Baseball season is long. Really long. And fantasy baseball can make it seem even longer. To be any good at it requires research, dedication, patience, and a healthy dollop of dumb luck.
But all that said, it's easier than ever these days for the average schmoe to play Fantasy Baseball and compete with that annoying fanatic who can recite every member of the 300-300 club. So if you find yourself cajoled into joining a league but have no idea what you’re in for, here’s a quick primer on what you can expect from the various platforms.
Ease of Use: Yahoo’s interface is clean and simple; swiping between teams, stats, and games is intuitive, and moving players up and down your roster is a breeze. The notifications, which give injury updates and advice from Rotowire, are really handy. Two other great features for the casual player: the “start active players” feature on the app, which ensures your roster never has an empty slot; and the calendar, which allows you to set your lineup up to a week in advance.
Cash Management: While you may not need this option, Yahoo simplifies the process of money-ball by ensuring there won’t be any haggling at the end. Best, Yahoo can collect the money for the league and pay it out at season’s end. (If you live in a restricted state, though, you won’t be able to employ this option.) This is a nice feature for anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of keeping track of funds.
Draft: Want to make sure your favorite real player is on your fake roster? Yahoo lets you pre-rank players into a preferred order before the season begins. Plus, Yahoo lets you Mock Draft, letting you learn the actual value of Mike Trout so you don’t overpay for him in your draft (you should anyway). Once the draft begins, you can either select your own players or just set it and forget it, and let Yahoo automatically draft the next player for you.
Not many. Yahoo is the most popular Fantasy Baseball platform because it’s by far the easiest to pick up and play.
Tons of Content: The "Worldwide Leader in Sports" delivers the most comprehensive fantasy advice, from in-depth rankings (broken down by position, rotisserie, head-to-head, and overall) to draft kits.
Smack Boards: The trash-talk platform is nifty, with a chatbox that allows both player-to-player smacktalk and league-wide banter.
Weak Interface: You can’t scroll through players without returning to the roster page, and there’s no option to automatically bench inactive players. The updates, delivered in-house by ESPN, are informative but surprisingly infrequent. There’s also no option to have ESPN collect and/or distribute funds. And chances are, you’re not playing just for fun.
Cost: Free; $150 for Commissioner League
Layout: The home page is divided by rankings from three different writers, displayed side by side. The graphics stand out and make the content easily digestible.
Tiered System: CBS’s Commissioner League allows you to have 30 teams, while Yahoo and ESPN max out at 20. The free option limits leagues to 10 teams. Additionally, for the premium price you get premium options, from AL- and NL-only leagues to mixed head-to-head drafts. If you want a specific kind of fantasy baseball experience, there’s a way to do it at CBS Sports.
That Tiered System: As great as the Commissioner League options are, the gameplay limitations on the free leagues are considerable, especially when compared to other platforms. If you don’t pony up the big bucks, you’ll be excluded from in-depth features like keeper settings, auction drafts, and a complete record book with all-time scores for your league. Plus, 150 bucks is, well, 150 bucks. It ain't cheap, and there's no way to win it back.
If you’re a casual fan simply playing fantasy baseball to give extra meaning to Major League games and keep in touch with buddies, Yahoo is the way to go. It’s free, it offers a great, user-friendly interface that will limit your time on the app (I never once visited the desktop site for my Fantasy Hockey league), and the Rotowire updates are invaluable.
But if you’re a hardcore fan who seeks a keeper league with all the bells and whistles to fight for bragging rights among your best friends, CBS’s Commissioner League is your best bet. There are simply so many options available that you can’t find with either Yahoo or ESPN, like the ability to add minor league players and exceed the 20-team plateau.