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Monday 16th Oct 2017

The American League in LABR had a fantastic finish this year, with the team that held the league lead since June sitting in first by only a half-of-a-point heading into the final three-day week, with three teams separated by only a point-and-a-half. For a detailed look, click here

Just watching that fabulous finish while my team was in 5th place motivated me to take a look back at the auction last March and see what worked, and what prevented me from being amongst those teams fighting for the title.

While the complete draft review is archived if you want to read it, I would summarize by saying my offense was good with Adam Jones ($21), Alex Avila ($17), Alcides Escobar ($13), and Andy Dirks ($4) being the best buys. Brett Lawrie ($28) didn’t live up to my expectations, but he and Matthew Joyce ($21) and others were not the reason I lost the league. Even the few disappointments--Jeff Francoeur ($17) and Casey Kotchman ($6)--did not lose the league.

One roster move and the saves I thought I drafted really jumped this team off the tracks. My starting pitching selections – Jeremy Hellickson ($14), Matt Harrison ($6), Jarrod Parker ($4), and (at the time) Alfredo Aceves ($2) were the first of the two strengths of the team. But, those relievers I counted on for my saves--Daniel Bard ($13), Jordan Walden ($16), and even Kyle Farnsworth (only $4)--really disappointed. If not for Aceves being moved to the bullpen in Boston and a nice free agent pickup of Jared Burton, I would not have finished with 31 saves and five points in the category.

The other strength of the draft was my six reserve selections – especially with the 11th pick in that snake draft. The reserves in LABR are far more than just some players who might help during the year because a reserve player can be moved from active back to reserve then back to active in any given week. Other players cannot be reserved unless they are sent to the minors (players who are injured can be put on the DL).

You will see that only half of my six reserves among Kelly Shoppach, Mike Montgomery, Alex Liddi, Luis Mendoza, Vinnie Catricala, and Drew Smyly even played in the majors this year, but that trio were key additions. Shoppach, because he backed up my cheap second catcher play of Josh Donaldson ($3), would play for the rest of the year for me; Mendoza because not only did he start a number of games for the Kansas City Royals but because I could reserve him for a tough start or when he was sent to the bullpen; and, Smyly because while he did not make the Opening Day roster for the Detroit Tigers, he did make the rotation and was called up by Jim Leyland (andme) in short order, and at least for the beginning of the year he was quite valuable for a reserve.

There were many good free agent additions and roster moves. But, one truly terrible move cost me a lot of home runs and runs batted in and countless hours of rest. You see, I had filled my middle infield slot in the auction with one Minnesota Twin named Trevor Plouffe. Quite a pick in early March, but early in the year Plouffe was benched and that empty spot (and the devil) made me cut him (if only he had been sent down right away) in the first week of May to add Wil Rhymes. UGH: Had I held onto Plouffe I might have finished 4th, and together with those missing saves, who knows? But, such is rotisserie life.

 

You have heard the mantra “Go big or go home”, but how does it translate at your fantasy football draft?

In large part the construction of your team in a draft is determined by your draft position. If you have a top three pick you are taking a running back (let’s base the discussion on 4 pts for passing touchdowns and six points for rushing touchdowns). The draft board starts to break with pick 1.04 because this year there isn’t a consensus pick for RB4 – some will take Chris Johnson who says he has everything back; some will hope that this is the first year that Darren McFadden plays more than twelve games in a season; many would have taken Maurice Jones-Drew if he had been in training camp and was starting Week 1.

Thursday night I drafted in an FFPC  event – the 96 team Super Satellite where the top four teams from each of the eight twelve teams leagues after eleven weeks of play will cash at the league level and advance to the 32 team bracketed elimination tournament for the big payday. FFPC scoring in addition to 4/6 touchdowns is PPR for RB and WR but gives 1.5 PPR for TE. In addition the starting lineup requirements are QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/TE with two Flex spots, so you could actually play three TE if they were good enough or more often two especially for bye week and matchup plays.

Greg Morgan (Masters of the NFFC/NFBC column here) and I have a strong partnership for teams we call “Captain Morgan” for obvious reasons in addition to sharing the quest for Life, Love & especially for high stakes fantasy teams LOOT.

We drew the less than ideal twelfth spot in our league. You can never really tell who drafters will take when they actually sit down at the table even if it’s only a $500 league but we knew the draft would start with some combination of Foster/Rice/McCoy. Calvin Johnson would be gone as would Aaron Rodgers and in a TE friendly league, Jimmy Graham would also be among the first eleven picks. We thought correctly that DMac and Chris Johnson would be gone so that makes eight players off the board when we picked, but who would the other three players be? We wanted to take the Cowboys Demarco Murray if he was available, and we had also saved a spot for Rob Gronkowski if he was available. We weren’t crazy about jumping another wide receiver into the first round but we had thought if all the other possibles were gone we might take Tom Brady or Drew Brees. The rationale is that you can’t chase running backs with what will be available with several teams ahead of you there so GO BIG and create an edge at other positions. So what did our leaguemates leave us?

