Deep dynasty leagues are becoming increasingly popular. Today, I’d like to talk about my experiences with the format, things to look for when joining a league, and what this means for the fantasy baseball industry.
Let’s start by defining a “deep” dynasty league. This is a flexible concept. In a recent poll, I said the following: “Let’s define “deep” as any mixed league that rosters 700 or more players leaguewide or any AL/NL Only with 350 or more players. At least half of players are kept.”
Again, the exact definition can vary. What matters is that the league operates on a completely different level than the most common fantasy formats. Those are 12-team redraft with roto or head-to-head scoring. There are also dynasty leagues with similar dynamics to these more common formats. Participants in these leagues can use existing resources for redraft leagues with a little mental tinkering. The norms of the industry still apply in a general sense even if there are some specific quirks.
By the way, here is the aforementioned poll results:
Do you play in a deep dynasty league?
Let's define "deep" as any mixed league that rosters 700 or more players leaguewide or any AL/NL Only with 350 or more players. At least half of players are kept.
Choice #2 is: I play in a dynasty league, but it's not that deep
— Brad Johnson (@BaseballATeam) January 7, 2019
A little over a third of those polled (in an admittedly biased sample) already play in deep dynasty leagues. Only a quarter of voters don’t play any sort of dynasty league. This almost certainly is a sharp increase compared to five years ago.
Part of the growing popularity is that there are now two good platforms for dynasty leagues – CBS and FanTrax. The former has a fee while the latter can be free as long as you don’t use complex settings. Ottoneu is a popular dynasty-lite offering – and I suspect a big reason dynasty participation is presumably growing.
Dynasty leagues can be brittle without the right mix of participants. As such, it’s difficult to just wander into the wilderness and find a healthy league. We’ve all had our share of 12-team leagues where half the owners simply don’t put in the time or lack the talent to compete. Now imagine the difficulty of finding 20 or more owners with the aptitude to run a franchise. Not only do they have to contend, they also have to balance long term goals.
Some easy ways to make deep dynasties easier are to set weekly lineups with weekly limits on waiver wire moves. As always, it helps with owner engagement to charge an entry fee and offer a cash prize for winning.
One “trick” is to strongly encourage co-management. When two managers work together on one team, it changes the dynamic of team ownership. They have a responsibility to each other to actually manage the team and jointly participate in decisions. Additionally, the saying “two heads are better than one” can apply. If one owner gets a wacky idea, the other can step in to quash it.
My best advice for fantasy owners who want to join their first deep dynasty league: sign up through an industry resource. For example, Justin Mason’s site put together a 30-team dynasty league earlier this winter with a mix of readers and writers. Patrons of my BaseballATeam page are currently concluding a 25-team league (#DTBNL on twitter). These opportunities, while rare, offer a soft landing spot for the uninitiated.
In general, you should look for leagues with very simple rules. The more complexity, the more likely a league will fail. Or you might simply find yourself hopelessly behind because you misinterpreted the effect of a certain rule. In general, you have a 5×5 roto (AVG or OBP) with a normal-looking active roster and simple keeper mechanisms – i.e. roster 45, keep 28, no cost. Save those leagues with complicated contracts for when you’ve mastered the basics of dynasty play.
Dynasty leagues are all about balancing present and future value. It’s tempting to go whole hog on prospects on the premise that you’ll dominate in the future. I strongly advise against such a course of action. While there is something to be said for preferring elite prospects over an older stud like Joey Votto, it’s very easy to get lost under a sea of toolsy 17-year-olds. If you’re not experienced swimming in such seas, you’ll probably drown.
If joining an existing league, try to find a roster that isn’t lost in the prospect weeds. Rather than aggressively jumping in and reshaping the roster, take some time to explore ways to make it competitive. It’s very common to see new owners rush to immediately sell all of their assets for prospect. This is almost always a mistake. Take your time.
Already, the number of resources for dynasty players is rapidly growing. The market knows that demand is increasing. Our own McDongenhagen is my favorite resource for scouting takes, and the FanGraphs player pages are obviously a valuable resource for statistical scouting.
FanTrax’s focus on offering a quality dynasty platform is probably the number one reason it has gained such a foothold in the market. Yahoo is still the gold standard for traditional redraft leagues, but they refuse to support anything beyond the most shallow of keeper scenarios. Dozens of players like Josh James aren’t even in the player pool until after they debut. FanTrax errs on the other side with virtually every eligible player in the pool.
Going forward, expect more sites catering to the deepest corners of fantasy baseball. At first, we’ll likely see an explosion of options with a few emerging from the chaos as go-to resources.