By the end of June, we will have reached the midpoint of the MLB season. This marks the time where the collective interest of managers in each fantasy league starts to wane. Some of us are lucky and have a full set of leaguemates who keep their foot on the gas until the end of September no matter where they land in the standings.
Unfortunately, between summer vacations, the looming arrival of fantasy football season and the stark reality that some teams now have little chance of claiming the top prize, many managers will soon choose to divert their attention elsewhere.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for this problem, but here are some ideas to keep your league feeling fresh and competitive all season long.
A partial midseason re-draft
Hear me out on this one, because I’m starting with something radical.
Much of a manager’s frustration at this point in the season occurs when they look at the standings and their roster and then realize that they can’t make up ground. A partial midseason re-draft is a creative solution that rewards those who have done well so far but gives everyone a bit of a fresh start. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Each team keeps all of the statistics they have earned thus far. This would mean keeping the standings as they are in a roto league or keeping teams’ win-loss records in a head-to-head format.
Step 2: Each team can keep a certain number of players from their current roster. Five feels like a good number to me but some leagues may choose a number closer to 10.
Step 3: The rest of the players go into the re-draft pool and can be selected by any team. Completing the re-draft during the All-Star break is a sensible plan, as you have time to move the players around manually on the Yahoo! site.
Step 4: When the season resumes after the All-Star break, teams use their new rosters and build off the standings points they earned during the first half.
Doing a reset on the bottom 65-80 percent of your roster gives every team the feeling of a fresh start, while also allowing each manager to keep the superstars who have keyed their season thus far. Also, a midseason draft is fun and encourages managers to stay current with their knowledge of the player pool.
Creative prize structures
For leagues that have monetary prizes, the standard format is to have weighted prizes for first, second, and third place. Of course, this setup leads to a lack of interest by those who realize by midseason that they have little hope of getting onto the podium. Here is a creative prize structure that could keep your managers interested all season:
Step 1: Award prizes for first and second place. Nothing for third. Who cares about third place anyway?
Step 2: Take the prize that would have been awarded to third place and instead assign it to the team who gains the most points in the standings after July 1. Your commissioner can post the July 1 point totals (this is a roto idea) on the league message board, and at the end of the season, the commissioner determines which clubs have climbed the most in total points. The place in the standings doesn’t matter. For example, if a team goes from 51.5 points on July 1 to 76.5 points at the end of the season, and their 25-point jump is the largest of any team, they claim the prize.
There are other creative prize structures, but the plan should be the same in all situations: to provide an incentive for teams to improve their standing during the second half. I’m not a big fan of prize structures that simply award a prize for the best second-half team, because that plan favors the teams who have built great rosters by the middle of the season, and those teams typically don’t need an incentive. Prize structures that reward second-half improvement will lead to greater participation.
Creative 2022 draft plans
For leagues that will stick together beyond 2021, there are many ways that the 2022 draft order can be used to encourage full-season 2021 participation. These ideas are not necessarily for keeper leagues, but rather for one-year leagues where the managers know each other and will play in a new one-year league in 2022.
Option 1: Rather than using a randomized draft order or reverse order of a finish in 2022, set the draft order by how well the teams finished, beginning with those who finished outside of the prize structure. For example, if the top-3 teams in a league win prizes, the 2022 draft order would go 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,3,2,1. This plan encourages teams to rise up the standings all the way to the end.
Option 2: Set the 2022 draft order based on second-half standings points gained. As with the prize plan I mentioned earlier, the commissioner would set a cutoff date (either July 1 or the All-Star break) and record each team’s roto points on that date. Then each team would take their point total after the season and subtract their midseason score. For example, a team that finished with 70 points that had 60 at midseason would have a score of +10 for the 2022 draft. This team would get a better draft spot than any team with a score worse than +10.
Option 3: For leagues that draft in person, you can set punishments based on the final standings. There is no shortage of creative fantasy football punishments that have been displayed on social media over the years. For those who don’t want to think far outside the box, an easy punishment for the 2022 in-person draft is to assign the manager who finishes in last place to bring drinks for everyone and the manager in second-last place to bring snacks.
With a bit of creativity, you can get to a place where all of your managers feel compelled to compete throughout the regular season. We all signed up for a six-month experience, but the reality is that some of us need a little extra push along the way.