 

1.01 Adrian Foster
1.02 Ray Rice
1.03 LeSean McCoy
1.04 Jimmy Graham (rose to 4 or 5 in many drafts in this event)
1.05 Darren McFadden
1.06 Calvin Johnson
1.07 Demarco Murray (so much for that plan)
1.08 Chris Johnson (no real surprises yet ….BUT)
1.09 Julio Jones (the hype train jumped the tracks)
1.10 Aaron Rodgers
1.11 Matt Forte (last RB I would have considered in 2nd round)

So what is strangely missing? Yes the other elite quarterbacks and that should be the case in leagues with four point passing touchdowns so our opponents were on point. But we wanted the advantage at two positions so we ended the first round with

1.12 Tom Brady (get that record back Tom Terrific)

And started with his BIG target

2.01 Rob Gronkowski (very hard to cover a 6’6” TE who plays like a WR)

2.02 Drew Brees
2.03 Maurice Jones-Drew
2.04 Doug Martin (a little high but hey if it's your guy …)
2.05 Trent Richardson
2.06 Darren Sproles (nice pairing with Murray)
2.07 Brandon Marshall (with Calvin)
2.08 Jamaal Charles
2.09 Ryan Mathews (say reach)
2.10 Adrian Peterson (that's three RBs getting near zeroes in Week 1)
2.11 Larry Fitzgerald
2.12 Aaron Hernandez
Now third round with team through three
3.01 Roddy White (Foster/Hernandez/White)
3.02 Andre Johnson (Rice/Peterson/Johnson)
3.03 A.J. Green (McCoy/Fitzgerald/Green)
3.04 Fred Jackson (Graham/Mathews/Jackson)
3.05 Steven Jackson (McFadden/Charles/Jackson)
3.06 Marshawn Lynch (Calvin/Marshall/Lynch)
3.07 Antonio Gates (Murray/Sproles/Gates)
3.08 Ahmad Bradshaw (CJ/Richardson/Bradshaw)
3.09 Wes Welker (Julio/Martin/Welker)
3.10 Greg Jennings (Rodgers/MJD/Jennings)
3.11 Victor Cruz (Forte/Brees/Cruz)
3.12 Percy Harvin (Brady/Gronkowski/Harvin)

We thought we might be able to gain a slighter edge at WR with this turn and I think we did with Harvin and Jordy Nelson, our pick at 4.01), and our fifth round selection of Brandon Lloyd.

But of course this comes at a price and for this team it would be starting well behind at RB1 and RB2. But we were prepared to take the Schussman route (Chris Schussman was the first winner of WCOFF in 2002 and after his early rounds he pounded secondary running backs – those who might be “handcuffs” (there were more before the league went so pass heavy) or rookies. So three of our next four and five of our next seven picks were running backs.

 

6.01 Peyton Hillis (splitting touches with Charles - think Thomas Jones)
7.12 Justin Blackmon (WR4 but Flex2 for us)
8.01 Jonathan Dwyer
9.12 Robert Turbin
10.01 Chris "Beanie" Wells (starting RB in round ten)
11.12 Joe Flacco (with Brady its bye plus weather protection)
12.01 Taiwan Jones (for DMac vacations)
13.12 Vick Ballard plus
16.01 Lamar Miller
18.01 Keiland Williams (starting RBs for Lions have great value)

Okay you hate our running backs right now – but look what could happen. And really Hillis is now a RB2 so we just need ONE of those RBullets to gain starter status (or more likely early one to be a good play in different weeks) – IF/when Marshawn Lynch is out with back issues Turbin is in; if Arizona can fix the O line issues and Wells can stay healthy he is a powerful runner; Dwyer has rapidly emerged as the best current Steeler RB and who knows when/if Mendenhall will be ready; Taiwan Jones has climbed over Mike Goodson behind McFadden; and both Ballard and Miller are behind less than stellar starters in Indianapolis and Miami.

Not for the faint of heart but it can work and we think gives us a greater chance to get to a Week 16 title game. Here is the entire roster to start the season:

 

QB - Brady (9) & Flacco (8)
RB - Hillis (7), Dwyer (4), Turbin (11), Wells (10), Jones (5), Ballard (4), Miller (7), & Williams (5)
WR - Harvin (11), Nelson (10), Lloyd (9), Blackmon (6), James Jones (10), & Bess (7)
TE - Gronkowski (9) & Jordan Cameron (10)
K - Greg Zuerlein (9)
DST - Buffalo Bills (8)
As always, comments and discussion are welcome here on in the FF Forum.
GOOD LUCK to YOU in your draft(s) this weekend.

 

 

 

 

Let it ring through your head with the appropriate music (apologies to Burt Bacharach)  …. BUT let’s make sure you are really prepared to draft your 2012 fantasy football team(s).

