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Fantasy: Navigating Early Season Waivers And FAAB Bidding

Throughout the year, buying opportunities in dynasty leagues go in cycles.

The early part of the offseason always presents great buying opportunities on the trade market, because perceived value during this period fluctuates wildly. The primary driver of the wide spectrum of evaluations at this point in time every year is easy to spot—most managers have not yet been influenced by an avalanche of offseason content.

By the time dynasty first-year player draft season and the late part of spring training rolls around, most of that value has been exhausted. Analysts and content creators surface a cornucopia of breakouts and sleepers, many real and others not so much.

With Opening Day for both MLB and the minor leagues fresh in memory, the buying opportunities are in, well . . . opportune.

That means the clearest opportunity to bolster your squad lies on the waiver wire. The fewer the teams and roster spots in your league, the more ripe your opportunity to improve your team.

Here are seven clear guidelines on how to manage your roster and free agent acquisition budget (FAAB) without missing out on this year’s Cedric Mullins or Logan Webb.

Chase Opportunity

Maximizing at-bats and innings is key to winning in fantasy. It’s a game of quality and quantity. So while it’s easy to ignore the 27-year-old breakout, particularly when the player has burned us in the past, a player who is showing sustainable production with steady foreseeable playing time is always a worthy gamble. This is why the bottom of your roster should be fluid.

Roster Flexibility

Once again, the bottom of your roster should be flexible. Your bench spots in dynasty are valuable and must be used based on your directive. Are you competing? If so, you should be looking to add any players making the most of their playing time. If you’re rebuilding, you should be looking to add the best minor league breakouts. If you have deeper benches and minor league rosters, you should be looking for both.

Buy Early-Season Prospect Breakouts

Few free waiver moves pay off bigger than early season prospect breakouts in dynasty leagues. Just last season, you could have added Anthony Volpe, Elly De La Cruz, Eury Perez and other top fantasy prospects off of a majority of leagues’ waiver wires. The key is to act fast. If you play in a league with designated minor league spots, don’t be scared to ditch your fringe guys for a potential breakout. The easy way to follow these is to read sites and publications like Baseball America. Even beyond BA, there are a variety of accounts on Twitter and YouTube with live action video from the lower levels of the minors. These notes and snapshots should give a good foundational knowledge of how good each prospect is.

Be Conservative With FAAB, But . . .

FAAB is a set amount of imaginary currency alloted to each manager in a bid-based waiver wire setup. Every manager begins the season with a fixed amount—typically $100 or $1,000—on which to bid on free agents. My general approach is be conservative as possible early, but to be aggressive as necessary. There’s always exceptions, but rarely does a player warrant a substantial investment early, particularly in dynasty leagues where top prospects are owned years before their MLB debuts. So be smart, but if there’s an especially exciting breakout in the lower minors, such as an Elly De La Cruz type, go ahead and bid aggressively.

Historically, those types of breakouts typically happen in late June or July, at the beginning of the Rookie-level complex league seasons in Arizona and Florida. That’s a few months into the season, which makes your available budget in July or August all that much more important. Don’t be passive, but don’t be stupid.

Know The Rules

This is a simple step to follow, but I can’t tell you how often it’s not done. Know the rules of your league. The managers who succeed more often than not have the tightest grasp on the rules. Your league’s rules are likely unique in some way, shape or form. Identify what rules impact value or strategy the most and work within those guidelines.

Know The Room

This is not always possible in every league, but working behind the scenes is imperative. Whether you’re communicating on the messaging application your league uses or simply exchanging phone numbers to discuss trade offers via text, the ability to get to know your competing managers’ likes and dislikes works wonders. I’ve often outbid or targeted players I knew were a need for an opposing team, or maybe added a prospect they missed out on in the draft they mentioned in passing. You can take these conversations and use them to inform your waiver-wire targets, particularly if you’re a competitive team eyeing a player on a rebuilding club. Communication is key to winning in a dynasty.

FAAB Makes A Great Throw-In

Depending upon your league’s rules, trading FAAB dollars to teams who may have been overaggressive early is a great way to acquire players on the cheap or push a back-and-forth trade negotiation over the edge. Be creative!

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