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Thursday 27th Apr 2017

Diane likes to watch the Investigation Discovery channel, which I refer to as "The Death Channel." Along with standards like "48 Hours," and "On the Case With Paula Zahn," there are some shows that poke even more to the unknown and dark side of the human experience. 

"Who the Bleep did I Marry," and especially "Deadly Devotions" are programs that truly look at how we can be exploited by the more devious side of society, and though these shows are serious, dealing with murder and omnipotent and arrogant behaviors, similarly are they goofy. The shows are silly in that invariably there are a bunch of dumbells trying to pull off major crimes, thinking they can outsmart forensics and video tape with flimsy excuses and rationales.

For some sad reason, the suicide of former Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez last Wednesday, someone tossed off by the rest of society as if he were one of the Investigation Discovery shows incarnate, living with the title "Evil Kin", reminded me of all this and the choices we make and how things can simply go way wrong all over.

I still remember vividly how excited Fantasy Football players were following Hernandez' solid 2012 season when he ripped off a 42-yard run, showing all of the world what a deadly weapon he was, able to run, catch, and block. Hernandez paired with the equally dangerous Rob Gronkowski gave the Patriots a double Tight End combo with possibilities like no other team before.

That off-season, the Pats upped the committment to Hernandez, giving him a $40 million five-year contract extension. Truthfully, the thought of a pair of young, talented, and aggressive receivers under the tuteledge of Bill Belichick, who manipulates his roster and talent better than any other coach ever it seems, was too much to imagine.

But, as the Chief Dan George--a character in the great film "Little Big Man"--said, "sometimes the wind don't blow and grass don't grow."

As it was, I was on a shuttle, riding from Midway Airport to downtown Chicago on the way to attending the FSTA Summer convention when the news broke that Hernandez had been busted in association with the murder of Odin Lloyd on June 26, 2013. At the convention that speculated on player performance, the coming football season, and athletes in general, there was certainly a ton of buzz and speculation surrounding the whole affair.

In the end, the whole story just seemed like another run of a special member of society--this time an athlete, rather than an actor or politician--having their own set of rules and accountabilities from the rest of us.

There was never a question how talented Hernandez was, being an All-American at the University of Florida, and winning the John Mackey award in 2009 as the best collegiate Tight End in the country. The receiver was then drafted in the fourth round in 2010, a day after the Pats selected Gronk as part of the same draft.

During his subsequent rookie year, Hernandez was the youngest rostered starter in the NFL and became the youngest player to catch over 100 yards of passes since 1960, completing his first full season with 45 receptions, 563 yards, and six scores. In 2011, Hernandez was a Pro Bowl alternate, but what he really did to catch our eye was run for 42 yards against the Giants to kick off Super Bowl XLVI.

But, clearly attitude and entitlement were also paralleling the talented but troubled receiver, who was linked to a felony battery charge following a bar fight in Gainesville in 2007, a double-shooting in Gainesville three months later, a 2012 Boston double homocide (for which Hernandez was ironically cleared just a few days before he took his life), a car shooting which cost a friend his sight in one eye on June 13, 2013, and then five days later, the murder of Odin Lloyd for which Hernandez suddenly took the fall.

I guess as with many celebrities, Hernandez simply felt he could do whatever he wanted and get away with just about anything, much like those who are eventually found culpable in shows like "Evil Kin," and surely, Hernandez was not only screaming for attention, but for someone or something to give him boundaries of behavior, something that never did happen until he went too far.

With his arrest and conviction, Hernandez was wiped clean of the NFL, of the Patriots, of Canton (who removed a photo of the young star scoring immediately following his arrest), and his death Wednesday probably tied together all the elements of a wasted life to the tune that most people reading that Hernandez had taken his own felt "good riddance."

And, I am not about to argue with them,  or suggest he was a soul worth saving. Although, in my view, we are all worth such salvation, irrespective of when it comes to us.

What bothers me so much about Hernandez and his meteoric ups and downs is how someone so talented, with everything in the world we would theoretically want to make us happy was not enough. The fame of the NFL, a $40 million contract, TV exposure, a partner and child (Hernandez and his partner Shayanna had a daughter Avielle in 2012) did not provide enough validation or confirmation of his existence that he had to kill and pretty much destroy the lives of at least four people--himself, Lloyd, his wife and daughter--in order to prove something that in the end meant nothing but tragedy and sorrow all around.

It is a sad commentary and reminder that certainly money and external success mean very little when push comes to shove. 

You can always find me @lawrmichaels.

 

I was sort of pissed last week when the Masters began.

I had picked big hitter Dustin Johnson to lead my DraftKings DFS Golf squad as we headed into the Masters, but Johnson slipped on some stairs a couple of days before the tournament began and tweaked his back, putting participation in jeopardy. Johnson said he was unsure whether or not he would be able to play.

I let things ride Wednesday night, but when I awoke Thursday morning I decided to adjust my roster and replace Johnson, moving around the golfers on my squad. 

