Fantasy value is the foundation all fantasy sports are built upon. Yet despite it’s significance which reaches into the furthest corners of the fantasyverse, fantasy value is still a widely misunderstood concept.
“He’s such value at that price.”
“You lose too much value if you draft him that early.”
“With his upside you’re gaining a ton of value.”
These phrases, and many more, are all common occurences when talking with fellow fantasy sports enthusiasts about fantasy value. Fantasy value is an abstract concept. It’s fluid, it constantly evolves, and most importantly, it often looks very different than it did before. Treating the idea of fantasy value as a hard and fast concept has led many people (including myself) to conjure up a train-wreck assortment of players for a team that began promisingly enough. I’d like to take a few moments to share with you a little bit about what I’ve learned of fantasy value over my years in fantasy sports. These are by no means the definitive “laws” of identifying fantasy value, but rather advice passed from one hobbyist to another.
Fantasy Value Tip #1
Don’t Fall In Love With Names – I’m listing this first as it’s (in my opinion) the most common mistake I see made. Let’s face it, the sports industry operates around the concept of superstars. From the clothes you wear to the beverages you drink, everyone is looking for a familiar face to plaster on its product. With this saturation we become prone to placing players on a pedestal, buying into the correlation that their talent must match their endorsements. The simple truth is that all professional sports are physically demanding beyond belief. Players that were elite two seasons ago quickly find themselves on the wrong side of Father Time’s graces, and if you hope to stay competitive you must embrace a proactive strategy that avoids these players before they find themselves in mid-decline. It’s so easy when you have $7,000 left on your salary cap to throw Kevin Garnett in, because hey, he’s Kevin Garnett. As great as he (and many like him) has been, he’s no longer worthy of a top-tier fantasy value salary sink. You’re better off taking your lineup back to the drawing board in most cases, as investing a significant portion of your salary cap into a twilighting superstar with limited upside will leave you outside the money more often than not.
Fantasy Value Tip #2
Don’t Trust Small Sample Sizes – A friend and I were once shooting half-court shots and decided to make it interesting. I was given 10-1 odds on each shot, and we decided to wager $1 per attempt. I made two of three and quit on the spot. Of course my friend was salty, but the bigger takeaway is that I am the official greatest half-court jumpshooter with money on the line of all-time.
Get the picture?
Too often decisions with large monetary implications are made in fantasy sports with faulty numbers as the premise. This is especially true when it comes to x player versus y team, or x batter versus y pitcher. There is often some truth in those sample sizes, but what’s imperative is learning exactly what that truth is. If you take those numbers as a whole you’ll be handicapping yourself when it comes time to build your roster. On the flip side, if you study those numbers and determine what variables existed to cause the end results you’ll be far ahead in terms of identifying fantasy value than many other players. Was pitcher y playing through an injury when half of those at-bats against hitter x took place? Did team x have interior defender z on their roster when they played against player y last time? Digging deeper and answering questions like that will put you ahead of your peers in terms of fantasy value, as you will know the truth behind the numbers.
Fantasy Value Tip #3
What Does Your Lineup Need – You can build a perfectly solid lineup that has little to no chance of taking down a huge tournament. Conversely, you can build a lineup that has the potential to outscore 500 opponents, but will flame out more than half the time against head-to-head competitors. Both of these lineups are right and wrong at the same time. One of the most difficult transitions to make when switching from yearly fantasy sports to daily fantasy sports is recognizing that fantasy value differs from contest to contest. In yearly fantasy sports the precedent is established at the beginning of the season and lasts until the league is over. This makes decision making at roughly every step similar for the most part.
In daily fantasy sports you will find yourself in a myriad of contest varieties over the course of your playing career. There are head-to-head matches, double-ups, winner-take-all qualifiers, large-field tournaments with huge guaranteed prize pools, pick’em games, and many others. Understanding your competition and prize structure will help you determine what true fantasy value looks like for your roster. Playing in a head-to-head match? You don’t need to be a world-beater. Pony up for the night’s top two pitchers and a couple of the biggest bats in prime positions. To afford those types of players you’ll need to roster 2-3 high upside cheap options. That’s okay, because in the long run simply starting the best five or six players will put you ahead of your opponents. In a large tournament with top-heavy prizes? You’ll need an entirely different strategy that involves unconventional players with massive upside. The best players will be highly owned by the rest of the field as well, so venturing outside your comfort zone and taking players that you normally wouldn’t is the best way to ensure that when they hit they propel you ahead of everyone else.
Fantasy Value Wrapping It Up
Fantasy value is a subject with an endless amount of discussion. It’s never static, but ebbs and flows throughout the entire season. To stay on top of fantasy value you’ll need to keep your ear to the ground and be ready to react quickly, abandoning your gameplan in favor of one that increases your odds of winning. If you can learn to implement this style of playing fantasy sports you will be in position to take advantage of optimal opportunities, as well as the mistakes of opposing players.