Learning Ottoneu

Last Wednesday, I took some time to discuss why you should play Ottoneu. I think Ottoneu is a great fantasy format for anyone who has a sabermetric leaning. Those who play are hyper-involved sports fans who crave a deeper fantasy experience than a casual work league. However, I can totally understand why there are times where the rules/gameplay could seem daunting to a newcomer. This does not need to be the case. I want to help bridge that gap. Today, I wanted to take some time to build off of this and discuss how you learn to play the format. Since the scope of Ottoneu is vast, this will likely divulge into several posts which I will try to group similarly, but today I wanted to start with what drives Ottoneu, it’s communities of owners. I wanted to know what their opinion was on adjusting to the format. Since the scope of Ottoneu is vast, I have tried to group responses similarly – and thanks to everyone who helped me with this. You’re responses are valuable.

First, a snapshot of the Ottoneu Season (courtesy of ottoneu owner RJ Weise).


Daily Involvement: 

lagamer: “To do well in ottoneu, you have to be prepared to be involved pretty much every day during the season, and a good amount in the offseason as well. Definitely not for the casual player.”

Trey: “Similar to @lagamer, you have to know it’s a daily game and involvement is required over a full year (not just in-season).”

Kasey Erb: “It’s an every day commitment that requires you to utilize your finances as well as finding talent.”

John: “It’s often said, but meeting the caps is hard!”

Jed: “+1 to John — getting cute with only starting your best players in April/May can put you behind the 8 ball for the whole season.”

Trey: “Platoons are a necessary part of the game.”

John: “New players should know about the generous position eligibility and how it changes roster construction.”

Considering that Ottoneu does not have a playoff format, being involved greatly increases your chances of winning. If you score the most points during the season, you win. It’s pretty simple. Conversely, there is almost zero way to win a league without being involved on a daily basis. Personally, I see this as a plus. I think about baseball constantly. I want to have an avenue to discuss baseball. Playing with people who care as much about baseball as I do helps with this. Does this require more involvement than a standard league? Yes. Is it the most fulfilling fantasy experience I’ve had? Yes.

The second lesson here is that Ottoneu has pretty liberal game cap. John and Jed touch on this, but the best way to approach the situation is to treat game caps as if they do not exist. Try to fill your games every day, then as the season winds down, pump the breaks. It can be very difficult to make up games if you get behind. Additionally, eligibility can drastically increase a player’s value in the offseason or during the current season. 5 games started and 10 games played is the minimum bar to attain eligibility at a position. Wil Myers is an outfielder, Manny Machado is a shortstop, Jedd Gyorko is a shortstop.


Jed: “Biggest tip I would give is “pay attention to your finances.” They are unique/odd, and being casual about cap space and auction bids can get you into a world of trouble as a new player.”

will r: “Don’t give big ass loans. Strongly consider keeping your studs, and let the offers come to you before you start making offers.”

keefsmitty: “Take your time with trades (especially big ones) and RP rule the world.”

Joe Catanzariti: “When you cut a player, you get half his salary back. If he’s not auctioned in 30 days you should auction him to get half of what’s left back.”

Seth Kiehl: “Just had 2 new players join a league. They asked about 1) how allocations work. 2) How and when to cut players. 3) Loans (How can a team be $150 over the salary cap).”

Jed: “That’s a sub-issue and probably too granular, but Seth touched on a big one — new players seem to consistently keep players that should be cut.”

Because the salary cap within Ottoneu is a soft cap, loans are used in-season when the total salaries from one side of a trade are larger than the salaries of the players being received. Instead of reducing your cap space at the time of the trade and taking on salary, your trade partner can just loan the dollar difference to you. A good point was made in this discussion, that loans do not predicate a team repaying money to you at the end of the season. Rather it is more like cash considerations. After the season ends, loans disappear and you have until the cut deadline to get below the $400 salary cap to participate in the annual auction.

Offering a loan as a balancing item in a trade is standard operating procedure, so many owners give them out pretty easily. However, some would caution against this. You don’t want to be unwilling to give a loan in a trade, but you don’t want to give them freely without getting equal talent back in return. Instead, if you could consider taking your overpriced players and cutting them in season. With the money you save, you could pick up several hot free agents who  may end up being better assets in the long run. This lines up very similarly with Jed’s point. To use an example, you could have cut a $20 Prince Fielder instead of trading him. Doing so would allow you to keep $10 in cap space, then when he was picked up you would have received an extra $10. That $20 of cap space could have been used to bolster your pitching staff with the likes of Danny Duffy, James Paxton, or Ivan Nova if you were aggressive. Which leads to our third group…

Large Rosters, Deep Player Pool:

will r: “In season additions are one of the best ways to add value. Rack up lottery tickets and unowned hot players.”

Trey: “Related to deep player pool @ottoneutrades is that in Ottoneu you can’t just snap up hot players by being quickest on the trigger.   In-season player auctions take some finesse.”

will r: “Don’t overvalue prospects.”

Jed: “Prospects are super important — don’t overvalue / overpay, but don’t disregard either. Even if 8 out of 12 of your league mates hate prospects, the 4 who don’t can be game-changing trade partners midseason.”

Because the ottoneu rosters are so large, a lot of value can be had by playing matchups. It can be very easy to extract value from players who you wouldn’t be able to use effectively in standard leagues. The 3 pitchers I mentioned above are great examples – you can play each of them at home. In addition, any player currently signed to a major league team is in the Ottoneu player universe. So every prospect is available. These assets frequently can be used in trades and offer a wrinkle to the game that is not present to the format.

When I wrote about why you should play Ottoneu, commenter Baltic Wolf stated,

“Believe me, I’ve tried to talk the others into joining me in an Ottoneu league but they either don’t like paying the nominal fee or just don’t want to join another demanding league. I guess I’ll just have to wait. At some point that sad time will come where I do walk away and join (or start) an Ottoneu league where the scoring and the format suits my taste.”

My hope is that if you feel similarly, this will help to make the game seem less daunting. Like I’ve said before, if you want year round fantasy involvement, I encourage you to play. We can potentially set up “first year” leagues for owners who have not played in the past. If this would be of interest, please let me know in the comments.

We hoped you liked reading Learning Ottoneu by Joe Douglas!

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Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades

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Trey Baughn

Your comment, “I think about baseball constantly. I want to have an avenue to discuss baseball. Playing with people who care as much about baseball as I do helps with this” kind of pinpoints the exact kind of fantasy player that should give Ottoneu a try.