Fantasy Fox: First-timer rules for handling weekly leagues

The Fantasy Fox offers a slew of strategy tips for those partaking in head-to-head (or weekly) baseball leagues for the first time, with a general bias toward hitters over starting pitchers.

When choosing a weekly starter between second basemen Jedd Gyorko (left -- Padres) and Ian Kinsler (Tigers), it's all about games played and opposing-pitcher matchups for that seven-day period.

Joy R. Absalon/Brad Barr / USA TODAY Sports

Here are five basic rules to follow when navigating your way through a head-to-head (weekly) league for the first time.

1. Never pass on a chance to stockpile good players

For reasons that would never pass the "smell test" in roto leagues, it's quite common to see a cluster of fantasy stars languishing in free agency with weekly leagues, as if their four-category skills were strangely not needed.

It could be a pitcher who only has one start that particular seven-day period. Or an outfielder who's the victim of a roster-space numbers game (three starters, compared to the normal five). Or an elite middle infielder who doesn't have the glorious fallback of a "2B/SS" starting slot.

Whatever the case, seeing a top-100 talent on waivers should be your cue to make room for these special assets before other owners come to their senses.

And if these surprise acquisitions should temporarily put a dent into your pitching depth, so be it. Experience dictates that owners who go heavy on starting pitching will eventually trade their way back to having a balanced roster.

2. Set aside one revolving-door spot for a two-start pitcher

No one ever sets out to draft poorly in the latter rounds of a weekly league, but there's a silver lining for doing so. By creating a revolving-door spot every Monday for productive but replaceable assets -- Danny Salazar, Alex Wood, Drew Smyly, Tyler Skaggs, Taijuan Walker, Drew Hutchison, Nate Eovaldi, Jacob Turner, Michael Pineda, etc. -- you'll have a guilt-free portal for squeezing out six to eight more strikeouts and maybe one more victory per week.

And in some extreme cases, you'll accidentally stumble on a stud who's worth keeping for an entire season. The best example of this would be Cliff Lee, whose fantasy name was mud heading into the 2008 season with the Indians. Six months later, he had a 22-3 record, 2.54 ERA and American League Cy Young trophy on his mantle.

3. Avoid rostering designated hitters or backup catchers in weekly leagues

This one's rather simple: DHs and backup catchers are usually taking up precious bench space from power-speed outfielders or infielders with dual-position versatility.

Fantasy owners must learn to be obsessed with flexibility.

4. Don't make any trades until the first star hitter incurs a substantial injury

Head-to-head drafts can produce some funky results. Starting pitchers tend to be over-drafted early, leading to some insane values for hitters, most notably outfielders. In weekly leagues, there is no universal definition of true value, no clear lines of demarcation for certain prospects.

It's just one big Bizarro World experience with virtual strangers.

Which brings me to this: Owner B can only realize his/her mistake for over-drafting starting pitching after they've encountered a significant hole in their lineup. When that moment occurs, you'll be there, sporting an ear-to-ear grin, waiting to trade a bench stud for one of Owner B's vaunted starting pitchers.

The "waiting" strategy never fails in weeklies.

5. All things being equal, start the batter with more games in that seven-day period

It's simple math: If Jedd Gyorko and Ian Kinsler are vying for one 2B slot, the victor should be determined from three easy questions:

A) Who has more games that week?
B) Who has more games against pitching-thin clubs?
C) Which hitter has more mojo as of that Monday?

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