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Thursday 19th Oct 2017

I mentioned in an earlier column that drafting minor league prospects in the NFBC draft and hold leagues was in my opinion largely a waste of a draft pick. Drafters are seduced by the contributions made in previous years by a Mike Trout or Yasiel Puig once they arrived in the major leagues in May or June.

But those are unique players both from a talent perspective but also because there were enough signs – a late-season call-up in 2011 for Trout and blazing spring training for Puig last year.

But for all the other prospects currently being drafted by participants in the leagues, what is the cost to their team?

Let’s take a look at a draft that is almost finished and see whether the prospect pick is worth the draft pick used.

George Springer, OF, HOU - While not regarded as the top minor league prospect (currently #21 on the MLB Top 100 list), Springer is getting drafted well ahead of players higher on prospect lists largely because of a huge year in 2013 when he slugged 37 home runs and had 45 stolen bases at Double-A and Triple-A. But Houston won’t start Springer’s clock until late-May or early-June – the MLB “Super Two” date each season. Springer currently has an NFBC ADP of 185, meaning you would have to take him in the 16th round, in this draft ahead of guys like Brett Lawrie, Jimmy Rollins or Francisco Liriano, all of whom will start contributing to your team on Opening Day.

Oscar Taveras, OF, STL - Taveras is again one of the top-five minor league prospects (currently #3 on MLB Top 100) but has nowhere to play in St. Louis, which currently projects an outfield of Matt Holliday, Peter Bourjos and Allen Craig – Craig moving from first base so Matt Adams can play every day. Taveras currently has an ADP of 262, but in the 17th round you could draft Marlon Byrd, D.J. LeMahieu or Corey Kluber, again all contributing stats from day one, while you wait for the Cardinals to need Taveras.

Javier Baez, SS, CHC - Currently #7 on the MLB Top 100 list, Baez has tremendous bat speed and power, with 37 home runs and 111 RBI along with 20 stolen bases at Class-A and Double-A in 2013. In addition to the monetary consideration, Baez is not a great fielder, clearly behind Starlin Castro at shortstop for the Cubs. True, he is a better hitter than what the Cubs will open the season with at third base, but with an ADP of 349 you are passing on Trevor Plouffe, a starting major league player who will hit 20+ home runs.

Byron Buxton, OF, MIN and Miguel Sano, 3B, MIN - Even though Buxton is currently the #1 prospect on the MLB Top 100 list (and virtually every other list) while Sano is at #4, Sano actually has an earlier ADP of 457 to Buxton’s 470, and that is correct in terms of likely playing time in the Majors this year. There is speculation that Sano might even compete for a spot in the Twins’ starting lineup to open the season or at least make a June debut, while no on projects Buxton to be up before September, at the earliest, because Buxton was only in A-ball last season while Sano reached Double-A. Drafting Buxton in the 32nd round would cost you another everyday player at that position, like a Gerardo Parra, for a player we may not see all year. At least by drafting Sano in the 31st round, you are just pushing a reserve pick. But, not only does he have to be called up to justify the player you didn’t draft, he has to be clear of the elbow problems he had last year or face a year recovering from Tommy John surgery.

I didn’t address the few pitchers who are drafted as early as the hitters because there is far more turnover in MLB pitching staffs during a season and the top pitching prospect on the MLB list at #5, Archie Bradley, who will be given a chance to crack the Diamondbacks rotation in March. Still, instead of Bradley, you could get a sure starter or closer at #298 in Bartolo Colon or Nate Jones.

Taijuan Walker, just one spot below Bradley on the Top 100, is virtually guaranteed a spot in the Seattle Mariners rotation. Thus his ADP of 224 makes a lot more sense for early drafters.

This is not to say I would not draft a prospect hitter – especially the ones you might think will be up in June, as in the case of Sano and maybe Springer. But remember we have no idea if/when those MLB clubs will decide to promote the players, and it might not be until September. I simply cannot take them when it costs me an everyday player and before I have my starting lineup drafted.

Depth is very important in this format where you will not have access to any free agents, especially the top minor league prospects. But playable depth is far more important than a player you can only hope you will be able to put into your lineup at some point during the season.

Fantasy baseball players aren’t concerned with what the Angels are eventually going to pay Mike Trout for those in keeper leagues have their own Trout contract problem THIS spring.

In AL-only keeper leagues, Trout was rostered in many leagues as a minor league prospect or farm player in 2010 or 2011. Many fantasy players likely didn’t activate him for his 40 games during the second half of the 2011 season, so the outfielder's contract clock then began in 2012 as $5 or $10 per season contract in most setups.

