Erick Torres - Houston Dynamo - Fantasy

MLS Fantasy: Why you should play this "moneyball" approach for success

The 2017 MLS Fantasy season brought considerable changes to the game. Unlimited transfers every round has vastly changed the strategy behind the game. A smaller budget with one fewer player has done a lot to change the way teams are selected. It's no longer possible to stack a team with the best premium players and charge into the round. This is where playing the value game comes in.

What is the Value System?

In MLS Fantasy, each player who participates in the round is ranked against the average score of other players from that same position. If the player scores above the average, he gains value, but if not, he can lose value. Team value is also the first tiebreaker for prizes.

The end goal of any MLS Fantasy manager (beyond having fun) is to win a prize. At the end of the season, it is points and not value that really matters. While a value-first strategy may be counterintuitive, the logic behind it is sound, because only the top performers receive consistent value increases.

And if your squad increases in value, that obviously maximizes your spending power in building your squad each round. You can potentially add one, two, maybe more top players if you have more money to work with. And assuming you pick the right top players, the effect snowballs, as those players should help you increase your squad value at a faster rate, too.

In the 2016 game, the top managers had a final value between $125.0 and $130.0, a $5-10 increase over the base of $120.0. This averages out to a $0.3 increase each round. Theoretically, a manager with an outstanding team could gain $1.5 in value in a single round if all 15 players greatly exceed the average.

This season, managers can hunt value increases more easily and shed players who are likely to cost the team in the long run. With the constricted budget, managing team value is the quickest way to add to the number of premium players available for any squad.

The Top 10 vs The Top 1,000

Nearly all of the top 10 MLS Fantasy players in the overall rankings this season have a value near $103.5. This translates to an average increase of nearly $0.6 a round and at this pace, managers could achieve a final squad value of approximately $120.0, doubling the largest increases in value from 2016. Managers in the top 1,000 have squad values ranging from $101.0 to $103.0, with an average increase of approximately $0.4 per round.

The Goal

To keep pace with last season's increases, managers should target a $0.3 value increase each round. Believe it or not, many managers are exceeding this already.

So what is the real goal if you want to pull away from the pack? Gaining $0.5 each round. This is not only attainable but translates to a team budget of $108.5 by midseason.

Tips and Tricks to Maximizing Value

With an apparent averaging effect on overall value, massive value increases might seem hard to come by, but there are ways to maximize your potential value gains.

  • Budget Bench Options - When picking $4.0 players, avoid those that will play regularly unless they are greatly exceeding expectations. Players at this price point are usually young up-and-coming talents that haven't proven their skills yet. When they do play, they are usually not lighting up the Fantasy score sheet. Those 1-3 point performances are usually a guaranteed -$0.1.
  • Steady Bonus Points - A player who gets regular bonus points is rarely going to lose value. Those few points a game will likely translate to meeting the average.
  • Boom or Bust - Many players are all-or-nothing types. Forwards and defenders who contribute very little aside from goals or clean sheets respectively have a higher chance of decreasing in value rather than increasing. Avoiding unfavorable match-ups is advised.

The best news for you? The value game is a strategy best used as the season progresses, where managers attempt to build the strongest team later by forgoing some of the riskier early-season options. Having that extra cash when it comes to crunch time can make all the difference in earning a prize or missing out.

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