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Saturday 23rd Sep 2017

We know that many of our subscribers and readers also play fantasy football - and why not? The shorter season, immediate gratification of (mostly) one-day-a-week games and excitement make it a lot of fun.....and of course a good way to make some extra coin. So here is a personal recommendation for those of you who play FF and are looking for something extra.

There are several high stakes national fantasy football contests out there. And two of them are excellent and have both live drafts and online options with six digit grand prizes.

But if you haven’t played high stakes FF before, or finances are tough this year or you just want to step up from dominating your local leagues  – what is the one thing you really want from a contest?

The best return on investment is certainly at the top of that list given that assuming you can even get to your league playoffs and into the Championship Bracket, you hope that your team has the winning raffle ticket.

And that is why I am going to suggest a contest that is probably unknown to many of you. There are not any FF information sites that also provide high stakes contests, so it was very interesting last year when FootballGuys.com chose to finally offer not only their subscribers but the entire FF audience an outstanding high stakes grand prize for a bargain price.

The other high stakes contests with six digit grand prizes have four digit entry fees. And perhaps travel and entertainment costs as well. And none of them pay more than 20 places overall in their Championship Brackets. So a shot at $100,000 (possibly more) for just $350 is at least four times better for your money. True, you don’t have as good a chance for league prizes – and it is only 1st and 2nd that cash in the 12-team leagues, but at least two and maybe three teams from each league will get into a Championship Bracket which will offer at least their money back for the top 90 finishers.

I think I have your attention, so let’s get to the specifics and give you a link to see everything you need.

12 team leagues with only online drafts done at RTSports.

$350 entry fee (discount if you buy three teams at $1000).

PPR for RB and WR and 1.5 PPR for TE.

Dual Flex option – so starting lineup is QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/TE with two Flex spots (RB/WR/TE) and of course K and DST.

Eleven week regular season where Top Record and Top Total point teams are No. 1 and 2 seeds into four team league playoffs in Weeks 12/13. Those top two seeds and the winner of the league tournament (if different) qualify into the Championship Bracket where the team’s weekly average from only the first eleven weeks is added to Weeks 14/15/16 for an overall score. This is really another important differentiation because it rewards a team for a great regular season that may have had one bad week and not won money in their league playoffs while still rewarding the two teams that won the playoffs. There are also Consolation (any league playoff team not in the Championship plus any team in the top 20% of total scores for the first eleven weeks who didn’t make their league playoffs) and Toilet Bowl brackets with excellent reward money as well. [I should point out that the structure/scoring/rules are from the FFPC who partners with Joe Bryant and David Dodds at FBG to make this contest an excellent one with outstanding management and guaranteed payouts before the end of the year].

So if you are ready to step up or want more information, here is the link to find out exactly what you need to know https://www.myffpc.com/footballguys/

In addition, there are Forums at FBG.com and FFPC.com dedicated to this contest where you can get more information and ask questions. And as a real bonus, there will be a couple of "open draftboard leagues" drafting on Tuesday so there will be some real, current ADP for the contest as well as analysis on those Forums and I will post my thoughts on our message boards here to give you some extra information you can't get anywhere else (and that most of your potential competitors won't read).

 

As we head towards the last month of play in the American League Central, the misplaced high hopes generated by a quick start by the 2011 Royals has given way to a much better look at what should be a Royals team flush with rising young stars.

From March’s opening day roster, Alcides Escobar obtained in the Greinke trade with the Brewers is still at shortstop; Alex Gordon the former first round pick has found his home in left field; and Billy Butler continues to just hit – now a full time designated hitter. There are two more Royals still on the field – center fielder Melky Cabrera, thought by many to just be a placeholder from speedster Lorenzo Cain (also obtained in the Greinke trade), has been the Royals best hitter all year and a fantasy gold mine if you were smart enough to draft him, approaching a 20-20 season hitting .310 with 15 home runs, 70 RBI, and 16 stolen bases. People tend to forget that the “Melkman” once a prized Yankee prospect is still just twenty-seven years old. Since the Royals didn’t trade Cabrera, there is good reason to think they are now smart enough to plan on keeping him in the 2012 lineup.

Another former prospect from the Atlanta organization – right fielder Jeff Francoeur is also just twenty-seven and has been very solid for the Royals, now hitting .270 with 15 home runs, 64 RBI, and 18 stolen bases. Francoeur also has a very good chance to be a 20-20 player this year.

Either Cabrera or Francoeur if not both should be in the opening day lineup next year as catcher turned outfielder Wil Myers is at least another year away from the big club.