After Trout's terrific contributions to those fantasy owners in 2012 and 2013, the time for a decision comes this spring:  How long do they lock him up with a long-term contract? The standard for extending a player is adding five dollars for each year he will be contracted past 2014. So if he is currently at $5 as season (as I have him in my AL keeper league) the choices would be:

Keep him at $5 this season and he goes back into the auction pool in 2015.

Add $5 and keep him at $10 for 2014 and 2015.

Add $10 and keep him at $15 for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Add $15 dollars and keep him at $20 for 2014 through 2017.

Add $20 dollars and keep him at $25 for 2014 through 2018.

Add even more five dollar increments and keep him for much longer.

Sure, we all want to own Trout for the foreseeable future but unlike MLB, our game places a salary cap on our teams, making us examine the efficacy of long-term contracts.

So what fits your team?

I don’t see too many examples of this, but if you had a team with only a clear window to win this year – perhaps with several key expiring contracts – you might not be able to spend too many dollars on Trout and just keep him at $5. The good thing about this approach, aside from a tremendous profit this year, would be that if for some reason you weren’t going to win your league, you could get a huge return from the teams contending for your league championship. If you had that “win now” team and could spend the $10, and then if injuries or unexpected poor performance from your expiring players were to happen, you could trade them instead and still have a nice $10 Trout next season.

So what is the value (profit if you will) of Trout at differing contract levels? What is your maximum return on a long-term contract?

First, we need to look at how much Trout has earned in his first two full seasons and what we project him to earn in 2014. In AL-only leagues, Trout earned $47 in 5x5 keeper leagues ($48 in 4x4). He then earned $45 in 2013. Mastersball projections for 2014 have him earning $38 (likely based on a lower batting average...after all he dropped from .326 to .323 last year). But we have to project for several future seasons to get contract values, so I am going to value him at a flat $40 for the next five years. Even if his batting average is lower, maybe something else is higher and he maintains value of $40 or more.

Okay, let’s go back to the contract options and see what the net profits are at a current five dollar salary with five dollars for each additional year you extend him (If you are at $10 now or add ten dollars per year you can change these scenarios with your numbers).

Keep him at $5 this year – Earn $35.

Add one year so $10 this year and next – Earn $30+30 = $60.

Add two years so $15 contract – Earn $25+25+25 = $75.

Add three years so $20 contract - Earn $20+20+20+20 = $80.

Add four years so $25 contract – Earn $15+15+15+15+15 = $75.

Add five years so $30 contract – Earn $10+10+10+10+10+10 = $60.

So while having him for the next five years is as much profit as a three-year deal, the maximum profit is to sign him to a four-year contract – three additional years, so $20 in 2014 through 2017 and make a 20 dollar profit on him each year.

My Mike Trout will be on my Great American Rotisseleague roster as $20C17, at our auction on April 1 adding three seasons to his current 5D12.

Your mileage may vary.


It is the time of the year when many fantasy baseball players are drafting “draft and hold” teams in various competitions.

As the name suggests better than the “Draftmasters” or “Draft Experts” handles, these are larger (usually 50-player) rosters where there are no free agents added throughout the upcoming season.

So all you have to set your lineup each period are the players you drafted. That should mean that you have an appropriate number of backups at each position or even better players with multiple position eligibility that can be moved around when needed.

In my experience (having won several of these leagues), one of the key positions that is usually under drafted is the Catcher position. We know that this position is shorter on rotisserie contributors to start with, especially when most of these leagues start two backstops. But in addition, injuries, even minor ones, could see you collecting zeroes in the counting stats unless you roster is built with this in mind.

On a typical 50-man roster, I want to draft four catchers to try and ensure that doesn’t happen to my team. This year, players are lucky that there are a couple of playable catchers who qualify at another position, so Evan Gattis (C/OF) and Yan Gomes (C/1B) and even backups like Ryan Doumit (C/OF) or reaching further, Chris Hermann (C/OF) should be rostered perhaps a round or two before you think they fit.

In a current D&H competition where we drafted the first 23 players in early November and are completing the 50-man rosters online, I waited until the 12/13 turn to take my first catcher but took both Wilson Ramos and Gattis. In Round 16, I drafted Gomes. We are now in Round 27 where I selected Josmil Pinto with the first pick of the round. You may think I didn’t need him but I think the teams with Matt Wieters and J.P. Arencibia or Carlos Santana and Hank Conger, to say nothing of the teams with only Joe Mauer or Stephen Vogt at this point, are going to lose whatever chances they might have had with their shortcomings at the catcher position.

Unless you were really out of reach for the Christmas holiday, you know by now that Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has in fact been posted by the Rakuten Eagles so that he can get out of his contract with them and sign with a MLB team to pitch in the US in 2014.

