The future of fantasy baseball is here. The Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com, which you can read more about here, is set to begin on Monday, giving you an entirely new way to approach the game -- and win real prizes in the process.
The Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com is a tremendous way to dip your toe in the daily fantasy baseball waters. It's awesome, it's free and you can win some great stuff, including a trip to the World Series. You can use the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com as a daily fantasy baseball training ground of sorts, and MLB.com is here to guide you along the way with various "Mini Fantasy Game drills" throughout the season.
Drill No. 1: Understanding the salary cap
Daily fantasy baseball is unique in that every player is given a salary, and the only way for you to build a team is to fit all of your player salaries within the confines of a salary cap. Yes, Clayton Kershaw is always going to be a "must-start" player in traditional fantasy baseball, but that's not necessarily the case in the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com.
In daily fantasy baseball, we're seeking not only quality players, but also value. What's value? In simple mathematical terms, it's expected production minus cost. You want players who are going to knock one out of the park -- literally -- but you only want them if their cost isn't prohibitive. If a player's salary is exorbitant, it limits your flexibility at other positions. If his cost exceeds his expected production, he no longer offers you value.
This idea is similar to the concept of value in season-long fantasy baseball. There, a player such as Ryan Braun often was available for a solid value in the second round of 2014 drafts. In the first five picks? Not as much value. In this scenario, Braun's cost is his draft position. In daily fantasy baseball, the cost is Braun's salary, which will change on a nightly basis.
One of the differences between daily fantasy baseball and the season-long variety is that the concept of "value" never disappears in daily fantasy. Whereas your only post-draft concern in a season-long league is expected production, you're always searching for value in daily fantasy baseball. In that way, the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com is like an entirely new fantasy baseball draft every day.
Finding value on players is akin to trading in the stock market. Your players are your stocks, and you're looking to "buy low" on commodities whose cost -- their nightly salary -- is a poor reflection of their anticipated future production. In short, you're looking for predictors of improved play in the same way that you might look for indicators of a future increase in stock price.
There are all kinds of ways to do that -- strategies will be covered in future articles -- but the take-home point is that daily fantasy baseball is all about value, which is inherently connected to players' daily fantasy salaries. Grasp that, and your chances of winning tickets to the 2014 World Series will be significantly higher.
Jonathan Bales contributes DraftKings-related content to MLB.com.