you keep almost everyone, so you keep the best players. We will discuss the draft strategy of dynasty leagues in a future essay; today we will concentrate on the general philosophy of the dynasty format and relate that to keeper lists. We will approach things as if this is the inaugural year of the dynasty league.
The key to putting together a foundation capable of dominating for several seasons is realizing like Rome, it cannot be built in one day, or draft. The most common mistake is relying too much on young talent to emerge all at once. Even the championship team is not going to have All-Stars at every position, but rather reliable, steady performers along with the superstars. Too many try to assemble a team of superstars, taking every prospect that made someone’s top-100 list at the expense of boring, but still young Major League talent. So while it is integral to draft some potential stars, let others take the chances on fringe prospects while you acquire some useful commodities with a track record that may develop, or at worse be trade bait for those looking to make a championship run and willing to part with youngsters or draft picks. That is the key to assembling the winning foundation: drafting a couple of top tier stats then acquiring a few more pieces in-season, then lather, rinse, repeat. It may take a few years, but if you get a handful the first season, then start parlaying talent into more draft picks and get a handful more, in two or three seasons you are ready to dominate for the next five seasons.
The other common error is dynasty leagues inherit the keeper league mantra of caring for hitting more than pitching. As was discussed last week, this is a viable, if not recommended strategy in keeper leagues. But, since you protect almost your entire roster, and deals to acquire star pitching are basically impossible (who is going to deal a valuable arm in dynasty leagues), you need to build through the drafts. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with Major League pitching, this is not easy. The best way to approach it can be referred to as the spaghetti method: throw it against the wall and see what sticks. In other words, quantity is as important as quality, because when it comes to pitching, there is no such thing as a pitching prospect, or at least that is what some people believe. It may hurt to tie up some roster spots with pitchers that are not going to mature in lieu of some hitters you feel better about, but in order to get 9 or 10 pitchers worthy of protection, you will have to cycle through at least twice that. If you are lucky, you can deal a couple while they still have value. As an example, think Mike Leake from last season. He is a decent prospect, but was nowhere near as good as he pitched for a stretch early last season. If you were close to a year you wanted to compete, dealing Leake for a steady, reliable starter that still has a few years left would really benefit. Perhaps dealing Leake for James Shields, Ryan Dempster or even Roy Oswalt would be possible from a team looking to rebuild. Shields, Dempster and Oswalt are the perfect complement to the younger Clayton Kershaws and John Lesters you already have from a couple seasons of watching several pitchers mature.
As alluded to, we will talk a little more about drafting in dynasty leagues down the road, but the application to keeper lists is when you are rebuilding, or perhaps taking over an orphaned team, you may need to dedicate extra spots to keeper pitching in an effort to end up with a smaller number of arms that will anchor your staff for years. Or you may think about keeping a marginal prospect over a hitter such as Derek Jeter or Carlos Lee, since they are not attractive long-term plays. But since one of three players will have at least a two week vacation on the disabled list, Jeter and Lee make price trade chips if a team is looking to win. Maybe they give up Mike Moustakas or Freddie Freeman to fortify their chances to win.
To wrap up this series of essays, we opened by suggesting that some leagues are a hybrid of keeper and dynasty and your chore is to decide where your league falls. The last two weeks, we talked about keeper list philosophies for the extreme situations. Hence, you need to apply the degree of each philosophy accordingly to your keepers. But do not fret, we are here to help. Please feel free to post your keeper question on our forums and we will be glad to offer our sage advice.