Captain's Log

The Continuous Search For Pitching PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 00:00

In today’s fantasy game, you can bet that in any given season, the MLB version of death and taxes will play out: closers will lose jobs and starting pitchers will get injured.

And, in AL and NL-only leagues, you may start the year with a pitching staff you liked but the wear and tear will eventually have you scrambling for more pitchers.

In one AL-only league, I have Jake Odorizzi and James Paxton on the DL, so even if I had picked the right non-closing relievers each week to plug those holes, I am still going to fall behind in strikeouts and wins. Last week, the available starting pitchers were Tommy Milone, Brett Oberholtzer, Joe Blanton and Kyle Ryan. At least Ryan, Milone and Blanton had two-start weeks, having one might be able to produce one win and two starts worth of strikeouts, even if the ratios make you wince.

Blanton last pitched in the Majors in 2013 when he was with the Angels. The 34-year old tried to quit baseball last year and was working at a Napa Valley winery. But, when he got the baseball itch this spring and was given a minor league contract by the Royals, Blanton reported to spring training 35 pounds lighter than as a member of the Angels.

Blanton didn’t make the club out of spring training but was willing to continue his comeback in the minors. He started off well and was promoted to the Royals in mid-May, and in his first relief appearance, allowed just one run over four innings. Blanton got his first start last week when the club decided to give Yordano Ventura more rest, pitching five innings while giving up five hits and one run and striking out four.

Nice story, but none of that would have made me pick up Blanton. However, as I noted earlier, he would have two starts this week, one against the hapless Mariners and the other against the Athletics. So I outbid a couple of teams in my league and crossed my fingers. Up against King Felix on Monday, the revitalized Blanton gave up two hits and no walks while fanning seven and earning the win.

Lucky? Yes. Now I have to light a candle for the Sunday start in Oakland.

At this point, I am not sure if Joe will still be on my team next week, but I have been suckered in before. Pitching desperation will do that.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 June 2015 10:05
Mono League Free Agents Revisited PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 00:00

A couple of readers and one Facebook friend questioned some of the free agent pickups I noted last week. Well, AL-only or NL-only leagues with 11 or 12 teams and minor league drafts are very deep leagues.

So, filling a vacancy due to an injury or a demoted player or even a pitcher with bad matchups (if you have reserve slots) is very important. But the bonus is that while you get some at-bats or innings for this year, you also have the chance to follow these players with next year's keeper list in mind. Indeed, this is now the focus of teams who have already traded significant players for this season in exchange for future value – usually young cheap players, minor league prospects or minor league draft upgrades.

On that note, I thought I would take a quick look at my AL-only league and discuss some of the players who were added as free agents either last season or in 2013 who were kept going into this year’s auction.

What we clearly see is that the majority of players added as free agents early in the season are the most likely potential keepers. This is logical as they are likely hitters who didn’t have a full-time job on draft day but got promoted or inserted due to injury or trade and became starters.

My league has a three-round reserve draft immediately following the auction, in part because you must replace any players on your auction roster who are on the DL or have been sent to the Minors, but also because the first FAAB run won’t occur until the second Saturday of the season (we draft on the first Tuesday after the season starts).

So, in 2014, these players were reserve picks in early April:

Drew Pomeranz, P, OAK – Pomeranz was on the Athletics roster but not in the rotation, but he did well when he became a starter and was going to be in the Oakland rotation this year.

Dellin Betances, P, NYY – Nobody could have known how good Betances was going to be as a rotisserie and real life pitcher last year. This year, it wasn’t clear who would get the saves for the Yankees but regardless, Betances would earn more than his $10 salary.

Jake McGee, P, TB – McGee wasn’t closing early last year but was potentially a nice high strikeout reliever who could (and he did) ascend to the ninth inning role. This year, it wasn’t clear how long he would be out of action but it was presumed that he would close when he rejoined the Rays staff.

Wade Davis, P, KC – Again, Davis was just a playable reliever last April but was very valuable and proved even more valuable when Greg Holland was absent for awhile this year.

The next group of players were added in April and May FAAB runs – ours runs every Saturday night, and again, while they might have just been filling a temporary lineup need at the time of their pickup, they were viewed as good $10 keepers this year.

April 14, 2014 (first FAAB run)

Collin McHugh, P, HOU – Picked up before his first start (April 20) but earned roughly $18 last year and is starting this year on an improved Astros team.

Zach Britton, P, BAL – Was in the Orioles bullpen to start the season but in the first week had two four-inning relief stints and won both games without allowing a run. Didn’t register his first save until May but ended the season with three wins and 37 saves, earning $24.

April 21, 2014

Dallas Keuchel, P, HOU – Keuchel was in the Houston rotation but his first start (before our draft) was terrible. Then he had two very good starts before he was added in the second week of FAAB.

April 28, 2014

J.D. Martinez, OF, DET – Martinez was a spring training cut by Houston and picked up by Detroit. He didn’t wear a Tiger uniform until the third week of the season but that made him a hot pickup the following week.

May 5, 2014

Steve Pearce, OF/1B, BAL – Pearce made the Orioles roster out of spring training but had very few at-bats in the first few weeks. He then had 16 at-bats in the fourth week and while he didn’t hit a home run, he did hit over .300. The next week he hit three home runs and I added him very quickly. If only I had dropped him before this season and drafted Jimmy Paredes for a buck.

May 12, 2014

Danny Santana, SS, MIN – I had planned to draft Santana in the minor league draft last year but someone else I liked better fell to me, so Santana was a free agent. But when he was called up in the first week in May and looked like he would get enough at-bats to at least make the steals valuable, I added him not knowing of course that he would also hit seven home runs and hit .319 and be worth $23.