This was just about 6 AM, Pacific Time, yet when I logged into DraftKings to make my moves, it was too late for by 9 AM, Eastern Time, the first foursomes were on the links and it was too late. That meant I was stuck with an empty slot before the weekend even began, and though admitedly the remainder of my selections were terrible, once I lost my most expensive player without a swing, it pretty much meant there was no way I would finish in the money on Masters Weekend.

The reality is this is not a new issue for me, as I equally resent leagues where the FAAB deadline is Midnight, Sunday, for that is just 9 PM Sunday where I live, and I tend to write and think along with spending time with Diane and often friends and family Sunday evenings. So, even if we are out, 9 is kind of early to have to remember for final moves and gyrations.

But, cerrtainly within the universes of LABR and Tout Wars, Midnight in New York is the rule of the land, and that is that.

I have lobbied to get this time changed, but without a whole lot of success. But, I am wondering if there might be some other ways to handle the issue. Here are some thoughts on how we might adjust that somewhat intransigent line.

Sunday night/Monday morning 1 AM ET: Of course, my brain went to Midnight California time, but that means 3 AM in the Big Apple and that deadline is really no fairer than 9 PM my time. But, move things back just an hour, and suddenly that extra hour helps me out, and well, New York is the City that Never Sleeps. Asking to stay up an extra hour ain't much.

Friday afternoon, 3 PM ET: Yikes, has Michaels lost his mind? Kind of, but not really. In the middle of the day at the end of the work week might seem like a strange time, but it adds an element of consciousness to the equation. As in we would have to set our iPhone pushes to remind us, but that sort of puts part of the process on equal time footing. Similarly, if you have until 7 PM ET to make moves, this allows for setting the roster up for the weekend. 

One might argue that Monday is the best day as that day begins the playing week, but the reality is that day is really arbitrary, for once a cycle of acquisitions and drops is in place, it doesn't matter any longer. For, players get hurt and go down and are brought up when they are far more than according to the day of the week.

Also, in addition to that Friday deadline, there could always be the rule to reset a lineup Monday morning, meaning the only real change is the time the transactions are processed.

Tuesday Midnight ET FAAB/Wednesday Game time open Waiver Pool: I suspect there are flaws in this one, but there are always adjustments. But I was thinking about how most of my football leagues work, and was wondering if there was a mid-week way to invoke the same kinds of moves, and opening the pool after the FAAB process adds a potentially fun wrinkle.

Daily Moves, 12 Midnight ET: Rather than weekly FAAB, owners could simply make moves, including FAAB purchases, nightly, just like big league clubs get to do. This adds an interesting edge with respect to how to manage FAAB over the course of the season, and allows for daily replacements, meaning a much more fluid free agent pool.

And, some leagues already operate under a variation of this guise. For example, the BARF League allows for daily roster moves, but we can pick up free agents only after a Sunday night waiver deadline that clears Monday morning.

I realize leagues and rules are--and always will be--both quirky and specific to the league and players, so real standardization of much of anything Fantasy is much sillier than trying to cure world hunger. However, making those rules even all the way around makes for a better and more competitive league.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

 

 

I was watching the Giants play San Diego during the Padres home opener yesterday, enjoying the controlled performance of Luis Perdomo, who I have on my Strat-O-Matic team, and of whom I am hoping for "better" things in the future. In the league we can indeed freeze a lot of keepers, and I was hoping at least one of my two young pitching acquisitions--Perdomo and Jimmy Nelson--would turn in a solid season. 

Better is not suggesting much, for Perdomo was 9-10, 5.71 with a 1.59 WHIP last year, but he pitched better the last few months, is just 23, and well, I needed the arms and innings. Through five innings, Perdomo was pretty much cruising when suddenly Conor Gillaspie singled, as did Joe Panik, followed by an Aaron Hill walk, and pow, a Brandon Belt slam.

Of course I immediately began second-guessing my DFS picks, for Belt, who walks a lot, is precisely the kind of player I like for even over a bad game, a walk can be a shining light towards a point total. And, Belt, it seemed, was good at homering on Fridays it seemed to me, so I found myself wondering why I went Carlos Santana over Belt. 

In the process of my second-guessing, I decided to really rub it into myself and go through game logs from the past few years, and count the zillions of times Belt delivered on the Sabbath, and it turned out I was mistaken; that is, just five times since the start of 2015 has Brandon gone yard.

But, there is a myth versus reality equation for those of us who play fantasy ball where hope and hunch and stats give us the myth of hope, while facing Max Scherzer when the Nationals pitcher is on equates to an 0-for-4 of reality no matter what the numbers say a hitter like Belt will do, on a Friday, under the lights, on grass, away.

 Of course, I have enough superstitions involved with watching sports and following players before I ever started speculation on Brandon Belt's weekend adventures, and they were brought home a day earlier as I watched my hurler Blake Snell toss six innings against the Jays, allow just two hits, but one of them was a slam. 

I know better than to watch my own arms as this has happened so often during the season, but it took the next day--and my watching Belt crush Perdomo, meaning two slams--to remind myself that I was better off watching Law and Order repeats while tracking the scores online and following Baseball Tonight, or some less specific review of the day's action.

