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Fantasy Strategy 201: Preseason Keepers

Welcome class to the first session of FS201! I'll be your professor, some know me as their commissioner, some know me as their current league champion, for all intents and purposes you can address me by my given name, Christopher. I was named after the saint, and I'm here to save you from your most dangerous enemy, yourself. FS201 focuses on the proper way to navigate your fantasy season. We'll cover the do's and don'ts, the when and the how's, and let's not forget the why's. I'll provide you with all the necessary tools be successful so you may concentrate solely on the game. Today's lesson, preseason keepers. This off season really flew by, as we're now eight days away from the first pitch, still a lot of league's waiting to draft, most of them with a keeper deadline a day or two before. I've noticed a lot of issues regarding keeper set up, so let's address all the ways that you're blowing it before the season even begins.

1.The Tipping of the Hand:

I guess there isn't a lot of poker players participating in fantasy sports, or vice versa. The tipping of the hand can be the most damning mistake an owner makes in the preseason, and there's a couple ways to do it. I don't know what provokes owners to informally announced that you've made your selection(s) but it appears this is a serious epidemic that offers absolutely zero benefit.

Some owners like to post their keepers as soon as their deadline is announced. I received a league wide email from an owner when I sat down to write this, I don't know what was more shameful, his list of choices or his lack of tactic. Speaking of tactic, how about this for the tipping of the hand? I noticed an owner had an illegal lineup, when visiting this owner's page to see if he was hoarding players, I saw that he moved all players to reserve, except for those he apparently intends to keep. You might as well send a message and declare who your keepers are, at least we can then chalk it up to foolish pride and ignorance. The third case may be the absolute worst move you can make as an owner, dropping all the non-keepers. Not only do I now know your base roster for this coming season, but I have the advantage of sorting through those you cast aside. One man's trash is another man's treasure, remember that boys.

There is no reason to formally or informally state your plans. Doing so only feeds your opponents. For example, If I know you plan on keeping Brandon Phillips, I not only can cross a second baseman off my list, but more importantly I know that Brian McCann, who plays a position more shallow than second base, is now available. I also know what positions you won't be targeting in the first several rounds, therefore increasing the accuracy of my "pre-draft plan of action".

*Example provided by unnamed owner who sent the league wide message.

2. Don't Fear the Deadline, Respect It: Unless you're absolutely set with studs, there is no reason to not exhaust every trading option. Essentially the keeper deadline is your preseason trading deadline, that's how it should be approached. You should focus on upgrades where ever possible. If you see a team is relatively weaker, offer a 2-1, offer a 3-1 if you have to, but work right up until that last minute that you have.

As much as you should not fear it, you must respect it, and by that I mean know the effect the deadline has on player value. If you're overloaded with top talent, know that it can increase or decrease the closer you get. An owner may attempt to wait you out, knowing that you will want to get something for Jacoby Ellsbury if you're not keeping him, he could play it close to the vest waiting for you to accept out of desperation. It may also increase a player's value if one of your player's is being pursued. This game of chicken could prove costly for you or the opposing owner. If you wait too long he may move on, and you're forced to send that player back to the draft pool with nothing to show for it. He too could become desperate, knowing this is his only chance to start the season on equal footing, he may reach your exorbitant draft pick price tag putting you in a stronger pre-draft position.

3. Adjusting Player Pricing: In league A, Joey Votto was recently traded for a first round pick. I wouldn't label this a sunk cost by any means, Votto has value, but we all know how I feel about him. But is Votto really worth a first round pick? Well that question depends on your league's keepers and what the rules are. This particular league calls for 3 mandatory keepers with no penalty, meaning the draft starts in round 4. Taking into account the keeper policy, Joey Votto was sold for a 4th round pick, and even I can admit that is a steal. If the owner had adjusted properly he would have received a first round pick + a pick in the mid to late rounds. There also is the argument that he could've kept Votto, even if he felt it was unnecessary. The value of Votto in season or after the draft most likely would net a significantly more valuable player than what will be available in the middle of round 4.

4. Tiers & Position Scarcity Matter: When it comes down to the selection process there needs to be a well balance diet. I mix previous season statistics with the upcoming season's projections, and I add in tier rankings for extra flavor. If production for any players under consideration is at all similar, tier rankings rule. My approach to drafting, is to focus on getting as many tier 1 players as possible, I base my keepers on the same premise. If there is any uncertainty or even the tiniest bit of hesitation, choose the highest ranked player at the shallowest position. You'll be in a better position roster grid wise, and you'll find as the draft goes on, players of substantial product at deeper positions will fall as those desperate for MI positions start to reach.

If you follow these four simple rules, you'll start the year error free. Mistakes are bound to happen during the draft and over the course of the season, but the key is to not shoot yourself in the foot before it all begins.