by David Morris Jr.
You know who you are. You’ve always wondered about it, but never took the plunge and changed everything you know about fantasy baseball to this point. More than likely you started with 10 team mixers, been playing in 12-14 team leagues with “deep benches” for years, maybe you even manage a squad in a 16 team mixed league. It’s time for a different challenge though, and it would be my pleasure to guide you along your new endeavor. It’s time to talk AL Only leagues!
By cutting the player pool in half you will expose yourself to a much shallower player pool to draft from, testing your ability to evaluate playing time on par with overall talent. Also, if your favorite baseball team happens to play in the American League, an AL Only league will give you the chance to roster players a typical mixed league format would not (I’m looking at you Eric Thames). Fantasy baseball is supposed to be fun, why not have some of the players you root for nightly on your squad (without putting you at a huge disadvantage)?
If in fact your favorite team does play in the American League, you are watching more games that involve other teams from the American League already, increasing your knowledge on this particular player pool. Of course this type of format isn’t for everyone and if you’re new to fantasy baseball, I wouldn’t recommend this style of play until you have a couple of seasons under your belt in mixed leagues. If you’re still interested in AL only leagues, let’s make like a “choose your own adventure book”, and move on to league setup.
There is no right or wrong way to play any style of fantasy baseball. There is however the ideal way, and that’s what I will attempt to lay out for you below. (Note: Future AL Only articles written by me will always be based on what you’re about to read.)
First off, let’s tackle roster positions. If you’re participating in an AL Only league, it also means it’s time to play with deeper rosters. That means, two catchers (one works, but two is more fun) a 1st baseman, 2nd baseman, Short Stop, 3rd baseman, Corner Infielder, Middle Infielder, minimum four Outfielders (might as well make it five), a DH/Utility and nine pitching spots (OR C, C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, CI, MI, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, DH, P, P, P, P, P, P, P, P, P = 23 roster spots). The number of bench spots is debatable, but ranges from zero in certain Keeper Leagues (a reserve/DL system is set up in these leagues) to 2-5. Ideally, you want to keep the number of bench spots limited, as the waiver wire is not full of talent in this style of play.
It finally seems like the “bigger is better” attitude of the late 90’s/early 2000’s is fading away and for the most part people are realizing functionality mixed with performance wins out in the long run. The same can be said when you approach an AL Only league for the first time. It is my opinion this format is best played with 10 teams. You can play with 12, but to try to push it beyond that is just silly. Think about it. There are 15 American League teams (Yes, the Astros count as a whole Major League team) and each team needs to roster five Outfielders. 15 (AL teams) x 3 (starting OF per team) = 45. 45 divided by 5 (OF needed) = 9, or one less team than your 10 team league. Obviously 4th and even 5th outfielders become very valuable in this format, but the example above shows why 10 teams is a solid number for your AL Only league. This example also shows why drafting at bats/playing time is more important than a team with multiple stars, however, we’ll dive into that subject later in the preseason, in our draft strategy post(s).
Another area that needs to be addressed is the acquisition of free agents/the waiver wire. I believe whole heartedly that all leagues should use a FAAB system. Furthermore, I believe the best set up is a weekly FAAB, but I also see the benefits for daily roster leagues to run FAAB 2 or 3 times a week. The fact the free agent pool is so shallow in an AL Only league; not using a FAAB system puts league members at a complete disadvantage. Also, anyone can be lucky and be online when news breaks Mike Trout* is being called up and nab him before other owners have a chance to pick him up. It takes real strategy and skill to allocate “X” amount of FAAB towards a particular player, knowing everyone else in the league can also bid for that players services, and will need their remaining FAAB as the season continues on. Allowing $0 bids is also recommended in this setup. *Note: If you played in a league with bench spots and/or that allows you to roster players in the minors, Mike Trout would have been owned in all of these AL Only leagues. That said many leagues require a player be on an active MLB roster before they can be placed on a team’s fantasy roster. I highly recommend using this roster restriction.
I mentioned daily roster leagues above, and really either daily or weekly lineups are acceptable. I prefer playing in leagues that FAAB once a week, with lineups being set the following day for that upcoming week. It’s not a matter of taking the time to set daily lineups, it’s more the enjoyment in the challenge of predicting a weeks’ worth of games and seeing where everything falls from there. Remember, everyone in the league is playing by the same rules.
The last set up item to address is the style of score keeping your AL Only league will use. I only play in rotisserie (roto) leagues, and in my opinion, AL Only leagues should use this format as well. This isn’t fantasy football we’re dealing with here. This is 6 months of games, every day, with a more challenging setup. You chose to participate in a league with half the player pool as compared to typical mixed leagues, don’t leave your title up to chance with Head-to-Head leagues, let the best team win.
From here there’s not much else to do, but grab a cup of coffee, turn on some background music and draft the team you’ll spend the next 6 months obsessing over. My upcoming AL Only columns will primarily focus on auction drafts; however, snake drafts also work for AL Only leagues. As with the other rules/league set up tips above, remember; fantasy is intended to be fun for all members involved and giving each member the right to place, what they feel is a fair bid to acquire a particular player, adds to the level of fun, as well as the strategy in constructing ones team.
In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2013 season, I’ll preview individual American League players, dive into auction values by position for AL Only formats, take a look at mock draft results, and much more. Stay tuned.