Still, it is good to note things like Belt's ostensible Friday success. I have often noted that when I was playing Strat-O-Matic in the 70's with the Royals as my team, that I would fret Dennis Leonard's skills every year, for he was 14-18, 4.07 for his career in April, and 25-21, 4.09 in May over 96 total starts.

However, once June rolled around, Leonard did get into the zone and over his career, he never had an ERA over 4.00 for any month, and come September/October, the righty was 35-25, 3.23 over 71 starts, which are some pretty convincing totals.

And, maybe he isn't a pitcher, but the hitting companion to Leonard early on could be Travis Shaw. Shaw hit .315-2-15 last April, and after a week this season is resting at .357-1-2, and Shaw had big springs each of the past two seasons. And, while Shaw has a small sample compared to that of Leonard, the point is noticing these trends in players can do a lot more than keep you calm.

That is, my learning Leonard's season-long pitching modus operandi certainly made things easier for me in that as I understood the pattern, I ceased worrying about my pitcher and investment for I knew by the season's end, Leonard would give me good totals.

But, aside from relaxing me a bit as manager, knowing tendencies helped me plan. For example, if I know Shaw is deadly good in April and May, but falls off the wagon in June (he hit .214-1-9 last June), then I know I can swap him mid-May and get much better value should that be appropriate. 

Similarly, I know a pitcher like Dennis Leonard--who is stronger the second half--would likely fetch less before the All-Star break, thus should I need a starting pitcher, he is the kind I can grab, at a theoretically reduced price--who can help me over that final hump to a title.

It is a very long season, and we can think of all the ways where we really have no control over the players we roster and compete against. But, the one thing we can do is make sure we know the player pool, and to the best of our abilities, know the tendencies of the players. 

That is the one area within our fantasy play that we do have a chance to self determine our team's outcome.

You can find me @lawrmichaels.

As we scream into the actual baseball season, many long-standing leagues will be holding their auctions, for the first weekend after the start of the season has traditionally been draft day in leagues that date back to the dark times before the Internet and online realtime scoring updates.

Following my Tout auction last Saturday, it occurred to me that some players may find a piece on auction strategies, particularly the jump bid, and some might not even know the jump bid tactic (or if they do, think it irritating). However, for any of us playing the auction game, the jump bid can not only be our friend, but it can indeed help a prudent owner manage his or her budget, get some price enforcing done in the process, and control the board for the endgame.

So, let's review some thoughts about auctions and money management tactics.

Try to let your mates empty their wallets: Auctions are fun and exciting for participants, especially at the start when the bulk of star players are available. I personally like to spread my spending around and build a good team with starters and at-bats in as many slots as I can manage. So, I like to let my mates spend $45 on Trout and Kershaw, sitting and waiting for the bidding to soften.

Let others nominate guys you want: I have clearly coveted Khris Davis all over the place this year, but I have yet to nominate the Athletics outfielder even though I carry him all over, including both Tout and LABR. But, when nominating, I throw out a name I am not particularly interested in and then watch the bidding frenzy from the sidelines.

Don't let a bargain pass: While I might do a solid job of watching the money flow early on in the draft, similarly, I know not to let a bargain pass even if the player is not one I targeted. For example, Evan Gattis in the low teens is indeed a bargain, for catchers who can hit 25-plus homers are on the rare side. So, be mindful to not be too passive, even if you are watching others spend.

Thoughts on jump bids: For the archivists, a jump bid is simply "jumping" the amount on the table for a given player, such that if I nominate Mike Trout for $10, and Trout increases to $15 over five subsequent bids, and then someone yells out $35, that is a jump bid.

And, there can be a very effective way of using such a "jump" to acquire a player you like with your opening bid. Such that, if you value Trout at $45, simply upping the ante to your ceiling price tag as soon as permits can be a great tactic, as that will certainly scare away any potential Trout wannabe owners who did not expect the bidding sequence to push like that. But, suddenly all your opponents have to look at $46 for the rights to Trout's skill set, and that will likely scare away the bulk of your leaguemates.

What this means is you have to be ok with having Trout at $45, and if you really want the Angel, be prepared to pay $47 and up to own him. But, that act forces the issue upon your leaguemates, and in theory sets a path for your team and the rest of the auction from that point out (for either you have Trout and build around him, or go elsewhere for offensive production).

However, a subtler form of jump bid can be employed further on in your auction. 

Let's say you target Carlos Santana for $26 and the first sacker does indeed get his name called.

Bidding starts to slow at $21, which is your bid, and that is followed by $22 from another owner. You bid $23 in response and your leaguemate immediately counters with $24.

Logically, your counter bid would be $25 but the effective tactic in such a situation is to jump Santana's price tag to $26 right then and there.

The reasoning here is you were already prepared to pay the $26 anyway, correct?

So, by going for the throat right there, instead of considering the possibility of owning Santana at $26, your opponent suddenly has to accept the fact that it is either $27--at a minimum--or again, look elsewhere to fill the roster.

