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Thursday 19th Oct 2017

While top minor league prospects are the Coin of the Realm in AL-only or NL-only keeper leagues, it is still hard to trade away a player you were looking forward to seeing perform well in the show and for your team.

But there are many times when players in keeper leagues have to do just that. Obviously, getting a very productive major league player, often one whose contract ends that season, for a pennant drive is the main reason you would trade away one of the top prospects in the game.

But my Hook, Line, & Sinker NL team found another one last week. I entered this year’s auction with some good pitching (Hyun-jin Ryu, Jeff Samardzija, Wade Miley, Jason Grilli and Rafael Soriano) and a few well-priced hitters (Starling Marte, Matt Carpenter, Jean Segura, Chris Denorfia and Gerardo Parra). Not a great keeper list but one that I thought would be okay if I could add enough good hitters.

My most expensive player at the auction was 1B/OF Mark Trumbo at $39, who I thought could approach 40 home runs playing his home games at Chase Field in Phoenix. I also added Martin Prado, Scooter Gennett, Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano on offense and was very happy to get three potentially very useful pitchers at great prices – Josh Beckett for $3, Jose Valverde also for $3 and Braves starting pitcher David Hale for $2.

And the collection got off to a reasonable start, giving me hope that if Pirates prospect Gregory Polanco, who I have had on my “Farm” team for several years, was promoted sometime in May, this team would cash. That hope ended when I lost Trumbo, Ruggiano and Grilli all in the same week. Ruggiano hadn’t been producing, often sitting on my bench, and I could get along without Grilli for a short time. But losing Trumbo for at least six weeks would really cripple my offense.

If he was back that early and if Polanco arrived early, would I be able to catch up? It looked like it would be my only option until a trade developed that made me stop and re-evaluate. I could trade Polanco and some other parts to the league’s rebuilding team but could I get enough to contend? And did I want to give up on Polanco, currently the best hitting prospect in the minor leagues and a projected five-category performer?

The other team made a very good offer and with the AL counterpart to Polanco, Houston’s George Springer, struggling mightily, I decided to say good bye to my best NL farm player and hope Trumbo would get back to help my team to a finish in the money.

The other factor in this trade would be getting Giants’ catcher Buster Posey on a very reasonable 20C16 contract – so I wouldn’t have Polanco for many years but I would have Posey for several years.

The full trade was Mike Olt 14D14, Zach Walters 10F14, Brayan Pena 2D14 and Polanco for Posey 20C16, Jay Bruce 31D14 and Chase Utley 19D14. It certainly added some needed offense. Whether it will be enough will likely depend on Trumbo. I felt it was worth the shot.

Good Bye Gregory. You can keep the HLS Jersey I had set aside for you.

I am fairly sure that in your leagues as in mine there were very high prices paid for Joe Smith, who would be assuming the closer’s role for Mike Scioscia’s Angels. Those prices were too high, in my opinion.

The main reason Scioscia made the change was the April struggles of opening day closer Ernesto Frieri, who saved two games and blew two saves with an ERA of 7.27 and a 1.59 WHIP.

But let’s look at Frieri over the last two years and his closing success. In 2012, Frieri converted 23 of 26 save opportunities. Last year, he converted 37 of 41 save opportunities but I will bet your recollection of last year’s stats is that he didn’t pitch that well. But that would only be partially true. Yes, he had a 3.80 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP and blew four saves, and yes, he was replaced as the closer for awhile. But again, he blew only four save opportunities and struck out 12.8 batters per 9 IP.

So let’s take a closer look at Frieri in 2013. He had a good April (2.53 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 3 SV, 1 L) followed by a poorer May (4.15 ERA, 1.38 WHIP but still saved nine games). He then had a good June (2.77 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and another nine saves) followed by a terrible July (8.64 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 4 SV, 2 L). After being replaced as the closer, he returned to the role in August (3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 4 SV, 1 L) and then enjoyed a great September (2.84 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 8 SV).

And his strikeout rate was actually its highest in July at 15.1, so maybe he was just trying too hard to throw the ball by hitters when he was struggling.

All of that plus Scioscia’s fondness for his regular players suggests that Frieri, who has had two good appearances since being removed this year, will get a chance to close again for the Angels.

Remember that Joe Smith, who has been a good setup reliever, has been striking out batters at only 7+ batters per nine innings pitched over the last two seasons, and his 9.0 this year is higher than any season since he was a rookie in 2007.

So yes, I think Frieri will be closing again and relatively soon, so don’t give up on him. In fact, watch to see if someone panics and drops him or is willing to throw him into a trade.

I make notes each week of the season about players who might be worth an add in various leagues and of course for my injured players. But, we should also look back a little to see if there are any nuggets in free agent drops and player usage.

I find it amusing that with all the teams looking for saves and dealing with closers who are having more injury days off this year than in previous years, that at the same time there are so many “yesterday closers” or “closers in waiting” that get dropped.

