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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
From the middle of December 2012 through the middle of January 2013, I participated in a Draft-master style (not to be mistaken with Gangnam Style) slow fantasy baseball draft hosted by the Dynasty Sports Empire. It is a 10-team roto league where all rosters are frozen for the entire season. Basically, the team we draft is the team we are stuck with as there are no trades, no transactions, no waivers…nothing. It is essentially a test to see who really did draft the best team. I had the 10th pick of the first round which means I had the wrap-around. In a 10-team league, that is very advantageous.
Below is a summary of the team I drafted along with some comments and analysis. It is in order of which round the player was selected in.
1. Albert Pujols (1B-LAA). This was an easy choice as King Albert slipped to me at the end of the first round. Granted his numbers were somewhat pedestrian in 2012 when compared to previous years. However, he now has a year under his belt on a new team and also has Josh Hamilton hitting behind him. I expect the power numbers to slightly increase as well as a return to his usual plus-.300 batting average.
2. Justin Verlander (SP-DET). I wanted to take a pitcher here because it would be another 20 picks before I got to pick again. The decision to take Justin Verlander was another easy choice given how dominant he has been and should continue to be. There is no reason not to expect at least 17 wins, a sub-3.00 ERA, 200+ strikeouts, and a great WHIP.
3. Curtis Granderson (OF-NYY). I expect eyebrows to be raised at this selection, but allow me to explain. Curtis Granderson is a free agent after 2013 and we all know what happens during players’ contract years. Granderson’s batting average took a major nosedive in 2012, but I expect that to bounce back. He will provide great production with homeruns and runs scored, and could be in for more RBI depending on where he bats in the Yankees lineup.
4. Hanley Ramirez (SS-LAD). Talk about a player whose fantasy value has gone down. Hanley Ramirez needed a change of scenery in the worst way. Now that he is in Los Angeles, I would expect his production to improve as well. His stolen base numbers will never likely be what they once were, but for a player who qualifies at both 3B and SS you can’t argue with his projected power numbers hitting in a potent Dodgers’ lineup.
5. Roy Halladay (SP-PHI). I was quite surprised to see Roy Halladay still available at this point in the draft. I wasn’t planning on taking a second pitcher at this point, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to grab the former Cy Young award winner and pair him up with Verlander on my staff. He had a down year in 2012 with some injuries and a lack of run support. However, I fully expect a return to greatness, especially because the Phillies will be a better team overall as well.
6. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF-BOS). It was just a year ago that Jacoby Ellsbury was considered a top 10 pick in any draft. However, injuries derailed him in 2012. Now he comes back in his contract year looking to prove he is worth a hefty new deal as a long-term investment. I think grabbing him in the sixth round will provide great value with his ability to contribute in all five roto categories,
7. Aramis Ramirez (3B-MIL). After all of these years, Aramis Ramirez still tends to go under the radar when discussing some of the better options at third base. Never before has this position lacked so much depth, but Ramirez is as consistent as they come with a solid batting average and close to 30 home runs and 100 RBI every year.
8. Jonathan Papelbon (RP-PHI). Wanting to make sure I got at least one elite closer, I grabbed Papelbon here in the 8th. The Phillies will certainly be better this season which means more saves opportunities. Papelbon had a very good inaugural season in Philadelphia, but with an improved team overall he could reach up to 40-45 saves.
9. Mark Teixeira (1B-NYY). Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira has been one of the most frustrating players to have on a fantasy team these past few years. Once a perennial .275 – .290 hitter, Teixeira has become an albatross for batting average in roto leagues. His power numbers have remained consistent, but he has never really elevated his game to the next level. Now in his fifth season with the Yankees and with A-Rod missing half the season, I think Teixeira could finally be in for his breakout season in pinstripes.
10. Yovani Gallardo (SP-MIL). After already drafting Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay, I grabbed Gallardo as my third starting pitcher. What is not to like? He wins double-digit games with a good ERA and high strikeout totals.
11. Alex Gordon (OF-KC). Coming into 2012, Alex Gordon was very high on my radar after his breakout 2011 season. After a slow start, he did finish strong. But now I think Gordon is ready to take an even bigger step as the Royals mix and match some young stars with veteran players to make a run in 2013. As Gordon gets stronger, a lot of those extra base hits are going to find their way over the fence for homeruns.
12. Carlos Beltran (OF-STL). In this league, there is no disabled list or add/drops. That means that I took a chance by drafting Carlos Beltran who is a lock to miss time at some point during the season. He had a very productive debut season in St. Louis last year, but he did miss several games with various ailments to his legs. If he can play 130-135 games, he should be able to put up similar power numbers.
