Highly Custom League: If Only

A couple weeks back, I unveiled my Public Trade Negotiations format. It’s begging to be included as a module in a league that encourages trading. But it’s rather heavy handed to simply say: thou shalt make trades. Instead, the league design should be such that certain resources are only available via your rivals. By George, I’ve got it!

Previous entries in this series covered 2×2 Roto, Split Auctions, Roto-to-HeadRotating DivisionsWAR wars, Category Wars, and Public Trade Negotiations.

Design Aesthetic

Draft Type: Snake, AL or NL Only by team (This is the “If Only.” I’ll explain)

Teams: Any number, best with at least 12

Positions: Any configuration

Hitter Categories: R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG or desired

Pitcher Categories: W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP or desired

Waivers: first come or FAAB, AL or NL Only by team

The “If Only” title refers to each owner’s decision to become an AL or NL Only roster. This is locked in upon their first pick. Select Mike Trout and you may only draft AL players. Ditto waivers. Own a late pick? You can opt to take the best player or the deeper league.

Here’s the twist, and there is a twist. We show it. We show all of it. Full penetra. Ahem. I mean. Owners may only acquire players from the other league via trade. Both real world and fantasy trades qualify. This is where adding the Public Trade Negotiations module promotes flavor and character.

From this point on, it’s a pretty typical league. You can complicate it with more modules if desired.

The biggest foreseeable issue is with owners sneaking ineligible players during the draft or from the waiver wire. Owners must finish the draft live to prevent auto-draft shenanigans. The commissioner should be prepared to pay close attention to the draft and in-season waiver moves. A process for vacating and/or penalizing undeserved results should be put in place. Owners should be informed that any draft picks from the wrong league will be forfeited. Ideally, the commissioner would catch these as they occur.

A rule for free agents like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Mike Moustakas should also exist. I recommend making them available to anyone. With this particular offseason, that opens an interesting strategic choice. A middle-pick owner could select one of those guys to effectively punt their NL/AL decision into the second round when they’ll have more information about the ownership split.

Based on current ADP, all five of the top five picks are AL players. Then there’s a run of five NL followed by three AL, one NL, and two free agents. In other words, the top 16 players are split as eight AL, six NL, and two free agents, but the AL crew is more top heavy. Where the game theory really comes into play is later in the draft. Good luck!


The If Only format creates the potential for rich draft management and planning. When combined with the Public Trade Negotiations module, it could be used to create an incredibly rich fantasy experience. So long as you have the right group of owners.

We hoped you liked reading Highly Custom League: If Only by Brad Johnson!

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This. I like this. Also, love the Sunny reference.