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Saturday 20th Jan 2018

For the 15th year, I find myself in Phoenix participating in the BaseballHQ First Pitch at the Arizona Fall League for a long weekend's worth of seminars, fall baseball, and even some golf this year. But the best part is seeing dear friends, most of whom have grown up in and around the fantasy industry that has now taken hold of our culture.

It is pretty amazing to me, and I suspect to all of us. But here we are, and yesterday, for the 12th time, the participants of the XFL assembled to draft our 2016 teams.

The XFL has a $260 salary cap, allows for 15 keepers, and to compensate for the nebulous nature of rosters at the end of the season, we hold a 17-round expansion draft within a week of the season beginning. At that time, we can acquire prospects, who if retained have an initial $1 salary that increases by $3 a season indefinitely. As examples, I have Yoenis Cespedes at $13, now in his fifth year, and Matt Kemp at $31, in his 11th.

That combination of constraints makes for some interesting auctions, with generally strange and expensive runs of backstops, and peculiarities that found both Jhonny Peralta and Pablo Sandoval costing just a buck as part of the end game.

A few weeks back, I did list my keepers in prepping for the draft, but since I now have a team, here are the results. Note the bold F indicates the player was frozen, and I left the comments made in the earlier article.

Robinson Chirinos ($4, C): Hit ten homers over 273 at-bats last year, and I was keenly aware just how goofy the catcher costs can go, so I was happy to break the ice for my team, nominate Chirinos early, get him cheap, and move along.

Jason Castro ($13, C): Castro wound up being the last good everyday backstop, forcing my backstopless mates to pony up almost as much for the pleasure of Chris Iannetta.

Ryan Zimmerman ($13, 1B): I wanted Adrian Gonzalez, but $42 was more than I cared to spend, so I adjusted and grabbed Zimmerman, hoping he is settled at first and maybe healthy for the first time. And, Zimmerman did hit .311-11-39 over the second half, so maybe that mojo is back for the 30-year-old.

Jedd Gyorko ($10F, 2B): At value, but Gyorko salvaged a lot with his strong second half (.259-13-43) and since he qualifies at both second and short, it's worth the power gamble for a guy who could bang 30 big flies.

Kyle Seager ($21F, 3B): Pretty steady power source at third. Close to value, but still can squeeze a few bucks profit, and Seager might still have a monster year in his bat.

Marcus Semien ($4F, SS): Cheap gamble for a little speed and some power. Will look to kick his totals up next year.

Rob Refsnyder ($4F, MI): Another prospect gamble, but like Semien, Gyorko and several others on my team, their salaries only increase $3 a year as they were drafted as minor league prospects and promoted through the league.

Nick Castellanos ($10F, CI): Another former prospect, Castellanos is like a lot of the players on this list: great minor league numbers, lots of potential, but I need it realized, ideally this year.

Matt Kemp ($31F, OF): Again, close to value, but there have been big years in Kemp's stick, and he has certainly been very hot the second half of recent seasons. Kemp was another guy whose salary advanced to the tune of $3 a year and I am just not ready to let go yet (maybe that is the problem?).

Yoenis Cespedes ($13F, OF): Another salary control, if Cespedes can come close to his 2015 numbers, he will be a bargain and a half.

Gerardo Parra ($1, OF): Don't ask me. I hadn't planned on getting Parra. In fact, I nominated him for a buck and heard crickets. I don't expect another .291-14-51 season with 14 steals, but for a buck, I suspect Parra will give me a profit.

Jacoby Ellsbury ($10, OF): Don't ask me, redux. I needed speed, and Ellsbury was nominated for a buck, so I bumped it to $10. I hoped maybe I could grab Ellsbury for $15, but again, crickets with Ellsbury falling to me for $10. And, with the die cast, there were a few mumbles of "damn, I should have bid more."

Alex Rios ($5, OF): My last player acquired. If I can get 450 at-bats, that will be good for the price.

Prince Fielder ($26, UT): Almost as much of a shock as Ellsbury and Parra, after A-Gone went for $42, I just figured Fielder was too much to imagine. That was one reason I went for Zimmerman, who was nominated a lot earlier than the Prince. But, I guess money was tight later in the draft, and that Utility slots had been mostly populated, and that combo allowed me to grab Fielder at a more than modest price. My team's struggles in this very difficult league have been well- documented over the past few years, but if I have a ticket out of the cellar this year, the bargain prices I got for Fielder, Parra and Ellsbury will be the ticket.

Zack Greinke ($32F, P): Easy to justify based upon his 2015. At least I have an ace going into the draft.

Marco Estrada ($6F, P): A cheap endgame pick last year, Estrada certainly showed his stuff. The question is can it carry into 2016? I hope so.

Hector Santiago ($7F, P): Pretty much the same as Estrada, but younger.

Edinson Volquez ($9, P): I have always liked Volquez' stuff (I scored him at ATT his rookie season) and he has been pretty good for the last two years. Now 31, and a cog of a championship team, I am guessing Volquez is going to have a fine season as an experienced veteran.

Brandon Finnegan ($3, P): I couldn't freeze Finnegan, but I was happy to get him back. A hard-thrower and part of the Johnny Cueto trade spoils, Finnegan will go right into the Reds rotation barring something goofy. I think the first-round pick in 2014 is going to be really good.

Rubby De La Rosa ($1, P): Last pitcher, had a buck, deep draft, worth a gamble. With 14 future picks in March (I froze three minor leaguers in Hunter Renfroe, Billy McKinney and Aaron Blair), I can probably cover a few of the above slots as necessary.

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