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Monday 26th Jun 2017

It seems that a common theme in my writing recently has been to call attention to my own specific mistakes while trying to make the example generic enough that it could be of value to readers in your own leagues.

And, here I am again.

xflOne of my two leagues that are the most important to me is the XFL, Xperts Fantasy League. No money is on the line, but my 14 competitors are industry leaders and some of the best players around, providing more than enough incentive.

The format is most interesting, with 40-man rosters including 23 active each week. We begin with a $260 budget used in November’s 23-player draft, which includes a maximum of 15 keepers including farm players. As I covered recently right here, there is also a supplemental snake draft in early April for 17 additional players. Drafted players’ salaries increase $5 each year, while salaries of farm players increase just $3 each year - once they are activated.

Other than trades, the only way to improve one’s roster within the season is via monthly in-season free agent acquisitions. The snake process begins with the last-place team.

Believe it or not, that is my problem.

A year after blowing up my team and finishing last for the first time ever, my 2015 roster got out of the gates surprisingly quickly. As I write this, I am in third place, which means I would pick 12th in our first monthly free agent draft.

I have accomplished this with mirrors, as my roster is embarrassingly out of balance in favor of hitting. Despite the aforementioned 17 reserve spots, I have no pitchers on my bench who are currently active in the Major Leagues. In fact, I am already one short.

New York Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia, in line to be the closer to start the season, was slapped with an 80-game PED suspension before contributing any stats in 2015. He is not assured of a defined role upon his eventual return.

While I did snag Cuban Raisel Iglesias in the supplemental draft, by the time I could activate him, he had already made his lone Major League spot start and was sent to Triple-A Louisville for seasoning.

My only other Major League pitcher on reserve was Tigers closer Joe Nathan. Despite the fact that Nathan went onto Detroit’s disabled list almost immediately after picking up an opening day save – which I did not get – I have had to keep Nathan active ever since. The sad reality is that I have no one else to replace him, with no one to blame but myself.

The remainder of my pitching roster includes three minor league prospects and Matt Moore, whose return is targeted for the second half.

Here is where my balance problem is so severe.

On the hitting side of the roster, I needed two immediate fill-ins from the supplemental draft – replacements for injured outfielders Denard Span and Josh Hamilton. Of course, the latter comes with a considerable amount of pre-packed baggage.

To replace them, I went to town, snaring Kennys Vargas, Anthony Gose and Michael Saunders, two of whom I already cannot play for a lack of openings. Other MLB players on my bench are Joe Panik and Chris Johnson.

On the pitching side, my only viable addition was Mike Leake, immediately plugged in for Mejia.

To make matters worse, my bench includes emerging players Addison Russell, Blake Swihart and Alex Guerrero. All these XFL farm players have made (or in the case of Swihart will soon make) their MLB debuts this season, but are blocked by others in my XFL lineup.

For those not keeping score, that leaves me with seven viable bench hitters and no reserve pitchers. In fact, I have a total of “negative one” pitchers, with an injured Nathan still in my lineup.

Having been on the road the last 2 ½ weeks, I did not have time to craft personalized e-mails to selected league peers to solicit a trade of one or more of my outfielders for pitching help. In a major disappointment, I did not receive even one reply to my mass communication.

Now that our monthly free agent window is just ahead this weekend, I will come to the table with a list of desired free agent pitchers – fully well knowing that all of the plums will be gone by the time I pick 12th.

The lesson to you is one that may seem so obvious it need not be stated. Yet, during the supplemental draft, I fell into the trap of chasing the best talent available instead of stepping back and ensuring I had the basics – enough reserves to even get me through the first month.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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