In that sense, you are price enforcing, but you are also managing your own roster and prices in concert with your projections, for ideally mapping out slots and production and dollar values ahead of time will land the bulk of players and stats you desired.

Auctions are fun, but they are also tricky animals involving timing, knowledge of the player pool, and a clear idea of the kind of team you want to assemble. Hopefully these insights can help lead you to a successful team and season.

What a fantastic week, initiated with three days at the Grapefruit League spent with Ron Shandler, Brian Walton and Brian Feldman, Jeff Winick, Trace Wood and Lord Z as we attended three games and then finished off our XFL Expansion Draft. Wednesday morning, I flew up to New York, where later this morning the American League Tout Wars draft will commence (you can tune in at both FNTSY and also Siirus/XM, with the AL at 9 AM, the Mixed at 3 PM and the NL on Sunday at 10 AM, all times Eastern).

As usual, I am listing players I like, but this year with a spin. This time, I am focusing on some relievers and a strategy with respect to my arms, so I will hit those pitchers first, and then note a couple of other players of interest. Mind you, I am thinking these players will be available at the prices I list, and I am always willing to consider going up a buck or two, depending upon time in the draft, but generally once a player is priced beyond what I think the value line is, that is it.

Andrew Miller ($13): So, I usually like to get two closers, and I am not afraid to spend $45 to get said commodity in a deeper league where saves matter. And, I do usually wind up with a third reliever, ideally for a buck, but I have spent up to $5 for a chance at a would-be closer who goes set-up and gets the whiffs. So, Miller does define that. 

Dellin Betances ($12): In theory, Betances and Miller are interchangable parts, but how interesting could it be to pair the pair, have potential closers who will get a lot of work and whiffs, and a good chance at 15-plus saves between them?

Roberto Osuna ($17): I have Osuna here because I like him, but the reality is there are other closers who fit the role. But the troika would cost $42, well within what I budget, can give me what I want, and perhaps give me a serious surplus chip to swap as necessary.

Eddie Rosario ($3): I liked him a lot last year, and he largely sucked, but salvaged a reasonable (.269-10-32 with five swipes) season in the end. Rosario is sort of forgotten now it seems, not even getting a mention in Mixed League concoctions, irrespective of depth. There is serious speed here, and a little pop, and Rosario's counterpart, Robbie Grossman (whom I also like), is dealing with a groin strain, defaulting Opening Day left field for now.

Rob Refsnyder ($5): I got him for just a couple of bucks (I opened the bidding at $2, figuring no one would jump to three) in LABR, but with the injury to Didi Gregorius, Refsnyder's profile gets a bump. I'll buy that he gets 350-plus at-bats and puts up some nice numbers.

Matt Joyce ($2): Oakland has a short right field line, Joyce pulls the ball hard in just that direction, and he should get a shot at facing righties at least, and maybe more. His on-base numbers have improved, and well, the Oakland offense is, to say the least, anemic, and the opposing team has to pitch to someone. I think the veteran Joyce will take advantage accordingly.

Caleb Joseph ($1): A deep league, so a part-timer is expected, but Joseph is having a nice spring (.278-2-2) and is kind of on a Chris Herrmann-like trajectory, I think. Joseph is six months older, but catchers develop hitting skills slower at the big league level, and Joseph has a chance to kick it up a level. For a buck, up a level means .260-5-35 as far as I am concerned. But more importantly, that cheap investment fills a roster spot and gives me a couple of dollar per player price increase for every other player on my roster.

Carlos Santana ($24): I wanted him at LABR: I hope to get him here as the core of my offense.

Chris Archer ($24): He is the ace I want, building a staff with Archer atop, and the Betances/Miller/Osuna pick finishing up. That means I am looking at about $6-10 each for the rest of my starters. I think I can hit that. I hope he delivers. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

OK, so I had not planned on writing about any more mocks, but this past week I finished off my #MockDraftArmy stint, curated by @rotobuzzguy Howard Bender, with a pair of 12-teamers, drafting in the middle of the pack. Complementing these mocks, I did an American League 12-teamer hosted by Paul White.

In all instances, I tried hard to not experiment, but rather to draft the best team I could. But, at the same time, I tried to draft different sets of players, although there are some, like Khris Davis and Brad Miller, who seem to fall to me and I cannot resist. But, for example, I did try to draft some combination of Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and an actual closer when I could, though the universe never actually alligned for such a troika to hit my roster.

Still, as we lead into the big draft week, and I head to the Grapefruit League, then Tout Wars where again I go in the American League, the AL mock proved interesting. And then, compared to the two #MockDraftArmy procedures, things got even more interesting, results-wise.

So, here are some late thoughts about those mocks. Note this Monday the Hotpage will cover minor leaguers for you Ultra League, and a week from today, the Tout Wish List will be here.

