The Significance of the Waiver Wire in Fantasy Sports

After drafting, it’s always fun to look at your fantasy teams and predict how good or bad they will perform. Likely, you’ll think your team is the best, as will the next guy, and the next. But the reality is, by season’s end your team will look completely different. Whether that is due to trades, unfortunate injuries, or being active on the waiver wire, the team you draft will not be the team you end your season with. And if it is, you either got lucky or you performed poorly in that league. That’s a grand assumption on my part, but from much experience I am convinced that fantasy leagues are won through being consistently active on the waiver wire. Let me explain…

The Advantages of the Waiver Wire in Fantasy Football

Fantasy football in 2020 has been an absolute mess in regards to injuries. Here are just some of the big-name players who were taken early in drafts and have missed multiple games: Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, Deebo Samuel, Kenny Golladay, Miles Sanders, Chris Godwin, George Kittle, Joe Mixon, Odell Beckham Jr, Austin Ekeler, Chris Carson, Michael Thomas, Aaron Jones, and more. That’s an absurdly long list of high value fantasy assets that had to be replaced in fantasy lineups multiple times during the season. In those weeks that they missed, you started someone in their place–unless you’re just that cocky. And even more likely, you grabbed (or tried to grab) their presumed “replacement” off the waiver wire. Well what if you didn’t have to rush to the waiver wire when Austin Ekeler or Aaron Jones went down? Or when we learned that Chris Godwin wasn’t going to be active? There is a way to always have the opportunity to “capitalize” on a player’s injury. Injuries are unpredictable, but simply being active on the wire from the day you draft your team, to the day the champion in your league is crowned is what wins fantasy championships. Whether yours is a redraft league, a dynasty/keeper league, an IDP league, it doesn’t matter. Actively scouting the waiver wire will help you spot upside that’s easy to miss when you glance over it just once every couple of days. No, this doesn’t mean you’re staring at your phone 24/7. It means at least once a day you’re checking the wire to see if you missed a potential high upside handcuff, a wide receiver who could benefit from a top wide receiver option being hurt that week, or an overlooked talented rookie who could be getting an opportunity to showcase their skills.

So far in 2020, Myles Gaskin, Scotty Miller, James Robinson, Mike Davis, Chase Edmonds, Darrell Henderson Jr, and more have all proven to be reliable fill-in options that you likely weren’t counting on for fantasy points after draft day. However, seeing that the Dolphins had a volatile RB situation, that the Jaguars’ starting RB job was up for grabs, that the system Christian McCaffery runs in is made for multi-faceted RBs, that the Rams backfield had no set starter–all of these varying situations could’ve been aggressively attacked on the wire, and in many cases they were. Those owners who acted early on are more than likely performing well in their leagues because they were proactive on the wire and targeted potential FREE additions to their roster that could help them once the season began. These types of owners annually do well in their fantasy leagues because they understand what it takes to win–they understand that the waiver wire is a key to fantasy success.

Moreover, there’s an argument to be made that being proactive on the waiver wire in deep keeper leagues and in dynasty leagues is actually more beneficial to your team because you can help your short-term and long-term success simultaneously. In dynasty leagues specifically, if you sold Mike Davis or James Robinson after they strung together several good games for an early 2021 rookie draft pick and you already had a solid roster, you’re in a win-win situation. (1) These FREE pickups likely already helped you win some weeks early on, (2) Even if you don’t win the league this year, you essentially get an extra draft pick, or two, for free. You competed and you fell short, but you gave yourself an advantage heading into next season regardless of the fact. Though, if you managed to sell these assets as well as win your league, guess what? You’ve essentially begun to build a dynasty, and isn’t that the goal?