Now the great debate on where Tanaka and his agent Casey Close will choose to sign.

And really there are 31 choices because the new posting agreement between MLB and the Japanese league limits the posting fee – the money given to the Eagles as compensation – to $20 million when it used to be an auction where the right would go to the highest bidding team. If you remember just a few years ago when Yu Darvish was posted, the Texas Rangers won that right with a bid of $51.7 million (and there were reportedly other clubs near the $50 million mark).

So how many teams are interested in signing Tanaka? Really for just the $20 M every single MLB club should call Close and ask to negotiate. All 30 clubs should be willing to pay $20 million, but let’s take a quick look at:

  1. Which teams NEED Tanaka
  2. Which teams WANT Tanaka, and
  3. Which team(s) will actually pay enough to sign Tanaka

You could argue that every team needs a starting pitcher who is potentially as good as Darvish. Remember that he is not an older pitcher. Tanaka is just 25 years old like Darvish, so offering him a six or seven year contract has a very reasonable expectation of full value throughout the life of the contract.

Here is my short list of teams that need to sign Tanaka:

Kansas City Royals – definitely took a step up last year but their starting rotation is still not championship caliber and they have to replace Ervin Santana. Signing Tanaka would enable the Royals to go toe to toe with the Detroit Tigers.

Cleveland Indians – they need to replace Ubaldo Jimenez to compete against the Tigers but the Indians spent a lot of money last year and didn’t get the years they hoped for from Bourn and Swisher. Will they do it again?

The Pittsburgh Pirates finally had a good season and their fans responded and while they have some excellent prospects on the way they should sign Tanaka and make sure they get back to the playoffs in 2014.

The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays both have poor rotations that will not compete for the AL East crown but Tanaka would go a long way towards putting them in shouting distance.

And again, while all 30 teams want Tanaka, we don’t know who REALLY wants him – here are a few teams I think might step up to battle you know who:

Seattle Mariners – just signing Robinson Cano isn’t enough to really compete with the Rangers, Angels and Athletics. Reuniting Tanaka with former Eagles teammate Hisashi Iwakuma might be. With Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma and Tanaka, they certainly would have the best 1-2-3 SP in the division.

Chicago Cubs – no their offense is not quite ready, but Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Amora will make their MLB debuts in 2014 or 2015 and more importantly, Theo Epstein and the club owners need to ignite their fan base with a better view of what is to come and signing Tanaka would certainly do that.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – will Arte Moreno spend another 100 million plus dollars on a contract this year? Doubtful from a financial standpoint, but the Angels' rotation is hurting and what could be better for Moreno and the Halos than seeing Tanaka fans drive down from Los Angeles to Anaheim? One additional thought that really makes this idea sing – can you imagine any television set in Japan off on the new national holiday when Tanaka is starting for the Angels against Darvish for the Rangers?  I can’t either.

Okay, let’s go to the last group.

Right now, there is only one sure team at the table. Not only do the New York Yankees need help with their starting pitching, but they have the purse to beat any other bids for Tanaka. Under the tax threshold be damned. They are the YANKEES.

Some of you wondered why I said 31 choices.

There is only one person who gets to choose from all the suitors – Tanaka (and wife, Japanese idol and pop recording star Mai Satoda) can actually choose where they want to live/pitch for the next six or seven years. That has never been the case before for a star pitcher in Japan coming to play Major League Baseball in the United States.

Prior to fantasy drafts each year, you will likely hear arguments about the efficacy of drafting RB “handcuffs.”

Well, we are now two weeks into the 2013 NFL season and we have already seen players escape their handcuffs and take center stage for their NFL and fantasy teams.

True, some backs like Fred Jackson and Knowshon Moreno weren’t your classic young runner behind the established starter. But F-Jax is getting a lot more work than everyone thought he would behind C.J. Spiller, and Moreno, the more experienced player, has proved his worth to Peyton Manning and the Broncos over rookie Montee Ball and second year runner Ronnie Hillman. The same would have been true of the Colts' Vick Ballard but he is now out for the season and thus not in your fantasy plans.

I am pretty sure that Jackson and Moreno aren’t available on your waiver wire (if they are please stop reading this immediately and go put in your bid/claim), but they check in after two weeks as RB16 (Moreno) and RB24 (Jackson), and ahead of players drafted much earlier like Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Stevan Ridley, Ray Rice and Frank Gore.

It is why the better players rostered them instead of taking a second quarterback or top defense or kicker in the middle of their drafts.


It is also why they, and hopefully you, drafted true handcuffs like Bernard Pierce (who may start for Rice this week), Ben Tate (who is sharing time with Arian Foster while he gets up to full health) and Jacquizz Rodgers (who will split backfield duties for the Falcons with Jason Snelling while S-Jax is out, currently thought to be 2-4 weeks). Snelling should be picked up in almost all formats this week  for his value to Atlanta in short yardage or goal line situations or in case Jackson is out longer. Snelling will get more carries while Rodgers will get more passing targets.

