Tout Table: Believe It or Not

This week, the Touts were asked:

When managing your roster, how do you balance wanting tangible evidence versus making a move based on a small sample or because if you don’t, someone else will?

Derek Carty (RotoGrinders, @DerekCarty): This is one of the biggest reasons to play AL/NL-only leagues instead of mixed IMO. When the sample is this small, it doesn’t matter what advanced stats you’re looking at, we’re mostly just guessing on whose hot start is “for real”. There’s no process, particularly for hitters, that allows us to have any kind of certainty on these things. So you’re left with the choice of making a -EV move and hoping to hit on upside or stay put and letting someone else hit on that 1-in-5 upside guy. Or, the better choice: don’t play mixed leagues so these types of guys are already rostered and you’re not forced to make a dice-roll decision.

Brian Walton (CreativeSports2, @B_Walton): I try to be active every week. Even if I am not sold on a guy but I wouldn’t mind having him, I made a middle of the road bid. If I get him, great, and if I don’t, then someone else paid above my view of his market value.

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): I have a lot to say about how different AL/NL-only LABR and Tout Wars are from NFBC in this regard, but instead I’ll focus on closers. If the underlying projection does not support the large bid, don’t make the large bid. No matter how badly you need saves on that day. It rarely works out that a projected 10% K%-BB% who is anointed an interim closer will get you what you want. It has happened. But it is a terrible percentage bet. So just don’t do it.

Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): I generally don’t balance this, which is why I often miss out on breakouts! Instead, I just focus on trying to target slow starters in trade, or picking up guys whose underlying skills are strong, but that hasn’t translated into strong performance yet (significantly higher xwOBA than wOBA or increased fastball velocity, but weak results).

Scott Chu (Pitcher List, @ifthechufits): For call-ups, I focus a lot on the opportunity, and particularly whether there will be immediate or foreseeable pressure on the player’s current opportunity. Junior Caminero is an example of a guy who is probably available in 12-teamers, and while I LOVE the talent and upside, that Rays roster is a complete mess and will get considerably messier when Josh Lowe and Brandon Lowe return. I probably won’t get into a bidding war there. Heston Kjerstad in Baltimore has a similar problem. The Jackson Hollidays and Anthony Volpes who get plugged in no matter how bad they look at first are not as common as we’d like to believe.

Brent Hershey (Baseball HQ, @BrentHQ): I attempt to focus a bit more on playing-time patterns early on and use information that the teams themselves give — though more often what those MLB clubs DO (or have done in the past) than what they SAY. Of course, it has to be mixed with player performance and underlying metrics. But keeping a close eye on lineup history for batters can tell you a bunch. Just as one example, I moved to pick up Jesse Winker in a several leagues a couple weeks ago when I realized that he was going to be at least a short-term lineup staple. Who knows how long it will last, but as of this writing, he’s started 17 of the club’s first 18 games. Doesn’t always work that smoothly but is something I find helpful at the start of a season and/or after a player’s promotion.

Rick Wolf (SiriusXM Fantasy, @RickWolf1): Depends on your league rules in a lot of ways. I am in an AL Only pts league with daily moves, keepers, strong starting pitching points and unlimited transactions. I make moves multiple times a week to get a bench starter that I can monitor while already owning him. The metrics are not critical there. Good prospect. Good story. Decent numbers. No real investigation. For the super competitive leagues, we dig a lot deeper and look at the skills-based stats as opposed to straight stats. We look at Swk, FIP, BABIP, FpK, Velo and others for pitchers. We try to watch the hitters. Getting a look at some at bats can help a lot more than a small sample size, but the skills stats are important too: barrels, exit velo, chase rate, etc. Need to look at both…but seeing at bats is critical.

Erik Halterman (Rotowire, @erik_halterman): My biggest tip for solving this conundrum is really one for draft season. You should build your rosters so that you’re actively planning to churn the last few spots, which means including a few high-upside players among your last few picks who you expect you’ll wind up cutting quite early unless things really break their way. If your plan dating back to draft day is to rotate interesting pop-up guys through your final few spots until one sticks, it won’t feel unnatural or “too early” to take those chances once the season begins. It will feel like you’re executing your plan.

Phil Hertz (Baseball HQ, @prhz50): It depends a lot on how deep the league is. In the Only leagues, sometimes you’re just looking for a live body – I noticed this week that there were only 3 eligible third basemen to replace Jake Burger in NL-only. In deeper leagues, if it’s someone at the end of the roster, I may just be looking for the hottest player, not necessarily the guy who may be supplying more stats in six weeks. Then I’ll move on to the next hottest hitter when the first one flops.