RD Pick# Pos Player Pick# Pos Player Pick# Pos Player
1 7 3B Manny Machado 6 P Clayton Kershaw 6 P Chris Sale
2 18 P Noah Syndergaard 19 1B Freddie Freeman 19 SS Francisco Lindor
3 31 SS Francisco Lindor 30 SS Trevor Story 30 OF Khris Davis
4 42 P Johnny Cueto 43 OF Yoenis Cespedes 43 C Evan Gattis
5 55 OF Khris Davis 54 2B Dee Gordon 54 1B Carlos Santana
6 66 1B Carlos Santana 67 C Jonathan Lucroy 67 P Roberto Osuna
7 79 C Willson Contreras 78 OF Khris Davis 78 SS Brad Miller
8 90 SS Brad Miller 91 3B Alex Bregman 91 P Marcus Stroman
9 103 OF Odubel Herrera 102 P Danny Duffy 102 2B Devon Travis
10 114 C Evan Gattis 115 SS Brad Miller 115 P Dellin Betances
11 127 2B Devon Travis 126 OF Odubel Herrera 126 3B Nick Castellanos
12 138 OF Kole Calhoun 139 1B Adrian Gonzalez 139 P Kendall Graveman
13 151 P Jon Gray 150 P Jon Gray 150 P Blake Snell
14 162 P Dellin Betances 163 C Yasmani Grandal 163 OF Leonys Martin
15 175 P Brandon Finnegan 174 OF Kole Calhoun 174 OF Tyler Naquin
16 186 OF Ender Inciarte 187 OF Keon Broxton 187 P Ryan Madson
17 199 P Adam Ottavino 198 P Brandon Maurer 198 OF Steven Souza
18 210 P Marco Estrada 211 P Ryan Madson 211 P Luis Severino
19 223 OF Max Kepler 222 UTL Randal Grichuk 222 CI Danny Valencia
20 234 P Ryan Madson 235 P Brandon Finnegan 235 P Chris Devenski
21 247 SS Didi Gregorius 246 P Chris Devenski 246 UT Brock Holt
22 258 1B C.J. Cron 259 P Alex Cobb 259 MI Eduardo Escobar
23 271 UTL Leonys Martin 270 P Alex Wood 270 C Josh Phegley
24 282 P Chris Devenski 283 P Ervin Santana 283   Blank
25 295 P Jordan Zimmermann 294 OF Michael Conforto 294   Blank

In retrospect, the one thing that did surprise me was the depth of players in the American League. In fact, I will write up my Tout Wars summary, comparing those results with my AL LABR team, and with this mythical mock draft team, and see just how differently things will go. For life imitates art, and for sure art imitates life. 

Don't forget you can find me @lawrmichaels

As we race towards Opening Day, I have one more mock comparative, this time contrasting the 12-team MockDraftArmy #39 driven by Fantrax with a 12-teamer organized by Ryan Hallam at Fighting Chance Fantasy Sports, and driven by our friends at Couch Managers

These drafts were different despite the 12-team format in that one was a one-catcher, and the MockDraftArmy setup accounted two extra picks.

But, I decided this time to actually throw the experimentation out the window and simply try to draft the best possible team I could with two completely different sets of participants.

At Fighting Chance, I picked second, while with Howard Bender (@RotoBuzzguy), I picked ninth. But since I am two weeks removed from the 12-team BARF draft, a week past the 12-team LABR auction, and two weeks shy of the AL Tout Wars auction, simply trying to draft a straight ahead roster a couple of days in a row seemed like a prudent exercise.

I did try to draft in a vacuum in that I did not purposely select the same players, and in trying to grab the next best available player who could help my team, dupes surely did occur, like Chris Archer and Freddie Freeman. But, later in the draft, some interesting gyrations and dynamics made it such that there were some players--Max Kepler and Brad Miller, for example--who survived one draft for a bit where I did not think either player would in an earlier round.

The results fairly speak for themselves, but the best thing is after LABR I feel more than prepared for Tout, XFL, the Murphy League, and any of the other drafts I have looming.

I will be participating in one more week of the MockDraftArmy, but then it will be off to the Grapefruit League and New York City, with reports coming from both venues. In the meantime, here is my last comparative, and don't forget you can find me @lawrmichaels.

Player Pick # Pick # Player
Nolan Arenado 2 9 Bryce Harper
Freddie Freeman 23 16 Freddie Freeman
Trevor Story 26 33 Francisco Lindor
Christian Yelich 47 40 Chris Archer
Chris Archer 50 57 Yoenis Cespedes
Matt Carpenter 71 64 Carlos Martinez
Danny Duffy 74 81 Khris Davis
Odubel Herrera 95 88 Alex Bregman
Stephen Piscotty 98 105 Devon Travis
Marcus Stroman 119 112 Jon Gray
Kevin Gausman 122 129 Brad Miller
Salvador Perez 143 136 Kevin Gausman
Alex Colome 146 153 Dellin Betances
Brad Miller 167 160 Russell Martin
Robbie Ray 170 177 Kevin Kiermaier
Hector Neris 191 184 Hector Neris
Max Kepler 194 201 Manuel Margot
Sonny Gray 215 208 Jerad Eickhoff
Devon Travis 218 225 Ryan Madson
Ryan Madson 239 232 Max Kepler
Hunter Pence 242 249 Brandon Crawford
Stephen Vogt 263 256 Sandy Leon
Brandon Finnegan 266 273 Ervin Santana
Pass  XX 280 Jedd Gyorko
Pass  XX 297 Jharel Cotton

It is indeed LABR (League of Alternative Baseball Reality) weekend in Phoenix, which means spring games, great time with friends, and of course serious drafting.

