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I have been playing fantasy baseball for more than twenty years now. During that time, I started to think I was a better-than-average player while playing in leagues with friends and family. I branched off into other leagues from there, and more often than not, finished near the top in most.

And then a few years ago, one of my oldest friends and I decided to try our hand in an NFBC $150 satellite league. We figured share the cost, share the responsibility, recognizing that both of us have spent $75 in far dumber ways than on baseball-related things. And we took the plunge.

We prepared well for the draft, and I would argue, drafted well. However, a monster lurked in the shadows, mocking us, laughing at us. That monster’s name was FAAB, or Free Agent Acquisition Budget. And four years later, this beast still mocks us. Many leagues give you a $1000 (or $100) budget to spend as judiciously as possible over the course of the season to acquire waiver wire free agents.

This article is not for the expert but for the player just starting out in such leagues who may want a crash course in things I have learned the hard way getting schooled by better players than me. Here is a quick summary of what I learned in 2021 from those people.

FAAB Thoughts

Bidding early vs. bidding late: I mistakenly thought that my best play in most leagues was to wait on players, thinking I would bid heavily on shiny new toys. Think guys like Wander Franco or Jo Adell; the guys who may be multicategory stat sheet fillers. While other fantasy players are stocking up on things that they need and spending their money on the Julian Merryweathers of the world, I will have a stack of cash to indulge myself. I guess that is a fine thought in theory, but in practice, you may be far better off bidding early rather than holding on to your FAAB. The longer you have an impact player on your squad, the more stats you can accumulate over the course of the season. I finished last in GLARF because I used this strategy, and it didn’t work for me. By the time I was ready to spend money I was already buried in the standings.

What do you need vs. what do you want? Seems simple and straightforward, but accurately assessing needs versus wants is a must. I am a diehard White Sox fan and many fantasy players dropped Eloy Jimenez at the beginning of the year due to his injury in Spring Training. Did I want to roster him cheaply and stash him on my bench? Surely. Is that the right move? Depends on your roster construction, but it’s hard to keep injured players on your roster for weeks at a time when you need depth to be able to compete for the top spot. Likely a better move is rostering that extra outfielder, middle infielder, or pitcher who can help you in a pinch each week, rather than a “dead” spot on your roster. Your team’s situation and position in each category should dictate this to you.

Weekly look at your roster: This is an area in which I need drastic improvement. My most glaring example of this was Ketel Marte this year in an expert league. I drafted him in the fourth round and was in love with the idea of double-digit steals and home runs. Marte did give us a .318 batting average and 14 home runs, but only two steals, and what’s worse, he played only 90 games. The issue for me is that I held on to him while he was injured, thinking, “he’s going to be better when healthy than anyone I can pick up off the waiver wire.” Marte played in only 55% of his team’s games. This becomes a valuable lesson: do not roster injured players when there is someone out there who will give you real stats, not just stats in your mind or in your projections. I ended up with three guys with second base eligibility on my roster, eventually, that all outperformed Marte: Tommy Edman, Joey Wendle and the immortal Brad Miller.  My point? Do not fall in love with what you think a player may be when you can have real statistics in his place. The kicker? I finished second in this league by one measly point. My folly of rostering injured players saving for a rainy day lost me the league.

Take a weekly scan of who got dropped that last week and who may help you, both in the short term and the long term. Sometimes, other fantasy players drop guys that may not be useful to them any longer but may be useful to you. One thought to rid yourself of is if manager X doesn’t want this guy, and he is a better player than me in my mind, why would I want him? But that is also folly. Manager X could have a roster crunch, a player coming back from injury, or better yet, a need elsewhere that causes them to drop a good player to alleviate their situation. Let’s say Manager X loses both of their closers in one week and needs to find saves on the waiver wire. Say Manager X has a surplus of starting pitchers and decides to drop a starter to roster some potential saves. In so doing they drop Luis Garcia or someone of that ilk. This represents a buying opportunity for you. My point: always look for value in the players who have been dropped the week (or two) prior.

By the same measure, take some time to look weeks ahead for favorable matchups and potential two-start pitchers. Who is playing five games that week as opposed to seven games? Find every advantage you can.

Make a ton of claims. Too many is far better than too few. I have learned this the hard way, putting all my eggs into one basket, so to speak, on one or two players. This is where that honest, full assessment of your team comes into play. For example, in TGFBI this year, my first two picks were Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Jack Flaherty. Ouch, huh? To overcome those injuries, I should have been far more aggressive in my FAAB bidding and made a dozen claims on players who could help me.  Instead, I bid conservatively, both in FAAB dollars and number of bids, and failed to get even adequate production from either player. Thus, I bobbed around in the middle of the pack, listless, and never made any kind of move forward because I could not master the FAAB.

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