There are many differences between season-long fantasy baseball and daily fantasy baseball, but the most obvious is in the latter, players are accompanied by fluctuating salaries. Users competing in the daily Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com must create a team with a collective salary that doesn't exceed a $50,000 cap.
The goal is to find players whose actual worth exceed their cost, as represented by their salary. Whereas season-long fantasy owners simply want to start their best players, those playing daily fantasy baseball need to choose players who offer the most value.
One of the overlooked ways of uncovering that value is to take a strategic look at the way the player salaries are configured. The salary numbers alone can tell you something about value, which can give you a leg up on the competition before you even begin any sort of player research.
It's in the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com's best interest to price players as accurately as possible. Although the salaries aren't perfect, they're a decently accurate representation of player quality. That means that when you're analyzing pitchers, the most expensive ones are those who are projected to do the best, while the cheapest ones are expected to struggle.
One of the easiest ways to develop a pool of potential hitters for your lineup is to search for those who are facing the cheapest pitchers. If you want an efficient way to view which pitchers are expected to throw poorly, glance at the list of their salaries.
A great thing about daily fantasy baseball is that if you can accurately project pitchers, you'll have a better chance to successfully project hitters. If you know that Eric Stults is likely to struggle vs. San Francisco, you should also be high on the Giants' bats. Simply put, pitcher salaries are a good proxy for opponent hitting prospects.
The cost of team hitting
One of the preferred strategies for selecting batters in the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com is to stack teammates. If the opposing pitcher were to struggle, many of them would likely perform well.
In any given day, there are numerous potential hitter stacks you can use. Deciding among them can be difficult, so it makes the most sense to go with the cheapest one that you have projected high.
For example: If you like the Blue Jays, Tigers and Nationals equally, it's the Washington stack that's best. Why? Because the total salary cap you'd need to allocate to the Nats would be lower than the cost for Toronto and Detroit hitters.
This illustrates a fundamental concept of sound lineup creation: cheaper is better. We're always on the lookout for situations where we can reproduce production at a cheaper cost. The total cost of hitter stacks can vary wildly from team to team so, all other things equal, the least expensive is optimal.
That "all other things equal" phrase is important, though. We're not just seeking the cheapest possible combination of hitters, but rather the cheapest grouping relative to their projection. When you combine big bats with a moderate price tag, it affords you opportunities to fit better value hitters and ace pitchers into your lineup.
The take-home lesson: don't overlook the power of player-salary analysis when competing in the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com.
Jonathan Bales contributes DraftKings-related content to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.