In the Tout mixed draft league (whose FAAB results you can see in all leagues like all LABR leagues each Monday) drops this week were Jose Valverde, Edward Mujica and Josh Fields.

And, while some add/drops in that league are a function of the league rules, those drops were duplicated in my 12-team Rotowire Online Championship league, as both Valverde and Mujica as well as Alexi Ogando were dropped on Sunday.

In several of those leagues, there are good pickups made, but in reality they are a week behind AL or NL keeper leagues. Certainly, the depth in mono leagues is a good reason for that, but there are some players whose role should have suggested the earlier pickup. My favorite pickup on Sunday, April 13 was Kevin Kouzmanoff, who was activated by the Texas Rangers when they placed Adrian Beltre on the DL. Kouzmanoff, who hadn’t been fantasy or major league relevant since 2011, did have a great spring for Texas but there really wasn’t a spot for him on the opening day roster. But, given he would play almost every day last week and most of this week at third base for the Rangers, he was a great, relatively cheap pickup last week.

Many mixed leaguers with a soft CI or UTIL spot made the addition this week, so at least they will get four-plus days of Kouzmanoff in the Rangers' lineup (assuming Beltre is activated when eligible on Friday). But I think those who needed the bat and eschewed the pickup this week with Beltre coming back were shortsighted for the second week in a row. Kouz hit so well last week and on Monday that it seems to me highly likely the Rangers will keep him up so they can spell Beltre a few days and let him DH or when Beltre is at third base, Kouzmanoff would be a great platoon partner for Mitch Moreland at DH.

One drop that I saw in several mixed leagues confused me. Alberto Callaspo entered the season with both 2B and 3B eligibility. True, he was not a “starter” for Oakland at either position, but the A's do have a propensity to get at-bats for their bench players, and Callaspo’s value on a platoon-oriented team is enhanced by his ability to hit from both sides of the plate. If you think those points are exaggerated, then look at the fact that as of Monday he has had 60 at-bats and played in 14 of Oakland’s 18 games, hitting .300 with two home runs and ten RBI. That would rank him 18th as a mixed league second baseman and 15th as a mixed league third baseman (to say nothing of filling MI and CI spots). Sexy? No. But very effective and very undervalued.


While George Springer is owned as a minor leaguer in most AL keeper leagues, some AL redraft leagues and lots of mixed leagues will have a chance to bid this week on a potential 30-30 hitter.

In case you aren’t familiar, the Houston outfielder played last year at Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City and totaled 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases. Okay, he won’t hit that many in the American League and his .303 batting average last year is likely going to take a severe hit against major league pitching, where he will miss a lot of balls. But he is being called up in April, not missing all of April and most of May as do many top minor league prospects who are held back for financial reasons. I still think if he adjusts well (no one can predict the mental adjustments no matter how good the tools), a 30-30 season would be in reach. The 24-year-old right-handed batter does play his home games in a favorable park and gets to visit both Arlington and Anaheim, which treat right-handed hitters well.

So how much will it take to roster Springer this weekend?

Obviously, league factors differ, but what was the winning bid in your league on Mike Trout a few years ago? Really, the numbers aside from the BA are comparable at least in HR/RBI/SB – Springer doesn’t figure to score as many runs as the Angel phenom.

I suspect that in the NFBC format in leagues where he wasn’t rostered on draft day (and in some of those he has already been dropped with all the injuries forcing owners to make tough decisions), it will take a minimum of 500 FAAB units to have a good chance to land Springer.

I won’t be able to bid on him there – in the 15-team main event, one of my opponents drafted Springer in the 17th round (where Greg Morgan and I drafted Dan Straily – but we did draft Javier Baez in the next round) while in the 12-team Rotowire Online Championship, my partner and I drafted him in the 27th round.

But he will be in my lineup on Friday – I hope you have him on a team already or get a chance to add him this weekend – he will be fun to watch.

As always, the early season reminder for your fantasy teams is PATIENCE.

Your star outfielder is not going to hit .200 all year and your ace starter will get some wins and your second SP will come off the DL. Too often we see people panic and make drops, or even worse, trades that will haunt them the rest of the season.

The trades are worse because not only are you trading low but you are potentially strengthening your opponent at the same time. That is not relevant in NFBC leagues but the poor drops are. In my AL keeper league of almost 30 years, I put in a rule several years ago after one impatient owner thought his draft had been terrible and traded most of his expensive players for cheap contracts, prospects and first-round draft picks for the following season. The problem, aside from virtually being out of play for the rest of the season, is that as drafted his team would have finished in the money. Give peace and your players a chance.

At least the ones you can’t replace easily. For the first few weeks in almost any league, there are lots of good choices and there is no particular reason if you drafted a player who was or is a mistake to not get a better player from the free agent pile ASAP.