Jake Odorizzi, P, TB – His first start last year was a very good six-inning win. But his next four starts were terrible which prompted his owner to drop him. I paid to add him and nine of his other ten wins.

Andrew Miller, P, BAL – Miller was in the Orioles bullpen on opening day and pitched very well in 17 relief appearances early in the year but had only one win. He was added as a good reliever and in fact won four more games and got one save in earning $12 for the year. This year, of course, he is closing, and while this was not known on draft night, the savvy owner who kept him also had Betances, so it was a great combo play for Yankees saves – and more.

May 26, 2014

Matt Shoemaker, P, LAA – While Shoemaker was on the early Anaheim-minor shuttle in April, he was finally inserted into the Angels rotation for good in May and was a savior for both his big league and rotisserie teams.

Of course, there are free agents added throughout the season, but you can see the dividends and importance of the earliest free agent adds. The only free agents added in June, July, and August who ended up being frozen for $10 this year were:

Stephen Vogt, 1B, OAK – Vogt wasn’t catcher eligible to start the year but everyone knew he would be. I wonder what he would have gone for in the auction.

Shane Greene, P, DET – Greene made one start for the Yankees in April but wasn’t in the rotation until July. He didn’t pitch great last year but showed enough that someone thought that on a strong Tigers team and in the rotation all year, he would be worth a $10 salary. Early results this year say maybe.

Edward Mujica, P, BOS – Mujica wouldn’t have been kept this year, but having saved eight games last year and with Koji Uehara on the DL to start this year for who knew how long, he was kept with the hope of at least a few April saves and then insurance. Sadly, neither happened, and he didn’t pitch well.

I know I left September off the introduction of late season free agents but it was because in order to protect the integrity of our deep minor league rosters, any free agent added in September would carry a $25 salary if retained the following year. This is also why there haven’t been any September free agent keepers – yet.

Some of these 2014 free agents might be kept next year as well. There have been a few in the past. In fact, Scott Kazmir, Yan Gomes and Cody Allen were all free agents added in 2013 and are still playing with a $10 salary.

If you don’t play in an AL-only or NL-only keeper league where not only is the free agent pool much smaller but you have to have an eye on emerging major leaguers as possible keepers for the following year, I think this list will illustrate why there are so many players added in these leagues that carry more value than mixed league players might think.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 08:36
Keeper Leagues - It is Never Too Early PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Thursday, 14 May 2015 00:00

Whether you are trying to win or finish in the money this year or aren’t sure you can get to that point and need to focus on keepers for next year, there are decisions to be made even in May.

Last week was a stunning example because there were clear cut players who might be useful this year as well as being keepers for next season. So let’s look at the players added via FAAB in both an AL-only and NL-only league last weekend. Both leagues are standard $260 auction leagues with unlimited keepers and assign a $10 retention salary for free agents.

The American League certainly had more players of interest.

At the top of that list for help this year was Toronto first baseman Chris Colabello, who also added outfield eligibility with his fifth game chasing fly balls on Sunday. Colabello actually could not only help teams right away but despite being labeled by some writers as a Quad-A hitter, could easily be a $10 keeper in 2016 should he win the majority of playing time at first base once Jose Bautista can throw and return to right field. In my AL-only league, Colabello went for $9 out of a $100 budget.

There was actually a player who went for more than that, but while I can clearly see the need for the Angels’ Carlos Perez in a two-catcher AL league right now, I am not sure he would be the club's starting catcher next April and thus be a keeper – but stranger things have happened. The team that actually won him for $13 is already rebuilding and needed a catcher, so they are happy regardless.

Houston’s Preston Tucker was not a highly regarded minor league prospect entering this season coming off a 2014 split between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City where he hit .280+ with 24 home runs and 94 RBI. But a hot start this year at Triple-A Fresno, where Tucker hit .320 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 100 at-bats, earned him Houston’s minor league player of the month for April. While Tucker only got the call-up because of George Springer landing on the disabled list, he survived a roster cut when Springer returned this week and may get further chances in the Majors this year to prove he might be a contender for a starting spot in the Astros outfield in 2016. The winner of Tucker's services ended up spending seven FAAB bucks for him.

We don’t know who the Seattle Mariners would have chosen to be the opening day shortstop if both Chris Taylor and Brad Miller were healthy, but when Taylor landed on the DL, Miller had the job. When Taylor was activated last week, there were fantasy teams willing to see if he could win the job at some point this year or become the starter next year. Taylor also went for $7.

Finally, we come to Yankees prospect Jose Pirela, who hit .370 with three doubles and two triples in spring training but did not win a job on the opening day roster, even though many thought he would have been a better choice than Stephen Drew. Pirela was put on the major league 7-day DL shortly after the season started because he had been injured in a collision in spring training. He was transferred to the 15-day DL in mid-April and then sent first to Class-A Tampa and then Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being activated to the Yankees on May 6, in part because Gregorio Petit was put on the DL and also because of the poor hitting of Drew and Didi Gregorius. Pirela actually had 24 at-bats in his major league call-up last year after breaking out at Triple-A, hitting .305 with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases. With no strong middle infield prospects in the organization, he will again fill a need with some chance of being a starter next year. Pirela also went for $7.

There weren’t as many new call-ups last week in the National League but Padres catcher Austin Hedges was one of the highest rated catching prospects in all of baseball. So when he was activated last week, a team with weak catchers was more than glad to spend 23 FAAB dollars (this on a $1000 yearly budget) just to see how he might fare in the Majors. Hedges can already hold his own as a receiver but it he proves he can hit major league pitching, it wouldn’t be a total surprise for him to be the starter for the Padres next year.

