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Saturday 20th Jan 2018

I must say that the draft season, when my mates in Tout Wars, the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR), and the NFBC all flit around, convening hither and yon across our wonderful country, is just one of the best times not just of the year, but one of the best times period.

Certainly, playing fantasy ball in the public eye is a hoot, as is attending spring games, but for me, nothing even comes close to beating the friendships and fun we all have together. That means my mate Lord Zola, Steve Moyer, Rick Wolf, Glenn Colton, Stacie Stern, Derek Van Riper, Derek Carty, Nick Minnix, LABR ringleader Steve Gardner and the rest of the bevy of writers and analysts I play with and whom we all read (to name a few).

So, this past weekend kicked off the whole Roto Road Tour 2014 with the "USA Today" sponsored LABR in Phoenix.

Saturday night found the American League participants assembled for the AL Auction, and Sunday--competing with those Oscars--found us back at the Arizona Republic HQ for the National League auction.

The National League fete proved quite different from the previous evening in that prices were a bit more conservative for the big sticks and arms, which made for a few relative bargains early on, but caused some fierce battles for player rights in the middle and end portions of the draft.

On the down side, I had targeted Anthony Rendon as a second sacker for around $14, and Nolan Arenado to cover third at $17. But, I had to pass on both as Rendon went for $18, and Arenado $22, more than the lines I had drawn in the fantasy sand.

Still, I am pretty happy with my squad, which has some question marks, but no deep holes.

You can judge for yourself:

C- Brayan Pena ($2): Very few backstops had been nominated into around the eighth round, and that gig is lean in both leagues, so it was clear there were going to be some big prices even for backups. For example, I nominated Hector Sanchez, figuring I could get him for $2 and he quickly went for $5, more than I wanted to pay for a second catcher. When Reds back-up Brayan Pena was nominated for a buck, I was happy to jump in for $2, heard crickets, and got the spot filled.

C- Ryan Doumit ($9): I got Doumit, who it appears qualifies at catcher but will not play there for the Braves, for $9 so I was happy to claim him for that. At least I don't have to be weary about his getting hurt behind the dish, even though I can hide him at that spot. I am hoping he can give me his usual 10-15 homers, and related numbers. No reason why he cannot, spelling in the outfield, and at DH. And, should B.J. Upton be ineffective, Doumit will get a lot of chances.

1B- Mark Trumbo ($20): I must say I was shocked to get Trumbo, who has averaged 32 homers over the past three years, for just $20. But, with Freddie Freeman ($27), Paul Goldschmidt ($32), Adrian Gonzalez ($25), and even Brandon Belt ($23), who I thought I could land for $17 or so, gone, I was surprised no one bid $22 on the former Angel. But, he goes into a favorable power park and provides that one element that has eluded my team the last couple of years: a legit 30-dinger threat.

2B- Emilio Bonifacio ($13): Middle infielder is horribly lean, and I waited too long to really commit, and as a result had to scramble. I had the money for Bonifacio, who will at least give me some speed and some position flexibility. And, he should be a starter.

3B- Maikel Franco ($8): One of three serious crap-shoots, I love the Phillies hot corner prospect, and I am not sold on Cody Asche, who went for $12 in that expensive mid-draft segment. So, gamble city. And, as you will see, I hedged my bets a little.

SS- Jordy Mercer ($9): I like the Bucs shortstop, who had a strong final couple of months, and got him for a reasonable price, just before the wave of prices started to rise for the everyday workmanlike guys. I might have had to adjust at second and third, but not here.

CI- Lucas Duda ($8): Qualifies in the outfield and at first, and is good for 10-15 homers. Fine with me.

MI- Marco Scutaro ($12): More than I planned to spend, but at the end I had the bucks, and again, Scutaro is a starter--if he gets healthy--with a solid enough stick. 

OF- Matt Kemp ($21): Another guy I was surprised to get. Yes, health issues the past couple of years, but yes, major production when he plays. If he gives me 100 games, he should make my money back. If Kemp gets a full season in, coupled with Trumbo, I have a serious offensive force, with some swipes maybe even? Either way, a risk I can live with.