Not all backup runners really have the value they should. The question is how effective would they be IF they were the starter? So team and scheme are very important. But should Rice have more than the reported hip pointer or further injure it, it is clear Pierce would be very effective, and Tate always runs well in Foster’s shadow and would be a RB1 if Foster could not play at any point later this season.

The same could be said of a similar runner, the Eagles' Bryce Brown, who gets a handful of carries now for Philadelphia but would be a valuable RB2 or Flex starter if LeSean McCoy were to miss any time.

I don’t think James Starks fits the same mold, although he was great last Sunday and will no doubt be added in many leagues this week. Remember scheme/team because at heart the Packers are still a passing team and in some games there aren’t enough carries even IF the back is capable.

I do think Joique (pronounced joyk) Bell of the Detroit Lions should he added if available whether you play him right away or wait for Reggie Bush to be totally out of the lineup.

Bottom line is whether they are running backs instead of pink or furry, handcuffs can have a lot of fantasy value.


We still have a few weeks left in the 2013 MLB regular season and hopefully your team is still in the hunt for glory and prizes. But just a week after the regular season ends, my favorite league of the year (and I see action in five seasonal leagues each year) will begin play.

The Arizona Fall League, AFL for short, is THE developmental league for major league baseball. Consider just a few of these numbers for the league’s 21-year history:

  • More than 60% of all players appearing in the AFL have reached the major leagues
  • 197 of those have been MLB All-Stars
  • Eleven have been MLB MVPs
  • Three Cy Young Award winners (Carpenter, Halladay, Webb)
  • Three World Series MVPs (Dye, Eckstein, Jeter)
  • 24 MLB Rookies of the Year

So let’s take a look at who we will see make their AFL debuts in 2013. First, for those not familiar with the league setup, there are six AFL teams whose rosters are populated by players from five major league teams. Here is the player eligibility as defined by MLB, who runs this league:

Roster size is established at 35 players per team.

Each major league organization is required to provide seven players subject to the following eligibility requirements:

• All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible provided they are on Double-A rosters no later than August 15.

• Each organization is permitted to send two Class A Advanced-level players in addition to the current allowance of two “A-exempt” players (who are under contract as of August 15). Foreign players are allowed as long as the player is not on his native country’s primary protected player list.

• No players with more than one year active or two years total of credited major league service as of August 31 (including major league disabled list time) are eligible but a team may select one player picked in the most recently concluded Major League Rule 5 Draft.

• Each team is allotted 20 pitchers but only 15 are designated “eligible” each game day.

Here are the six AFL teams for 2013 with their home ballpark and the five MLB teams sending them players:

EAST Division

Mesa Solar Sox, playing at Hohokam Park in Mesa (Angels, Athletics, Cubs, Nationals, Tigers)

Salt River Rafters, playing at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale (Blue Jays, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rays, Rockies)

Scottsdale Scorpions, playing at Scottsdale Stadium (Braves, Giants, Mets, Pirates, Yankees)

WEST Division

Glendale Desert Dogs, playing at Camelback Ranch (Dodgers, Marlins, Reds, Twins, White Sox)

Peoria Javelinas, playing at Surprise Stadium (Astros, Mariners, Padres, Phillies, Royals)

Surprise Saguaros, playing at Surprise Stadium (Brewers, Indians, Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox)

Because Peoria Stadium and the Mariners and Padres clubhouses are undergoing renovation, there won’t be a team playing in Peoria, so there will be two teams sharing the facilities at Surprise Stadium and complex.

Play will begin on Tuesday, October 8 and continue through Thursday, November 14 with the one-game league championship between the division winners on Saturday, November 17 at Scottsdale Stadium. That game and the Rising Stars All-Star game, which will be played on Saturday, November 2 at Surprise Stadium, will likely be televised on the MLB Network as they were last year and are must see TV for serious roto players and baseball enthusiasts – unless of course you can join us down here and see the game in person (as will all the attendees of the Arizona First Pitch Forum).

25 of MLB.com's current Top 100 Prospects will be on AFL rosters this fall, including at least two first-round players from the June draft – Chicago Cubs 3B Kris Bryant (out of San Diego State University) and Miami Marlins 3B Colin Moran (out of North Carolina University). The current number one ranked prospect, Minnesota Twins OF Byron Buxton, will be playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs.

I will post a short preview of each team in following columns in the AFL BLOG, but if you needed one additional nugget to get down here and scout your future players – two-thirds of the Cubs outfield of the future, Albert Amora and Jorge Soler, will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox.