One other NL prospect who was activated last week, Nationals lefty Sammy Solis, was added for one dollar of FAAB. As strong as the Nationals pitching staff is this year, there are some potential free agents in their rotation and Solis, who was a highly regarded prospect before suffering several injuries, might have a shot at making the 2016 rotation if he pitches well enough. I only had to bid one FAAB unit to roster him and while he won’t be more than a reserve pick next year, hope springs eternal 

In life and in fantasy baseball.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 10:52
Time to Assess Your Fantasy Teams PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 00:00

At the end of this week, we will be very close to having 20 percent of the 2015 games in the books. So how do we view players given that it still feels like we are dealing with “small sample sizes”?

What I think is more important for individual players is looking at their usage and improvement (or lack of) in the statistical categories rather than just the year to date numbers. Still, the free agent process waits for no man, so while we don’t want to drop a player prematurely, we want to add players who may be able to fill in while we wait on some players.

Here are some players I am very concerned about:

1. Michael Saunders started the season on the DL and then came back two weeks ago. He was 0-for-9 in his first three games and then hit .333 last week. But on Tuesday, we found out he had his knee drained on Monday. And today the reports are that he will miss several games. I can’t imagine a league where Kevin Pillar is still a free agent, but if you are in that league, get him immediately.                                                                                                                     

2. Victor Martinez had surgery in February for a torn meniscus but we still drafted him as he was deemed to be ready for the start of the season – and he was, hitting .316 that week. But he hasn’t been good since then and is now hitting .213 with no home runs. He isn’t healthy and we don’t know when he will be. Hopefully, if you have him, he is at UT where you can fill in with a variety of players.

3. Billy Butler started the year in Oakland hitting .360 for the first two weeks and making Kansas City fans wonder what he was doing in green and gold. But he has hit just .200 over the last three weeks. Is this a slump or correction by pitchers or is this season going to look a lot like last year, when we saw a drop in average, home runs and runs batted in?

4. Andrew McCutchen hasn’t had a good week yet and has just two home runs and zero stolen bases. In spring training, we were told he had “lower body soreness” but in mid-April we finally heard McCutchen admit that it was his left knee that was bothering him. You can’t really sit McCutchen in an NL-only or deep mixed league until he isn’t playing, but you should have an outfielder on reserve.

Conversely, here are several players that weren’t rostered at the draft table (depending on league format and size) who are getting enough at-bats to make them relevant for now.

1. The aforementioned Kevin Pillar and now Ezequiel Carrera, who are getting at-bats with Dalton Pompey demoted and Michael Saunders missing time. I see Pillar continuing to get playing time with incredible defense supplementing his surprising bat, but when Jose Bautista is ready to play the outfield, Carrera will see fewer at-bats and may be sent down.

2. Kelly Johnson appeared to be just a bench player in Atlanta, but injuries and lack of production from some of his teammates gave him playing time in left field, and now with Chris Johnson on the DL, he is playing some third base. He will still not have a good batting average, but if he averages one home run each week (or better), I will be glad to have him in some lineups.

3. Luis Valbuena had double-digit home runs in each of the last two seasons and entered this year eligible at both 2B and 3B. Still, I didn’t put him on my draft lists until he won the third base job for Houston in spring training. You need to have a buffer for the AVG or OBP but Valbuena already has six home runs and double-digit runs and RBI, which is a great fill for a MI or CI slot.

4. Ryan Raburn has been getting enough at-bats each week (and hitting for a higher average than we should expect) due to Nick Swisher being on the DL and David Murphy underperforming. I worry about those at-bats disappearing with Swisher coming back, though both were in the Cleveland lineup on Tuesday night.

5. Ike Davis got an opportunity in Oakland and was great in the first three weeks. His average has slid in the last two weeks, but in AL-only or deep mixed leagues, he will still have value if the A's start to platoon him.

6. Mark Canha, a Rule-5 pick by Oakland, was one of my early draft targets. The 1B/OF, who was a Miami Marlin farmhand who hit .303/.384/.505 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI at Triple-A New Orleans last year, has hit well for the Athletics in the early going. I don’t think he will be the one who loses at-bats when Coco Crisp returns, but his playing time could suffer when Ben Zobrist comes off the DL.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 23:27
Plawecki & Russell Rostered - Who is Next? PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 00:00

Last week, I noted the arrival of two very highly regarded prospects to the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs and suggested you would have to pay a lot to roster either one.

So how did that turn out? Well, Kevin Plawecki, the lesser known of the two, was certainly available in more leagues, whether keeper or redraft. In fact, Plawecki was added in every single one of the 30 main event leagues in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. The average price to FAAB Plawecki? 85 dollars, with the highest winning bid being $228 while the lowest winning bid was $36. Certainly, catchers who can hit are hard to find and with injuries already depleting rosters, Plawecki was an appealing target.

Addison Russell, the second best NL hitting prospect and one of the top five overall prospects, was owned in most NL keeper leagues and in several redraft leagues as the NFBC results clearly show there were eight teams among the 450 participants who spent a reserve pick on Russell. Owners hoping that he would eventually get a call to Wrigley Field surely had no idea it would be this early in the season.

And if catchers are scarce, so are middle infielders as Russell was FAABed at an average cost of $293 in the 22 leagues where he was a free agent. The highest winning bid was quite a reach at $757 while the lowest winning bid was a bargain at $125.

Oddly enough, both the Cubs and Mets are teams with attractive free agents for the coming week as well. The Cubs called up left fielder Junior Lake and even if he is on the short side of a platoon with Chris Coghlan, Lake has more power and speed and could win the job outright as Coghlan was hitting only .226 in 53 April at-bats. True it is early in the week as I write this, but so far, Lake is the only new hitter called up who would attract a bid in mixed leagues.

