Have you ever played Madden or College Football (when that was around) or MLB The Show solely because you loved the challenge of building your teams and making the decisions on the directions of your program(s)? I know I did, and still do when I find the time…but I digress. For those of us that love that style of game play it doesn’t get better than dynasty fantasy baseball leagues. It’s your chance to feel like a real GM without millions of dollars at stake and without having to dedicate decades to moving up the career ladder in MLB.

That being said, there has been some confusion of late and some conflation of terms that’s been happening in the fantasy industry with regards to league setups and what is and what isn’t a dynasty league format. So over the course of this piece we’ll sort out what makes a league a dynasty format, how you setup, and thrive in this league format, strategies for not only drafting but also of in-season roster moves, and lastly the pros and, yes, cons to the format. So let’s get going on making you a better dynasty player and dominating your league and league mates alike.

Dynasty vs. Keeper Leagues

We can’t, in good faith, start a dynasty league strategy piece without first making sure you know what makes it a dynasty league rather than a keeper or even a deep keeper league. First things first, just because it’s a dynasty league, that doesn’t mean it can’t be points or H2H or rotisserie type scoring, Dynasty simply has to do with keeping players. Secondly, it doesn’t come down to league size or even roster size or even whether or not there are prospects involved. It’s solely based on whether or not there is a price or penalty for carrying a player over from one year to the next. While it’s true that dynasty leagues typically have much larger rosters than keeper leagues, that’s not the true separator. Some dynasty leagues, like my home dynasty league, not to be confused with my home keeper league, have caps on the number of players you can carry from year-to-year, but none have a penalty for doing so. Keeper leagues on the other hand either increase the round value of a player or the price of a player against your budget in auction formats to keep the player for another season. Getting down this understanding is key to figuring out how to succeed in this league format.

So How Do We Build Our Rosters?

Well I’m glad you asked. Just like any other fantasy baseball format, whether it be rotisserie or points or H2H scoring, we’re generally looking for similar types of players for dynasty in order to win each individual season. There are differences in what players we should be looking at in dynasty versus say keeper or redraft and even draft-and-hold leagues, but filling out the roster is pretty similar across all formats.

If you’re in a brand new dynasty league or this piece encourages you to start one up, clearly everyone’s rosters are fully blank and the drafting and in-season advice is probably more helpful, but don’t skip just yet as having an eye on the future is massively helpful in this format so reading up on making decisions on who to keep and when to cut bait will help you in your initial draft quite a bit as well.

For keeper leagues it’s a pretty basic formula to deciding if you’re keeping a player. All you have to do is figure out if you think the value you have to give up to keep that player is worth it to keep them, aka they’re a bargain or value at their price. All you’re looking at is that one year in front of you, it doesn’t matter what you think will happen in any years past that as the keeper value changes and who knows if keeping them will make sense at that point.

For dynasty leagues though, it’s far more complex of a process on deciding who you’re bringing over for another season. But didn’t you just say that there’s no penalty for keeping a player and in some leagues no limit on the number of keepers you can have? You’re right I did say that just 350 words ago, so why am I saying it’s complex now? Well, there’s a few things that make it complex. First off, and perhaps most importantly, is that player in their prime or simply eating up a roster spot for you? We want, ideally, a full roster of players in their prime, close to their prime, or entering their prime to maximize the values they offer. Secondly, what is the status of the roster around them looking like? Sure, this should be a consideration when drafting any player but especially in dynasty because taking a veteran player on a rebuilding team could cost you a shot at getting a young up-and-coming prospect or player rather than holding onto what the vet has brought in previous years. A good example of this is keeping players like Carlos Santana or Didi Gregorius who are still playing but will be supplanted by Nick Pratto and Bryson Stott, respectively, pretty quickly. Keeping those two guys gets you a veteran bat and fills a roster spot sure, but costs you in opportunity cost in losing out on younger players or depth elsewhere. Thirdly, we want to pay attention to players changing parks or parks changing on players. Yes, these are considerations for all players, but you have to be acutely aware of them for dynasty leagues as the long-term effect on players with drastic park changes could either see you gain value or lose a bunch of value in a player. For example, guys like Ryan Mountcastle, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Starling Marte all had their park dimensions change either via construction or free agency which will almost assuredly change their production for either the worse or the better. Lastly, in terms of prospects and which ones to keep, like the rest of dynasty leagues, this takes some research. My number one rule on keeping a prospect is this: Does that prospect fit my plan for how I build my roster or are they simply trade bait? Sometimes I will hold a prospect simply because I know a few other owners in the league covet that player and I can use them to trade for a major leaguer or another prospect I like better. However, most of the time keeping a prospect should be geared toward building your roster for the future in a spot that you need help or depth in. Position scarcity is a real thing in prospect hunting too, just like we hear about it when trying to fill your redraft or draft-and-hold or even keeper rosters. Take my Top-300 Prospects list, up now in the Draft Guide, you’ll notice that there is far more depth at certain positions than at other spots. If you have a guy who is in the top-10 at their position, regardless if they’re a known name or not, they should be kept. If you’re torn between two prospects who are a pitcher and hitter, generally speaking the hitter is the better bet to produce and provide value over the pitcher.

We’ve Kept Players, Now What?