Ray Flowers (Fantasy Guru, @TheRayFlowers): We all know it is too early to be making moves as others have said. It’s always difficult to discount months of analysis for 13 innings or 28 plate appearances. For the most part, I tend to stay the course and try to avoid making snap judgements on “breakout” players who are likely to recede. If I miss out on someone with an ADP of 572 hitting .256-21-72-70, so be it. As others have also stated as well, a 15-team roto mixed league scenario is completely different from a 10 team, H2H one, so league context matters a ton.

Dr. Roto (, @DrRoto): What a great question! As a high stakes player, I know that I need to strike before my competitors do or I will miss out. I love tangible evidence but will strike first if it means that I could be a league winner.

Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): This is a tough question, and also context dependent on your roster. First, please also remember that it isn’t just about ADDING a player – but you have to have a corresponding DROP to do so. There is an opportunity cost to each end of the add/drop. If you have constructed your roster so as to churn the bottom – you should be doing this frequently to find the diamonds in the rough. If you have a deeper player pool (as Derek Carty mentioned above), you will not be able to churn your roster as much. The tangible evidence needed is smaller when the roster will be churned more, and more evidence needed where you have to hold more. Use your judgement in the in-between scenarios. But always remember – this is also supposed to be fun. If you believe in a player — go for it !!!

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): Making a move to block another competitor is for later in the season; it’s too soon now to know who your key opponents will be in the categories. More generally, the decision hinges opportunity cost and probability of gain (comparing skills and PT paths, etc.). One thing I never use is intuition.

Bret Sayre (Baseball Prospectus, @BretSayreBP): I like to aggressively add in April and reluctantly drop. That tends to be possible on my rosters because my endgame and reserve players in auctions/drafts have a tendency towards including a few injured pitchers and relievers, who are much easier to make room around. If you’re not in that situation and would need to drop a starting pitcher or position player, it would have to be a pretty extreme sample in order to feel good about that. (See Hendricks, Kyle for an example.) On the hitting side, short of just flat out losing playing time, I’m unlikely to drop anyone in my active lineup. Small sample overreaction is really hard to avoid, but you’re much better off demonstrating patience and being the person who picks up the regretful drop than the one that makes it.

Sara Sanchez (, @BCB_Sara): This is very dependent on league context, team needs and your current roster IMO. For example, earlier this year in Tout I had some big injury/player issues (Nate Lowe, Noelvi Marte, Justin Steele, Spencer Strider — I know, right? Send thoughts and prayers). I needed guys to fill those spots and most of what is on the waiver wire doesn’t have a lot of underlying metrics that I love. I went small sample size hot streaks and monitoring those out of necessity. Really trying to strike on hot pickups and get them before my competitors did for those empty roster spots. That said, if I drafted a guy I really believe in off months of research for draft day, I’m probably not likely to cut bait there until much later in the season. I would also changes based on if there is an overall component to your league that you feel you can win or if it’s a standalone league. Part of this game is knowing your league rules and how aggressive it makes sense to be based on the size of the league, your standing in it and what you need.

Frank Ammirante (The GameDayHQ, @FAmmiranteTFJ): I try to cut my losses early, especially with hyped pitchers with limited track records. A good example of this is A.J. Puk, who I cut after two starts. If you hold on too long, you risk missing out on potential breakouts.

Michael A. Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): Much like everything else, it depends on the situation. For prospects, I am much more willing to make a move without seeing anything tangible because you have fo be proactive and take calculated risks in order to be successful. The best example I can give is when I bid $77 to add Juan Soto in a keeper league when rumors started that he was getting called up. I admittedly had never seen him play nor did I know much about his game other than the hype generated within the fantasy baseball community. I knew if I didn’t take that chance then someone else would have. That was an outlier because most other examples are on a smaller scale where I am willing to take chances on players without a lot of data because I want to seize the moment where I believe they can provide value. Also, I don’t want to regret not making a certain move because I talk myself out of it for no good reason.

Dave Adler (Baseball HQ, @daveadler01): As others have noted, it depends on league context (deep or shallow free agent pool) as well as how you put your team together. In leagues with a shallow FA pool (only leagues, 15+ team mixed leagues), you likely won’t have many choices, so you can’t afford to wait to evaluate performance over a larger sample size. Here, evaluate playing time opportunity for the available player, and if they’re up from the minors, how they did there. With deeper free agent pools, there’s more time to evaluate, since there are likely several viable candidates. But even there, if the minor league track record is good, and there’s a clear opening, don’t delay.

Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): No matter how exasperated I might be with a slow-starter, I usually won’t make a move unless I can convince myself using data that the guy I want to pick up will leave my team in an overall better-off position for the foreseeable future (whether that’s for the remainder of the season, or just to serve as a bridge until an injured player returns) than the slow-starter. The trickiest situations for me are the young, talented pitchers who are being bumped from the rotation to the bullpen, or sent down to the minors, to make room for an inferior option. How long do you hold on to guys like that? Is there an option available via the waiver wire or trade who can provide more immediate help and also has a decent long-term outlook?

