Ask Rotoman: How Do I Stay Out of Last Place?

Dear Rotoman:

I’m new to fantasy baseball and am struggling to stay out of last place.

It would appear I need better hitting in every category, especially HRs and RBIs.  What should I look for when trying to make trades?  It’s obvious the available batter with the most HRs on the season hasn’t helped me at all.

Is there someplace I can “learn” fantasy baseball strategy?

Oh, and while I’m in last place and it’s obvious my buddies are all better than me, is it okay that I still talk smack—or is that not protocol?

“Owning Last”

Dear Mr. Last:

At the risk of saying something obvious, something I’ve never done before, every league has someone in last place. There is no shame in it, but you sound rightly interested in allowing someone else to have no shame while being in last. Good for you.

If you’re a beginner and playing against more experienced players, it’s no wonder that you’re struggling. Fantasy baseball, in each of its many styles and flavors, is a game that requires knowledge in at least a few different spheres.

How well do you know baseball? How well do you know the rules and values of your particular fantasy game? How well do you know probability? How able a negotiator are you? These are just a few of the areas that you need to be able to handle to compete. There are more. Many more.

Which doesn’t mean, as a beginner, you can’t have fun. And it doesn’t mean you can’t have some success, too. A goodly portion of success (or failure) in any fantasy season, is pure luck. Lack of injuries and the unexpected breakout seasons of players influence any single year’s winning results, a lot, while even the best player can be destroyed by stars getting hurt or failing to perform for mysterious reasons.

As a beginner you’re not likely to overcome your mistakes, but if you make some smart decisions you may be able to beat out someone else who has had worse luck than you. That’s the first step toward fantasy baseball competence!

There are many places to learn about the game and it’s strategies. I dare say, starting at the early posts here at and reading forward, following links to my stories at ESPN and, will answer a broad range of questions for you about player evaluation, projecting and pricing players, and league ettiquette. (To answer your question briefly, it isn’t really right for losers to talk smack, but it’s fine to participate in the ribbing and shadenfreude that are inherent parts of any game.)

I also have a site,, which is serving as a fantasy baseball resource for beginners and experts.

There are countless articles on the web about playing fantasy baseball. My friends at KFFL have a beginners summary, which talks about many issues for those getting started, and there are many more out there. Not everyone is right about everything, sorting out the good stuff from the lame is part of the process, which will help make what you learn stick.

As to your question about which players to acquire, here are two tips.

1) Specialize. As the season progresses you cannot make up points in every category. Whether you play in a category or points league, focus on the scoring parts of your game in which you have the most potential, and trade off the other categories to improve those. This isn’t going to win you a championship, but it can get you out of the cellar, which is progress.

2) Buy low. Rather than buy the power hitters who’ve hit the most homers on the season, buy the available power (or other category) hitters about whom there were the highest expectations in the preseason. These players were released because they weren’t performing, but unless they’re hurt or have some other obvious problem (they’ve lost their jobs, for instance), you can expect them to play the rest of the way as was expected of them in the preseason.

In any case, welcome to the wonderful world of fantasy baseball.