The league, curated by the inimitable Steve Gardner of USA Today, includes some of the great humans within the industry like Rick Wolf, Glenn Colton, Eric Karabell, Tristan Cockcroft, Derek Van Riper and many more who converge to draft in the AL and NL formats.

In the past, I have often revealed just who I covet in drafts like LABR and Tout before the draft, something I may well do prior to Tout in three weeks, but as I prepare for the AL LABR contest, after a week of play, I am looking at some names that were more or less off everyone's radar until the games began.

And, I say this because it is important to remember we do win with the cheap Rick Porcellos and J.A. Happs, not the expensive Mike Trouts we need to establish the stat base. For, those bargain players are indeed the ones who turn their respective profit into titles. Note that though I am drafting in the American League, the National League LABR auction is tomorrow evening, so I hit some players who could be germane to either league for this time.

Note that you can listen to the draft live on Sirius/XM hosted by our mate Kyle Elfrink.  

Billy McKinney (OF, Yankees): Drafted #1 by Oakland in 2013, traded to the Cubs with Addison Russell in 2015, and then for Aroldis Chapman last year, the outfielder certainly seems to have been attractive to a lot of teams, but he's now with a fourth squad in four years with an unclear role. Just 21, McKinney has always been highly rated, but he hit just .246-4-44 last year at two levels but scored a solid .342 OBP. However, after six at-bats, he is .500-2-5 with a double and is clearly raising eyebrows. The outfielder is at least worthy of reserve consideration.

Kendall Graveman (P, Athletics): After a crappy start, Graveman got his sinker sinking, finishing 10-11, 4.14 over 186 innings, and is probably #3 in the rotation behind Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea. I saw his debut Friday and the sinker was sinking as Graveman allowed just a freak hit that bounced off third base over his two innings during which he coaxed four ground outs. 

Sonny Gray (P, Athletics): OK, Gray will probably still garner $10 or so, but he too looked good in his first start, whiffing four over two innings and allowing nothing else. If Sonny is healthy, Sonny is worth it.

Greg Bird (1B, Yankees): He missed all of last year after being penned as the heir to Mark Teixeira, and who knew what this year would bring? There has been speculation, but .417-3-5 with two doubles after 12 at-bats has to make us all go "hmmmm."

David Price (P, Red Sox): I dunno. He is not a sleeper, but if you want my opinion, I would stay away and use my resources elsewhere.

Ubaldo Jimenez (P, Orioles): I saw Ubaldo speak after his two strong innings earlier in the week, and he talked about how he had gotten into a bad habit with his grip that he resolved last August. And after going 0-2, 3.92 that month, Jimenez turned in a stellar September, going 3-1, 2.31 over 35 frames with an 0.829 WHIP. Is he worth a $1 late gamble in an AL-only format? Yep.

Jabari Blash (OF, Padres): A great name. Blash, who was drafted in 2010 (8th round), has bounced around, but on another young and changing team, he has a shot at earning some playing time, especially if his .455-3-10 start over 11 at-bats continues.

Jarrett Parker (OF, Giants): Definite pop, but lots of whiffs. However, Parker has the left field gig and he cracked a shot the other night that left the yard in a hurry. Parker banged 100 homers over 681 games in the Minors and is hitting .286-2-7 with a swipe thus far. Watch him.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @lawrmichaels.

I am back hardcore with The Mock Draft Army, hosted by our friends at Fantrax, and my bud Howard Bender's (@rotobuzzguy) push to improve our drafts, after a week of vacation playing golf and sitting in the Maui sun. 

Three weeks ago, I began my latest drafting experiment, drafting in 12-team and 15-team formats, grabbing hitters with at least four of my first five selections. This week, I repeated the process, going with four pitchers out of my first five selections in both formats. In all drafts, I selected from the #9 slot, and that position was simply based upon the random spot I was assigned over the first of the four drafts.

The question obviously was could I go hitter heavy and still assemble a pitching staff, both in 12-team and 15-team formats. Note that each team held a standard 23-man roster plus two reserve selections.