In last week’s column, I told you about the quarter million dollar FF grand prize for the FBGPC (Football Guys Players Championship).

On Tuesday night, Greg Morgan and this Captain drafted the “Captain Morgan” squad for this $350 contest. While Greg has other entries in this event, this is my only lotto ticket, so I wanted us to roster as much potential as we could.

While the contest does have the highest ROI for any of the high stakes FF contests, it also has some specific rules to work around. First, the 12 teams in each league play H2H against all the other teams for the first 11 weeks. That is important because you can’t get to the $250,000 Championship round without qualifying in your league. The two automatic qualifiers are the team with the best H2H record and the team with the (next) highest total points for the 11 weeks. We want to try hard to go that route because the only other way to qualify is to win the League Championship by winning in both weeks 12 and 13.

That would mean, for instance, that if you were going to wait several rounds for your quarterback, you might want to strike Russell Wilson off your target list. With a Week 12 bye, he can’t help you if you need those two wins.

We didn’t have that problem in the first round having drawn the #2 pick. So unless our #1 team was mesmerized and took Calvin Johnson, or Jimmy Graham, or Aaron Rodgers, or some lesser running back, we would not be able to draft Adrian Peterson. We would have to settle for the pocket hamster and draft Tampa’s Doug Martin. But other teams might think twice about drafting LeSean McCoy or C.J. Spiller, who will also be off in that first playoff – or perhaps play in game.

The big question we faced was WHO would be available at 2.11?

No doubt most of the secondary running backs and top tier wide receivers would be taken ahead of us. Our pre-draft plan was to take either Darren Sproles or Randall Cobb in the second round and then draft one of the stud TE – Jason Witten or Tony Gonzalez – with the second pick in the third round.

Well, both Sproles and Cobb were there, so we took the Saints' halfback first and then decided to go for it and took Cobb in the third round. Theoretically, that meant we would have to make a good guess on which TE to take and when – but sometimes fate assists, and we were able to take Gonzo at 4.11 and then took Pierre Garcon in the fifth round.

With only the top three quarterbacks off the board in the fifth round, we pushed the envelope again and took the best two wideouts we could on the 6/7 turn, rostering James Jones and Tavon Austin. In fact, the sixth round was our only major disappointment of the first half of the draft – if only DeAngelo Williams had made it to 6.11. Cam Newton (6th) and Tom Brady (7th) were taken before our pick in the 8th round so we took Justin Blackmon at 8.11 knowing we would still have a choice of signal callers three picks later. Ultimately, I chose Tony Romo at 9.02 over Colin Kaepernick, but that was really a coin flip as I think either would do fine for our team.

Here then is our lottery ticket – very strong for the starting lineup with just some work needed perhaps for our running back plays.

Pos – Player (draft round)

QB - Tony Romo (9) & Matt Schaub (16)

RB – Doug Martin (1), Darren Sproles (2), Fred Jackson (10), Knowshon Moreno (13), Zac Stacy (17) & Jordan Todman (20)

WR – Randall Cobb (3), Pierre Garcon (5), James Jones (6), Tavon Austin (7), Justin Blackmon (8), Markus Wheaton (15) & Marlon Brown (18)

TE – Tony Gonzalez (4), Justin Thomas (11) & Heath Miller (14)

K – Blair Walsh (19)

DST – New England Patriots (12) (Facing the Bills and then the Jets in the first two weeks)

There are several really good high stakes FF contests – NFFC, FFPC and FFWC – where some of the top players in the country compete for grand prizes of $100,000 to $250,000.

But while those are great contests, the entry fees range from $1400 to $1800. Meanwhile, many of those same top players plus hundreds just like you can get a $350 entry to the FBGPC which also has a grand prize of a quarter of a million dollars.

True, there will be a lot more entries, and yes, it may be akin to a lottery draw in the three-week final sprint, but at least you have the chance to build the team yourself.

So how do you draft a team that will give you a chance to get through your league’s regular season in Weeks 1-11 as either the best H2H record or with the most total points or be second in either category, get into the league playoffs in Weeks 12-13 and win the LCG and thus an entry into the Championship Bracket for Weeks 14-16?

First, let’s look at the scoring differences – 1.5 PPR for TE with 1 PPR for RB and WR, as well as full credit for offensive players for kickoff or punt return touchdowns. The first is very important, the second not as much, but it would still help you choose additional WR4s.

Combine that with the starting lineup requirements – QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE plus TWO Flex (RB/WR/TE) spots. That means you could start four running backs or four wide receivers or three tight ends that get the additional reception bonuses. Really, that means you can draft many different ways.