Rob Leibowitz (Rotoheaven, @rob_leibowitz): I play exclusively in “ONLY” leagues these days, so it is team need and opportunity when scouting the free agent pool tempering my bidding my likelihood of long-term playing time (are they just filling in for someone injured or have they been promoted to get a shot to lock in the job?) and player skill set ability to retain the job once given the opportunity.

Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): I seldom build this into my thought process. I’m mostly concerned with my team’s needs, and you can turn into Vizzini in The Princess Bride trying to overanalyze your roster and the FA pool based on what others are doing. Probably the one area this matters for me is with minor leaguers who seem to be on the cusp of a call up. If I like the player, I want to try to grab him a week or so before the buzz/hype turns him into a popular target.

Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): There are plenty of teams that have slow starters, including myself. Some of the best moves that I’ve ever made were the ones that I did not make. The worst feeling is to drop a player, just to see another league manager pick up that player and have the player carry their team to a league championship. I use the rule of last in, first out, when making roster moves. If my last player drafted is off to a poor start, then yes, I may make a waiver wire acquisition, but only after an ample sample size of at least 1 month into the season.

Zach Steinhorn (Steinhorn’s Universe on Substack, @zachsteinhorn): I tend to be very patient with my drafted players, maybe even too patient. I’m always wary of shelling out a large amount of FAAB dollars to add someone who is off to a hot start (especially if he doesn’t carry much of a big-league track record) because it usually necessitates dropping a player who I believed in enough to draft. Unless I’m getting a clear long-term upgrade over one of my current starters, I’d rather stand pat.

Michael Govier (Pallazzo Podcast, @mjgovier): This is a vital concept that requires more emphasis across all formats. Adding a player who is hot after 7 games of action is a time-honored tradition in fantasy baseball. Deciding if the streaking player is for real or not has to do with the player’s previous years of production, how much playing time they are likely to get going forward & what type of roster options are available such as number of bench spots. It’s important to not be a victim of the moment or the often-used term recency bias. Tangible evidence of a player’s legit output in a small sample size can be confirmed by the peripheral stats like HHR or FB/HR rate. If these stats show the player is not just getting lucky, then that’s another reason for me to consider adding him. Also, if I already had a reason to be partial to the player during draft season, that would make it easier for me to add that player. As far as missing out or falling behind because other fantasy managers will add the player, I have honestly never put myself in that situation. Adding a player because of FOMO or fear is a real thing that happens quite often in many leagues I have been in. One of the benefits of experience is learning from past actions to be more patient. Not to panic. Especially with the length of the fantasy baseball season. If I miss out on the next hot thing because I don’t want to jump on the small sample size bandwagon, then that is my price of admission. This isn’t always going to work for me though. There are plenty of examples of small sample size players who I didn’t pursue who then became valuable season long assets.

Vlad Sedler (FTN Fantasy, @rotogut): 2018 Christian Yelich, 2021 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – just two of the countless examples where waiting for tangible evidence can prove costly, and that’s just on a draft/preseason level. As we build upon our experience levels, we are able to trust our instincts with greater confidence when it comes to fantasy baseball decisions. It’s the old Gretzky adage about going to where the puck will be. Along with instinct, there are countless other factors that should be considered in our decision-making: underlying metrics, upcoming schedule, manager tendencies are just a few. One other vital factor is not overweighing or overreacting to the last few days of a players’ production.

Chris Blessing (BaseballHQ, @C_Blessing): I’ve been caught with my pants down before, not prioritizing a guy who could really help me. This year, in AL Touts, I went in with a sizable FAAB bid on Oswaldo Cabrera when I needed to replace Royce Lewis in my lineup. We’re talking spring training and a three game MLB sample. I went to the video and felt comfortable going after Cabrera with a sizable bid, winning the auction. I’ll always rely on my scouting eye when it tells me the dude in the short sample is likely to repeat his good performance because of his fundamental temperament and game plan at the plate.

Shelly Verougstraete (Fantasy Feud Podcast, @ShellyV_643): As the question insinuates, some fantasy managers have a quick trigger finger when it comes to “breakout” players. I tend to rely on my offseason prep but if I need someone on my team because one of my players landed on the injured list, then all that goes out of the window.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): When you’re in charge of posting the Tout Table, you get to sometimes ask a somewhat selfish question, and wait until everyone else answers before replying and posting. This is a constant struggle for me, and perhaps a weakness in my gameplay. I get making moves out of need, or perhaps desperation. I’m referring more to taking chances on unproven entities or surprising production. A few have made the point that certain roster construction greases the skids for this sort of approach, and that makes sense. Maybe I’m more frustrated when those take victory laps on 50/50 moves or cite flawed evidence for making the moves. Anyway, I’d like to thank the Touts for their fine response while unknowingly indulging me.