12-Team Hitting 12-Team Pitching 15-Team Hitting 15-Team Pitching
Rizzo, Anthony Syndergaard, Noah Harper, Bryce Syndergaard, Noah
Syndergaard, Noah Bumgarner, Madison Freeman, Freddie Scherzer, Max
Freeman, Freddie Cueto, Johnny Cespedes, Yoenis Cueto, Johnny
Cespedes, Yoenis Archer, Chris Carpenter, Matt Cespedes, Yoenis
Carpenter, Matt Cespedes, Yoenis Kipnis, Jason Chapman, Aroldis
Davis, Khris Carpenter, Matt Hendricks, Kyle Davis, Khris
Duffy, Danny Kipnis, Jason Duffy, Danny Santana, Carlos
Miller, Brad Miller, Brad Miller, Brad Miller, Brad
Gausman, Kevin Eaton, Adam Gausman, Kevin Herrera, Odubel
Travis, Devon Herrera, Odubel Herrera, Odubel Travis, Devon
Piscotty, Stephen Piscotty, Stephen Calhoun, Kole Ottavino, Adam
Vogt, Stephen Santana, Carlos Ozuna, Marcell Vogt, Stephen
Calhoun, Kole Belt, Brandon Gray, Jon Gray, Jon
Ray, Robbie Gray, Jon Neris, Hector Kiermaier, Kevin
Ozuna, Marcell Pence, Hunter Cervelli, Francisco Crawford, Brandon
Ottavino, Adam Ray, Robbie Ottavino, Adam Gyorko, Jedd
Neris, Hector Inciarte, Ender Santana, Ervin Finnegan, Brandon
Finnegan, Brandon Vogt, Stephen Bandy, Jett Cervelli, Francisco
Gray, Jon Ottavino, Adam Cabrera, Asdrubal Devenski, Chris
Cervelli, Francisco Neris, Hector Finnegan, Brandon Prado, Martin
Crawford, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Prado, Martin Santana, Ervin
Inciarte, Ender Bandy, Jett Choo, Shin-soo Pillar, Kevin
Pederson, Joc Madson, Ryan Pillar, Kevin Conforto, Michael
Foltynewicz, Mike Dull, Ryan Barraclough, Kyle Souza Jr., Steven
Barraclough, Kyle Reddick, Josh Conforto, Michael Dull, Ryan

The big question, of course, is did I manage enough hitting on the teams favoring pitching, and vice versa, to be competitive? Well, let's take a look.

Of course there were considerations with each draft even if I was selecting specifically towards hitting or pitching, as in with the 15-team format I had to think about closers around the sixth round, while in a 12-team format, I did not worry about saves till nearly the end of the draft. Similarly, I tried to milk strikeouts and power, and obviously that was tougher in the deeper leagues.

But, how exactly do the numbers project? Well, loosely, which is what projections kind of are, here is the shakeout.

12-team hitter heavy 12-team pitcher heavy 15-team hitter heavy 15-team pitcher heavy
.272-343-1083-1124-141 .271-274-1165-1072 168 .267-303-1240-1306-130 .263-273-1107-1085-143
81W 1385K 61Sv 3.53 1.28 96W 1720K 80Sv 3.43 1.24 71W 1055K 61Sv  3.56 1,29 92W 1595K 70Sv 3.37 1.24

I do think these numbers, however iffy they might be during the pre-season, look like they have enough pop and arms to at least compete. Of course, the number totals do include all 25 players, so that must be accounted for. But, if you draft carefully, there are indeed veins of players each round who can be successfully statistically mined.

Don't forget you can find me @lawrmichaels.

Most of the mocks, in fact most of the leagues in which we play are pretty much standard NFBC 5x5 configurations with little tweaks and customizations indiginous to the play and desires of the league at large.

Of course, lots of us do sim games like Strat-O-Matic and Diamond Minds, and there are a cluster who like to play Head-to-Head, a format that reduces roster and active player size, matching up nine against nine on a daily basis, but still using the basic 5x5 categories. Actually, I would go into the details deeper, but earlier this week, Scott White, venerable curator and analyst at CBS Sportsline, hosted a H2H mock and in the article in which he recaps, Scott describes the format much more clearly than I ever could. 

But, one of the things that Scott emphasizes in his piece is an emphasis on making sure a completed team has enough hitting, focusing on that skill over arms. Scott lays out a terrific argument but I am not as certain hitting is the key to one-on-one play. I will admit that I have always been a sucker for the maxim that "good pitching will beat good hitting", but I also get the problem is that may be true on the actual diamond, but not necessarily in "The Frank Robinson League of Greater Cincinnati."

Irrespective, I am good at building pitching staffs, and draft towards them figuring if I strike gold, I will have a surplus and someone always needs a pitcher, at least in deeper AL-only and NL-only contests. And, to a degree, playing H2H pushes me towards a different path than that of Scott. I do like the format, and though Strat is a Sim game, it is indeed H2H play, and I play Scoresheet and used to play Bill James. Although having good everyday at-bats at every position is a ticket to success in all those variations, having a strong pitching staff in any of those leagues at least guarantees a .500 mark.

So, I went big on arms, drafting in the 12-hole, nabbing Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale with my first two selections, grabbing Yoenis Cespedes with pick three, but then going Johnny Cueto. And when the run came back my way again, I took Jason Kipnis, but moved on Chris Archer as well, meaning four of my first six picks were arms.

In seeing the game differently from Scott, I think in terms of H2H as a kind of variation of DFS in that every day I am putting a lineup out there, and as we know from playing daily leagues, it is very hard to finish among the top teams without a strong performance from your starter. In grabbing Robbie Ray in the 12th, and then the tandem of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances back-to-back 15/16, I certainly have the chance to put up dominating pitching numbers every day, and in a 12-team league, I felt there was enough hitting depth.