13. Carlos Santana (C-CLE). I am never a fan of drafting catchers before the end of a draft, but with Carlos Santana still available I had to take him. Santana will be another year removed from his knee injury and will get time at first base and DH to keep his bat in the lineup. With an improved team around him, he should be counted on for 20 homeruns and 75 RBI assuming he remains healthy.
14. Drew Storen (RP-WAS). This pick was made before the Nationals signed Rafael Soriano as a free agent. Now it doesn't seem like such a great pick in terms of saves, but Storen should still help with ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
15. Ichiro Suzuki (OF-NYY). Recognizing that my roster was deficient in projected stolen bases, I decided to take one of my favorite fantasy players of all time in Ichiro Suzuki. I know he won’t hit .340 with 60 stolen bases any more, but playing every day in the Yankees lineup should bring some of his fantasy value back in terms of batting average, runs scored and stolen bases.
16. Tom Wilhelmsen (RP-SEA). Acting on pure instinct, I decided to go for the kill in saves and grab a third closer. Wilhelmsen emerged from nowhere in 2012 to become a viable fantasy closer after taking over for Brandon League. The Mariners probably won’t win more than 70-75 games, but Wilhelmsen should save about 30 of them.
17. David Ortiz (DH-BOS). This was another risky pick given Ortiz’s age and injury history, but at this point in the draft his upside was too valuable. Even at his age, David Ortiz still is capable of hitting .300 with 30 homeruns and 100 RBI. Boston has overhauled a majority of the lineup around him, so Ortiz should have plenty of run-producing opportunities. It will be interesting to see how John Farrell uses him in interleague games which could possibly cost him some at bats.
18. Joel Hanrahan (RP-BOS). Now I am just being greedy with saves. I was very surprised that the Red Sox' new closer, Joel Hanrahan, was still available at this point of the draft. He is coming off of two very good seasons with the Pirates and now inherits the closing duties in Boston. The issue will be how many save chances he gets because Boston’s starting pitching and middle relievers must show a significant improvement from last year.
19. Dan Uggla (2B-ATL). I waited this long without taking a second baseman and I was still able to get Braves all-star Dan Uggla. There is no question that he will not help me in batting average, but he is one of the most powerful second basemen in the league. To get a second baseman that will hit at least 20 homeruns and drive in 75 runs at this point in the draft is a steal.
20. Alexei Ramirez (SS-CHW). My final pick of the draft is another player who has yet to really fulfill his potential. White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez has the tools to be a very good fantasy player with a good combination of power and speed. At the very least, Ramirez will provide depth at the middle infield position and give me some much needed stolen bases.
Here is what my roster looks like positionally:
C Carlos Santana (CLE)
1B Albert Pujols (LAA)
2B Dan Uggla (ATL)
3B Aramis Ramirez (MIL)
SS Hanley Ramirez (LAD)
CI Mark Teixeira (NYY)
MI Alexei Ramirez (CHW)
OF Curtis Granderson (NYY)
OF Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS)
OF Alex Gordon (KC)
OF Carlos Beltran (STL)
OF Ichiro Suzuki (NYY)
UT David Ortiz (BOS)
SP Justin Verlander (DET)
SP Roy Halladay (PHI)
SP Yovani Gallardo (MIL)
RP Jonathan Papelbon (PHI)
RP Drew Storen (WAS)
RP Tom Wilhelmsen (SEA)
RP Joel Hanrahan (BOS)
Overall I like this team quite a bit. I think my power and run production should be at or near the top of the league. My biggest concerns offensively are batting average and stolen bases. If Ellsbury and Ichiro have vintage years, then I should be fine. On the pitching side, I am very pleased having three dominant starters plus four closers.
Posted by Michael Stein at 4:52am
Friday, January 18, 2013
I’m currently participating in the FantasyGameday.net slow mock draft, and in it I drew the 12th pick. There’s nothing inherently inferior about any spot in the draft, though depending on the distribution of talent in the player pool in any given season, one may prefer picking in the beginning, middle, or end of the draft.
The obvious blessing and curse of the bookend positions—first and last—is that in each situation you are repeatedly making back to back picks and then having to wait the maximum possible number of picks before your next opportunity to select. This leads to certain rational behaviors, but anecdotally, I’ve seen it lead to some irrational behaviors as well. So, let’s talk about strategy when in this draft position.
The longer you have between picks, the more likely you will have to “reach” to get a player you want. So, while no drafter should ever feel particularly restricted by pre-ranks, the further you are toward one side of the draft order, the more you should be willing to disregard those kinds of anchors.