However, another rash of pitching injuries is bringing several highly regarded prospects to the major leagues this week. One of the first was Mets RHP Rafael Montero who, was called up to give the Metropolitans an extra pitcher this week. However, if Montero pitches well, he could easily stick in a rotation that has been strong at the front end but not so good at the back end. (Editor's Note: The Mets optioned Montero to Triple-A Las Vegas following his Tuesday night start.)

With Max Scherzer pushed back due to his sore thumb, the Nationals chose not to use Tanner Roark, who was already on their roster. Instead, they brought up one of their best pitching prospects, RHP A.J. Cole. The 23-year-old, whose fastball sits in the low 90s, got roughed up by the Braves in his big league debut Tuesday night and will now likely head back to Triple-A Syracuse. If Scherzer is unable to go this weekend, Roark could get the call.

Homer Bailey of the Reds is on the DL and likely headed for season-ending surgery, prompting Cincinnati to recall prospect Michael Lorenzen. Also 23, Lorenzen was a centerfielder and closer at Cal State Fullerton who could throw in the high 90s but was short on the secondary pitches a starting pitcher would need. The Reds thought that Lorenzen could develop and be more valuable as a starting pitcher, and as of this writing, he is scheduled to start Wednesday in Great American Ball Park as the Reds host the Milwaukee Brewers. We will see how the audition goes, but clearly there is an opening in the Reds’ rotation.

The St. Louis Cardinals lost ace SP Adam Wainwright to a season-ending Achilles injury suffered as he left the batting box Sunday, and the club has chosen to promote Tim Cooney, a lefty with an easy motion, because their top pitching prospect, Marco Gonzales, is currently on the DL. Another audition that may or may not result in a FAAB candidate this weekend.

The Los Angeles Dodgers need to replace Brandon McCarthy, another starter facing season-ending surgery. But it doesn’t look at this point like they will promote a prospect. Instead, they will probably keep veteran Scott Baker in the rotation and perhaps recall Mike Bolsinger or Carlos Frias to fill in for the short term.

But there are several days left before your free agent target list needs to be finalized for this week. There may well be several more new targets.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 07:26
This Week's FAAB Dilemmas PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 00:00

It is very rare for top minor league prospects to be called up to the big leagues in April – even rarer since Kris Bryant arrived in Week 2 and this week both his Cubs prospect mate Addison Russell and one of the Mets’ top hitting prospects, catcher Kevin Plawecki, have arrived in Week 3.

In NL keeper leagues, of course, both Plawecki and Russell are likely owned, but players in redraft leagues or NL leagues without minor league prospects should see which of these players fit their needs this year best and then decide on how much they can afford to bid. And be sure the prices won’t be cheap.

Let’s take a look at them individually and see if I can translate what to expect both on the field and in the bidding.

Addison Russell arrived in Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija trade from Oakland. The 21-year-old shortstop from Pensacola, Florida was drafted out of high school as the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft. I saw him play briefly that summer with the Athletics rookie league team in Arizona and immediately moved him to the upper echelon of AL prospects.

In three minor league seasons, Russell has averaged .300 with double-digit home runs and stolen bases, although you have to know that he only had 217 at-bats in 2012 (the year he was drafted), and 258 at-bats in 2014, when hamstring problems cost him half the season. So perhaps the 2013 season, when Russell had 429 at-bats in 107 games at High-A Stockton, deserves more weight. Yes, it was in the hitter-friendly Cal league, but that year he scored 85 runs with 17 home runs, 21 stolen bases and 60 RBI while hitting .275 with an OBP of .377.

Behind those numbers is above average athleticism, very quick hands, and good power for his age. While I think he would be fine as a major league shortstop, there have been some questions about his range and arm, but he is very accurate, so I think he would have been fine. But he won’t be playing shortstop this year, as the Cubs had the foresight to have him play some second base at Triple-A Iowa. The injury to Tommy La Stella and the slow start by Arismendy Alcantara will see Russell deployed at second base for the Cubs this year and potentially longer depending on the development of Javier Baez and Alcantara, or the Cubs need to eventually trade Starlin Castro.

So while he would be even more valuable in OBP leagues, I think you will still get a good batting average with double-digit homers and steals. Unfortunately, that will translate to a FAAB price of greater than half of your league’s yearly allotment (whether that is $100 or $1000).

Kevin Plawecki is likely a lesser known commodity in your leagues, although the 6’2”, 225 lb., 24-year-old catcher is the New York Mets' best hitting prospect according to (third best according to Baseball America). Plawecki was also drafted in 2012 (the first supplemental pick) but out of Purdue University, hence the difference in age.

The one word I see used most to describe him as both a hitter and a catcher is "solid." He is a very good receiver and game caller behind the plate but does not have the great arm of some catchers or catching prospects. As a hitter, Plawecki has averaged .295 with eight home runs and almost 60 RBI in three years across five levels. In fact, his 2014 season split between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas was his best with the bat with a combined .309 average, 11 home runs and 64 RBI. His mature bat out of college has translated well as he has also averaged a .372 OBP in the three minor league years (thus my preemptive $3 grab Sunday night in the Tout Mixed Draft league).

The only thing we don’t know with Plawecki is how long Travis d'Arnaud will be out with the broken hand, and what will happen to him after that. In mixed keeper leagues, I would be less worried about that because there is always a trade possibility. Still, his short-term value is very high and I think his FAAB cost will be $100-200 for teams starved for production from their backstops, especially the d’Arnaud owners.

