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Fantasy Baseball Today

Casting a wide net on waivers

By Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer

I call it the "Smoak Line." It distinguish those I'd be willing to drop for the Mariners' Justin Smoak from those I wouldn't.

But this post isn't so much about him as all the flavor-of-the-week types likely to emerge off the waiver wire in the weeks ahead. Not surprisingly, when Al Melchior and I discussed the Smoak Line on Thursday's Fantasy Baseball Today, the conversation took a philosophical turn.

To me, the issue isn't whether or not you believe in Smoak. We could go back and forth on that all day and already have in this very blog. I happen to side with the skeptics, not wanting to make too much of a three-game sample from a player who has teased us countless times already, but even in my skepticism, I wouldn't discount the possibility of adding him.

I'd only be hurting myself. Sure, I have an opinion on his performance, but so does Al. And so do you. And so does Mr. Bill down the street. Mine is just one of thousands. I like to think it's one of the more informed of those thousands, but when it comes to the future, we mortals are only so informed.

I don't play Fantasy Baseball to validate my opinions. I play it to win, and a key to winning with real consistency is to admit how little you know. Fantasy Baseball offers too many paths to success for you to reduce it to a guessing game. It doesn't confine you to one narrow-minded view on a player, determining your fate by how right you are. So what compels you to play it that way? Stubborness? Try foolishness.

In most of leagues -- maybe not some of the shallower Head-to-Head points formats where every team rosters just 21 players, but anything deeper -- I have at least one roster spot to play with, one where I'm not really enthusiastic about the player I drafted and don't envision him becoming such an integral part of my team that I'd regret forfeiting him to someone else forever and ever. And that's how you can tell if a player is below the Smoak Line. Michael Brantley is a good example. Mike Moustakas is not. It has nothing to do with performance. No player could have possibly done anything in three games to diminish what enthusiasm you had for him in the first place. We're still working with a ridiculously small sample of data that doesn't reveal much of anything.

So why bother adding Smoak, then, particularly if you don't really believe him? Because now might be your only chance. He's off to such a great start and has generated so much buzz already that everyone else in your league is trying to figure out how to add him. If you beat them to him, right or wrong, you're covered. If he keeps it up, you've dramatically improved your team's outlook. If he doesn't and goes back to hitting .220 in a couple weeks, you can swap him out for another flavor-of-the-week type, knowing you can always fall back on whatever uninspiring player you dropped, or someone like him, later on.

Casting a wide net, I call it. You can potentially set your team apart at this early stage of the season when nobody really knows what's going on yet by shuffling through flavor-of-the-week types until you find one who sticks. As long as you can make a reasonable case for it to continue, as so many have with Smoak, it's worth a shot.

I nabbed Josh Donaldson in about half my leagues last year using this approach. Acquiring a player of his caliber without sacrificing anything of value could potentially win you a championship, and I can promise the two weeks I wasted on Nate McLouth in late April didn't lose me any.

I understand it's counterintuitive in an analysis-driven age where everyone wants to prove how much more they know than everyone else, but being wrong is only a big deal when the stakes are high. When you have a roster spot to play with, the stakes couldn't be any lower. Subjecting yourself to the possibility of being wrong could ultimately make you very right.

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