In a standard 12-team league, there will be 22 picks between your choice and your next opportunity. Chances are that any player you are considering for either of your current choices will not be available on your next turn. The likelihood of your player being drafted by another team before your next turn essentially starts at 99 percent after your 2.1 one pick and decreases as the draft goes along. Still, relative to your opponents, you are least likely to have a player you pass on return to you. Therefore, reaching is rational.
Another somewhat risky strategy that is more rational at the bookend than other draft positions is attempting to start a run on a position. The idea of starting a run makes sense from this point in the draft order for three reasons.
First, having the greatest time between picks, you are the most likely to get shut out of a top tier player at a shallow position if the run is started by another owner. Second, one of the benefits of runs is that it induces dead picks. By this I mean that if you want a player who is 12 ADP slots behind your last pick, but there are 22 picks before your next pick, you need other teams to draft players outside of those intermediate players for your target to remain available. Aside from people having their own opinions, one way this can happen is other teams deviating from their rankings to nab a position in the middle of a run.
Third, you can apply twice the amount of pressure to start such a run because you have back-to-back picks. But, this is where you have to differentiate from being strategic from merely being cutesy.
In the FantasyGameday.net slow mock, I attempted this strategy in a manner I felt was defensible. In rounds three and four, I choose Mike Napoli and Joe Mauer back to back. I hope you will understand my logic even if you disagree with the picks.
Let me first set some context. This is obviously a two-catcher league. I’m also competing with a number of savvy drafters, with whom I haven’t drafted before. At the time of this pick Buster Posey was the only catcher off the board. And, finally, I was not enamored with my other options. I was pretty set on taking Napoli with one of my picks and, as it turned out, I was seriously considering only two of the next 10 players drafted as being realistic options for my team at that point in the draft.
Now, for my rationale. First, on the players themselves. I’ve become convinced that it won’t be difficult for Napoli to return this level of value in a two-catcher league, playing a fair amount of first base and hitting in Fenway. I also think that having not just an above-average, but an elite batting average producer from your catcher spot is an incredibly underrated asset. I have the best power threat and best batting average producer at the shallowest roster spot—a spot at which other teams will be struggling to merely plug in a player who will get 350+ plate appearances.
To me, the downside of this selection was actually pretty minimal. On the team construction side, there was no other position at which I could have rostered two consensus top-five options. I figured that this move would probably hurt me on the middle infield side of things, as neither of my first two picks (Evan Longoria and Giancarlo Stanton) were middle infielders either.
But, I liked my elite options at catcher better than any of my middle infield options. Neither of the other two players I was considering (Ryan Zimmerman and Jacoby Ellsbury) were middle infielders either. I figured that at worst I’d have two strong catchers and a weak middle infield, while I knew some other teams would wind up with a weak catching tandem and a strong middle infield. A fair tradeoff, I figured.
On the strategic side, I did not know how highly this group valued catchers. It’s not uncommon for advanced owners to go hard after high-level catchers in two-catcher leagues, so I wasn’t sure when the rest of the crop would start to go. It seemed totally possible that if I took just Napoli, three to six more catchers could be off the board by my next pick. I’d rather reach a little for elite talent earlier than reach for third-tier talent later. But, then, there was also the question of a run.
Another drafter asked me about my picks right after I made them and the way I answered was basically that I wouldn’t know if what I did “worked” until several rounds later. If Miguel Montero was still around 120 picks into the draft, then I probably messed up. But, if a lot of others wound up overpaying for their choices, and my choices are objectively better assets, then I’d have won.
After my 3.12 and 4.1 catcher picks, here are the other catchers who got drafted in rounds four through eight.
5.8: Yadier Molina
5.10: Carlos Santana
6.2: Wilin Rosario
6.9: Matt Wieters
6.12: Victor Martinez
8.2 Salvador Perez
8.7: Miguel Montero
Did I “win”? I’m not sure, but I think my picks look quite defensible.
And, by the way, as I predicted, my infield is weak, but I think I paid decent prices, which is more my concern in a draft. (Dan Uggla 9.12, Howie Kendrick 18.1, Marco Scutaro 19.12)
Before I sign off, I want to caution against "gimmick" back-to-back picks. In my years of playing fantasy sports, I’ve seen a lot of owners make back-to-back mid-tier closer picks, or mid-tier middle infielde picks, or even mid-tier starting pitchers with the bookend slot (hell, I did that in this draft too (Josh Beckett 13.12 and Johan Santana 14.1). It seems kind of fun and cool to do, for some reason. I get that. You sort of make a splash in the draft room and it’s fun to see your roster populate like that. But, it’s not always practical.
