Managing your fantasy salary cap will get you far
Those who have been regularly participating in the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com from DraftKings have noticed that there are all sorts of little intricacies when it comes to navigating a salary cap in daily fantasy baseball. Unlike season-long leagues in which you simply want to start the best players, the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com is mostly about finding the best values.
That word "mostly" is an important one; there's a misconception that all that matters in daily fantasy baseball is uncovering the most valuable players. In fact, your goal in almost all scenarios should be scoring the most points. To do that, you need to balance value with bulk points; the more points you think a player will score, the less value he needs to offer you.
Many daily fantasy baseball players calculate value in terms of a simple dollar-per-point mindset: How many dollars do you need to spend for each point you believe a player will score? Now here's the catch: If two player values are the same, you always want to choose the player projected to score the most points, even though he's not cheap. It's more difficult for the priciest players -- Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and the like -- to offer pure dollar/point value, so when they do, you need to pounce.
One of the things that happens when you start siding solely with the best values in the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com is that you can be tempted to leave some salary cap space on the table. Remember, the best values are typically low-priced players, so filling your team in a true value-based way could save you quite a bit of money.
Even if you try to optimize your lineup with a combination of value and points, you should still come very close to filling the salary cap. This is a somewhat controversial point in the daily fantasy baseball world. Some users trust their projections and stick with an "optimal" lineup, even if they forgo a good chunk of the salary cap. However, there are many assumptions that need to be made for you to correctly leave money on the table.
Specifically, you need to assume that the salary cap space you haven't spent couldn't be used anywhere else to upgrade your lineup. That's actually a really big assumption when you consider that if you leave even, say, 1 percent of the salary cap on the table, there are literally dozens of more expensive players you could afford.
So why is this important? You have to remember that DraftKings has an incentive to price players accurately; it uses algorithms to try to provide players with accurate salaries so that there aren't any very obvious value plays in a given night.
Ultimately, you need to factor some form of uncertainty into your projections and player selections. Maybe your optimal lineup suggests you should forgo $500 of cap space, but what are the chances that you're wrong? When you consider that DraftKings -- a site that's ranking players with a high degree of accuracy -- disagrees with you when you don't use all of the salary cap, it's a sign that you shouldn't just assume your selections are flawless.
The overarching idea here is that using all or nearly all of the salary cap is a smart move. If you don't, you need to be extremely confident that your selections are correct. In the long run, balancing value with bulk points to use the majority of the salary cap -- as in more than 99 percent -- is going to help you take down the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com.