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Early Season Dos and Don’ts

So all your teams are drafted and opening day is upon us.  But the draft is only half the battle, now it’s time begin the long, arduous journey of managing your team throughout the 6-month marathon of the season.  Here are some tips to guide you through the opening weeks and months.

Don’t panic with slumping early round picks.  This is repeated everywhere you look and should pretty much be common knowledge at this point, but its importance bears mentioning again.  If you drafted someone as one of your core guys (maybe your first 8 -12 picks, maybe all your starters, it varies team to team, but you should know your team well enough to know who gets a long leash), you can not drop him until at least 6-8 weeks into the season, barring injury or some other major value changing event.  And you must resist the lowball offers you get for him as well.  Baseball is a game of sample sizes, and when they get large enough players tend to regress close to their career averages.  In Roto leagues especially, you drafted your players for the numbers they would have by the end of the year, not just the ones they put up in the first month.  Have patience, and more often than not you will be rewarded with year end numbers close to what you were expecting from the start.

Do see if any leaguemates are panicking with slumping early round picks.  The flip side of the previous item is that early slumps can often create buying opportunities for early round picks.  If some team is buried in the standings a couple weeks in, thanks mainly to a bunch of his early round picks stinking it up the first few weeks, see if you can take one of those struggling stars off his hands for 70 cents on the dollar.  Maybe offer up a hot waiver wire pickup and some middling positional replacement, see how sick that manager is of seeing those nightly 0-for-4s.  As the season goes on and the sample sizes increase, the struggling early rounder is likely to return to a solid level of production, while the hot pickup will most likely cool off and fall back to fantasy irrelevance.  Plus, if you acquire the struggling early rounder after his early slump and only have him while he’s regressing back to career norms, the numbers you get are actually better than the career ones you were hoping for.

Don’t stay married to the bottom of your roster.  As opposed to your core guys, the cornerstones that you can’t give up on too early, your later round picks (at least one or two of the last ones) need to be expendable at the drop a hat.  While many of the early season pickups who come out of the gates blazing end up cooling off and getting dropped just a few weeks later, some of them end up being Jean Segura or Jose Bautista.  This chance makes it worth speculating on these guys who come out blazing, and in order to do that you have to have at least one guy you’re willing to drop.  Hopefully it’s an easy call, with one of the last guys on your bench playing terribly or losing playing time.  But just to be safe, sometimes I like to draft some guy who I particularly dislike at the end of the draft so I know I’ll have someone to cut if the sudden need arises.

Do stay abreast of what’s going on and who’s hot in the early going.  Hopefully this is second nature for everyone, but in order to find those potential diamonds in the early season rough, you need to pay attention to news and notes, hot streaks and cold streaks, and everything else that’s going on early on.  My favorite way to do this quickly is the transaction trends page (under the research tab), where you can see which players are getting added and dropped the most then click on the player note to find out why.  But any number of sources of news and stats can be just as effective.  You want to be ready to pick up the potential waiver savior before your leaguemates can pounce, so sometimes a small hot streak is enough to take a chance on a guy.  You might get a Chris Shelton who you drop a week later, but you might get a guy like Segura who helps win your league for you. 

Don’t feel the need to put every SP in your lineup early on.  It’s important to remember that Roto is a game with a very long season where the stats at the end count just as much as those at the beginning.  If you have an innings limit, and are an active manager, you should have little problem reaching that limit once your rotation gets set a couple months in, or even by occasionally streaming SPs with good matchups.  You likely drafted at least one or two fairly unproven upside starters to fill out the back end of you rotation, and you won’t really know how good they are until you see them for a few regular season starts.  While it’s tempting to try to rack up as many Wins and Ks as possible early on, it’s not worth risking a blowup start from an unknown entity when you can make up the volume stats later.  Make your unproven guys show you the goods before you risk them putting a blemish on your permanent record.  If you bench a gem you can always get it back elsewhere later, but if you start a rocking those ERs are with you for the rest of the season.

Do get an idea where your weak spots may lie.  Every team will have a couple issues to address post draft, but sometimes they end up being different issues a couple weeks into the season than you thought they’d be after the draft.  The earlier you get an accurate picture of you team’s needs, the easier it is to make moves to address those needs.  If you realize you need more steals and trade for Everth Cabrera in July, maybe you get 25-30 SB.  But if you realize it early and trade for him at the start of May, you may be able to get 40-50 SB out of him.  Similarly, you should attempt to identify your strengths as early you can as well.  If you happen to have a surplus of any category (in Roto, winning a category by one is worth just as much as winning it by 100) you can trade some of it to address other needs, and the earlier you do that the bigger affect it will have on your year-end numbers.

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