So what are some things to do or not to do in drafting in this format? (the FBGPC is a collaboration between FBG.com and the FFPC so it uses the same format)

First, you shouldn’t even think about drafting a quarterback in the early rounds.

Sure, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees figure to lead all players in scoring, but the difference in quarterback scoring is very small, especially in points per game. Remember that QBs get four points for passing touchdowns but, like everyone else, six points for rushing touchdowns. This helps the quarterbacks who run more be closer in PPG to the pure passers.

Also, the double flex pushes down the relative value of quarterback scoring. The advantage of not drafting a quarterback in the early rounds is getting more explosive players at RB, WR and TE.

The scoring also makes tight ends more valuable than they are in normal leagues, and while I think some players are drafting secondary tight ends too early, if you did find a second or even third tight end who had a great season, you can play them at those flex spots.

Second, you would like to get either a stud or well above average TE in the early rounds and have an advantage against your league mates.

Third, I want to dispel a myth I see on many FF sites – the wide receiver pool is so deep you don’t have to draft them early. While there may be a lot of WRs who are playable at your Flex spots – thus WR3 or WR4, there are a limited number of stud wideouts who are really WR1 or WR2 scorers.

If you thought you would just start the draft RB, RB, RB and then find your WR and TE, you will already be lower at WR1 and WR2 than many in your league.

Given the ability to play any RB/WR/TE in those two Flex spots, you really should be drafting the best player available in your early rounds. Still, I would want to come through the first five or six rounds with two RB, two WR and one TE, leaving room for the other player to be for now your FLEX1.

Lastly, if you are one of those who think you should be drafting the Seattle or San Francisco DST because they were so much better than other teams last year, please look again at the words WERE and LAST. From year to year, barely half the highest scoring defenses (or kickers) repeat their performances.

Leave your DST and K until the very late rounds and instead continue to try and find RBs, WRs, and yes, TEs who may emerge as very playable in those two Flex spots.

So your league wants to have an auction. But the players are all over the country and there is no way to get them all to commit to the same four or five hour block even if there was draft software you really liked. What to do?

Well, one of my new leagues – actually same format but since I won my league last year I was promoted to the League of Champions, the highest bracket of the UPFFL – had faced that in the past and decided on an option available at MFL (myfantasyleague.com). It is a simultaneous online auction.

Each day, each of the 12 teams nominates two players and chooses their opening bid for each player – from $1 to whatever they desire. On the first day, all bids are listed in the order placed and every team in the league has a chance to bid or rebid on any of the players up for auction. A player is bought only after there is no new bidder for 18 hours. So everyone has plenty of chances to review the bids and decide if they want to up their bid or bid more than another team who has the current high bid.

The bid that is shown to the rest of the league is the current bid you made but might not be you maximum bid. In other words, if you put up Aaron Rodgers for $23, it would only show $1 as your initial bid, but every time someone entered a higher bid your bid would increase to match the challenge bid – well at least until someone bid $24. And the max bid is key because as I said, the player lasts for 18 hours but that is as long as the high bidder doesn’t change.

Okay, with that background how would I attack the auction board in this 12-team, graduated PPR league (RB=.4, WR=.7, TE=1 PPR) that starts QB-RB-RB-WR-WR-WR-TE-K-DST?

In general, I think you should plan to spend 90% or in this case $180 on your starters, which would leave you $20 for your reserves, most of which will be one or two dollar players. In a 12-team league, the opening free agent list will still have many starting players, so I think the value is getting maximum bang for your buck on your starters.

How to allocate your $180 – really $178 if you are planning on spending a buck each on your K and DST -is the key (and if you are spending more do you know how low the rate of re-appearance on the top-10 scoring K and DST is from year to year?)

Many players will try and buy three 40-plus dollar players. Together with your K and DST, let’s say that is $130. That would give you $50 for your remaining four players. And that is certainly doable.

But don’t you feel that is settling for what the other teams are giving you for your three studs? Mind you, if I could get a top-3 RB/WR/TE for $40 each, I would be fine. I just don’t think you should expect that.

What I tried to do was get two of the best players at those three positions. I would have been fine with Adrian Peterson and Jimmy Graham, or Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham. I didn’t think it would be Peterson and Megatron but that is what happened as I won Peterson for $60 and Calvin for $57.

Graham went for $42, which I thought was too much – I would rather pay that premium to roster Calvin Johnson over the second tier of receivers who go in the $40 range. In this league, those were:

A.J. Green, Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall at $45 with

Julio Jones at $42 and Demaryius Thomas at $41

At the tight end position, the next group – Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Vernon Davis went in the $16-19 range, so you see what I mean.

