The Verdict: keeping it on the DL

There are dozens of ways to customize a fantasy baseball league. Whether it is roto or points, head-to-head or cumulative, daily or weekly, keeper or non-keeper, mixed league or AL/NL only, you get the point. After making those decisions, you must decide how many teams to include in the league and then set roster limits including positions and the number of bench players allowed. After all of that, a decision that is often taken for granted is whether to allow for DL slots, and if so, how many.

Just like death and taxes are the only things guaranteed in life, injuries are all but assured in a fantasy baseball league. We see it almost every day where players go down with injuries, which wreaks havoc on major league teams as well as millions of fantasy baseball players. In actual baseball, teams can place their players on the disabled list where they remain safe and sound until they can come back. On fantasy teams, it isn’t always so easy.

Depending on the number of teams and size of rosters in your league, the free agent pool tends to be lacking sufficient replacements when a player gets injured. That is why some leagues opt to not allow for DL slots at all. Sure, not having a DL slot creates drama, intrigue and true strategic planning when deciding whether to hold on to a player. But if a fantasy manager elects to build his bench with players at certain positions, he may not be able to replace that injured player without deviating from his strategy.

That is not to say that fantasy players are entitled to stay committed to the plans they made in the offseason or during the draft. But if we want to truly replicate some semblance of reality in our fantasy games, players need the flexibility to be able to stash certain injured players without being at the expense of someone else. This is why I advocate having DL slots available. But how many?

Deciding how many DL slots are available would logically be based on the number of teams in the league and the size of the rosters. One would think that the more teams and the bigger the rosters, the fewer DL spots a league should have. That does make some sense. But it also makes sense even if it is a smaller league with more limited rosters. Regardless of how many teams are in the league, it is advisable not to let fantasy players hoard injured players. I understand that teams are permitted to allocate their FAAB dollars or waiver positions however they want. But looking at the bigger picture and what is best for the league, the free agent pool should remain as viable as possible for as long as possible.

Most leagues I have participated in have a limit of three DL slots. I think this is a fair number to allow teams the flexibility to stash players who get injured, or even acquire players already injured. If a team sustained more than three injuries at a time, then it becomes a strategic decision who to hold on to and who to let go. This likely won’t be an easy decision, but it is something that must be made to keep the size of rosters in check while also maximizing the free agent pool as much as possible.

The decision to have DL slots and the number permissible is something each league must decide. Some leagues prefer to play with the teams they drafted and not have any transactions at all. But if this is a point of contention in your league, it is advisable to settle on three DL slots because it is enough to compensate for a rash of injuries and few enough to prevent excessive hoarding of injured players.

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