Fantasy Baseball: So you drafted a team and the season started — now what?

You prepped all spring like a future fantasy baseball champion. You ranked and you mocked, you practiced and you planned. You filtered out the headlines, separating news from noise. You drafted once, or a few times, and started dreaming of the championship season to come.

Draft Day is a blast, arguably the best day of the year. But the next six months are going to be fun, too. Let's try to get you steered in the right direction.

[It's not too late: Join or create a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for the 2024 MLB season]

Today's assignment: early-season strategy. Here are a few bullet points to consider. The usual disclaimers apply: every league is different, you know your pool better than an outsider could and one size does not fit all.

Some stats (saves and steals, usually) have low barriers of entry

If any pitcher in MLB is starting to collect saves, I am interested. Period, full stop.

I don't need to know much about pedigrees and past performances; if his team wants him throwing in the ninth, I need to strongly consider a pickup. And be mindful that most clubs have short leashes with closers, so there are changes constantly. It looks like Jason Foley has already taken over in Detroit. There's rumbling in Texas, where Jose Leclerc has struggled and the Rangers have several other candidates who could step in.

I want you to be proactive with your bullpens. Every closer matters, and every save matters.

On offense, we're always looking for category juice — the players who hit home runs and steal bases. Anyone who does both of these things is probably already on a roster, though occasionally a Will Benson (29% rostered) will slip through. But if you can't find players who cover both of these columns, consider players who are capable of stealing bases in clumps.

A few waiver candidates are doing that right now. Milwaukee's Brice Turang has to prove he can hit lefties, but four steals have him on the radar. Jose Siri has three steals and a homer for Tampa. The Angels finally dusted off their running shoes Monday, with post-hype prospect Jo Adell copping a couple of bags. He's one for the deep-leaguers, rostering at just 1% in Yahoo.

Pick up any starting pitcher with a 10-strikeout game

This is the Salfino Rule, something Mike Salfino came up with many years ago when we were recording The Breakfast Table Podcast. It's one thing for a pitcher to get lucky on balls in play, but when someone gets to double-digit strikeouts in a game, it might turn on the Signature Significance sign (the Bill James concept that the notable amplitude of an isolated event often means the player has great skill, no matter that we're dealing with a tiny sample of data). And I think 10 strikeouts in a start means more today — where short starts are common — than it might have meant a decade or two prior.

Plenty of the 10-strikeout pitchers won't be available on the wire, of course. The star pitchers dominate this area. But you might be surprised how often an unheralded pitcher pops onto the sheet. Tanner Houck whiffed 10 Oakland batters Monday; that's obviously a statement about Oakland and the importance of streaming against weak opponents, but it could also mean Houck is headed for a breakout year. Jared Jones is still merely 45% rostered in Yahoo, despite a 10-strikeout debut and a brilliant preseason (16.1 scoreless innings). Jones has some pedigree, too. Brady Singer is a post-hype arm who struck out 10 Twins last week; this week he gets the scuffling White Sox. Singer also offers some back class as a rated prospect.

Start filling those IL slots

Truth be told, I hope you've already done this. But depending on when your league drafted and what your league's free-agent cadence is, perhaps you haven't had the chance to. IL spots are free opportunities to stash away wait-for-it talent and grab some fresh reinforcements off the wire. The first wave of IL-stashes is the richest one, so I hope you didn't miss out if your league drafted a while ago. But anytime your roster encounters some bad injury luck, you want to hit the wire as quickly as you can.

Be patient with your top players, fickle with your bottom players

This should be obvious to any experienced player but we'll mention it nonetheless. Any star who can't hit a lick in April is going to get a pass from me, assuming there isn't a major injury or playing-time change to discuss. But the bottom of your roster should be set for "churn mode." As much as we try to make informed decisions on late-round picks in March, the information that comes from real games has to carry extra weight, especially now that playing time is a tangible thing and no longer a matter of speculation. When the league gives you more information to consider, take advantage of it.

Prepare for your free-agent routines

Every league has a different cadence and shape for free-agent moves. Some leagues offer first-come, first-serve free agency, which requires an active manager. My preferred leagues have periods where you can add players — sometimes it's once a week, sometimes it's multiple times a week. Often it's tied to a set of FAB offers, which requires strategy and a little bit of those poker instincts

If you're in multiple leagues, this requires some planning. Your cell phone has a calendar app; start filling it with your free agent schedules. Your life is dynamic, with all sorts of school, work, family or social responsibilities. "Yeah, I'll remember that" won't work for most of us — it certainly won't work for me. Get your reminders loaded into your phone.

And if you do play in multiple leagues, use that as a shorthand cheat code. Appreciate that some leagues are parallel in structure, and an interesting add in League A might be your fresh free-agent scoop in League B. Four of my leagues have FAB offers run at different times on Sunday, and I am always considering the results of the early FAB runs when I set my offers for the later leagues. Every little piece of intel helps.

If you have multiple Yahoo leagues running, get familiar with the "League Availability" tab on each player's individual page. That will tell you what roster — if any — the viewed player belongs to. It's a godsend if you're trying to figure out where a fresh pickup could be available, and it's also a quick and helpful way to figure out which players you have on multiple teams. It's a critical click for the highly engaged fantasy manager, and I'm one of those guys.

Did I miss your favorite early-season strategy tip? Tell me all about it: @scott_pianowski on Twitter/X.

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