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Monday, May 14, 2012

The Stature of a Stasher

One of the more overlooked assets that any fantasy team has is its bench.  There's good reason for this, and it's obvious - your starters are going to get most of the playing time so the impact of your reserves will be limited.

You also will have a limited number of slots on your bench, so the number of players you will have available as reserves is limited.  And what about good players who are injured?  You've got to stash them somewhere... And what about good players in a prolonged slump?  Yep, burn a bench spot to stash them.

With the limited nature of this resource you'll want to carefully examine what you are doing with your bench.  In a long season like baseball it will be a differentiator for you.  Here are some reasons why:
  • Starters don't start every day.  There are off-days and rest days plus the occasional bad matchup or nagging injury.  You need to stay on top of these things and plug in a backup.  I tend to prefer guys who give me good qualitatives and are steady.  Their quantitative stats are gravy.  Think: Daniel Murphy or Omar Infante in hitting and the best set-up men in pitching.
  •  Injuries happen and guys go on the DL.  It is better to have a "rosterable" asset available to you rather than grabbing the best available waiver wire guy.  Know who your most likely DL candidates are and plan accordingly.
  • Accumulating quality players can give you a bevy of options at a few key positions and make it easier to trade for a guy who will help you in one key area of weakness.  In other words, if you need a catcher and you've got three solid 1B options you can deal one for that catcher you need even if you are overpaying a little.
  • Insurance against a starter not living up to what you expected.  For example, I drafted Brett Lawrie for $20 and Edwin Encarnacion for $3 in one league.  Lawrie has been pretty decent so far, but E5 has been pure gold.  If Lawrie was just a notch or two lower than he is I could swap their roles and start E5 every day with Lawrie on the bench.  It's not a perfect example, but that's the concept.
  • Stashing injured or slumping guys that have a high upside.  Carl Crawford is a prime example.  Hopefully you have a DL slot or two... If so, make sure they are always filled.  The DL slot is another overlooked resource and really just an extension of your bench.  Always have it working for you, even if it is populated with a longshot.  Better a longshot on the DL than an empty DL position where you don't even give yourself a chance to see something break right for you.
So, the bench is important.  It fulfills several key roles. 

I do have one more key note for you about stashing guys, especially this time of year...  As the season starts to mature you're going to have more an more guys on the DL.  Your DL slot(s) will fill up quickly and you'll have some decisions to make.  Burning an active bench spot on an injured player can be a good move, but there is an opportunity cost there.

You have got to weigh the value of who you could have in that position instead of the disabled player that you are stashing.  How many innings or at bats would that player on the wire give you?  How long will the injured player be out?  When the player comes back, how good will they be?  You have to weigh the potential impact of an available resource versus the return of the injured player.

Watch the number of slots where you are stashing guys... You may get a return when they come back from injury, but you are foregoing the opportunity to grab a replacement and that has to be taken into account.