Keeper Deadline Advice – Q&A (2020)

The Ottoneu keeper deadline is fast approaching (11:59 PM EST), but many leagues use this date to set rosters before the season really begins.  I polled several owners of the Ottoneu community recently for their keeper deadline advice, so hopefully you’ll find some application for the thoughts below. Consider this a keeper Q&A for new players, but even if you don’t play Ottoneu, feel free to post your most difficult deadline decisions in the comments and I’ll do my best to weigh in.

Brad recently covered some specific Ottoneu keeper deadline advice here.

Q: What process do you use to determine the best number of players to keep on your Ottoneu roster?

I used to use a set number, meaning I didn’t want to go to auction with less than $5 per spot and at least ten open spots. Now I simply work to ensure that I have as many of my starting spots filled before auction. I’ve learned over the years that the auction is the worst place to try and buy starting caliber talent.

I don’t have any strong rules. I like to have the majority of my lineup and rotation set going into auction. I try to only keep players that I want to have in my team; guys that I’m not excited about/think are low ceiling I will throw back. I usually end up keeping somewhere between 25-30 players, depending on the team situation.

Surplus and total value in hitting and pitching. I try to have a good mix of cheap players with surplus value and players that are projected to produce high total value. There isn’t many discounts at drafts so going with keeping only surplus value players would likely leave you light in total value.

I try to factor in which studs I want to keep based on the salaries after arbitration. Using the Roster Organizer, trim the fat and cut all of the in season pickups that are clearly not worth the $2 bump up. Check my budget again and see if I need to cut a stud or if I can keep some guys I personally like. I rarely rely on trades because my league has no problem bidding against each other in the drafts for the players I would have to cut.

I like to wait for rosters to settle before doing my own custom valuations, so I’ll usually use the community Surplus Calculator tool as a starting point for my offseason roster decisions. I won’t keep every player that shows a projected surplus and won’t cut every player who doesn’t, but it represents a rough division between solid and toxic assets for 2020. I usually collect cheap controllable contracts and am quick to cut $50 studs to free up budget space. If I plan on being a competitive team, I’ll aim for $125-$175 to play with in auction to seek upgrades.

I want a lot of SP so I keep guys with minimal salaries and reclamation projects, even if it costs a couple extra dollars. It’s not the end of the world to have some salaries you don’t mind shedding when a need arises.

Q: What role does player/position scarcity or auction inflation play in your decision to keep players at the Ottoneu keeper deadline?

It has a fairly significant effect on what I’m planning on trading for before the auction, and inflation is more important to me in higher priced players. I tend to make more CUT decisions over this than keep decisions. Unless a player has been hit with a ton of irrelevant arbitration or is coming off a really horrible season for the most part he’s going to auction for more if there are less choices at his position and a little less if there are more.

Auction inflation may push me to try to acquire a higher salaried player than I may otherwise want going into auction, especially if I find that I’m otherwise going to have a lot of cash (>$100) going into auction. I don’t do a whole lot with positional scarcity.

Small role but it is considered. If I have someone at a position I am not too high on but I think there will be limited options at the draft, I wait until the last minute to try and see what cuts make the pool better at the draft. If it looks light I may hold onto the position.

See also: Keeper Deadline Tactics

I always try to factor in inflation into my keep/cut decisions, but I try not to let scarcity influence my decisions. It’s a long season with other teams that also have scarcity, so I try to work those things out via auction or trade instead of over-paying for a player just because he fits a team need.

Certainly pitcher/batter spend mix can get way off and you have to pay attention to it. Sometimes price is going up geometrically for only linear improvement in performance. Auction inflation is a consideration mainly when it seems like there is an outlier amount of money free going into the auction.

I normally don’t value Catcher because I think the relative drop off is not as severe as other positions. I think OF is one of the hardest to value because each team is starting at least five (multi elig guys). So finding the best value OF is important because it encompasses so many potential MLB players. I think our league values SP/RP very high so keeping guys above average value is not uncommon. Auction inflation does not bother me because I think I tend to be more aggressive than the average owner. I’d rather spend more on a guy and try to recoup any losses if they bust instead of missing out on someone I really wanted who booms.

Position scarcity definitely plays a role in my decision-making. I’m more likely to drop outfielders and starting pitching at or slightly below value than SS or 2B. This may be a bit of an overreaction given the abundance of talent in the middle infield in today’s game, though. I also think I under-inflate the value of catcher, as I’ve struggled to land catchers above replacement level in four seasons on the platform.

For hitting this simply requires having backups at each position. In Ottoneu H2H last year you couldn’t hit the “Games Played” caps for hitters before the playoffs, so trying to fill all roster spots and accumulate extra stats is key. Having a bench full of guys who qualify at multiple positions lets you achieve max coverage with less players. It also lets me roster lots of SP’s….For pitching, this means having a lot of SP options (assuming the 2 SP slot, which is what all leagues should have, it is an awesome rule, the absolute best). There’s a max of 30 possible SP’s available on any given day, and up to 24 (80%) could be used in an Ottoneu H2H league. It s really hard to achieve a perfect 14 GS’s, even with 20 SP’s on your roster. But if you have 20 SP’s on your roster you’ll consistently hit 12+ GS in a matchup.