I was actually more surprised with the RB prices – that Peterson stopped at $60 and that Doug Martin went for the same price. To me, there is a clear (at least $5) difference between ADP and Martin, a healthy Arian Foster, and Jamaal Charles. In this league, Foster and Charles both went for $53 while Ray Rice went for $51.

I had no intentions of paying top dollar at the quarterback position when it is so deep this year and the point per game differential will be so small. In this league, Rodgers led the group at $33 with the next group lagging $5-9 behind, so $28 for Drew Brees, $26 for Peyton Manning and $24 for Cam Newton. On a PPG projection (this one from Fantasy Guru.com) that would be 25.4, 25.6, 25.1 and 24.5.

The next two quarterbacks are likely to score 23+ PPG and Matt Ryan went for $19 while Andrew Luck went for $13. I was happy to look to tier three for my starting QB and got Colin Kaepernick (22.5 PPG) for $14 while Robert Griffin went for $16 and Matthew Stafford went for $13.

So my first three purchases were Peterson, Kaepernick and Johnson and I had spent $131. I would have to be careful filling in but I was pretty happy to have the best RB, best WR and a solid top-10 QB.

One thing that can happen with this rotating auction board is very similar to getting time shot in a live auction. I had the high bid on Gonzo at $16 while Witten was at $14 and then got outbid overnight while Witten closed at $16, I had to go to $19 to land Gonzalez – but it did give me another top tier player at the skill positions.

First bids in this auction were on Wednesday, August 15, so we are six days into it as I type this (and maybe close to finished by the time you read it but I will post an update on my last few players) and most teams have very limited funds to buy their last few players. Having snuck in my kickers for a dollar each (Jason Tucker and Phil Dawson – by the way, don’t sleep on Dawson this year, kicking for the 49ers means a top scorer at the position and Dawson has a better leg than David Akers) and landing Dexter McCluster for a dollar (sometimes it is right to make an early nomination on a speculative player you are not at all married to but would be happy to get for a dollar).

Here is my squad so far:

QB – Kaepernick (14) and will get a $2 backup

RB – Peterson (60), DeAngelo Williams (10)

WR – Johnson (57), Eric Decker (15), McCluster (1)

TE – Gonzalez (19)

K – Tucker (1) and Dawson (1)


I am currently the high bidder on four more players – Vincent Brown (4), Justin Blackmon (4), Ben Tate (5) and the Buffalo DST (1).

I can’t really bid on my last five roster spots until some of those resolve. Well, in fact I will have to bid on two of them Tuesday morning but one can be my DST2 and one can be a speculative RB/WR. I had thought all along I could sneak Blackmon onto my roster for $2 in the end game but someone else obviously had the same idea. I am guessing I will get outbid on Tate, especially with the continued bad news on Foster, but I have lots of other targets for that spot.

It is definitely an interesting way to auction off players – one sure to have you checking the auction board far too many times each day.

The first month of the Shandler Game – a monthly, modified, 4x4 roto contest, is over. So who are the winners and who are the losers?

And more importantly for those of you who will try the September contest or play in Shandler’s monthly contests next year, how did people win their leagues?

First, a recap for those who didn’t play and likely don’t remember the parameters of the contest, you can read more here. But here are the categories and roster constricts.

Game format: Salary cap game

Roster construction: 30-man roster -- 23 actives and 7 reserves. Positions will be standard roto - 2 C, 1B, 3B, CI, 2B, SS, MI, 5 OF, UT, 9 pitchers, 7 reserves at any position.

Salary cap: $300 for all 30 players. The prices will be based on 2013 performance to date.

Stat categories: This will be a 4x4 league with the categories of HR, SB, OBP, (R+RBI-HR), W, Sv+HLD, K, ERA.

Free agents: There will be no free agent access. You'll play out the season with the 30 players you draft.

Roster management: Intra-roster moves (reserve-to-active and active-to-reserve) can be made twice weekly, Mondays and Fridays at noon ET. You'll be setting your active roster for each Major League series.

League sizes: Each league will have 30 teams, filled on a first-come, first-served basis. I won't run a league with fewer than 20 teams. (actually there was such a large turnout that there were 18 leagues with nearly 450 teams).

For more background, see Todd’s Knights of the Roundtable discussion about the format and strategy.

But let’s take a look at the roster of one of the winners – Tim McLeod, a friend of mine and a long time contributor at RotoRob.com. I asked Tim what his draft plan was and here are the most important components:

First, he said he read the rules and then re-read the rules, and I agree with Tim that understanding a new contest is really necessary in order to attack it. “The one thing that caught my attention immediately was that we were allowed to make lineup changes twice a week – Monday and then Friday", recounted Tim. "Very quickly, I determined that I was going pitching heavy with the plan being to search for bargains, add some big dollar stud type starters and have at least five closers."