Note that both Russell (#2) and Plawecki (#47) were highly rated in my NL list for Mastersball’s 2015 Minor League Prospect lists.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 11:09
The 2015 Tout Wars Mixed League Draft PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Saturday, 14 March 2015 00:00

Last Tuesday evening, 15 baseball writers gathered online to draft their teams for the 2015 Mixed League Draft. Since I lost the 2014 title on the last day of the season to Roto Rob’s Tim McLeod (we were tied after Saturday and I lost points while Tim gained some so I lost by 2.5), Tim had the first pick of draft spots and chose 1.01 and thus Mike Trout.

Since this is a 5x5 league with on-base percentage replacing batting average, Todd has Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt and Giancarlo Stanton all ranked the same for projected earning, so I chose 1.03 so I would have a choice of either Goldschmidt and the remaining outfielder or of the two outfielders. If I chose #4, I would still get one of the three but I wouldn’t have a choice.

So after Brent Hershey of Baseball HQ chose McCutchen, I took the top first baseman Goldschmidt. Now the long wait until 2.13. Sadly, all of my primary targets were taken so I jumped on Houston’s second-year outfielder George Springer, who with OBP replacing BA, takes a huge jump in the rankings. That was the easy part. Now I was hoping that one of the remaining top shortstops – Ian Desmond or Jose Reyes, or Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre would make it around the turn. No such luck – all three along with SP David Price were gobbled up by Brent and Tim. Could I have reversed the picks? Who really knows, but Springer is projected to earn ten dollars more than any of those players and I wanted maximum stats from my first three hitters. At 3.03, the best hitter available was Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, and while I might not do it in BA leagues, his projected OBP of .382 with 25 home runs was enough to put him on my team. Yes, with the hopes I would squeeze first basemen for my competitors.

My plan for the 4/5 turn was to take the best starting pitcher available and perhaps one of the best remaining outfielders or Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon. Gordon went earlier in round 4, so I took Jordan Zimmermann at 4.13 and waited to see if Yoenis Cespedes or Kole Calhoun would be there in round 5. Well, along with Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke, they were drafted in front of me so I decided to jump rankings again because Matt Harvey was not making it back to 6.13.

So that was the base of my draft but you don’t want to hear every decision, so here is my team, along with the draft spots.

C – John Jaso (11.03) and Chris Iannetta (15.03) – Perhaps not the power from other backstops but both with very good OBP which would allow me to have enough ballast to draft some riskier picks in later rounds.

CI – Goldschmidt (1.03), Matt Carpenter (9.03) and Freeman (3.03) - Lots more OBP help.

MI – Marcus Semien (8.13), Ben Zobrist (6.13) and Brandon Phillips (23.03)

OF – Springer (2.13), Mookie Betts (7.03), Leonys Martin (13.03), Michael Saunders (17.03) and Anthony Gose (20.13)

UT – Adam Lind (21.03)

Reserves – Luis Valbuena (24.13), Jose Peraza (25.03) and Norichika Aoki (26.13)

SP – Zimmermann (4.13), Harvey (5.03), Tyson Ross (10.13), John Lackey (19.03), Jarred Cosart (22.13)

P – Aaron Sanchez (14.13) - I like him whether he is starting or closing in Toronto.

RP – Fernando Rodney (12.13), Tyler Clippard (16.13) and LaTroy Hawkins (18.13)

Reserves – Luis Severino (27.03), Alex Colome (28.13) and Joe Kelly (29.03)

I like the versatility with Zobrist eligible at 2B/SS/OF, Semien at 2B/3B and will add SS, and Luis Valbuena at 2B/3B. That will allow several different lineups. Peraza, when he arrives in Atlanta, will provide a lot of stolen bases and if I don’t need them, allow me to trade for something I might need.

On the pitching staff, I like the strong NL lean of the starters and perhaps having extra saves to trade at some point.

Yes, as you can tell from my comments above, it is a trading league. It is also a league with unlimited DL slots and the ability to DL an active player and replace with a reserve during the week if necessary.

I will post some updates throughout the season but I'm always glad to answer questions here or in the MB Forums.

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 March 2015 11:39
LABR's 2015 American League Auction PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Thursday, 12 March 2015 12:37

On Saturday night, after scoring the Mariners 11-7 win over the White Sox, I drove downtown to participate in the LABR AL auction against 11 other stalwart writers. The full results are not publishable until USA Today’s Leviathan issue hits the newsstands in two weeks, but I can share my team and observations for those of you getting ready for AL redraft leagues.

As I put together my draft plan on Friday, I wanted to take advantage of two known elements of this industry auction league – early overspending and late bargains in the end game. One way to do that would be to stay out of the early battles, saving enough auction dollars to win the midgame battles. BUT there is one pitfall to that strategy that you should watch for very early – someone else, or even worse, two other competitors trying the same approach. That will lead to some very tough bidding wars over players who don’t deserve them.

So as the bidding started, I watched it go to 60 dollars overbid before it stalled and then went back up to over 90 dollars above projected values. And that is not just my opinion. Lenny Melnick of, who was one of the commentators on the Sirius/XM broadcast of the auction, pointed out the same thing. But while most of the early nominations were drawing those high bids, I noted with curiosity that Rotowire’s Chris Liss was not winning any battles, strange since he is usually a Stars and Scrubs bidder. In the early going, I wanted to get players at or slightly below their projected value only if I though they have a good shot to earn more.

Always on the lookout for a bargain, I still wanted a solid core of hitters, so early on I rostered Hanley Ramirez at $30 because shortstop is thin and if you pass on a chance in an AL league to get Ramirez or Jose Reyes, then you may have to fight for one you want or settle for a lot less production late in the auction. Then I got Houston catcher Evan Gattis for $24 – again willing to go a little higher for the home runs at that position. In my opinion, there are just three top hitting AL catchers and Gattis came up before Salvador Perez or Yan Gomes.

