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Facebook It's August, and you're in second place in your fantasy baseball league. You're looking for areas to improve, but you're at the top of the league in the counting categories of home runs, RBI, wins, and pitcher strikeouts. As you check the scoreboard each day, you watch nervously the leader makes steady gains in the counting categories, while you struggle to improve in your averages.
After a little investigative work, you determine the source of the problem — it's not that the leader is doing any better than usual, but rather the teams at the bottom of the league have stopped checking their lineups, starting injured and demoted players and not bothering to pick up new players or activate players from their bench.
You ask one of them why, and he says, "Why should I waste my time? I have no shot at winning the league this year. Nothing strikes fear in the heart of casual fantasy players than a keeper league. Done right, it can be a lot of fun not only for owners that are competing for the title this year, but also for owners that are out of it and are looking to build for next year.
And if you don't have an eye for strategy and player development or just plain luck , you could end up doing something like trading Alex Gordon for Adam Dunn before the season starts and wrecking your team for years to come.
So you pitch the idea at your next draft, and your buddies think it's a good idea. The only problem is no one has run, much less been in, a keeper league.
How do you set up the league? Who should teams be allowed to keep? Should you allow the trading of future draft picks? These are all legitimate questions that you need to think about before you set up your league. I currently am in five keeper leagues in four different sports, and am a commissioner in four of them.
Running any sort of fantasy league can take a lot of time and dedication, but keeper leagues are a much different animal. Being a commissioner of a yearly league is like using a Showtime Rotisserie — you can just set it and forget it. League hosting sites have grown to be extremely flexible, so once you get your league up and running, things usually run fairly smoothly.
On the other hand, while some sites have features that cater to keeper leagues, you're on your own for a lot of the offseason and in-season maintenance.
In addition, there are a number of offline decisions that need to be made each year, each of which can make or break the league.
More than anything, running a keeper league takes a lot of patience and discretion. Many of the same time sinks of yearly leagues apply with equal force to keepers. These are all very real issues that will take up your time and cause your hair to turn grey unless of course you're Randy Johnson or Keith Hernandez.
This article, however, will just focus on the issues specific to running keeper leagues. The Keeper Format There are so many keeper formats out there that it would be easy to do a whole article on the topic.
For the sake of brevity, I'll list a few of the formats with which I'm most familiar. For the most part, the method of selecting keepers will depend on whether your league is a draft or auction league.
In draft leagues, the most common keeper format is to allow teams to keep a limited number of players in the rounds in which they were drafted the previous year.
This rewards teams who take gambles on rookies or unproven players above the typical draft slot in a particular year, with the hope that those players will outperform the draft slot in future years. In a good example, after Carlos Gonzalez 's miserable for Oakland, he didn't make the roster out of training camp for Colorado and was available in the later rounds of many drafts.
If you took a flier on him at the end of that draft and held on, you would be able to keep him in the later rounds of and perhaps beyond. In a variation on that theme, some of these leagues place restrictions on how long and in what round you can keep a player.
For example, it may not be fair for you to have Gonzalez at the end of the draft for the rest of his career.
To remedy this, you could place a limit on how long a player can be kept — perhaps, a maximum of three seasons. In other leagues, the round in which you can keep a player advances by one or two spots each year.
In these leagues, for example, if Gonzalez were selected in the 15th round, the following year he could be kept but only in the 14th or 13th. Auction Leagues For those unfamiliar with auction leagues, owners are given the same limited budget at a pre-season auction to spend on players.
Part of the fun of auctions is waiting out other owners who overspend on superstars up front, and being able to outbid them later and have a more balanced lineup. In keeper auction leagues, players can be kept based on the price paid at auction the previous season.
We use one keeper auction format in a number of Rotowire staff keeper leagues that I think works particularly well. After a player's initial year on your roster called his "A year" , you can elect to keep him the following season at the same price his "B year".
After his B year, you elect to keep him for either one more season at the same price his "C year" , after which he must be tossed back into the auction pool the following season, or you can give the player a long-term contract. The catch is that if I decide I don't like him and cut him prior to the end of his contract, I would lose half of his salary at auction each year until the contract expired.
So there are incentives to extend long-term contracts to players who are greatly below market value, but extending a player for too long can have serious consequences if he get injured or becomes ineffective.
Dynasty Leagues Another keeper format is referred to as a "dynasty" league, in which owners select large rosters of players and can keep many of them from year to year thus, building a dynasty. I am in one dynasty baseball league with 12 teams and 50 players per roster.
All players can be kept until they are 30 years old; teams can elect to keep four extra players over 30 on top of that. The fun of these leagues is being able to take risks on players who have not fully reached their potential, and then to follow their careers without having to worry about having to re-draft or use one of your limited keeper slots on those players each year.
For example, in the 12th round of our inaugural dynasty league draft in , I picked up a promising year-old pitcher who slipped a bit because he had allowed 9 earned runs in Justin Verlander has been a mainstay of my pitching staff ever since.
One common question regardless of keeper format is how many players should be kept from year to year. I have seen leagues range from those that let you keep one player per year to those that let you keep up to three quarters of your roster.
As a matter of personal taste, I like leagues that let you keep more players than fewer, just to create a greater incentive to trade for prospects and gamble on upside during the season. But leagues that allow too many keepers can de-emphasize the draft and make it harder for the bottom half of the league or, in many cases, new owners who take over for bottom half drop-outs to contend from year to year.
The Draft There's not too much to say about keeper league drafts. They're not any different from yearly league drafts, except that at the end of massive dynasty league drafts with fifty-man rosters, a few owners who aren't as prepared as the others will get to the end of their draft boards and start to take players who were already picked, who recently retired, and so forth.
But that's more of a minor annoyance than a big issue. There are, however, a few questions about draft structure that my leagues have grappled with recently, which your league should consider and settle up front.