“I wanted to rotate the SP and then fill in each period with the closers and setup guys”, Tim said. And he was spot on as the RP category was, as you see above, Sv+HLD. Having extra pitchers in a twice weekly lineup format is not to stream pitchers but rather to maximize the pitchers you have in your lineup for each four and three-day period, as I mentioned when suggesting back in July that having five pitchers among your seven reserves would be the optimum construction.

Here was Tim’s list with the best bargains (remember the prices in July were based on results to that point in the season, so as you can see those who had missed time or got off to a bad start were going to have low salaries).

  • David Price $1
  • Jered Weaver $1
  • Gerrit Cole $1
  • Jeremy Hellickson $1
  • Matt Garza $1
  • Matt Cain $2
  • Chris Perez $1
  • Steve Cishek $1
  • Aaron Hill $1
  • Hanley Ramirez $1
  • Jose Reyes $5
  • Yasiel Puig $6
  • Jason Heyward $3
  • Victor Martinez $2
  • As Tim said, “Let’s face it, every team would take advantage of Ramirez, Reyes and Price, but Cole, Weaver, Garza and Hellickson were far from the most popular choices.”

    Tim said he was going to add stud pitchers after that and he did:

  • Yu Darvish $26
  • Max Scherzer $25
  • Madison Bumgarner $11
  • Craig Kimbrel $11
  • Kenley Jansen $10
  • Casey Janssen $4
  • He wanted a solid blend of power and speed in his lineup and added these hitters:

  • Paul Goldschmidt $39
  • Jason Kipnis $26
  • Ryan Zimmerman $14
  • Jay Bruce $18
  • Jacoby Ellsbury $37
  • Bryce Harper $18
  • Matt Wieters $6
  • Leonys Martin $10
  • Adam LaRoche $11
  • Miguel Montero $3
  • Tim was also thoughtful in choosing his two offensive reserves. “I thought it was imperative to fill my UT slot with an OF. In the event of injury, it gave me a very important option from a flex perspective.” He didn’t need it and I agree that in a monthly contest you pretty much have to get the hitters you think will be on the field.

    So how did McLeod’s team fare in the eight categories? Remember that there were 23 teams in his league.

    56 home runs – good for 17 points

    36 stolen bases – 16.5 points

    .3483 on-base % - 14 points

    377 RBI+Runs-HR – 22 points

    32 wins for all 23 points

    2.25 ERA – 22 points

    344 strikeouts – another 23 point sweep

    32 Saves+Holds – 18.5 points

    A total of 156 points, nine and a half ahead of the second place team (who had 81.5 pitching points, just five behind Tim). Shandler’s team finished 8th in this league with 101 points (in fact he did not win any of the eighteen leagues). One interesting point was that Shandler said he would not take Mike Trout on any of his teams (he had one in each league). Funny, Tim didn’t either and still won the league.

    Tim really enjoyed the contest and as others have, thanked Ron for adding a new contest to the many fantasy baseball formats. He did say that “one of the keys was the underpriced players and I am sure that will be corrected in future contests.”

    I think there will be an announcement soon at RonShandler.com about the next contest, so make sure you are on his e-mail list if you want to try and beat him – and Tim.

    Monday's long awaited Biogenesis suspensions created an interesting and unusual problem for fantasy owners and commissioners.

    While most sites have separate designations for DLed players and players in the minor leagues, aside from a possible S next to a player’s name, most league hosting sites do not have a way for you to move a suspended player to a separate status.

    While there are very few suspended players, there still needs to be a way to deal with them.

    What does YOUR league do?

    Yes, you can move them to the bench/reserve, but if you have limits on those spots, should a suspended player even be legally allowed there? Should the fantasy owner have to cut a suspended player? If not, how do they keep them on their roster?

    And what if an owner didn’t replace Nelson Cruz or Jhonny Peralta in their lineup Monday before game time? It may not be critical, although some leagues have rules requiring active lineups, but the point is your league should have rules for this.

    In my Great American Rotissileague, which I started in the mid-1980's, we allow suspended players to be put into a DL slot – largely because that is an available option on CBS Sportsline. But as I told the league yesterday in a commissioner’s email, if they weren’t put there before game time on Monday, I would not allow a mid-week replacement for them.

    Not all league hosting sites have a convenient way to deal with issues like this, which again means your league needs to have a rule. Speaking of league hosting sites, next week’s column will deal with a review of the good and bad of the major sites where fantasy leagues are set up, so if you have a site you would like included or have problems in some area with a site, please send me an email or PM or leave a comment or question in the Commissioner’s Forum on the Mastersball Fantasy Forums.

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