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One of the most challenging aspects of managing a fantasy baseball team is figuring out how to approach player valuations in the early going. It can be difficult to take the long view and remain patient with a struggling star, or resist the urge to make hasty drops for the flavor of the week. And while those may most often be the most sound approaches, they aren't always. Sometimes that big-name player never gets going, while the trendy waiver add develops into one of the season's biggest bargains.

There's no magic bullet here. At the end of the day, we're all just guessing; it's simply a matter of how educated those guesses are. Everyone's calculus is different and nobody's right all the time, but establishing a reliable process can help you make the correct call more often than not.

Here, then, are five factors to consider when deciding what your next move should be.

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Keep These Things In Mind

Track Record

The best predictor of future performance is past performance. It's why we pay the big bucks to land established elite talent year in and year out. There are no guarantees, of course, and plenty of would-be stars wind up instead as disappointments for one reason or another. All else being equal, however, great players tend to remain great more often than not. Don't dismiss years of production just because a guy isn't currently setting the world ablaze. Odds are, he'll come around - and there are usually warning signs that can tell you if he won't.

Peripherals

Surface stats are what count in the standings, but the successful fantasy owner knows how to look beyond the results and zero in on the processes involved in obtaining them. If the underlying numbers for a player haven't changed much from previous years, it's likely that his results will ultimately follow suit. "Luck" may not be the best term given its connotations, but it's close enough for government work. A batter whose contact rates and quality remain robust but whose production is in the toilet is probably getting unlucky. Ditto for the pitcher who's throwing just as hard and missing just as many bats as usual, but whose ratios are out of whack due to fluctuations in BABIP, LOB%, or HR/FB%, to name just a few examples.

Context

The quality of a team's roster can exert influence on a particular player's production in a number of ways. So too can the quality of competition, the parks in which they've played, managerial decisions, and numerous other variables. It's important to take as much of this as possible into consideration. A run of starts against top teams can skew a pitcher's results. The struggles of teammates can deflate a hitter's run production. The foibles of a manager can lead to fluctuations in playing time, abrupt role changes, or fewer opportunities for a player to pitch deep into games, earn saves, or steal bases. Did the player change teams? Maybe he's adjusting to a new park, league, or city. If the situation is a poor fit overall, that could mean the struggles will persist.

New Information

They say that the only constant in life is change. Players may tweak, tinker with, or outright overhaul their mechanics, approach, swing plane, pitch mix, or sequencing. These changes can sometimes be obvious by the eye test, but they can also be more subtle. Where you'll usually find the telltale signs is in the peripheral numbers. If a player is hitting for more power, you'll want to look at whether he's hitting more balls in the air. A surge in strikeouts for a pitcher can often be explained by increased velocity, added break or drop, or the addition of an entirely new pitch. Track record matters, but you don't want to focus too much on the past and miss the new information staring you in the face.

Emotion

We've covered the players. Let's talk about you. Are you making this move for the right reasons - namely, that you think it gives you the best chance to win - or are you just pissed off? Nobody likes to see a player they spent significant resources to acquire or expected to serve as a cornerstone of their roster stink up the joint night after night. But letting your emotions get the better of you is a good way to torpedo your season, and think about how much more upset you'll be if you rashly cut or trade a player who ends up rebounding and helping one of your rivals to a championship. Before you make a decision, take a moment to make sure you aren't acting out of anger or frustration.

 

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