OF- Andre Ethier ($15): Ethier cost a few bucks more than I anticipated, but Kemp and Trumbo were relative values and Ethier, who has never gotten less than 400 at-bats, should get just that backing up the talented but injury-prone Dodger outfield. If Kemp falls apart, then Ethier is insurance.

OF- Will Venable ($19): 20/20 guy last year, and again, I was thinking the Padres outfielder would cost around $21. He adds pop, and speed. 

OF- Junior Lake ($9): Has a starting gig in the Cubs outfield, and can play third. Lake had a nice .284-6-16 line over 236 at-bats last year. He does strike out (13/68) but, again, later in the draft, with money to spend, and Lake presented a nice opportunity.

OF- Jose Tabata ($7): Strong second half, some speed and a starting job. Sold.

U- Joaquin Arias ($1): Plays second, third, and short, and has averaged .270 the past couple of years. Should get some solid playing time with the Giants, and I can move Arias to my third base spot pending the arrival of Franco. Which, hopefully, will happen.

P- Cole Hamels ($20): Hamels has been slowed down this spring with some arm issues, so my mates were scared off. Word is Hamels will miss a few starts, so if that is the case, I have a nice #1 starter for a value price.

P- Jordan Zimmermann ($17): I had targeted Zimmermann for $19, and as a #2 starter, I am more than happy to have such a steady guy. And, even if Hamels does get hurt, Zimmermann can handle the move to #1.

P- Andrew Cashner ($13): Live arm with plenty of whiffs in a pitcher's park coming off a nice (10-9, 3.09, with a 1.13 WHIP) 2013, and ready to step up to a #1 starter role in San Diego. And, again, if Hamels gets hurt, Cashner can help keep my pitching competitive.

P- Marco Estrada ($10): 261 whiffs over his last two seasons and 266 major league innings. A nice price and not that much of a gamble, while still keeping some bottom depth to my rotation.

P- Alex Wood ($7): I love the Braves #5 guy as my #5 as well. A fine second half save a couple of funky late-season starts. 

P- Brandon Beachy ($10): Again, late in the draft, and coming off TJ surgery, but ready to go. It might take a few starts for Beachy to get into his groove, but he was good before he got hurt, and I have no reason to believe he cannot pick it back up.

P- Sergio Romo ($17): Closer #1 is a great ratio and save guy who is also my favorite guy to watch pitch (his slider is so fun).

P- Jonathan Papelbon ($12): Getting older, but still pretty effective, and a great price. Love two closers, and even a stopper on a bad team will collect 25 conversions.

P- Nick Vincent ($1): Maybe my favorite pick simply because it surprised a few folks. But, if you have followed Vincent at all, you know he can miss bats. And, every roto team needs a third reliever. Plus, all the $1 guys you can nab in the middle of the draft means your average cost for the remaining players goes up.

Reserve 1- Jordan Pacheco: Listed as the Rockies #2 catcher, and he too can play third. For now, he qualifies at first, but I can pop Pacheco into the Utility spot, move Arias to third, and wait, hopefully for that same Franco guy.

Reserve 2- Jacob Turner: I drafted Justin Turner last year, and according to Steve Moyer, accidentally identified him as Jacob. Well, this time I have the Marlins starter to spell Hamels to start, and maybe fill in as the sixth starter if Hamels really is toast.

Reserve 3- Scott Van Slyke: Should Kemp go down, Ethier and Van Slyke will benefit. So, Van Slyke is tied to Ethier is tied to Kemp is tied to the knee bone is tied to the leg bone and so on.

Reserve 4- Cliff Pennington: Gives me some reserve infield cushion, and will provide some speed off the bench.

Reserve 5- Josh Collmenter: Strictly a middle reliever, but a very good one, who will get 110 innings and help fill out should I have an injury.

Reserve 6- Matt Wisler: One more crap shoot with the Padres' best minor league arm as of now. Trouble in the rotation at Petco and success for Wisler at Triple-A means I will have one more arm to use or trade. Surpluses are a good thing.

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