Weird Incentives In The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational

As you may have heard from Justin Mason and Jeff Zimmerman, The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (#TGFBI) slow draft begins today. Jeff recently wrote about the conundrum of picking third overall. I’m also picking third. While he took Charlie Blackmon, I selected the chic Trea Turner. I’m not too happy about it.

Blackmon made my list for the third pick, but he was the first name I crossed off. For a very simple reason. I’m in a lot of leagues. Too many leagues. They’re all either a keeper or dynasty format. In fact, TGFBI may be my only redraft league this season. The point is this – I’ve been sitting on multiple Blackmon shares since he broke out. I got them cheap, and I’ve kept them cheap. He’s treated me well, but one bad season could sink nearly ALL of my teams. I opted to diversify. I’ve never owned Turner before.

They say to zig when others zag. Or vice versa. I’ve always thought that the others would be zigging, thus encouraging me to zag. Never mind. The point of this article is to discuss weird incentives.

I’m drawn to dynasty and keeper formats because they’re both more complicated and simpler than redraft. The complication is the added dimension of time. If an alligator named Injury eats three of my stars, I can shift goals to winning next year. Or I can retool for the current season by selling those injured players to other rebuilding owners. There’s also more opportunity for owners to have divergent opinions about trade assets. A characteristic of competitive redraft leagues is a paucity of trades.

The simplification relates to roster building. Acquire the best assets regardless of position. Once ready to contend, convert redundant assets into your weaknesses. Usually, that means loading up on top hitting prospects and young sluggers then trading for pitchers later. Easy. Roster the best players.

It also doesn’t hurt that rebuilding owners are not contending owners. Therefore, a 15-team keeper league plays more like a 10 or 11 team league. A 15-team redraft like TGFBI plays like… a 15-team league.

And now, after 350 words, we reach the crux of it. When in a competitive redraft league like TGFBI, there’s pressure to be a contrarian. Like a daily fantasy Guaranteed Prize Pool tournament (GPP), simply picking the consensus best assets is a great way to finish fourth. Yea, I would feel pretty good about beating 11 of my colleagues, but I’d rather take a real shot at first place.

To successfully use a contrarian strategy, I need to make a series of gambles. I need to correctly identify the softest category targets. Where can I dominate the standings because most other teams won’t be competitive? What positions and categories can I plan to salvage from the scrap heap? In theory, the goal is to finish third in every category. In practice, I probably want to outright win three or four categories while posting a good-not-great performance in the others.

Last year, the best play was to load up on quality starting pitchers. Fortuitous late-round acquisitions of Aaron Judge, Zack Cozart, and Yonder Alonso┬ámade up for the lack of a Bryce Harper. Perhaps that’s still the play. However, I suspect some of my new leaguemates will have similar ideas. The “trick” to last season rarely works two years in a row.

Maybe the new contrarian is stolen bases, elite home run rates, and ace closers? If so, I’ve made a good start of it with Turner. He certainly makes for a volatile start to a roster. Volatility need not be feared in a 15-team industry league. With luck, I’ll be able to snag a Freddie Freeman or J.D. Martinez in the second round.

My strategy won’t start to truly cement until I’ve made my second and third picks. It’s after that point when it’s time to go against the consensus and commit to a plan.

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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Ariel Cohen

I’m surprised on the lack of 3rd picks for Arenado . Is it the lack of steals that leads to no love?