During the season, Royals fans as well as fantasy players have seen the arrival of:

1B – Eric Hosmer

2B – Johnny Giavotella

3B – Mike Moustakas

Just last week, the Royals showed their fans another piece of the Royals to be when they promoted catcher Salvador Perez. Perez, just twenty-one, hit .290 with 10 home runs and 53 RBI between AA Northwest Arkansas and AAA Omaha and has already shown fans a great arm behind the plate and the excellent defense that Royals scouts have seen in his development.

What remains to be seen is the development of a solid major league pitching staff. True the Royals have lots of good arms in the minor leagues, but Mike Montgomery presumed to be the most advanced of those pitchers has had a very poor season this year while John Lamb another good LHP prospect lost the season to surgery. Jake Odorizzi also obtained in the Greinke trade is a year behind but still looks like he could join the Royals by 2013. Danny Duffy, another good LHP was promoted this year but has struggled – as many young pitchers do. Still he should be better next year.  The club did promote several relievers who did a good job this year and will convert RHP Aaron Crow to a starter next season.

It may have seemed far away, but the Royal Flush should arrive in Kansas City within the next year or two. Finally.

Okay, back from the All Star break with the weekend series and we want to see what minor league prospects might be up this month that would help fantasy teams.

There have been a lot of questions about Tampa Bay outfielder Desmond Jennings. Lots of analysts want to put him on the top of lists because of his potential and his speed. But the Rays are competing without a huge need in the outfield thanks to contributions from Sam Fuld (at least early in the season) and Matt Joyce who is on pace for 25+ home runs and plays most days (sitting against tough LHP). Jennings will miss at least 2-3 weeks now with a fractured index finger so I doubt we see him until the September call-ups arrive.

I think the Arizona Diamondbacks made a mistake in recalling 1B/OF Brandon Allen when they sent Juan Miranda back to the minors. While Allen has been hitting well (not terrific - .306 with 18 home runs, but striking out more than the last two years) at Triple-A Reno, he still has a hole in his swing which I think major league pitchers will take advantage of in short order. Meanwhile 1B Paul Goldschmidt, the minor league leader in home runs with 26, is still raking at Doulbe-A Mobile (.311 average with 81 RBI and a .656 slugging percentage) and had a two run homer in the Southern League All Star game.

I would keep a close eye on Allen because if he fails, Goldschmidt might get a quick call and I don’t think he needs time at AAA to hit well in the NL West and help the Diamondbacks. He also has a little speed for a few stolen bases, a big plus from a 1B/CI.

Brett Lawrie was supposed to have been recalled in late May but was hit on the hand by a pitch that fractured his hand and is just now playing on rehab and working his way back. I think he will still be up before September, but the Blue Jays look like they will be very cautious with him. When Toronto does call him up he should play every day at third base and be an immediate contributor with the power and even a little speed.

Certainly not a prospect, but Carlos Guillen returned to action at second base for the Detroit Tigers over the weekend. I am skeptical about continuing production for Guillen but in deeper AL leagues he may be a welcome addition at a MI slot.

I also think the Tigers will have to turn to one of their pitching prospects soon as they are clearly poised to win the AL Central if they can get some good pitching. The Phil Coke and Charlie Furbush experiments failed to hold down a spot in the rotation and with Rick Porcello struggling again the Tigers need another starter. Whether that is Andrew Oliver or Jacob Turner or someone with less pedigree that they might feel more comfortable with is the question. Detroit might also try and fill that rotation spot via trade and the rumors have them ready to trade pitching prospect Casey Crosby. Personally I would want to see some results first if they promote a minor leaguer.

Finally I still think that Cleveland will recall Jason Kipnis to play second base in their quest for the AL Central pennant. Orlando Cabrera has had his moments but they are fewer and further between now, and Kipnis has more power potential.

Fantasy baseball may be based on major league baseball, but it isn’t close to MLB in many ways – but next week there is an important area your league should share with the major league clubs.

Sunday will be July 31 and the non-waiver trade deadline for MLB. And sometime in the first week of August should be your league’s trade deadline too. My AL keeper league and many leagues use the first weekend in August, which this year will be Aug 6 & 7. August 1 and 2 are the earliest it could be with those rules. You want to have it after the July 31 date so everyone can see how those first and likely most impactful trade will affect your teams and players.

But the main reason for an early August trade deadline in fantasy baseball leagues is so that a late deadline trade can’t impact your league’s standings. With an early August trade deadline, fantasy players have two months to battle it out with the rosters they have and common access to the free agent pool.

All of the above is primarily for keeper and dynasty leagues. Frankly I think redraft leagues should follow the lead of the national high stakes contests and not have any trades. If there is no future value for acquired players and no cost to ending up with a terrible roster, what is the incentive for teams to always have equitable trades? And how would you legislate trade regulations?