Napoli and Mauer were unique assets, in my estimation—the best power and average sources at their position, respectively. There were no comparable options, and they were at least very close to being the two best overall players on my board, given my current make-up, league settings, and overall strategy. It is unlikely that Jonathan Papelbon and Jason Motte are next to one another on your own rankings. Don’t make a set of mirror picks simply because it feels clever or looks cute.
When I made my back-to-back pitcher picks, we were in the 13th round and I had only one starting pitcher on my roster (C.J. Wilson 11.12) I needed to start filling out my rotation with vets with upside in short order—my strategy going in was to get the core of my pitching staff in rounds 9 – 15. I didn’t know who would go fast with this new crop of drafters, but the one thing I always know is that there will be quality pitching available later than I might think there should be.
When debunking the saying that things come in threes, the greatest modern American philosopher, George Carlin, once quipped that everything actually comes in ones, but a lot of people are too dumb to notice the pattern right away. Be like George; although you may have two consecutive picks, it is wisest to treat them individually, unless you have a well-thought out reason and tangible expectation of impact for doing otherwise.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 3:47am
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
There are several ways you can customize your fantasy baseball league to make the experience as realistic, enjoyable and competitive as possible. With the technology available from league hosting websites, you can add all the bells and whistles you want to make the league more simple or complex. But categorically speaking, your league is either a keeper (dynasty) or non-keeper (redraft) league.
Many keeper leagues also refer to themselves as dynasty leagues because the idea is that you will manage a team of players over the course of multiple seasons either by protecting a finite number or signing players to long-term contracts within the scope of your league’s salary cap restrictions. It is believed that dynasty leagues offer an experience more akin to being a general manager because you must consider the future while balancing the needs of the present.
That is not to say that non-keeper leagues don’t offer similar enjoyment or intuition. But many non-keeper leagues choose, at some point, to become a keeper league. The question is how to do that correctly.
When transitioning from a non-keeper league to a dynasty league, it is crucial that everyone starts out on an even playing field. From here on out, each team in the league is building its roster for the upcoming season and beyond. The past season’s standings and performance should not have a bearing on this new system. This concept would apply only to leagues that employ a snake-style draft because draft position and order are vitally important. In an auction league, everyone starts out with the same budget. If you choose to use a snake draft, you should have a procedure in place to randomize the draft order offering no advantages or disadvantages to anyone based on past performance.
One major factor all league members should consider is whether the commissioner is implementing any procedures that would inherently give him/her a distinct advantage. Most league commissioners are honorable and would not operate this way, but you would be surprised how many Machiavellian commissioners create advantageous rules or procedures for themselves. It never hurts to ask questions or be overly conscientious of everything.
Additionally, the commissioner should clearly lay out the rules and guidelines of how players are to be retained or signed to contracts for following seasons. This will affect everyone’s draft strategy because selecting a player near the end of his career won’t have the same long-term benefits as selecting a younger player who will be around for many more years. Knowing the rules and how to project for the future are key elements in preparing for a newly established dynasty league.
You will need to know whether your league permits roster spots for minor league for a period of time. Many dynasty leagues do allow teams to have minor leaguers who can be held under contract at a fixed rate until they are promoted to the big leagues. This is significant for league owners who really do see the big picture and look to build a solid foundation for many years to come.
Trades and transactions, are another key element of fantasy baseball roster management, are evaluated differently in dynasty leagues than in redraft leagues. This is because the value of compensation being offered or received must be looked at with both present-day and future value. Teams that fall out of contention for the current season tend to work on building their rosters for the future. To do this, they will trade away established and more expensive talent in exchange for players that have less value.
In a redraft league, players are on a roster for only the current season so whatever value they have will only serve to benefit a team right now. That is why trading an established superstar for an unknown rookie in a redraft league would likely get rejected. In a dynasty league, the same trade would likely be approved because there is more of a long-term benefit being received. Other factors used to evaluate trades in dynasty leagues include salary cap flexibility, a player’s fantasy contract status, and future draft picks or other projected compensation.
One final thought on transitioning from a redraft league: the concept of continuity and commitment. This is now a long-term commitment you are making since you will have ownership of your team and many of its players for several seasons down the road. Presumably, you are dedicated to honoring this commitment and will be a part of the league for many years. You should make sure you are in a league where the other members are just as dedicated to the long-term aspect that is now in play. If you have league owners who show little interest in their teams and the league has constant annual turnover, then the concept of a dynasty league is lost. That is not to say you can’t make it work, but ideally you should be in a league where everyone else is just as committed as you for the long haul.
Posted by Michael Stein at 3:41am
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