In a couple of Fridays, I will again be drafting in the toughest of any league in which I play, The XFL.
I have oft written that mixed league auctions were what I felt were my strongest format, but I have finished in the bottom third of the league nine times over 14 seasons, and though someone indeed must finish at the bottom of the standings, I don't believe I need to do this so consistently.
I have tried a myriad of approaches in the league including planning and sacrificing a couple of seasons, drafting expensive players and then trading them first month of the season in exchange for prospects of ideally future use.
And, well, thus far nothing has worked and the best I can claim are a couple of ignominious sixth place finishes. But, I will tell you, it is cold at the bottom.
Truth is last year I thought I was going to be among the top teams, with a cluster of cheap good players--Yoenis Cespedes, Marcus Semien, Jedd Gyorko, and Nick Castellanos--along with Zack Greinke as keepers. Then I added closers Craig Kimbrel ($16) and Roberto Osuna ($14), what at the time seemed like complete bargains of Jacoby Ellsbury ($10) and Prince Fielder ($26), I felt I had a good keeper list augmented by a great draft and that would make me competitive.
So, in a couple of weeks I go through this frustrating exercise once again, ever optimistic, but unclear of any angle aside from simply trying to walk away with the best team I can.
A couple of XFL caveats are that we hold our auction at First Pitch Arizona, and we are not allowed laptops, magazines, props, or any statistical reference. Meaning we have to know the player pool and values. We can freeze up to 15 players with minor leaguers kept on the reserve list with no charge, and we supplement the November 23-man auction with a 17-player expansion draft just before the coming season begins.
So, who did I freeze this time? And note, in a couple of weeks I will update with my auction results.
Jedd Gyorko $13 (2B/3B/SS/MI/CI): Gyorko was trade spoils four years ago, and as a result, his salary only goes up $3 a year. He is close to value, though the 30 homers the infielder belted last year is great: it is the paltry 59 RBI that accompanied the bombs that are distressing. But, Gyorko has pop, is cheap, and has position flexibility up the wazoo.
Kyle Seager $26 (3B): I have had Seager for five years now, grabbing him as a $1 with his salary moving up $5 a season. He too is at value, but Seager also manages to improve his totals by just enough every year.
Marcus Semien $10 (SS): Another guy with a $3+ salary, and one who provided pop and should indeed improve.
Nick Castellanos $13 (CI): One more $3+ who was on his way to a breakthrough season last year when he broke, through the rest of the season.
Almedys Diaz $10 (MI): I got Diaz as part of a dump trade where I let go of Kimbrel at the deadline, and for $10, if he can repeat last season's totals. I doubt he is a keeper in 2017, but for now, the bulk of my infield is covered. What I need is pop at first.
Yoenis Cespedes $16 (OF): Cespe was part of the spoils of my draft six years ago, when I spent a wad on Roy Halladay and Albert Pujols, and then swapped both for prospects. Cespe also has a $3 controlled salary, and I think still has a monster year living within him.
Alex Dickerson $8 (OF): Dickerson, whom I acquired as a rookie, has a $3 controlled salary as well, and a lot of pop. He crushes the ball and has ok on-base numbers, and at the price, should help with my power totals.
Kyle Hendricks $13 (P): I just acquired Hendricks in a trade which cost me a minor league Hunter Renfroe and a fourth round pick next spring. I just like the guy, who has great stuff.
Dallas Keuchel $16 (P): I received Keuchel as in exchange for Matt Kemp middle of last season, and the former Cy Younger is certainly worth keeping for one more season. I am hoping the Keuchel/Hendricks combo is a solid 1/2 pair of starters for me.
Danny Duffy $6 (P): Finally, Duffy, who put up a 12-3, 3.51 mark with 188 whiffs over 179.6 innings, and a 1.142 WHIP did what we thought he could. Ideally a full season in the rotation makes Duf a solid #3 behind my mainstays.
Brandon Finnegan $8 (P): Again, willing to gamble on the young and hard-throwing Finnegan, who won ten and tossed 172 innings last year.
Billy McKinney (Res): .246-4-44 make the new Yankee a real crap-shoot, but McKinney is just 21 and headed for a season at AA.
Josh Hader (Res): Dominant at AA (2-1, 0.95), but then struggled at AAA (1-7, 5.22) but 161 strikeouts over 128 innings has to be respected.
Jacob Nottingham (Res): ,237-11-47 at AA last year at age 21, Nottingham should be the Brewers catcher of the future within a couple of years, even.
Braxton Davidson (Res): This was tough, as I kept Davidson as my #15 guy and dropped Matt Chapman. Davidson comported himself well at Carolina, hitting .224-10-63, with 71 walks, although 184 strikeouts. Still, Davidson is just 20, so those are pretty good totals.