We’ve all heard the phrase “dynasty league” thrown around, seemingly in an ever-growing fashion. Fantasy baseball has long been on a journey to make playing fantasy sports more and more like being a General Manager of your own baseball team. Just like everyone who gets the newest copy of MLB The Show and plays Road To The Show or Franchise or Diamond Dynasty mode. Dynasty leagues are great at combining all of these modes in one pastime – fantasy baseball. However, just what does the term “dynasty league” mean in fantasy baseball? How does it differ from say a keeper league or redraft? What are the strategies needed to excel in dynasty leagues? What are the pros and cons of dynasty leagues? This primer will go over all of that and more and help make your decisions on getting involved in a dynasty league, and honing your dynasty skills, more easier. So let’s press that “A” button and continue as we would in MLB The Show.


What is a Dynasty Fantasy Baseball League

First things first. We have to clear a few things up to get on the same page. A dynasty league, like the title the piece references, is one in which you can keep players for however long you want and there is typically zero penalty or additional price assessed for you to keep those players. Whether that be dollar value or draft picks. On the other hand, a keeper league is one in which managers can keep players for only certain lengths of time. The players being kept often come with a price, either dollar value or draft pick. Both can have identical formats and be either mixed, AL- , or NL-only formats, and involve prospects or international players. The real difference is determined by the length of time a player can remain on your roster and the price to keep said players. Those differences certainly change the strategies involved.

How To Build Dynasty League Fantasy Baseball Rosters

Once you get to draft day, drafting, no matter the format, comes down to essentially the same thing – maximizing value. Whether that be a future value or a current value, it’s all about how much you can extract. So what makes building a roster different in keeper and dynasty leagues? How do they differ from each other? That all happens in the offseason. But getting your offseason moves right, can set you up for more success come draft day. If you’re joining a startup league for this year, the next section will be of more relevance to you.

Keeper Leagues: If you’re in a keeper league, you’ll have some choices to make based on hard counts of how many players you can carry over. The best way to determine who to keep is who brings back the most value for the next year or two. Value is a tricky term to use because everyone views it differently. It could mean sheer return on investment, otherwise known as keeping them for a 10th-round pick when ADP has them in the 3rd-4th round or paying $10 of budget to keep them when valuations have him at $20. Or it could mean they are valued because of the strategies they open up to you during your draft. For example, they’re a multi-positional player or fill hard-to-get categories. Trying to go into the draft with the best combination of players and with value gained is how you dominate keeper leagues for the long run. The other thing to keep in mind with this format, which doesn’t necessarily apply to dynasty leagues, is how close a player is to their peak. Obviously, if you only get them for a few years, you’re trying to maximize your exposure to their peak. If your league caps the number of prospects you can have, you're also trying to keep the best possible ones in who are closer to the majors or less blocked than others.

Dynasty Leagues: Dynasty leagues don’t have time limits on keeping players and, generally, they don’t have increased penalties for holding a player year after year. So, in comparison to a keeper league, value is really about keeping the best players that can help you win. For the mid-or-lower-tier players it comes down to who you think, or know, will be available come draft day to fill those roster spots. Injuries and trying to maximize peak years should also weigh less in these formats because it’s not necessarily wasted value if a guy only gives you a part of a campaign due to injury or doesn’t live up to the value you thought he’d have. You still want your team to do as best as possible, clearly, but if it doesn’t cost you anything to hold a player, paying $10 for a presumed $20 player who only turns out to be worth $5 isn’t the worst thing in the world. For prospects in this one, this is where the in-depth knowledge and planning really come into play. You don’t want the prospect to be heavily blocked when they’re ready to contribute but you also don’t want to invest a few seasons carrying who you thought would be a top prospect, only to have them not really contribute anything to their major league club. So while the keeper format is more about what can I get from this player sooner rather than later, dynasty is a great combination of needing the best players now but also having their replacements ready when they start to waiver or spotting the sleeper who can fill a hard to get stat in drafts. It’s perfectly okay to carry one or two category contributors in dynasty leagues if those stats a scarce on draft day.

For both leagues once the players being kept are decided on, it really comes down to filling out your rosters on draft day however your league does it. Personally, auctions are the most strategic and fair way to do either of these leagues but to each their own. When drafting, you’ll need to have a grasp on winning strategies, as thats what we’re all here for. So how do we draft in a dynasty league?

Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategies for Dynasty Leagues

While both formats are made for long-term plays, there are different intricacies about drafting players, when, and what gets the focus when at the draft. These are perhaps the most important formats to be looking at a player’s three-year trends or averages in preparation for the draft as well as knowing how to utilize, at least basic, sabermetric or advanced stats as they tend to hold truer over a few seasons than for one-year samples like you focus on for redrafts. Outside of the nuances mentioned below, drafting in these leagues can be thought about much like the single-year formats.