Position scarcity factors into projected player value (over replacement), which is compared to salary to determine surplus value. But this is only part of the decision. I am willing to keep a player at a higher salary if I believe in the upside over the projection. I am inclined to keep a player I like (for high upside) even if they have little to no surplus value, due to the chance I may not get him back at auction because someone else feels the same way.

Q: What mistake(s) do you see new Ottoneu players make when it comes to selecting keepers for the upcoming season?

100% for me the mistake people make more often than not is using standard values from projection modules without accounting for their own leagues patterns and sorting more about a player’s surplus value over their projected points without considering inflation. The auction is where you pay for free agents. They are supposed to cost more. You’re not getting bargains so don’t take too much money in and don’t cut guys you want to own.

Keeping low salaried players that you don’t actually like. There should be a few sub-$10 players that you like more than everyone else; keep those guys. Don’t keep a $4 Justin Smoak just because someone says he’s worth $5.

Cutting players too early, before the deadline. Every year there are players cut I would be willing to offer at least something of value for.

I think it’s common to keep too many low-value players. I think a player that is under $10 has to be a clear and obvious keeper, otherwise I cut them. Keeping $6-10 guys and prospects eats budget fast and can prevent you from having the money to buy a higher-value player at auction. Auctions vary a lot, but typically you can get guys in the $6-10 range at a discount at auction if you decide you want to buy that player back (or someone similar). Cutting them gives you flexibility at auction. I rarely regret cutting those type of players.

I personally hold very little value in prospects because I think more of a “Win Now” mentality. I have a co-owner and his main job is evaluating prospects. I think a lot of owners try to build futures before even trying to win every season. Don’t be afraid to let a guy go to auction because if you thought they were a good value you would’ve kept them, and if someone else thought they were a good value they would’ve traded for them. So in the auction they will most likely go for the same cut price if not cheaper. New owners should not be afraid to restart and cut or trade a lot of assets they don’t like.

See also: Expert Advice for Rebuilding Your Fantasy Team

I think the $400 budget can throw off managers who are new to Ottoneu but may have played in more traditional $260 auction leagues. I’ve seen managers justify paying exorbitant costs (like, $90 Clayton Kershaw in 2017) to accumulate a handful of Top 12 players by saying things like “well, there’s more money to spend on Ottoneu.” Since there are also more positions to cover and games played to monitor, this hasn’t seemed like a very successful strategy unless the manager gets very lucky with some bargain players late in the auction.

Hands-down the biggest mistake I see is waiting too long to trade superstars who are borderline cuts. I see owners hold these players until the bitter end, then try to move them, and then they lose all leverage trying to unload contracts right at the deadline. You have to trade aggressively early in the offseason and throughout the offseason.

Q: If you could give keeper deadline advice to a new Ottoneu player, what would it be?

Use the surplus calculator as a guide. Also average salaries data available at your league page. Adjust what you see there based on your likes and dislikes of players. Look at the percentage a player is over/under value. i.e. a $6 dollar player with projected value of $3 is 50% over value. If you have a $40 dollar player that costs $46 that’s %15 over so which is the better keeper even though one is -3 and another is -6 in surplus? Don’t cut until close to deadline so you give yourself opportunity to trade and get a feel for what will be available in your draft. Also consider value someone may have in season. Prospects and high cost high value players can provide a nice return in season with loans in play. Therefore if you are on the fence rather than cut it may be better to keep and trade later as a way to build your team.

If you have been active in the offseason reaching out to all the teams, you should have a pretty good idea of how the other teams view your players. So the best advice is to be proactive in reaching out to teams in the offseason to see who they like on your team. If it’s too late to do that, I’d say to be ruthless in cutting your low-end guys and prospects.

Keep two fewer players than you think you should because 95% of the time, you value your players more than the market does. After all, you were the high bid at one point on that player.  There’s a psychological impact of just having them on your team all that time. Freeing up roster spots to just see what comes your way is worth it. You’ll be astonished how many guys drafted in the final rounds when people are just buying $1 lotto tickets end up deciding seasons (hello, Ketel Marte).

Communicate. Talk to your league mates about making trades. Don’t be annoying but make sure you try to hear from each one about guys on your team you might move or want off of their team. You never know how an owner values a player. My favorite draft strategy is waiting until the very end and restocking on players and prospects for $1.

Don’t be afraid to be ruthless. Sentimentality won’t get you anywhere, and neither will over-paying by $10 on a player based on past performance. You don’t need to have a winning roster on January 31: don’t be afraid to go into the auction with some major holes.

See also: 10 Tips for Ottoneu Rookies

Feel free to post your own deadline decisions in the comments below.

Trey is a 20+ year fantasy veteran and an early adopter of Ottoneu fantasy sports. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,200 fantasy baseball and football fans talking sports daily. More resources here:

newest oldest most voted

[not ottoneu] Definitely an “it depends” question, but what dollar range would you expect Yordan Alvarez to go for in a 12-team keeper league, $260 budgets, standard roster size? Love the bat, but trying to determine if having him at $30 is a value or basically market price ($3 inflation, keep forever). Thanks!