Personally, I would not drop any of the short-term DL players in any format – Aroldis Chapman, Doug Fister, Hisashi Iwakuma, David Robertson, Wilson Ramos and likely Mark Teixeira will come back and contribute to your team later. But unless you have DL slots in your league, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Patrick Corbin, Miguel Sano, Jarrod Parker and Jameson Taillon should all be dropped – they won’t be back this year. In keeper leagues, hopefully you have the DL slot or enough roster space to keep them for the future, but if not and you can contend this year, remember that is always Job 1.

Depending on when you drafted or how deep your league is, here are a few slightly under the radar players I would look to add this weekend:

Jason Kubel, OF, MIN – With Chris Colabello (likely already picked up but if not put at the top of the list) for now entrenched in the DH slot, Kubel will have to fight for at-bats in left field, but they can’t keep his bat on the bench.

Conor Gillaspie, 3B, CWS – Gillaspie, not Matt Davidson, won the third base job for Robin Ventura’s club and is an underrated hitter.

Jesus Guzman, 1B/OF, HOU – Guzman doesn’t have a clear position but they have to find at-bats for a good hitter with some pop in his bat (two home runs in the first week).

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, NYY – Yes I know he was poor last year – flip the calendar already, he is hitting over .400 and will get some steals, and in case you didn’t remember, the rest of the Yankees' outfielders are on the all-brittle team.

Aaron Harang, SP, ATL – For now at least, behind a good Braves team, Harang is a decent spot play (not as good as his first game this year but not as bad as you remember). Next week he has a start at the Mets on Tuesday.

Edinson Volquez, SP, PIT – On my personal scary list but had a very good first start and is home Monday against Milwaukee and it could be a two-start week.

If you are truly desperate for saves, Shawn Kelley may get a few more (but not a lot) before David Robertson comes back in two weeks. And while Jonathan Broxton is due back in Cincinnati this week, Manny Parra might still get a few matchup or two-inning saves for the Reds.

Again, while you need to be diligent on free agents, be patient with some of your players who will come around – Please.

Last Friday, I did my last DC (Draft Challenge) in the NFBC. This Mastersball entry, as my non playing co-pilot is Lord Zola, was an express draft – all 50 rounds done in one sitting.

Sadly, this one lasted five and a half hours as we had some drafters apparently new to the system and perhaps the concept. But, the field did include former NFBC Champion Terry Haney, who managed on several occasions to nab the player who was at the top of my short list for that round's pick. But that is the nature of a snake draft and you must push past the irritation and get a good team. So here is the beginning of my draft by rounds with thoughts still stuck in my head and then the roster by position for your analysis.

I was drafting out of the 10 hole – not what you want but as they say, "When they give you lemons, make great lemonade."

1.10 - Adam Jones – A very safe 100/30/100 hitter with some steals and a good BA

2.06 - Yasiel Puig – With all of my clear targets gone, I felt it was Go Big or Go Home time

3.10 - Mark Trumbo – I had a list of the Tier 2/3 SP (Kershaw being Tier 1 and promoting Jose Fernandez from Todd’s fourth tier) and with only Kershaw, Darvish, Scherzer and Strasburg drafted in the first two rounds, I felt I would bet that one of the remaining eight pitchers in my queue would fall to me in the 4th round and preferred that bet to the fact that one drafter behind me might take Trumbo’s power (most left in draft) with one of their two picks. Didn’t happen, so…

4.06 – Craig Kimbrel – So I switched gears to take the best closer off the board and get the strikeout boost which would promote one of my pitchers up a tier.

5.10 – Anibal Sanchez – Happy to get one of the Tier 4 pitchers there

6.06 – Jose Altuve – I was actually looking for Everth Cabrera here but he went at 5.15, so taking the best MI option available

7.10 – Kyle Seager – In this round, I was nipped on Prado and Cain, so I took the best 3B available

8.06 – Doug Fister – Not sure why he fell but glad to have him as my second starter (also Tier 4)

9.10 – Jason Castro – I was looking for Frieri or Jennings but they went right before my pick, so I took the best catcher with the top-11 already gone

10.06 – Alexei Ramirez – After my Castro pick, I thought about getting my second closer or Danny Salazar, but he and Frieri and Grilli disappeared so I addressed two key needs at SS and speed

11.10 – Jered Weaver – Happy to take quite a discount on a very good pitcher (another Tier 4) and again, add Kimbrel’s extra strikeouts and see how much more attractive Weaver would be

12.06 – Jim Henderson – The closer pool was thinning far too fast but Henderson should be fine and I can add K-Rod cheaply

13.10 – Russell Martin – Before things got really ugly at the position, I chose Martin over Miguel Montero

14.06 – Jose Veras – I took Veras over Nate Jones for my third closer and it’s really hard to find saves at this point in the draft (only Hawkins/Brothers and Feliz/Soria were left)