Just like every other fantasy baseball league format and style, we’ve got to draft to fill out the rest of the roster no matter how many keepers you’ve kept. Whether it’s a snake draft, auction style, which you can get tips on here, or third-round reversal or what have you, the generally way you’re going to draft is reasonably the same as the others but there are some key differences. Ideally you’re trying to maximize this year’s roster and stats to win this year regardless of the mix of keepers versus drafted players on the team. So going after the best available players in the early rounds is still the best strategy in dynasty, just like other formats, however the pool of those types of players is very small given how many players teams can keep in dynasty leagues. Once those players are gone, we’re looking at players that can fill roles for our rosters either because of the position they play or perhaps they’re a single-category producer that’ll help boost a stat we need. There’s an art to this though and it starts with the age of the player. We want the players closest to their prime and youngest possible if we’re deciding between a few. The reasoning here is simple, the younger they are the more years we can roster them for while they’re productive.

Aside from age though, that pesky topic of position scarcity comes up again because, you know, we have to talk about it. It’s pretty well known where the thinnest positions are in terms of immediate fantasy production for this year, but in a dynasty league, there’s more depth there than what’s perceived in yearly leagues simply because you have the luxury of having a guy for a few years and can watch him develop more each year. Now, let’s be clear, if you get a whole team of players waiting to develop, it’ll be tough to win within the next couple of years. Just like when selecting your keepers, drafting prospects in shallow positions can set you on a path that’s ahead of the curve compared to your league mates as they go hunting for players in shallow positions.

The Art of Making In-Season Moves

Every league requires managers to make in-season moves, but in dynasty moves have a bit of a different spin on them. Sure, there are moves that are simply to fill a roster spot to keep production coming from those roster spots, but every move needs to be taken with an eye on the future as well. Let’s say a player gets injured mid-season which happens frequently this day and age, in a redraft or perhaps even in a keeper, we’d not think twice about dropping a guy who’s seriously injured, but in a dynasty league format, there is value to still having that guy on the roster for the following season(s) which undoubtedly can make even the deepest of league rosters feeling tight at points.

Making free agent pickups in season should be done with a bit more caution as well since each of those players could be on your roster for more than just that season, if all goes well. That added pressure of potentially having a multi-year pickup means we’re not just going for the flavor the week like usually happens with FAAB in redraft leagues. The other thing that’s important to look at in-season, pickup-wise, is when to grab prospects that you want to stash, or perhaps use that season. Some leagues have rules about when they block picking up prospects or if you can carry prospects over who were picked up after a certain date so you’ll want to make sure you know your league rules on that. In my personal home league, I’ve been a guy that farms the prospect list later in the season, just before the cutoff for grabbing prospects, to stock up on the lesser-known, younger players who might not make an impact for a couple of seasons. This way when they start to make more noise, they’re not available in the league.

Trades are another key piece to in-season moves and that gets trickier in dynasty formats to be sure. Just think of how often we want to pan major league GMs for the moves they make without taking into account the added years of players and prospects they might be getting in the deal. In redraft leagues, we’re simply trading to get a need for now and make a balanced deal with your league mate. In dynasty though, trading for a major league player now will almost assuredly cost you prospects, just like a real-life GM would have to give up. That’s why often we see trades in dynasty leagues between teams who are going for it this season and those who are in the building mode for the future but have key pieces that can help immediately. Getting prospects and dreaming of a roster in which all of those players are in the majors at the same time and producing to their ceilings can be an infectious feeling for sure, but if you spend your whole season chasing prospects, you’ll be further from winning than you might want to be. It’s a tricky balancing act that makes dynasty leagues trickier than all others.

Upsides and Drawbacks

The pros to both formats are that as a manager in these leagues you will gain a deeper understanding of the game and a fondness for following teams outside of your normal orbit. Though there are some individual pros and cons to each format. One general con for both is that they are much more involved strategically than standard single-season leagues and it gets more so if you’re in AL or NL-Only formats.

In keeper leagues we’re still getting the benefit of knowing what’s coming in the pipeline for major league clubs and that can really pique baseball fans interest even more, especially if it’s a prospect for your favorite team that you’ll invest in watching the development of. Another benefit of this format is that while it’s looking longer down the road than redraft leagues, it’s not as far reaching as the dynasty format and so those that only want to try and sort things out over the next few seasons, keeper leagues afford them that opportunity. The main con with this format is that you may have spent a few years keeping a player or holding them since they’ve been a prospect and then you’ll have to throw them back into the pool just when they reach their peak values.

The main pros for dynasty formats are that for those of us who wish they could be an actual MLB GM, this is as close as we’ll get, sans MLB The Show. It also gives you the feeling of managing a minor league system and trying to make trades that have seasons-worth of implications on both team’s rosters. The other main pro, over keeper leagues, is that you can hold a player all the way through until you decide you no longer want them. So if you’ve had a player since they were a young prospect and now they’ve come up and hit their peak, there’s nothing making you get rid of that player, aside from your own feelings about them. The biggest con with this format is that it takes a lot of time to be good at these leagues and you have to be on top of what’s happening at all levels of pro ball to really maximize your roster. You can also wind up with players who are dead weight on your roster, either active, minor league, or bench because they had a bad season and you get caught for another season holding them hoping they turn it around because you are less likely to cut players as quickly if there’s no restriction on how long you can roster them for.

Any Final Thoughts?

Generally these leagues are the best that fantasy baseball has to offer because of the depth of play they require and the knowledge of the game you’ll gain as a fantasy manager. Knowing that a team trading player X has repercussions for player Y on the other team will make you an overall better baseball fan and enjoy the nuances of the game more. Anyone can play a one-season league and have a solid draft and then hit the waiver wire or FAAB jackpot and pick up the must-have hitter or pitcher and get a championship that year. And congrats to them because it’s still hard to win a baseball title, however keeper and dynasty league titles are more satisfying because it can take a few season’s worth of moves and correct decisions to ultimately get you the lineup that wins the title. If you want leagues in which developing players over a few years and having to make strategic roster decisions that can affect things a year or two down the road, keeper and dynasty leagues are the formats for you.