Keeper Leagues: The first thing that comes to mind is the importance of knowing that you may only have these players for a year. Just because it’s a keeper format, that doesn’t mean you have to keep anyone for more than a year if the value or fit isn’t right. With that in mind, knowing who’s coming back from injuries or who the more injury-prone players can be quite important. Even if you do keep a player for multiple seasons, guys like Byron Buxton could eat a lot of that time on your bench coming back from injury and no one wants wasted roster spots. It doesn’t really matter the position for this advice either. The second thing to keep in mind that is perhaps a bit different from true dynasty formats is that position scarcity will still matter in these drafts. Think of it as the midpoint between redraft and dynasty leagues. In redrafts, once the top few second basemen are off the board you’re stuck. In keeper leagues, you might be stuck this year but if you draft an up-and-coming player at the position you could be just fine the next year or two. I have 21 second basemen listed in my 2023 Top-400 prospect rankings, who are all at various stages of development, so they may come up a year from now and make a splash to give you help. But it won’t be this year.  So keeping in mind position scarcity and then capitalizing on filling those holes with up-and-coming prospects in those spots is really how to sustain your success for a long time in keeper leagues. What if you see two players as very similar for this year though? What do we do then? That’s a pretty common question and predicament. Here’s a tiebreaker I use frequently in keeper leagues when drafting:  what is  the future value of each player? If you have both players ranked very similarly, look at what you can draft both for in terms of round or auction value and what the prospective lineup or rotation around them will look like over the next few years. For example, let’s say you’re between Bryson Stott and Gavin Lux this year, both players going within a few picks of each other and are similarly priced in auction drafts. If you’re appropriately taking things into account for keeper formats, the pick would be Lux because of the playing time he’s slated to get over the next two years as well as the trust in the Dodgers to always put together one of the best lineups in baseball. The Phillies have made huge strides this offseason but overall the Dodgers have the better farm system to fill holes and have the money to go make key signings, all while not taking Lux’s spot on the field. The same can’t be said for Stott at this point.

Dynasty Leagues: Drafting players with the idea that you don’t want to have to fill that roster spot again for the next few years is the key to success in dynasty drafts. We don’t want to get into a cycle of treating the draft like a redraft draft and just treading water. Think about the MLB teams who have success and how small their roster turnover is year-over-year. For keeper leagues, we talked about how injuries should play a role in your thinking when selecting players to keep or draft. For dynasty leagues, it’s not as serious of a thing because you have basically the rest of the player’s career to hold them and so losing a year out of ten isn’t as bad as losing a year out of three as you would in a keeper league situation. We also talked about “peak years” with keeper leagues. While that’s a factor for dynasty leagues too, know that it’s different for each position. Generally, for a hitter, their power peak starts at age 27 and goes through age 30-31-32. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still valuable before and/or after that as we’ve seen countless prospects come up and absolutely take off from the jump with an even higher ceiling coming in their peak years. This is where the main difference is for dynasty: getting guys that are just coming up. It’s the best strategy for long-term success because you maximize the valuable years they are rostered for, not just trying to get the best two-to-four-year stretch out of them. This is also why sabermetrics and analytics are best utilized for dynasty leagues.

Switching to the position scarcity topic, it’s actually a bit of reverse thinking of sorts in dynasty leagues. Everyone is playing with the same short-handed positions in the majors, and the same development time to fill those positions with depth. Thus, everyone is trying to get a bevy of prospects that will pan out and be productive in the majors, but in the minors, the position scarcity continues in terms of top prospects and certain positions. There are 21 catchers in my Top-400 prospects right now, but there are just 10 first baseman while the top-50 shortstops only gets you to 232 in the rankings. So making sure to grab prospects in short positions is a slightly bigger focus in dynasty formats to set yourself up for long-term success year after year. Another more niche thing to consider in dynasty is players that are settled in with a team either because of role, contract, or both. There are numerous players, mostly utility infielders and pitchers, that are seemingly on a different team each season or every other season. For dynasty leagues that can create an issue with appropriately trying to figure out their projections, or role, or value from year to year since their home park, division, opponents, teammates, and even coaching staff all change. Considering baseball players are creatures of habit who perform better the more consistent their surroundings are, guys that move a lot may hamper your efforts in a dynasty league. The last thing to consider is a player’s role in the lineup. We’re not talking about multi-positional guys either, we’re talking about platoon players. The advent of analytics in baseball has seemingly made more and more players platoon options. While this can be okay for one year if a player produces in their side of the platoon, it does hamper their value long-term for dynasty leagues as it means the team already values them less than a full player and could make moves to replace them faster.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Dynasty Leagues in Fantasy Baseball

Some of the pros for both formats are the same.  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 fandom. Though there are some individual pros and cons to each format as well. 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.

Keeper Leagues: In keeper leagues, we’re still getting the benefit of following the prospects in the pipeline for major league clubs. That can really pique baseball fans' interest even more, especially if it’s a prospect for your favorite team. 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. So for 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 spend a few years keeping a player or holding them since being a prospect and then have to throw them back into the pool just when they reach their peak values. In essence, it might be a while before you capitalize on the right combination of players before winning a title, much like MLB teams winning the World Series with the right balance of young and veteran players.

Dynasty Leagues: 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 on PS5. 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. If they had a bad season or got bumped out of a normal role, you can get caught holding them for another season hoping they turn it around. The final con of dynasty leagues is that it can be very hard to find great value or any star players in the draft because of the lack of roster turnover. The only real time to find star players is if a team leaves the league, an owner makes a mistake on keepers, or a non-rostered prospect falls through the cracks along with a foreign signing like we saw the last two year with Seiya Suzuki, Masataka Yoshida, and Kodai Senga. Along with that it can come a lot of the same teams winning unless players get injured or underperform significantly.

Concluding Thoughts on Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Leagues

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 and prospect Z 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, then hit the waiver wire or FAAB jackpot, pick up the must-have hitter or pitcher and get a championship that year. Congrats to them because honestly, it’s still hard to win a baseball title. However, keeper and dynasty league titles are more satisfying because it can take a few seasons’ 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.


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