The Advantages of the Waiver Wire in Fantasy Baseball

This idea of being proactive on the waiver wire applies just as much to other fantasy sports such as fantasy baseball. In 2020 alone, players such as Aaron Judge, Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodríguez, David Dahl, Mike Clevinger, Jon Gray, Ketel Marte, Jorge Soler, Yordan Alvarez, Justin Verlander, Josh Donaldson, Matt Chapman, Rhys Hoskins, and more all missed considerable amounts of time, if not the entire 2020 season. Replacing a player like Verlander is impossible, but if you were quick enough to grab Framber Valdez or Cristian Javier, the injury likely didn’t hurt your team as much. I doubt you were stashing Javier or Valdez in a redraft league (unless the benches were deep) so you likely had to be proactive on the wire to pick them up before the next guy tried to. Injuries will happen, and when they do someone is going to see more opportunities going forward, and early in the season, those players could turn out to be league-winners. You need to check the waiver wire every single day, I cannot emphasize this enough. Trust me, if this whole article could be me just copying and pasting “Check the waiver wire everyday!”, I’d do it in a heartbeat!

Even more, the waiver wire in fantasy baseball is a lot deeper than in fantasy football, or even fantasy basketball. From high upside prospects to veterans who are oft-overlooked, there is always a potential high upside player available on the wire just waiting to be grabbed. Over the years in redraft leagues, Jacob Degrom, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Shane Bieber, Blake Snell, Aaron Judge, Ozzie Albies and more were likely sitting on your waiver wire at some point in time waiting to be grabbed (I would know, a couple of these guys helped me win some leagues). From first glance, it is hard to buy into a guy who doesn’t have much of an MLB sample size, but you cannot look into that too much when looking for potential waiver wire gems. If in a pitcher’s first MLB start, they face a decent offense and go 6.0 innings, allowing three runs on five hits, striking out six with no walks, that is a very notable effort. This young pitcher, despite getting hit around a little, still managed to show strong control and strikeout ability. If you see a start like this on your wire, grab that player and then analyze them to see if you believe their success can continue. You take the time to analyze before grabbing them, the next guy grabs him and then you miss out on a top-40 arm for the rest of the season.

The same can be said for a hitter. A young second baseman has five hits (two home runs, two doubles, one single) over his first 36 career MLB at-bats. He also has a 2:5 K:BB and a steal over that time span. I am RUNNING to the wire to grab this bat, especially if I need help or depth at second base. Why? Because in just 36 at-bats, he has demonstrated a willingness to steal, a good eye at the plate, and intriguing power–you can understand all this simply by looking at their game log. Pick this player up and THEN you analyze if it’s real by looking at their minor league production and tendencies. You then see that this player has had a solid K:BB their entire career, a handful of steals and home runs, as well as decent contact ability indicated by a consistently solid batting average and BABIP. When minor league skills leak over into a player’s MLB sample size right off the bat (literally), you need to be all over that player. If it turns out the player just had a hot start and cools of dramatically, then it’s an easy drop.

And just like in fantasy football, being active on the waiver wire in dynasty and keeper leagues is a glowing pathway to annual success. Could you imagine if you grabbed Jacob degrom in a keeper league back in 2014 because you liked what you saw in his first MLB start (7.0 innings, four hits, one earned run, two walks, six strikeouts)? You’d be in a pretty darn good position right now and most importantly, you would be in that position at no expense to your team–free upside, free production, free success, all just waiting to be picked up to help your fantasy team win.

The Waiver Wire is your Best friend

NO risk, HIGH reward is my slogan for supporting the idea of being consistently active on the waiver wire in fantasy sports. There is absolutely no risk in dropping a platoon bat for a prospect you think could make a big splash when they are called up, or dropping a WR5 for a handcuff RB who is in a run-first offense, especially early on in the season. As a whole, you want your fantasy team to have more pathways to success than any team in your league, and staying active on the waiver wire is the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to do so. “You want to trade me Giancarlo Stanton for my Tyler Glasnow? No way, Clint Frazier is a good player and I expect him to make the most of this opportunity.” Look at you, you just grabbed and held onto one of the best waiver wire pickups of the 2020 fantasy baseball season and it costed you NOTHING. In fantasy sports, there is no easier pathway to success than staying exceedingly active on your league’s waiver wire. Regardless of the sport, league size, league type, it does not matter–take advantage of this free, league-winning tool in your leagues. The waiver wire is your best friend, and just like any good friendship, you should support it just as much as it’s willing to support you.

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