We had a couple of rounds in now and the only player Chris Liss had rostered was David Ortiz. There were others with money but they were actively bidding. Ominous sign (well maybe he had heard my Saturday morning interview with Fantistics on Sirius/XM where I had said he was a hot bidder).

So I got back in before the two teams with more money got active and bought Tigers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler for $21. That turned out to be a magic number for me as I added new Seattle fly chaser and power hitter Nelson Cruz for that price (a little under where I thought he should go) and then Yan Gomes for the same price (a dollar or two high but it gave me two outstanding backstops for a two-catcher AL-only league). I pulled back at that point, waiting for prices to go down a little, hoping for bargains but trying to get a few more players before I waited for the end game. At the pizza break, Liss had only two players and $216 left to spend and I doubted he would find enough to overpay on but he would have the hammer until the end game.

So here is my roster, with prices:

C – Gattis (24) and Gomes (21)

CI – James Loney (8), David Freese (6) and Luis Valbuena (4)

MI – Kinsler (21), H. Ramirez (30) and Josh Rutledge (4)

OF – Cruz (21), Danny Santana (16), Dalton Pompey (11), Kevin Kiermaier (7) and Jake Marisnick (2)

UT – Justin Smoak (2)

Reserve Draft – Mark Canha, Ryan Ludwick and Billy Burns

SP – Masahiro Tanaka (15), Anibal Sanchez (14), Danny Duffy (7), Joe Kelly (3), Alex Colome (2), 

       Jarrod Parker (1)

P – Aaron Sanchez (8) Will he be SP or RP? Either way, he will be worth more.

RP – Dellin Betances (19) and Zach Britton (14)

Reserve Draft – Nathan Karns, Luis Severino and Martin Perez (DL)

An important note about reserves in LABR – they can be activated and reserved during each lineup period whereas players bought in the auction can NOT be reserved – they can be put on the DL but otherwise must be dropped if you can’t stand them active any longer. Also, LABR like TOUT has unlimited DL slots, so in Week 1, I can DL Parker and replace him and then if Colome loses the last spot in the Tampa rotation, I can reserve him and either get a new pitcher via FAAB or if Karns wins the spot, activate him. The same is true should Josh Rutledge not win the second base job in Anaheim – I could either reserve him if sent to the Minors or waive him and move Santana to MI and activate Canha.

Always glad to answer questions here or on in the MB Forums but I can’t reveal other prices until they are published in USA Today.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 March 2015 00:15
More Auction Pricing & Trends PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 04 March 2015 00:00

I participated in another NFBC 15-team, mixed, 5x5 auction league last week and while some of my purchases will be of interest, I think after several early auctions we can clearly see certain trends and pitfalls for you to put into your study notes.

As always, there is a lot of overspending in the early rounds of the auction. This was a private NFBC auction with 13 NFBC players competing with head honcho Greg Ambrosius and his first officer Tom Kessenich. A small money league with a lot of bragging rights on the line. (Listed as FEB 26 7:45 PM EST Auction w/FAAB, w/Greg & Tom if you want to read about it on the NFBC message boards.) So let’s take a look at the first two rounds of nominations and some of my brief comments.

Round One


M. Trout


Great player but a net loss


C. Kershaw


Usually goes low 40s


B. Hamilton


A few dollars less than projected value


A. Jones


Right on the mark


M. Fiers


Early attempt to steal failed


J. Bautista


Good buy – just a few dollars over


H. Bailey


A bet he regains health early


J. Altuve


Don’t pay for 2014 stats


P. Goldschmidt


Would like to get for a few pennies less


J. Reyes


Should be slight profit here


S. Strasburg


A tad expensive but could be worth it


A. McCutchen


You don’t want to go over $40


F. Hernandez


Reasonable but I don’t spend over $30 for P


G. Stanton


Ten dollars over projected value


A. Rendon


High 20s at most, 2B pool is deep

Round Two


J. Abreu


Highest I have seen on Abreu


T. Tulowitzki


Too much for part-time player


C. Kluber


We all love Kluber but he can’t earn that much


C. Sale


Good price if he is your guy (well before the injury)


J. Arrieta


A tad high unless he can take another step


Y. Puig


The potential is there but I wouldn’t pay that much


M. Cabrera


Only works IF he is healthy on opening day


M. Bumgarner


Just a few dollars over


A. Beltre


Only two top third basemen but lots below


Y. Darvish


This is a silly price for Yu and You


T. Frazier


Another over ten dollars over projected


C. Gomez


Another magical year? I will take the under


A. Rizzo


Price keeps climbing – will his HR?


J. Donaldson


Love Donaldson in Rogers Centre but high


R. Cano


Finally a decent price for Robbie

I bid on more than half those players but wouldn’t pay those prices. IF you can conserve your money, you will still have lots of good players to buy AND make a profit on most of them.

That doesn’t mean I won’t spend the extra dollar or two when there is a player I really need, as you will see, but staying at $30 or less is a better way to build a roster – you want all your hitters to have starting jobs so you can have more at-bats thus more counting stats than your competitors.