Of course, Lord Z and I discussed this and he is in Scott's school, but I wound up with the following parcel of hitters:

C: J.T. Realmuto

1B: Brandon Belt

2B: Jason Kipnis

3B: Maikel Franco

SS: Brad Miller

OF Khris Davis

OF: Stephen Piscotty

OF: Yoenis Cespedes

UT: Kole Calhoun

So, power and essentially the counting stats are covered, save steals which I in essence punted. Swipes are ephemeral, and on the H2H scale, singles and runs and knocks will each earn the same as a steal. Plus, I am already set, on a day-to-day basis, to get more strikeouts and allow fewer runs than the rest of the league, so it is that slender reed of logic on which I made my picks.

Will it work? I don't know. As with all my theorizing, I have majestic failures and epic victories, and there is a complete logic to the way Scott and Todd build on hitting before arms. 

In the end, I told Scott that I figured we would finish fifth and sixth, in the middle of the pack, were we to play things out. But the truth is, I drafted these guys to win, not to come in second. So, if the team fails, the difference between second and twelfth is negligible.

Faithful Readers: I will be off all next week on a belated honeymoon/vacation. All columns will resume after 2/20 when the Hotpage goes weekly for baseball.

Find me @lawrmichaels.

This past week, I participated in three of Howard Bender's (@rotobuzzguy) #MockDraftArmy, and this week my experiment was to test a draft spot against league depth. So, I signed up for three--10, 12, and 15-team drafts of 25 rounds. Since I drew the middle of the first draft, I chose to draft in the middle of all three, though I must confess, that is among my least favorite drafting slots.

And of course, before you review the list, some observations:

1) I do tend to grab the same players because, well, I think they will perform well.

2) It seemed logical to load up on more pitching earlier in the 10-team format, figuring there were less good and dominant starters out there than hitters.

3) Even in the 12 and 15-team formats, I did grab a starter early, but in the 12-teamer, I then went for hitting for a long run.

4) I waited until just about the end of the 12-team, and to the end of the 10-team draft to grab saves. Since there are indeed 30 teams, if each league member grabs two, in those leagues there should be some saves to play with now, and some out there when the season begins that no one anticipated.

5) Though I do indeed draft players I like, i was also more willing to take some chances in the shallower formats, figuring with a phat reserve pool, it would be much easier to fix a production problem. 

Round Player (overall) 15-Team Player (overall) 12-Team Player (overall) 10-Team
1 Arenado, Nolan (7) Kershaw, Clayton (7) Arenado, Nolan (6)
2 Cespedes, Yoenis (24) Freeman, Freddie (18) Syndergaard, Noah (15)
3 Springer, George (37) Cespedes, Yoenis (31) Kluber, Corey (26)
4 Kipnis, Jason (54) Davis, Khris (42) Cespedes, Yoenis (35)
5 Carrasco, Carlos (67) Carpenter, Matt (55) Carpenter, Matt (46)
6 Melancon, Mark (84) Miller, Brad (66) Archer, Chris (55)
7 Herrera, Kelvin (97) Piscotty, Stephen (79) Davis, Khris (66)
8 Duffy, Danny (114) Duffy, Danny (99) Miller, Brad (75)
9 Miller, Brad (127) Hendricks, Kyle (103) Kipnis, Jason (86)
10 Ray, Robbie (144) Herrera, Odubel (114) Santana, Carlos (99)
11 Belt, Brandon (157) Travis, Devon (127) Piscotty, Stephen (106)
12 Vogt, Stephen (174) Gausman, Kevin (138) Ray, Robbie (115)
13 Margot, Manuel (187) Andrus, Elvis (151) Kiermaier, Kevin (126)
14 Gray, Jon (204) Ray, Robbie (162) Gattis, Evan (135)
15 Travis, Devon (217) Neris, Hector (175) Ozuna, Marcell (146)
16 Estrada, Marco (234) Crawford, Brandon (186) Jankowski, Travis (155)
17 Devenski, Chris (247) Vogt, Stephen (199) Crawford, Brandon (166)
18 Gyorko, Jedd (264) Ottavino, Adam (210) Vogt, Stephen (175)
19 Bandy, Jett (277) Cervelli, Francisco (223) Manaea, Sean (186)
20 Pillar, Kevin (294) Jankowski, Travis (234) Ottavino, Adam (195)
21 Souza Jr., Steven (307) Devenski, Chris (247) Maurer, Brandon 206)
22 Cobb, Alex (324) Finnegan, Brandon (258) Bedrosian, Cam (215)
23 Rosario, Eddie (337) Santana, Domingo (271) Devenski, Chris (226)
24 Finnegan, Brandon (354) Cabrera, Asdrubal (282) Madson, Ryan (235)
25 Altherr, Aaron (367) Santana, Ervin (295) Inciarte, Ender (246)

You can follow me @lawrmichaels. And, you can check with @rotobuzzguy about future mocks.

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