How NOT To Play The Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire

Need a little help navigating the waiver landscape in the early going? Beginners and advanced fantasy owners alike can benefit from Part 1 of RotoBaller Justin Berglund's Waiver Wire Strategy series.

Justin Berglund - RotoBaller

If drafting a team is where you build your army for the fantasy season, then consider the waiver wire that army's greatest weapon. No team ever goes through a season without needing to replace players due to injury, lost playing time or just plain sucking. In smaller leagues, it’s a bit easier to find quality among the waiver fodder, but in deeper leagues, that is where it is all about making the right moves after draft day. While there are only a few ways to win your league through the waivers, there are plenty of ways to lose it. Let’s get into the strategy of what not to do when looking at the waiver wire.

Zach Britton 2011When looking at players, especially early in the season, you shouldn't necessarily be looking at their raw conventional stats. Instead, rankings and ownership percentage tabs will help you filter players effectively.  Looking at the rank alone, though, could be challenging for owners and lead to a false sense of how good a player is. To give you an example: in one of my leagues, the highest-ranked available SP is Zach Britton, currently at #32. By that logic, I might as well go drop Stephen Strasburg (#1285) and pick up Britton. Obviously, that would be foolish.  And this misalignment is also true when doing specific searches. During the year, it might seem smart to rank players based on the last seven days, but that will just make whoever has the hot hand seem even better. Looking at players based on the past 30 or 14 days will likely give a better reading of who will be a better player going forward in the near term, as opposed to who has just had a few good games in a row.

The other thing I can’t stress enough is not to make rash decisions before thinking them through, especially this early in the season.  There’s always an itchy owner who drops a slumping star for the hot bat or pitcher, but more often than not, he ends up regretting it. Once Archie Bradley comes up, it’s nice to think he’ll be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that doesn’t mean you drop Stephen Strasburg just because he got lit up in his last outing. When making room for a new player, think about who will be least likely to get added by another team. I have Noah Syndergaard on my bench as a luxury-- if I need to drop him, I know there won’t be much interest in him, at least for a few weeks or months. Even if Strasburg or any more notable pitcher is struggling, you can be sure that he wouldn't last long on the wire.

The waiver wire is a fickle mistress. There’s always going to be that player you wanted to add but missed out on, either because another team spent a higher waiver priority or you just didn't have the requisite roster flexibility. The best thing to do when stuck, especially early on, is to consider that you drafted this team for a reason, and you should stay as close to that model as possible. If a player gets hurt, try to replace his unique production.  If you've lost stolen bases to an injury, try to snag a speedy top-of-the-lineup type rather than an all-or-nothing masher.  Adding the wrong player can certainly ruin your team's championship aspirations, so don’t be stupid. Or do-- it’ll make it easier for the rest of us.

That’s it for now. Up next, I’ll be examining more strategy for how to play the waiver wire, so with what you've just read, you’ll have everything you need to dominate fantasy free agency. Make sure to follow Justin on Twitter @JustBerglund and @RotoBaller for all your fantasy baseball updates throughout the season.