A 5 team Bandwagon Fantasy Sports league offers just enough flexibility to pick one or two teams to ride the entire season, while climbing the ladder from tier to tier with the lower level teams. My strategy is pick a World Series contender with my $5 team and a $4 team that is at the playoff level that can jump to the $5 tier quickly. The $3, $2, and $1 teams should each be “Diamonds in the Rough”; teams that are not highly thought of at the beginning of the season, but may start out hot to climb into higher tiers. By the end of the season, I hope to have 4 playoff teams and one .500 team. Maximizing playoff teams is important since postseason games count the same as regular season games in BWFS. The playoffs are where leagues are won and lost – owners with the most playoff teams are generally at the top of their league’s standings. Riding a hot team into the October Classic can push you into first place in your league. Let the search for playoff teams begin:
SALARY CAP: $15
LAD, STL, WAS, CLE, and KC = $15
$5 Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are most analysts preseason pick to win it all and repeat 2020’s World Series victory. After a truly impressive shortened season, they did nothing but improve upon their stacked roster. Of course, the biggest splash came from the Trevor Bauer signing – a whopper of an addition to the front end of the best staff of starting pitchers in the big leagues. Bauer brings with him a freshly minted Cy Young Award to his hometown of LA. Consider these names: Bauer, Buehler, Kershaw, Urias, and Price. The Dodgers rotation will be lights out in 2021, and they truly run 7 deep with Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, waiting as the 6th and 7th starters.
On the offensive side, I expect Corey Seager to have a monster year, following his World Series MVP. Mookie Betts is still worth every penny batting leadoff with a lot of pop in his bat. The lineup is stacked with power with Max Muncy and Will Smith. Cody Bellinger is only one season removed from his NL MVP, and should bounce back after off-season shoulder surgery. Overall, the batting order is stacked, and figures to mash all year.
I would guess the Dodgers land between 98 – 101 wins in 2021; good enough for the best in baseball. I want to ride their bandwagon from wire to wire.
Honorable Mention: New York Yankees
The Yankees project to 95+ wins this year. I hope to trade for the Bronx Bombers as soon as another team jumps from the $4 tier to the $5 tier.
$4 Team: Toronto Blue Jays
My wish is for a quick start for the Blue Jays, so they can leap frog into the $5 tier where I’ll drop them like a bad habit for the Yankees, my pick for the AL representative for the 2021 World Series. Here’s why I feel the Blue Jays are undervalued at a $4 team and should start out hot:
Toronto was aggressive in the off-season with the free agent signing of George Springer. When you add him to the Blue Jay’s already potent lineup, there’s a possibility of a lot of runs and a lot of wins. Joining Biggio, Bichette, Hernandez, and Guerrero (sounds like the 1996 All Star Game, right?) Springer figures to get on base frequently and post an OPS in the high .900’s. Guerrero has only been in the league for 2 seasons – this might be his breakout year.
Hyun Jin Ryu is the anchor of the Blue Jays staff. He should start out hot and lead the staff like he has for the last couple of years. Toronto is stacked with solid arms in the rotation and bullpen. Their solid pitching should be plenty to help the Blue Jays contend in the AL East hot and jump into that $5 tier for me.
Again, the strategy is to ride Toronto until they give me the opportunity to trade for the Yankees. The Yankees project to run deep into the playoffs and I want those postseason wins. Toronto figures to be a Wild Card team only capable of one or two playoff wins.
Honorable Mention: Tampa Bay Rays
The AL East is very top heavy and it was a tough pick between the Rays and the Blue Jays. Overall, I like the Rays but don’t think they have what it takes to pick up the early wins that the Blue Jays do.
$3 Team: Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are an absolute steal at $3. In fact, I have them at winning the NL Central with 90 or 91 wins. In the off-season, Milwaukee signed Kolten Wong from the St. Louis Cardinals. A two time gold glover at second, Wong improves an already very strong defense. He projects to bat near the top of the lineup, with Christian Yelich not far behind. Yelich struggled last year, but didn’t we all? He should hit around 35 homers with an OPS above .900. Other sluggers to look out for this year include Avisail Garcia and Keston Hirua – one or both of whom may have breakout seasons.
