Fantasy Baseball: Your 101 guide to spot streaming and why you should try it

·Yahoo Fantasy Contributor
·4-min read

A couple of years ago, I became a big believer in what I call “spot streaming.” In this article, I’ll explain the theory and practical components of this strategy.

Roster spots have value. This means that a player who is using a spot on your roster (whether in the starting lineup or on your bench) has to have some immediate or long-term value to you.

One of the biggest mistakes fantasy managers make is stubbornly holding onto players who aren’t helping their teams and have little potential for improved value in the near future. For example, Blake Snell has the 5th-worst ERA (5.72) of any pitcher who has thrown more than 60 innings this season. He has a bloated 5.4 BB/9 rate and has notched just two quality starts in 14 tries.

Sure, Snell could soon stop being terrible, but will he be anything better than average in the near future? If you believe Snell is soon going to turn things around, then, by all means, keep him. But if you believe the answer to my previous question is “No," then you need to start streaming his spot. And I could make similar arguments for hurlers such as Dinelson Lamet and Frankie Montas who, like Snell, are rostered in roughly 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4)
Fantasy Managers are getting much less than they expected from Blake Snell in 2021. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Here's the mistake most managers make: they look at the waiver wire and think, “There’s no one here who I want to roster more than Snell.” But the decision doesn’t have to be between Snell and Player X from waivers. The decision is between Snell and the idea of spot streaming.

What is spot streaming and how does it work?

Spot streaming means that you commit to streaming players through Snell’s roster spot until you find a waiver wire gem. You may not get it right with your first roster addition, and it may take you 10 tries before you find your savior. But streaming the spot gives you the best chance to strike gold. If you aren’t willing to stream at least a couple of roster spots, then you put a lot of pressure on yourself to find waiver wire gems with little room for trial and error.

For example, here are some waiver wire options at starting pitcher right now:

  • Austin Gomber (58 percent rostered): Has posted a 2.14 ERA since May 1.

  • Mike Minor (41 percent): Has a 1.15 WHIP and a 9.7 K/9 rate this season.

  • Logan Gilbert (37 percent): A top prospect, he has posted a 2.04 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP across his past three starts.

  • Patrick Sandoval (12 percent): Has produced a 2.77 ERA in five starts since rejoining the rotation.

  • Ross Stripling (9 percent): Seems to have found his form, producing a 2.45 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP across his past five outings.

  • Bailey Ober (4 percent): A deep option, he is off to a solid start as a Major Leaguer (3.71 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) after logging incredible numbers (0.69 ERA, 100:9 K:BB ratio) in the Minors in 2019.

I could list 10 more starters, but by now, you get the point. Will all of these hurlers fare better than Snell (or Lamet, Montas) the rest of the way? Of course not. But some of them will, and managers who start streaming the spot right now could soon have a major roster upgrade.

To be clear, I’m not advocating dropping Snell in every format. Those of you who play in 15-team leagues will likely have multiple roster spots available for streaming before you consider dropping Snell. But some managers in 12-team leagues and most managers in 10-team formats can build a roster where Snell is their weakest link and the best candidate to leave the team in favor of spot streaming.

I could play the same game on the hitting side. For example, Jeff McNeil (rostered in nearly two-thirds of leagues and due back from the IL any day) is hitting .242 and has produced a total of seven homers and one steal across 84 games since the outset of last season. Do you believe that McNeil is going to move the needle in your standings the rest of the way? Likely not. Instead of staying stubborn on someone you likely drafted too early, you can start streaming his spot right now. For example, Jake Fraley is off to a great start (4 HR, 4 SB in 60 at-bats) and is on waivers in two-thirds of leagues. Fraley could be better than McNeil the rest of the way. And if Fraley cools off, his managers can drop him and try someone else.

One final reason for spot streaming — it’s fun. Being active on waivers, taking chances, looking to make a great roster move — these are all things that make playing fantasy baseball much more exciting.

Take a look at your roster today, and consider using a roster spot for streaming. My guess is that you’ll have found someone truly exciting by the end of the month.

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