So here is my team:

C – Jonathan Lucroy (20), Salvador Perez (15)

CI – Adam LaRoche (12), Matt Carpenter (13), Adam Lind (2)

MI – Dee Gordon (26), Ian Desmond (27), Chris Owings (2)

OF – Yoenis Cespedes (23), Kole Calhoun (19), Austin Jackson (3), Dexter Fowler (2), Josh Reddick (4)

UT – Everth Cabrera (2)

SP – Sonny Gray (19), Tyson Ross (17), Doug Fister (9), Chris Archer (8), Jered Weaver (5), John Lackey (3)

RP – Mark Melancon (17), Koji Uehara (11), Tyler Clippard (2)

If you haven’t taken a good look at our position value sheet or the Tiers sheets, I suggest you do to see which positions are really lean and where you have more options. There are plenty of good catchers to roster this year. In my opinion, the problem position is shortstop, where the top end is just four deep with Hanley Ramirez and Ian Desmond at the top closely followed by Troy DL Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes. If you don’t want to bid what it takes to get one of those, you better find a few alternatives that you like and hope you aren’t in a bidding war for them. Almost all middle infielders this year will come from the healthier 2B pool.

Another thing to keep in mind when you make your draft plan is that the real bargains come in the end game when there are plenty of nice players at just TWO positions – outfielders and starting pitchers. (Yes, there are some nice setup relievers but you want to add those in reserve – i.e. free rounds or via FAAB, not in the auction.)

Look at my last two outfielders – Jackson is projected to earn $10 and I got him for $3 while Reddick is projected to earn $9 but only cost $4 (and he was my last player so I went all in to make sure there weren’t other bids). Similarly, Weaver will earn double digits, so a nice profit at $5, and Lackey could get there but certainly a small profit at $3 even if he doesn’t.

Platinum readers will soon be able to see my 2015 auction plan.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2015 01:29
Building Profit into Your Auction Roster PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 00:00

Fantasy baseball auctions are FUN for lots of reasons. First, if there is a player you covet, you know you can have him on your team.

That isn’t great strategy, at least for the top players, BUT you want to have a team YOU want to root for, so especially in leagues where you want to have more fun, it is possible if you have great self-control. I am sure you have read about several different auction strategies, and I am not trying to deflate any of them, but no matter how you construct your roster, you should be looking to build profit into your selections.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have Mike Trout on your team, but if you pay $50 for him and he earns our currently projected $45 (12-team mixed), then you have your first loss. If you can sit on your bidding hand or mouse until later in the auction, you can still add a lot of profit to go with Trout.

Personally, I try and enter every auction not married to any specific player and looking for “value” when I can find it. Normally, I won’t spend more than low thirties for my best hitter or pitcher, trying to spread dollars across most positions in the beginning and middle of the auction, knowing that there will be great bargains, especially on outfielders and pitchers in the end game.

Let’s see how that worked in a mock auction draft that was put together by Rotoworld’s Seth Trachtman a few weeks ago that I participated in along with Lawr and Pasko. As you know, I am not a big fan of mock drafts, but with a very good cast of writers and analysts, I thought this would have some value, especially when I might face some of them in later LABR or NFBC auctions this spring. Because of some problems with the first site where we gathered, there were some minor problems with early prices but nothing that would seriously disrupt the validity of the total pricing.

I bought just a few players in the early stage of this auction – Carlos Gomez for $33, Jonathan Lucroy for $20 (pre hamstring issues), Ian Kinsler $21,  Todd Frazier $13, Wilin Rosario $12, Mike Morse $5 and just one pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka for $9.  So going into the middle of the auction, I had the most money left to spend with $147 and needed 16 more players. And I waited, looking to find players that would contribute to my team that were undervalued by my competitors or that they no longer had money to buy. That started slowly and then I was on a buying spree until I was back in the middle of the available funds and then I waited for the end game and specific players to fill the positions I had left, making lists for each.

Here is the final roster with prices paid and projected earnings.

Pos   Player Cost Proj
C1 - Jonathan Lucroy 20 29
C2 - Wilin Rosario 12 21
1B - Adam LaRoche 8 16
3B - Todd Frazier 13 17
CI - Evan Longoria 13 19
2B - Ian Kinsler 21 21
SS - Jimmy Rollins 9 13
MI - Daniel Murphy 8 17
OF1 - Carlos Gomez 33 35
OF2 - Mike Morse 5 7
OF3 - Matt Holliday 15 19
OF4 - Danny Santana 6 14
OF5 - Steven Souza 7 14
UT - Adam Lind 1 11
TOTAL 171 253

Some nice position flexibility there with Morse also 1B eligible and Santana SS eligible, and Lind 1B eligible.

SP - Masahiro Tanaka 9 11
SP - Julio Teheran 17 17
SP - Sonny Gray 13 17
SP - Tyson Ross 8 14
SP - Gio Gonzalez 9 8
SP - Jered Weaver 6 11
SP - Mike Fiers 3 5
CL - Kenley Jansen 15 16
CL - Dellin Betances 9 14
TOTAL 89 113

With two high strikeout closers in Jansen and Betances, it boosts the staff with some starters projected for lower strikeout totals (although none of those are really low).

So how did this do on my flexible 170/90 budget?

Despite moving some funds back and forth in the end game, I finished at 171/89.

The nine pitchers bought for $89 have projected earnings of $113.

The hitters bought for $171 have projected earnings of $253 (although Lucroy may take a small hit depending on how many games he misses and we still don’t know what Colorado is going to do with three catchers, so I expect Rosario to earn less (both if he stays a Rockie or if he is traded).

But as you see, while none of those are ridiculously low buys (Lind is always devalued and if brought up late, LaRoche is underpriced), most every player looks like he will add some profit and paying $260 for $364 of stats will win you a lot of leagues. In case you are wondering about those stats, here are the projected category totals:

HR - 262
RBI - 1009
Runs - 1089
SB - 177
BA - 0.272
Wins - 94
SV - 78
ERA - 3.236
WHIP - 1.151
K - 1386

And that is with an early (low) projection on Fiers for innings pitched. But all the categories are in line with the top 20 percent totals from the 2014 NFBC Rotowire Online Championship (12 team).