The top of the Brewers rotation is lights out with Woodruff and Burnes. Both are strike out artists that should repeat their success in 2021. The starting pitching has a big drop off in 3 though 5, so the Brewers will be leaning on their bullpen a lot this year. Josh Hader and Devin Williams are filthy out of the pen and will look to eat up innings (and batters) this year.
I love the Brewers in 2021. They might be a wire to wire team for me, but more likely, I hope to use them to upgrade to another team. I’d like to see the Padres drop down to a $4 team the same time the Brewers jump to $4 for nice swap.
Honorable mention: Washington Nationals
Turner and Soto lead a very dangerous lineup. Their starting rotation boasts Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg. Yikes. Truth be told, I’m afraid of the NL East. It’s too stacked and there’s just not enough wins to go around. The Nats might be the dark horse in the East, but I can’t make that bet.
$2 Team: Cleveland Indians
Disclaimer – I’m a homer and I’m going to pick the Indians whenever I get the chance. It’s the wide eyed optimist in me that believes that they will win the Central every year and contend in the playoffs. This was a tough off-season for them, trading away Lindor and Carrasco. Yet, if I have learned anything as an Indians fan, they have a formula for success and it consistently translates into wins. The team is built on starting pitching and Shane Bieber quickly replaced previous aces (Bieber, Kluber) and looks to be hitting his prime.
Jose Ramirez is a perennial MVP candidate, although I’m worried about his production this year. He has historically struggled without the protection of Frankie Lindor in the lineup. I’m hoping for a breakout year for Franmil Reyes at DH. When he’s hot and hitting towering homers, the team tends to feed off of him.
Finally, a note about the manager. Terry Francona joined the Indians in 2013. The Tribe has posted a .565 record in those years, and has never finished with a losing season. Frankly, the Indians are winners. My hope is that they start out strong and I can hop off their bandwagon to the best $3 tier team, and climb the ladder.
Honorable mention: Miami Marlins
The Marlins sprinted out of the gate in 2020 with a quick 9 – 4 start. Maybe they can they catch lighting in a bottle again in 2021? Maybe not.
$1 Team: Kansas City Royals
Royals, Rockies, Mariners, Orioles, Lions, and Pirates. Pick a name out of hat, because I don’t want any of these teams. The trick is to find the team that will climb out of the cellar first, then trade them away for a newer model.
Again, I’d like to bring up the NL East. The Braves, Mets, Phillies, and Nationals are all very good teams. One of those four will start slow and finish strong. My guess is the Phillies. If I can pick a team that will jump from the $1 tier to the $2 tier, I’d love to trade them for the Phillies, a well balanced and dangerous team that had a couple of nice off season additions.
So I pick the Royals (groan). Ok, hear me out… they have a couple of nice bats in their lineup. DH Jorge Solder led the league in homers in 2019. Carlos Santana is an on base machine that brings a little power to the middle of their lineup. Adalberto Mondesi is an above average shortstop near the prime of his career. Salvador Perez is the face of the franchise, although his contract is running short, so he might not be around for long. Franchy Cordero is a very talented player that has had trouble staying healthy. If he avoids injury, he can turn into a solid asset for the Royals.
The Royals pitchers aren’t great, with only a couple of highlights. Josh Staumont and Kyle Zimmer are strong arms out of the pen and look out for Danny Duffy and Carlos Hernandez to have solid years.
Kansas City is rebuilding, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win 78 – 80 games. Let’s hope they give me the chance to hop off and grab one of those NL East teams I mentioned earlier.
I had a hard enough time writing about the Royals. I don’t have the energy to tout the strengths of the Orioles or Pirates. Sorry.
My plan is to slowly stack World Series contenders by climbing the ladder and making smart trades at the correct time. I’m going out on a limb here to make my prediction for the 5 teams I finish 2021 with:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. New York Yankees
3. San Diego Padres
4. Minnesota Twins
5. Philadelphia Phillies
I understand that’s only one of my picks at the beginning of the season, but that’s the name of the game! One of the hardest decisions in a BWFS season is deciding when to pull the trigger on a trade. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. Who’s to say that I don’t trade the Blue Jays for the Yankees, just to watch Toronto crush New York in the East? And that’s why we play the game… Just win baby!