Maybe if your redraft league feels it has to allow trading they should have an All Star break trade deadline. That would liven up the days off and create some great All Star parties. And it would be less likely to have poor trades made. Most teams could benefit from a trade then as they would still have a chance to catch up in most categories.

Let’s see what happens in keeper league trades over the next two weeks – that should provide some very entertaining stories for a future column.

In the last column of this series, looking at fantasy baseball trades, I want to talk about two key components of trades in keeper leagues: minor league prospects and future draft picks to acquire more prospects.

There is no doubt that fantasy players love their prospects. And what’s not to love:  these are potentially All Star hitters and pitchers; players who can be at the core of your fantasy team for years. Well they all can’t be, and frankly the MLB draft process, like the best hitters struggles to get four out of ten right. But whether the prospects we trade for or hope to acquire are a first round pick, or an undrafted player who two years later is rocketing through the minor leagues on his way to a major league roster, prospects offer hope.

And, we all have hope that our team(s) will finally have a dominant season(s), so those minor league prospects – especially the really shiny ones like Bryce Harper or Mike Trout – are what we want to find. In keeper leagues they truly are the “coin of the realm.” So which ones should you trade for? And which ones should you trade away? That my friends, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

But, if you are the team making a run to win your league, don't let your fascination with a player who is perhaps years away from the major leagues hold up a deal that helps you win your league this year. Pennants as they say fly forever. Meanwhile the path to the big leagues is littered with failed prospects.

Keeper leagues have many different formats and rules. Hopefully you play in one where you can acquire minor leaguers, and ideally that would be in a separate draft after your leagues draft, preferably an auction draft. In addition to the complexity of allocating your resources to build your team, an auction not only sets the market for the players in the spring, it gives those Farm players more value along with the hope.

In ideal keeper leagues (at least for me) minor leaguers would have a $5 contract when they are finally activated by their fantasy team. (Actually my AL keeper league has $5 initial salaries for hitters and $3 salaries for pitchers which help to balance the risk with younger pitchers and also prevent only hitters from being drafted in the minor league draft.)  That would be in contrast to a $10 “retention salary” of a player who is acquired as a free agent during the season. One other rules note here – keeper leagues that have that or a similar salary structure should also have a special rule in place in September. If you allow players added as free agents in September when MLB rosters have been increased in size and many minor leaguers are up for the month, you have subverted the value of your minor league salary structure. There are two easy ways to avoid that: 1) have a $25 retention salary for any free agent added in September; or 2) have a rule that any free agents added in September like crossover free agents from the other league cannot be kept in the following season.

One further rule will help keeper leagues with the perceived fairness in the inevitable rebuilding or “dump” trades each year.  Allow teams to trade minor league draft picks for the following year to help balance those trades. Those minor league picks also give extra inducement to get those deals done – that first round pick next year could be Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper.  (One procedural note here is that minor league draft picks traded must always be an exchange – 1st for a 5th at the extreme. You never want a team having more picks than the other teams or a team having no picks in that draft).

Obviously the exact value of draft picks changes with league rules and participants, but here are some examples of trades involving both minor leaguers and/or draft picks made. In several of these it would be near impossible for the “contending teams” to acquire the player(s) they needed without using the minor leaguers or minor league draft upgrades as barter.

Trade #1 – minor leaguers Drew Pomeranz, Blake Swihart, Levi Michael, Andrew Sussac and 1st round 2012 minor league draft pick for Justin Verlander (37D11), Jason Kubel (14D09) and 2nd round 2012 minor league draft pick

Trade #2 – Aaron Hill (13D09) and (middle) 3rd round 2012 minor league draft pick for minor leaguers Lorenzo Cain, Aaron Hicks, and (low) 3rd round 2012 minor league draft pick (estimated draft picks based on finish this year)

Trade #3 – Derrek Lee (19D11), Adam Kennedy (10F11), Carl Pavano (6D11), mler Dennis Raben and 4th and 5th 2012 minor league draft picks for Koji Uehara (8D11), Edwin Nunez (10F11), Jayson Nix (10F11) and 1st and 2nd 2012 minor league draft picks

Trade #4 – Sam Fuld (1D11), minor leaguers Miguel Sano, Dellin Betances, Nick Weglarz and 1st round 2012 minor league draft pick for Neslon Cruz (46D11), Jon Lester (34D10), Corey Patterson (10R11) and 3rd round 2012 minor league draft pick

Trade #5 – Felix Pie (1D11), Kelly Shoppach (1D11), Joel Piniero (3D10), minor leaguers Alex Liddi and Casey Crosby and 2nd round 2012 minor league draft pick for Kurt Suzuki (10C11), Scott Baker (11C11), Alexi Casilla (10F10) and 3rd round 2012 minor league draft pick.

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