15.10 – Avisail Garcia – Three players I had queued went in this round (Reddick, Estrada and Ventura the pick in front of me) but glad to add my third outfielder, who I think will have a big year

16.06 – Drew Smyly – This one not only for Todd but to solidify my core starting pitchers (on picks 5-8-11-16) Not sure anyone has four better here (but will check later)

17.10 – A.J. Pollock – Having lost some of my favorite double-digit HR/SB contributors, I reached for Pollock here but check the results in September

18.06 – Adam LaRoche – My third CI and some needed home runs

19.10 – Dee Gordon – IF in fact he platoons at 2B for the Dodgers, he will add a LOT of needed stolen bases and for now is my third MI

20.06 – Chris Owings – Okay, not for long as it looks like Owings has won the job in Arizona and will be a very productive hitter (and I can pick the one that does the best Down Under)

21.10 – Chris Iannetta – Wanting a third starting catcher (and hoping to pair with Conger later)

22.06 – Nathan Eovaldi – A nice NL pitcher who I think will break out for my fifth SP

23.10 – Drew Stubbs – Reports are that Stubbs has won the centerfield job for the Rockies and will lead off at least part of the time

24.06 – Garrett Jones – A two position player for roster flexibility and some added power

25.10 – D.J. Lemahieu – My second 2B and more speed

26.06 – Josh Fields – If named the closer, I will have four (at least to start the year) and some won’t have two – may not be needed to win this particular league but I want to win the overall money too

27.10 – Conor Gillaspie – Has won the third base job and gives me my second 3B plus more lineup options

28.06 – Tanner Scheppers – This may be a great two way pick as Scheppers (who has great stuff) is now in the Rangers rotation when he was thought to be in the mix with Feliz and Soria – maybe he will return there

29.10 – J.B. Shuck – A very good fourth OF for the Angels and very playable when Hamilton is on vacation

30.06 – Zach Lee – May have won the fifth spot in the rotation but if not just a call away when Maholm doesn’t work or Beckett is re-injured

31.10 – Robbie Ross – In case he wins the fifth spot for Texas

32.06 – Alex Colome – Ditto for Tampa

33.10 – Josh Collmenter – Spot starts or relief roles a valuable arm

34.06 – Eric Stults – The Padres fifth starter in a good park

35.10 – Bruce Chen – Very good spot starter, especially if the Royals are really good

36.06 – Aaron Sanchez – Tremendous prospect who has just won a Toronto rotation spot

37.10 – Chris Capuano – Would be very valuable if he gets into the Red Sox rotation

38.06 – Jordan Pacheco – Do you know who the backup catcher is in Colorado? Also behind Morneau at first base

39.10 – David DeJesus – Very good for extra outfielder/UT

40.05 – Nick Punto – Valuable like Swiss army knife – 2B/3B/SS eligibility

41.10 – Carlos Corporan – I got sniped earlier on Conger so will back up Castro instead

42.06 – Antonio Bastardo – For the name but what if the Phillies can trade Pap?

43.10 – Paul Maholm – Zach Lee insurance

44.06 – Sean Marshall – Not fully healthy or he would be in the committee while Chapman is out, but could get back there and be useful later in the season as well

45.10 – Andy Dirks – Like a second half pickup when there aren’t any

46.06 – Vidal Nuno – Yankees rotation far from stable

47.10 – Brandon Cumpton – In competition for Pirates' fifth starter or could get called up later

48.06 – Brian Flynn – One of Marlins' top pitching prospects

49.10 – Miguel A. Gonzalez – Sent down by Phillies but will be in rotation later in the year

50.06 – Juan Perez – 4th outfielder for the Giants who has played very well this spring and last year and how healthy are Pagan and Morse?

I hope you read (or skimmed) all of those, but let’s look at the roster:

C – J. Castro, R. Martin, Iannetta, Corporan

1B – Trumbo (OF), LaRoche, Pacheco

3B – Seager and Gillaspie + Punto (2B/SS as well)

2B – Altuve, LeMahieu + Gordon will qualify

SS – Ramirez, Gordon, Owings

OF – A. Jones, Puig, A. Garcia, Pollock, Stubbs

OF – G. Jones (1B), Shuck, Dirks, Perez

SP – A. Sanchez, Fister, Weaver, Smyly, Eovaldi, Scheppers

SP – Z. Lee/Maholm, Colome Stults, B. Chen, Aa. Sanchez, Nuno, Cumpton, Flynn, Gonzalez

CL – Kimbrel, Henderson, Veras

RP – Fields, Ross, Collmenter, Bastardo, Marshall

Lots of position flexibility to maximize HR and SB (hitters can be switched on Mondays and Fridays).

19 of the 25 hitters are starters or platoon.

Very good in Saves (only one other team has three).

Only three other teams have three starting catchers.

But there are six months to go with just these players so we will see who survives in addition to who produces. I want to not only win this league but have enough points to be in the overall leaders for all DC leagues – there is $20,000 to the overall winner.