And auctions always have different ebbs and flows but are still always FUN.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 15:26
Adding Auction Format Heightens Early NFBC Leagues PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 00:00

The National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) has had quite a bit of success in running Draft Champion (DC) leagues in January and February as fantasy baseball players get ready for the high stakes leagues that will draft in March.

In addition to gaining a much better knowledge of the current player pool, one of the main attractions of these leagues has been the low maintenance level as the DC leagues draft 50-man rosters to use the whole season and there are no free agents added during the year, which saves a lot of time for those who are doing that weekly for their main event, online championship, and/or specialty higher stakes league every Sunday.

The DC leagues are also available at a variety of price ranges – starting at $150 and going up to $250, $400, $500, and even some $1,000 leagues. In most of these leagues, there is both a league payout for the top three teams but a very large combined prize pool with some of the entry fee for all DC leagues furnishing the $25,000 prize to the overall champion and paying out the top 22 finishers.

So while these 50-round drafts have been very popular and still growing – there were 164 DC leagues last year and NFBC is ahead of that pace now with 84 full leagues - there are two things creating the demand for the new auction format. First, of course, you actually have more control in your initial 23-man roster – you could pay for both Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw if you were so inclined or any other combination you wanted to have as your team’s cornerstones. The second thing is that many of the NFBC drafters have not done auction drafts, only the serpentine drafts that the NFBC’s main event or online championship use. There were no auction leagues in the DC format last year and there have already been ten full ones with more to be added, so they may finish with 16-20 and should do far more next year when their online auction platform is ready. So this is a great opportunity for many to learn the auction format. For some, it may be ground work for their plans for the NFBC Auction Championship event that will be held in Las Vegas and New York in late March. This separate event with a $1,200 entry will pay $10,500 in league prizes but all teams in the 12-plus leagues will also compete for a $20,000 overall prize.

I participated in one of the $125 auction leagues on January 23 and thought I would share my roster from the $260 auction as well as my reserve selections drafted online later. In trying to keep this description at an easily readable length, I will give my starting 23-man roster with the auction prices (in parenthesis), and then a few notes about my reserves and then the final roster by position.

At the auction, I bought these starters:

C – Evan Gattis (20) and Devin Mesoraco (17)

CI – Eric Hosmer (10), Josh Donaldson (31), and Adrian Beltre (24)

MI – Ian Kinsler (21), Danny Santana (14), and Ben Zobrist (12)

OF – Kole Calhoun (16), Adam Eaton (5), Dalton Pompey (4), Coco Crisp (2), and Rajai Davis (2)

UT – Adam Lind (1)

SP – Max Scherzer (32), Doug Fister (10), Lance Lynn (8), Jose Quintana (5), Henderson Alvarez (2), Taijuan Walker (2), and Jarred Cosart (1)

RP – Mark Melancon (19) and LaTroy Hawkins (2)

This turned out to be a 179/81 hitting vs pitching split. The offense is very strong – numbers that would have been in the top ten of all teams in the 2014 event. The pitching has in my opinion a strong base but the projected numbers for just those nine would have been good enough to win a single league but would need to be very strongly supplemented for the team to have good enough category totals to contend for the overall championship.

Going into the reserve rounds, I wanted to get a third starting catcher and to supplement my pitching with several starters and hopefully another closer and/or some relief pitchers who might accumulate some saves. In the first round, I took Francisco Cervelli (in my opinion, you must have at least a couple extra catchers to survive a long season where backstops get nicked up – I usually prefer four if not five). With the next several picks, I worked on pitching, adding Joe Kelly and Vance Worley followed by Houston’s Chad Qualls, who figures to break camp as the closer (I will worry later about how long he holds the role). My fifth and sixth picks were Alexi Amarista, who not only qualifies at 2B, 3B and SS but also looks to be the Padres starting shortstop, and outfielder Matt Joyce, now of the Angels, who should get a large number of the DH at-bats in Anaheim at least against right-handed pitching.

Okay, here is the full roster by position with players who have multiple eligibility shown at the position they were drafted to play (but also in parenthesis at the other positions where I might deploy them). I thought this would give a better view of the overall depth of the hitters since I drafted more pitchers.

C – Gattis, Mesoraco, Cervelli, and Caleb Joseph

1B – Hosmer, (Lind), A. Rosales, (M. Canha)

3B – Donaldson, Beltre, (Amarista)

2B – Kinsler, Zobrist, (Amarista), Carlos Sanchez

SS – D. Santana, Amarista, (Zobrist)

OF – Calhoun, Eaton, Pompey, Crisp, R. Davis, Joyce, Jake Smolinski, Ryan Rua, Mark Canha, and Andrew Lambo

SP – Scherzer, Fister, Lynn, Quintana, Alvarez, Walker, Cosart, Kelly, Worley, Miguel Gonzalez,

Mike Foltynewicz, Tyler Glasnow, Martin Perez, Eddie Butler, C.J. Edwards, and Robbie Ray

RP – Melancon, Hawkins, Qualls, Tony Watson, Bruce Rondon, Darren O’Day, Dan Otero, Eric O’Flaherty, Shea Simmons, and Dale Thayer

That is probably more relief pitchers than Todd would like, but the number of injuries was devastating last year in MLB and more so in this format. In addition, all have some shot at adding at least a few saves. Simmons is a particularly nice sleeper for this in case the Braves do in fact trade Craig Kimbrel during the year as part of their rebuilding process.

As usual, I'm glad to answer questions here or in the Forums (where several other teams are listed).

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 02:06
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