There are many ways to classify a fantasy league. One way is by the host. Is it a Yahoo, ESPN, CBS league, or other? Another is by the scoring system. Is it rotisserie or head-to-head or total points? I could go on and on about classification leagues; the number of people, the draft type, the roster adjustments—you’ve seen how detailed people can get telling their league’s specific dimensions in the mailbag—it never ends.
One thing to notice is that each of these variable league conditions require different strategies. In this article I am going to highlight one of those variable conditions and discuss how it should affect your strategy in a league.
This league condition has to do with the people in your league, but not the number or ability of them. It is whether or not you know the other people in your league. And by “know” I do not mean know of them, I mean know them, personally. If you think about it, leagues with your close friends and those with random internet people play out quite differently.
Before I take a step forward, let me make one important clarification. What I am really taking about is how you communicate with the other people in your league. If you talk through any sort of direct communication—i.e. talking in person, over the telephone, or even instant messaging—with the other people in your league, then I would consider that a “private” league. If you only use e-mail or texting or any other type of communication in which responses are not sent and received immediately, then that is classified (by my definition) as a “public” league.
So even if you are in a league with your best friends but you never talk about the league through any of the direct mediums, I would still consider that a public league because, in effect, it will function like one.
With that said, let’s start talking about how strategies should differ in these two types of leagues.
Trading is the aspect that is most affeted by the difference between public and private leagues. Because no direct communication between teams occurs, the entire arena of trading is severely restricted in public leagues. Most commonly, one team sends an offer without any prior negotiations, and if the receiving team thinks the offer is halfway decent, they will send a slightly modified counter-offer. This offer, counter-offer method of trading is boring, inefficient, and often leads to neither side willing to compromise, effectively breaking down “negotiations”.
In private leagues, however, trading has a much larger impact on the league as a whole. Terrible draft? Not a big deal. Some slick negotiation and lopsided deals can fix that. In public leagues that ability to quickly improve (or worsen) your team does not exist. For that reason—because public leagues are generally more static—a different strategy should be employed during the draft.
So far, we’ve concluded that in private leagues altering your team is a more easily done than in public leagues. Therefore, in public leagues I would think of being more conservative when drafting because the players you get, are pretty much yours for the season. It is important to understand exactly what I mean by “conservative” because I’m not using the word in the traditional sense.
I do not mean avoiding injury risks like Rich Harden or even Albert Pujols. If one of your players gets injured, you will not be able to trade him regardless of what type of league you are in. Nor am I advocating avoiding high risk-reward players like Francisco Liriano because if they work out, you probably will not be looking to trade them; and if they bust, you won’t get value for them in a trade anyway. What I do mean is being conservative to your personal rankings.
In public leagues, picking players that you want—even if it is a round before their normal average draft position—is important because, quite frankly, if they get selected by another team there is little chance you can get them onto yours without blatantly ripping yourself off in a trade. So I am saying that perhaps you might want to reach for a couple players you covet strongly instead of trying to pick them as late as possible. (The Fantasy Baseball Generals recently had a great discussions on reaching by the way) You are better off feeling good about your players than feeling like you got the best value for your players. Adhere to your rankings and get the players you want, simple as that.
In private leagues I would still follow your rankings in the draft, of course, but not as religiously as in public leagues. That does not mean drafting a player based on how other people value him, because you should never draft to trade. While trading is not a bad thing, you should never fell like you must or have to trade, because that often leads to undesirable trades
Private leagues allow you to gamble by letting the players you want fall an extra round before picking them to get a “super bargain.” If someone else takes the player you want (usually it is the guy who picks right before you), get mad for a couple seconds, then make your pick and know that you can trade for the player if you so choose.
One caveat is anytime I say to be conservative here or a little more aggressive there in a strategy article like this, understand exactly what I mean by conservative or aggressive and know that it is a very, very small change in mindset I am looking for. Everything is subtle. If I do say be conservative, think of it more as not aggressive than actually conservative.
One more thing to consider is how many people will follow the league. I know that it is tough when you are drafting to know who will follow and who will not, but I usually have a good idea of how competitive a league will be when I join it. Do not expect to do much trading in a dead league (one in which you are the only one following).