Your questions/comments are always welcome here or in the Forums or on Facebook

While the Tout Wars drafts in NYC are auction leagues, a 15-team mixed draft league was added last year, and I was glad to be back for my second year in the league.

My team faded to fourth place last year and I hope to do better in this year’s contest. To start, I drew the second slot in this year’s draft (the priority for slot selection given in order of last year's finish) which was held Tuesday evening (if you didn’t watch the draft live, HERE is a link to the completed rosters and the draft by rounds).

A few important notes before I give you my team or you inspect rosters – Tout leagues now use on-base percentage instead of batting average. In addition, there is only a four-man reserve squad. The other key difference is that when you FAAB a player, they must be in your active lineup for the upcoming week. Another unusual aspect to this league is that the first FAAB run will be run on March 23. Okay, onto my picks.

The good news was that I would get a stud contributor in four or five categories with my first selection – the bad news was waiting almost two rounds to see who they left me in the second round. After NFBC’s Tom Kessenich selected Mike Trout with the first pick, I took Miguel Cabrera and his massive OBP.


That made me much happier in the second round when strangely Carlos Gomez was available, and I readily clicked DRAFT. What I don’t understand is 13 other teams passing on Gomez and his counting stats just because his OBP might be lower than last year’s median .330. But pairing CarGo2 with Miggy would put me well above average.

Two picks later, I took my first pitcher, Marlins’ ace Jose Fernandez (fourth off the board after Kershaw 1.09, Darvish 2.06 and Scherzer 2.15).

On the 4/5 turn, I was looking for the best bats I could find and selected 1B/OF Mark Trumbo at 4.14 followed by C Carlos Santana and his projected .377 OBP balancing Trumbo nicely and giving me solid counting stats at C1.

I was planning on taking Everth Cabrera on the next turn but he went at 6.08, so I took Jose Altuve for my 2B slot and then took Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez at 7.02.

Readers of my earlier draft articles know I think Khris Davis of the Brewers is set to break out in a big way this year and I was happy to draft him in the eighth round and add my pick at 9.02, Dodger starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. A few interesting notes on trends in this draft and then I will list my full roster with draft slots at the end.

One thing you can count on if you are thinking about the next position to attack or player you want is that someone is likely to pull them off the board while you watch. That happened with several infielders and on the secondary closer run (Cishek 10.04, Papelbon 10.05, Rafael Soriano 10.06 and even Fernando Rodney 10.08 all disappeared from my queue in the tenth round). Then there was the final closer run, when Joakim Soria (22.09) and Josh Fields (22.10) were taken when I was going to take either one or both in that round/turn.

There was definitely a heavy discount applied to the starting pitchers who have injury issues this spring in this draft. Here are the four prominent examples with their Tout draft slot and NFBC ADP

Cole Hamels went at 12.02  (NFBC avg 6.12, latest 13.15)

Hisashi Iwakuma went at 11.12  (NFBC avg 8.10, latest 12.03)

Doug Fister went at 12.09  (NFBC avg 11.04, latest 13.10)

Kris Medlen went at 23.02  (NFBC avg 9.04, latest 23.10)

I was the one who took Medlen as my seventh starting pitcher with the outlook that if he has surgery, he will be my first drop (again an early FAAB run) or if he is on the disabled list I can DL him (unlimited DL slots in Tout leagues) and add a replacement.

That was also the reason I took Andy Dirks with my last reserve pick at 27.02. I will DL him and pick up either another hitter or perhaps a pitcher if I have a greater need there.

I did draft Javier Baez, the talented, young Cubs power hitter with my pick in the 22nd round. That was after other drafters had speculated on George Springer (16.09), Yordano Ventura (18.09), Taijuan Walker (19.08) and Noah Syndergaard (22.07) but ahead of Kevin Gausman (23.03), Jameson Taillon (24.09), Gregory Polanco (24.11), Tommy La Stella (25.03), Oscar Taveras (25.04), Byron Buxton (26.03) and Eddie Butler (27.09).

So here is my final roster with draft slots in parenthesis. I am glad to answer any questions here or in the Forums.

C – Carlos Santana (5.02)

C – Russell Martin (15.02)

1B – Mark Trumbo (4.14)

3B – Miguel Cabrera (1.02)

CI – Adam Lind (19.02)

2B – Jose Altuve (6.14)

SS – Jimmy Rollins (14.14)

MI – Martin Prado (10.14)

OF – Carlos Gomez (2.14)

OF – Khris Davis (8.14)

OF – Adam Eaton (13.02)

OF – Josh Reddick (17.02)

OF – Michael Brantley (20.14)

UT – Javier Baez (22.14) to be replaced with either Owings or Shuck or FA

SP – Jose Fernandez (3.02)

SP – Anibal Sanchez (7.02)

SP – Hyun-Jin Ryu (9.02)

SP – Jered Weaver (11.02)

SP – Wade Miley (18.14)

SP – Nathan Eovaldi (21.02)

SP – Kris Medlen (23.02)

CL – Casey Janssen (12.14)

CL – LaTroy Hawkins (16.14)

R1 – Chris Owings (24.14)

R2 – J.B. Shuck (25.02)

R3 – Tanner Scheppers (26.14)

R4 – Andy Dirks (27.02)

Last Saturday night, the League of Alternative Baseball Reality – LABR convened for its 23rd auction draft. Hosted by USA Today and run by Steve Gardner, the conclave of writers and analysts serves as one of the first and most visible barometers of redraft auctions for AL and NL players.

