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Draft Strategy: Rebuilding is a Strategy Too

Ray Guilfoyle discusses a keeper league draft strategy that many owners are reluctant to use. But, owners should pay attention, as it is a successful strategy for owners willing to give up one year.

Bob Levey

I participate in several 12 team, 4 x 4, NL-only and AL-only keeper leagues, and in those leagues, I like to employ a different strategy from year to year. The strategies will vary based on the construction of my keeper roster, and I will go from one strategy to another. I like to try different strategies because my roster will change from one season to the next due to trades, injuries, free agency, players becoming non-retainable, or being in the last year of their contract. The main goal of competing in rotisserie leagues is to win championships, or at the very least, finish in the money.

Two of the leagues I participate in have a two round minor league draft, in addition to the auction draft, so that adds a different slant than most other leagues. And because of that, I occasionally like to utilize a rebuilding strategy. Now this strategy is not for everyone, as you are basically giving up at least one year of league fees, assuming the league is a "money" league. Many owners are reluctant to rebuild, because they like to hold out hope that they can finish in the money. But more often than not, this is a bad decision and they finish out of the money, and are left with little in terms of keepers for the future. From my experience, the "cost" of giving up one year to rebuild, results in a payoff within a year or two.

I executed this rebuild strategy a few years ago in an NL keeper league. I focused on trading my established star players who had keeper value, and in return I looked for the following:

1. cheap hitters/pitchers with keeper value

2. major league ready prospects

3. minor league draft picks

I went into the draft, where we have a $260 budget, with about $240 available to spend on draft day. The large budget allowed me to gear my auction draft strategy toward some of the top power hitters, stolen base talent and closers available. This strategy also allows you to target some injured players who would come cheap in the draft, as owners who are playing for this season won't want to spend available budget on a player who won't help them till midseason, if at all. Drafting power and speed guys and closers allows you to make deals during the season where you can package a few of them for a few of the top keepers in the league. Owners should not be afraid to make 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 deals as long as you get the player you are targeting and that player has value in future seasons.

In addition, since you are bailing, and your team is more than likely in the lower half of the standing, this allows you to have first choice on prospects called up during the season and on breakout players not auctioned in the draft. This is important, as there are always a few prospects or breakout players not drafted who are available in your free agent pool. One of the more prescient roster moves I made a few years ago was grabbing Braves "future" closer Craig Kimbrel when he was called up midseason.

This strategy should result in a roster of core hitters and pitchers to build around for your next auction draft. You may have given up one year of league fees with this strategy, but the strategy should result in you finishing in the money for the next few years, if all goes well.

Rebuilding can be a successful strategy if done correctly.