The Cheap Seats: When fantasy baseball managers should buy high, cutting through small sample sizes and more

I've worn many different hats in my time at Yahoo and we've produced different kinds of content. Articles and blogs, podcasts and digital shows, live chats. I suppose it's about time we gave a fantasy baseball mailbag a try.

The Cheap Seats will come your way every Tuesday through the heart of the baseball season. Baseball and fantasy baseball questions go to the front of the line, but we can talk about all sports, life, music, food, travel, pets, movies, just about anything. Catch me at @scott_pianowski on X/Twitter and away we go.

First, let me offer that there's no wrong way to set up a fantasy league. I've played in 20-team leagues before. I've been in four-man private leagues before. They're all fun. They're all interesting and challenging, in their own way.

In the shallower pools, you're chasing upside and greatness. When the pools start to get deeper, it's more about finding playing time. The manager who collects the most at-bats in these leagues has a huge advantage, understanding that the volume will also be a proxy for having healthy players in favorable batting slots, and probably in good lineups, too.

This is a great question, and it underscores an unavoidable truth about baseball. To make strong decisions, we need large samples and reliable data. But to win a competitive league, we probably need to act before anything close to resembling proof is available. If you wait for proof in a competitive mixer, you're probably not going to win —unless you have the draft of the decade, or run amazingly free of injuries.

So we need to get comfortable making educated guesses on small samples, at least for those bottom-of-roster churns. It's not a comfortable thing for everybody, but it's a fact of life. Focus on the types of stats that stabilize quickly, especially K/BB rate for both batters and pitchers. Look for changes in approach and changes in playing style (maybe someone is starting to run after not doing it much in prior seasons). Grind every batting order and usage change, too, as best you can.

I loved this comment. It's common to read advice in the fantasy space that suggests Selling High on players that no experienced manager really trusts, or Buying Low on players that most experienced managers aren't going to panic on. Sure, this advice might work on the lesser managers in your pool, but do you really need high-level advice to beat them? Just get their entry fees up front and do what you do.

Anthony Volpe is a player I'd happily Buy High on. He's made changes to his swing, and his approach at the plate looks terrific. He's spitting on balls and he's hammering strikes. The category juice already showed last year, and he's also a terrific defender. Stardom always felt inevitable for Volpe; maybe it arrives ahead of schedule. If nothing else, he's set to smash his preseason ADP.

Usually this is more of a Fantasy Football problem; if you have even a small group of leagues, inevitably you'll find that your rooting interests are in constant conflict. That's one reason why I try especially hard to not grind my fantasy scores while the Sunday afternoon football games are happening. You'll just drive yourself crazy.

Maybe Nimmo was on that theoretical Buy Low list before Monday, but a huge game against the Braves wiped that out. Forget Nimmo's average; focus on his .395 OBP and .424 slugging, and an OPS+ of 129. He's stolen one base and had a second one wiped out by a sketchy interference call. He has just as many walks as strikeouts, always a screaming "go get him" indicator. So long as Nimmo holds up physically — and he basically lasted a full season in both 2022 and 2023 — he's one of my favorite types of players, the boring-value vet.

I'm shocked José Leclerc is still trading at 72% in Yahoo leagues. I expect him to be a ratio-torcher for most of the year, and the Rangers aren't going to mess around — they view themselves as among the 2-3 favorites to capture the AL pennant. I have David Robertson shares wherever I could get them, and Kirby Yates is also an interesting add.

I'm a Kerry Carpenter fan (and I've picked Detroit to win the AL Central from Day 1), but if the Tigers are going to keep him in a platoon, that 65% tag is too high.

Coincidentally, I was counting my MLB ballpark log in my head over the weekend. I'm at 18, which includes a few defunct parks. There are also some current beauties that I have yet to see, with PNC Park at the top of that list. Hopefully, I can check that off in a year or two.

Fenway Park is always going to be my No. 1; I grew up in New England, the backdrop is gorgeous, and just the walkup to the park is enough to give you goosebumps. I could list Wrigley Field and Oracle Park in either order for 2-3; Wrigley gets a slight nod for the history. It helps that my day at Wrigley was a glorious, sun-splashed afternoon, and my buddy Scotty G. scored us seats four rows behind home plate, Maybe it's the Old Style talking, but I left the yard that day convinced I could hit Tom Gorzelanny (the Cardinals sure did).

Spanning the Globe

I welcome non-baseball questions in this column, and here are some of the non-baseball questions that filtered in this week.

It's kind of my friend Len to ask me this; he's won three FSWA awards for his excellent golf work at Rotowire. And his Washington Post career was so impactful, a local restaurant named a sandwich after him. You're a mensch, Leonard.

Obviously, the field is praying Scottie Scheffler doesn't have a good putting week; Scheff's ball-striking stats are too good to be true. But it's no fun to pick favorites, is it?

You don't have to go much deeper on the favorite list to find Xander Schauffele, but I'll sign off. He's collected 11 top-10s in majors, and he's been top 20 in the last seven majors. It's just a matter of time. Put Schauffele down as my official pick, with Harris English my favorite sleeper on the longshot page.

I think Kentucky might be a little surprised when it can't even get an interview from the A-list of candidates. Jay Wright probably doesn't want to return to coaching, especially in this current climate. Brad Stevens is also happy to be out of the coaching rat race; he has a dream job as architect of the Celtics. Dan Hurley sure seems like an East Coast guy, and he knows he has the infrastructure to keep winning big at UConn. You call Hurley and make him say no, but he'll say no.

Nate Oaks emphatically told the world he's staying at Alabama. So that's off the table, too.

Scott Drew feels like a reasonable intersection of who Kentucky could get and who Kentucky would want. If that doesn't work out, Bruce Pearl and Chris Beard seem like plausible alternatives.