I had two plans, although Plan A, buying Mike Trout for $40 or less, was not very likely. These auction tend to be very oversold early on the better players. So I quickly reverted to Plan B after Trout, the fifth player nominated, went for $45. That would be a severe spread the risk approach. I allotted $90 for my nine pitchers - $20 (always a +/- target) for the first three, two starters and one of the better closers, then $10 each for two more pitchers, either a SP and a lesser closer or two starters, and then ten dollars for the last four pitchers.

On the hitting side, I could get seven Tier 2 or 3 hitters around 20 dollars each and then fill out the other seven hitters for the remaining 30 dollars.

So how did that work out? Well, first here are the players I bought, with auction price in parenthesis, and my quick thoughts on their fantasy prospects for this season.

C – Jason Castro (14) - Finally got a full season of at-bats last year and hit 18 homers while batting .275.

C – Dioner Navarro (7) - I think he will hit 15-20 HR in Toronto’s launching pad and will have a positive batting average.

1B – Mark Teixeira (16) – Only time will tell how far he will come back, but 30+ HR is very likely.

3B – David Freese (12) – Even with mid teen HR output, he could have 80-90 RBI in Angels' lineup.

CI – James Loney (10) – Not exciting but solid double-digit homers with a good average.

2B – Jed Lowrie (15) – 2B/SS eligibility with 15+ HR.

SS – Asdrubal Cabrera (15) – Only danger to nice bounce back would be early arrival of Francisco Lindor and no trade.

MI – Ryan Goins (2) – Blue Jays starting 2B should have 6-8 HR and SB and 40-50 R/RBI.

OF – Norichika Aoki (19) – Could easily score 100+ runs leading off for Royals.

OF – Carlos Beltran (24) – I think he will hit 30+ in Yankee Stadium.

OF – Avisail Garcia (15) – Looking for breakout in first full season – 15-20 HR likely.

OF – Adam Eaton (17) – Eaton was off to a good start last year before the injury, and leading off for the White Sox every day, he should steal 20+ and score 80+ runs. Also has a little pop.

OF – David DeJesus (2) – A full season could mean 10-10 contributions with decent average.

UT – Anthony Gose (2) – Only non-starter in the lineup but could steal enough bases to make a solid contribution.


SP – Jered Weaver (18)

SP – Anibal Sanchez (21)

SP – Jose Quintana (10)

SP – Ricky Nolasco (4)

SP – Hector Santiago (7)

SP - Dylan Bundy (1)

CL – David Robertson (19)

CL – Josh Fields (8)

RP – Luke Gregerson (2)

Reserves – Yangervis Solarte (2B), Bruce Chen (SP), Eduardo Nunez (SS), Matt Lindstrom (RP), Jose Alvarez (SP), Chris Parmelee (1B/OF)

So the roster doesn’t look sexy – it is a red chip team. BUT 13 of 14 hitters are starters. Winning at-bats has long been the principal aim of the “spread the risk” auction strategy. Look at the scrubs on some of the other rosters who will not get anywhere near the at-bats thus chances for Runs or RBI that regular players - even lesser hitters will accumulate.

Only Gose is a projected part-time player for Toronto. Now that could change in two ways. Gose has an option left and Moises Sierra does not, so the Blue Jays could send him down to start the season. On the other hand, neither Melky Cabrera nor Jose Bautista is a picture of health, so there could certainly be more at-bats if Gose is the fourth outfielder on the roster, which he is right now.

But I did address that (as well as MI insurance) with Yangervis Solarte and Eduardo Nunez in the reserve rounds. The Yankees are saying that Nunez will play some third base (more if the Kelly Johnson experiment fails or if Johnson has to play at second base). In addition, the best hitter and most versatile defender so far in spring training for the Yankees has been Yangervis Solarte, a second baseman by minor league stats but who can play third base and has already played in the outfield.

One other thing to consider is the LABR rules for lineups and reserve players. You cannot just bench one of your auction bought starters and sub in a reserve. If a “regular” is not on the DL or sent to the Minors, you would have to drop them to activate a reserve. Reserve players, however, can be moved up and down each week. So two reserve players could effectively rotate based on matchups, and that is one of the reasons I made sure to draft a starting pitcher and a playable reliever in Bruce Chen and Matt Lindstrom. I can put one in the lineup for Dylan Bundy and then flip them back and forth each week – for home starts and matchups for Chen or if Lindstrom is getting save opportunities for the White Sox.

Several other owners did this but some did not. Also having reserve players that are playable is very helpful in trades where it is a way to upgrade another team’s active lineup (or give them the lineup flexibility).

None of that information means I am perfectly happy with my draft. While I was fine with a spread the risk strategy and looking at the AL hitters in tiers thought I could field a competitive team from the less expensive players, I did make one key error. While I like the four outfielders I paid double-digit auction dollars for, I would have been better off to spend a few more dollars for a corner infielder where the pool thins dramatically.

But that would have to have been with a better third baseman because both the Tier 2 first basemen, Eric Hosmer and Albert Pujols, went for several dollars more than we project them to earn. And buying Hosmer, who I like this year at $28, or Pujols, who is questionable for anything close to a full rebound at $29, means there is not profit even if they do better than projected.

I actually bought Freese to be my CI thinking I might be able to get a decent price for Xander Bogaerts, who we project to earn $15. Bogaerts came up two rounds later and went for $19, which prompted me to roster Beltran, who was the next player nominated and in my opinion the best power hitter left, for $24. The alternative at that point would have been to pay more for Josh Donaldson, who I have nowhere near as much confidence in for power numbers in 2014.

I do think there are several hitters who are good bets to earn more than projected value, but we shall see. I also think the pitching is good, especially if either/both Josh Fields closes for more than the first month for the Astros or Dylan Bundy is good when he enters the Orioles rotation – likely mid-season.

Fortunately, the league is not based on projections. Let’s see how the team looks six months down the road.

Well it’s not quite an annual rant but some of you really need to know the truth about ADP.

As in Average Draft Position – and even that is a misnomer. What it really is comes from averaging already drafted spots of players in drafts. BUT the key components are:

1) When were these drafts? How current is the information?

2) What was the league format that was being drafted?

3) Who was in the draft? How many bots? (If that answer is any number other than 0 throw it away)

Number one is I hope, self-explanatory, as is number three.

Number two is probably the most important. The LABR mixed draft that Todd wrote about here is terrific information. Not about where to draft someone in YOUR draft but about what THAT writer or analyst thought about the player pool on THAT particular day.  But does your draft match the same positions or have the same number of players? Nobody drafting in the NFBC or FBPC should view that as more than entertaining information because the formats are totally different – in both the high stakes leagues you have all the draft slots to assemble a starting lineup, you don’t have to have all the specific roster slots filled at the end of 23 rounds. And LABR, like Tout, has very different reserve player rules than the high stakes leagues, and even if it was only one (and I suspect it was several more than that) drafter who purposely waited on a player to make sure they had Reserve status (i.e. can be activated/reserved any week as opposed to a drafted player who can only be reserved for DL status), it would skew the positions.

What you really need to know, rather than the number of the draft slots averaged out, is what was the earliest the player was drafted and what was the latest spot the player was drafted (information that NFBC gives its paying customers) with min and max for each player in addition to the averaged number. Yes, all the shows in addition to the weekly NFBC show on SiriusXM are using that information, although we really don’t know the last time the radio folk got the updated numbers. And even then we don’t know if some of the really odd “earliest picks” were the result of some online accident (but there are instances of that).

I am not saying that ADP is not valuable assuming everything is a perfect match for the league you will be drafting in. It does give you “market research.” But remember the most important thing is YOUR rankings and knowing where to draft players. And don’t forget you can ask questions with quick answers in our Platinum Forums.

And the best way to get that is to draft – even if it is just practice. And if you want practice and can’t afford low entry leagues or can’t find leagues that match what you need to practice for, try the Draft Wizard by fantasy pros. You can set the parameters you want and do a whole draft in less than an hour. Still at blazing speeds, slow down and look at the players actually being drafted instead of just making your next pick.

Finally, remember that if all your picks are based on Average Draft Position, you will only have an average team.

Especially in fantasy baseball drafts – risers and fallers abound. But I thought we could kill two birds in one column by showing you the rosters I drafted for an NFBC style Draft & Hold league at First Pitch Arizona, which is the first weekend of November.

NOV 2012 for 2013 season – drafting from the #2 hole where I took Mike Trout

C – A.J. Ellis, Rob Brantly, Jason Castro, Ryan Hanigan

1B – Ryan Howard, Kendrys Morales, Chris McGuiness

3B – Manny Machado, Lonnie Chisenhall, Juan Francisco

2B – Jason Kipnis, Robert Andino, Eduardo Nunez

SS – Marco Scutaro, Jurickson Profar, Clint Barmes

OF – Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, Desmond Jennings, Josh Reddick, Starling Marte, Aaron Hicks, Avisail Garcia, Russ Canzler, Wil Venable

SP – Yu Darvish, David Price, Kris Medlen, Jeremy Hellickson, Hisashi Iwakuma, Rick Porcello, Danny Duffy, Patrick Corbin, Mark Rogers, Erasmo Ramirez, Bartolo Colon, Eric Stults, Robbie Erlin, Martin Perez

RP – Joe Nathan, Tom Wilhelmsen, Glen Perkins, Nate Jones, Vinnie Pestano, Santiago Casilla, Josh Fields, Franklin Morales, Nate Jones, Drew Smyly, Robbie Ross, Sean Doolittle

I started this draft with Trout, Bautista and Price but you can see that an awful lot of later picks bore fruit. I ended up with only the third/fourth best offense with 56.0 points but strangled the pitching categories with 71.5 points and won the league by four points with a total of 127.5. Only Derek Van Riper of Rotowire, who finished 2nd, was also over 100 points – in fact 3rd was 90 points.

For benchmarks, here were my totals and points in each category:

Batting Average: .2693 (11)

Runs: 987 (14, 60 behind 1st)

Home Runs: 232 (10)

Runs Batted In: 869 (8)

Stolen Bases: 177 (13)

Earned Run Average: 3.295 (15)

Wins: 101 (14, one win behind 1st)

WHIP: 1.160 (15)

Strikeouts: 1357 (15)

Saves: 96 (12.5)

Now let’s see how my team ended up this year (again drafting the first 23 players in November and the rest online in January). I drew the first spot and picked the same player.

NOV 2013 for 2014 season

C – Wilson Ramos, Evan Gattis (C/OF), Yan Gomes (C/1B), Josmil Pinto

1B – Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Napoli

3B – Chase Headley, Juan Francisco (1B/3B)

2B – Daniel Murphy, Darwin Barney, Ryan Goins

SS – Erick Aybar, Brad Miller, Mike Aviles (2B/3B/SS)

OF – Mike Trout, Carlos Gomez, Wil Myers, J.B. Shuck, Matt Joyce, A.J. Pollock, Brandon Barnes, Skip Schumaker (2B/OF), Jose Tabata, Kyle Parker

UT – Garrett Jones (1B/OF)

SP – Jose Fernandez, David Price, Alex Cobb, Travis Wood, Tyson Ross, Dan Straily, Carlos Torres, Brett Oberholtzer, Henderson Alvarez, Eric Johnson, Miguel A. Gonzalez, Jason Vargas, Ross Detwiler, Felipe Paulino, Andrew Heaney, Trevor Bauer, David Hale, Rubby De La Rosa

RP – Trevor Rosenthal, Danny Farquhar, Cody Allen, Josh Fields, Brad Ziegler, A.J. Ramos, Mike Dunn

Here is hoping for a repeat.

Okay, we are specifically talking about the catchers you would roster in an NFBC 50-round Draft & Hold league. Remember that the 50 players you draft are all you have for the entire 2014 season – there are no free agent pickups.

So which ones do you take and how many do you roster?

If you read “Don’t Get CAUGHT Short” you know my thoughts on the subject. But obviously, some have other opinions. Read the following and then tell me yours.

Here are the rostered catchers from a recent Draft & Hold league:

Team 1 - Brian McCann & John Jaso

Team 2 - Wilson Ramos, Dioner Navarro, A.J. Ellis & Josmil Pinto

Team 3 - Tyler Flowers, Brayan Pena, Steve Clevenger, Steven Vogt, Francisco Cervelli & Jesus Montero

Team 4 - Yadier Molina, Carlos Ruiz, Kurt Suzuki, Erik Kratz & Jose Molina

Team 5 - Jonathan Lucroy, Salvador Perez, Martin Maldonado & Brett Hayes

Team 6 - Jason Castro, Evan Gattis, Russell Martin, Jose Lobaton & Ryan Doumit

Team 7 - A.J. Pierzynski, Travis D'Arnaud, Ryan Hanigan & Ryan Lavarnway

Team 8 - Jarrod Saltalamacchia, J.P. Arencibia & Wil Nieves

Team 9 - Carlos Santana, Welington Castillo, John Buck & George Kottaras

Team 10 - Joe Mauer, Miguel Montero, Bryan Holaday, Anthony Recker & Mike McKenry

Team 11 - Buster Posey, Chris Iannetta, David Ross, Gerald Laird, Hector Sanchez & Tim Federowicz

Team 12 - Matt Wieters, Nick Hundley, Yasmani Grandal & Derek Norris

Team 13 - Alex Avila, Devin Mesoraco, Josh Phegley & Ramon Hernandez

Team 14 - Yan Gomes, Mike Zunino, Hank Conger & Austin Hedges

Team 15 - Wilin Rosario, Geovany Soto, Carlos Corporan & Christian Bethancourt

So which team do you think will get the best hitting contributions from their catchers?

Are there any teams that will not be able to compete all year with their catchers?

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