I get asked all the time about where to do mock drafts and frankly the answer is I don’t put much stock in mocksturbation because all the sites where you can mock or draft for free are filled with morons wasting time – a typical comment if you do a morning draft is a guy typing … “well that’s it for me, time to go to lunch”. The other problem is many of those drafts don’t fill and some of the autobots will draft quarterbacks with their first two picks.

The only REALLY useful mocks you could do would be against X number of live bodies – X being the exact number of the league you are prepping for; with the exact same lineup and scoring requirements for the league you are prepping for. Usually to find those you have to be in a private mock where you get committed individuals although occasionally you could find an NFFC or FFPC style draft at mock draft central and then as long as the draft fills with live bodies it might be useful.

Frankly what is much better if you are prepping for one of the big $$ contests (and if not you should be as you can get into the FBGPC which has FFPC scoring and win $150,000 for only a $350 entry) would be to play in one of the satellite leagues offered by those competitions. An entry of $150 is not a big deal if you are going to put in ten times that to enter a big money contest and even if you are not able to enter one this year you could win enough in one of these satellites to pay for half an entry next year.

Long intro into taking you into a draft I am did Saturday morning – a $150 NFFC satellite. So this is a QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR/TE/FLEX/K/DST league with PPR for all RB/WR/TE and six points per passing touchdown. The one I am doing is a twelve team league although they also have fourteen team leagues.

So I have the 11th pick which in NFFC’s 3RR drafts means I will have the second pick in the second round AND in the third round and then the draft will revert to a normal snake draft. So what are my targets?

We can’t quite see that – have to wait to see what the first ten drafters left me, but invariably at least one player you didn’t expect to be available will slide through depending on how many of these drafters took  a quarterback or tight end in the first round (I will discuss the efficacy of that later). I am guessing I will be starting TE/WR or QB/WR or maybe QB/TE (but the last two mean that one of Brady or Brees is still there).

So here are the first ten picks:

1.01 Arian Foster
1.02 Ray Rice
1.03 LeSean McCoy
1.04 Aaron Rodgers
1.05 Calvin Johnson
No surprises so far
1.06 Chris Johnson (like this pick)
1.07 Drew Brees (not so much this one)
1.08 Tom Brady (no 1st round QB for me)
1.09 Cam Newton
1.10 Darren McFadden (sigh there went my pick)

Okay so the choices are one of the two STUD tight ends, or Matt Forte, or overdrafting a wide receiver (and then picking the right one because one of Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson is sure to disappoint).

So I took Jimmy Graham at 1.11 and the next drafter took

1.12 Matt Forte and 2.01 Matthew Stafford

Yes even experienced, successful drafters make mistakes – I should have taken Forte because the 12th drafter would not have taken both Graham and Gronkowski and I could have had one with my second pick …… still had the TE/WR start stuck in my head. So my second pick was Wes Welker – for me the choice was Welker or Julio Jones and while I think Jones is a great talent and expect him to score more fantasy points than his teammate Roddy White this year with Matt Ryan throwing more, I will go with the guy who has done if for several years and has Tom Brady delivering the rock. And Graham and Welker is a LOT of receptions.

So the rest of round two goes Murray, Gronk, B. Marshall, Fred Jackson (?), Charles, Matthews, R. White, Fitzgerald (now properly getting moved down as people see the train wreck that is the AZ quarterback situation behind a poor OLine), T. Richardson, and Andre Johnson.

Are you KIDDING me? One pick to go and Julio is still on the schoolyard.

Sigh, not to be as he is taken by the twelve team at 3.01 (remember this is a 3RR draft). So my choice is pick a receiver I like or trust the Jaguars will fix the MJD problem AND bet that he can stay healthy after staying out of camp – history says BIG injury risk. So I took A.J. Green, the Bengals fine receiver.

I immediately queued up the running backs I hoped would last for the next two rounds until my pick at 4.11 – Sproles, Lynch, SJax, ADP, D. Martin, R. Bush and Bradshaw. And of course one by one most of them fell off (which in case you are wondering would have committed my to WR/WR or WR/QB but only Matt Ryan, or possibly WR/Michael Turner).  Sproles, Jackson, Peterson, and finally Doug Martin went in the third round, while both Reggie Bush and Bradshaw survived a 4th round mostly filled with WR (Harvin, Colston, then Lynch L, Wallace, D. Thomas, A. Brown, Decker, Bowe, Lloyd, and Maclin). I took Bush feeling that he will have a good year in Miami as they run him some but more often split him out to get him the ball in space giving him a lot of receptions but preserving the wear and tear with Daniel Thomas and later Lamar Miller.

Now another decision – wait on my quarterback or take a wide receiver. I decided on the later largely because Stevie Johnson of Buffalo was the last receiver in my tier and that would give me three of the top fifteen receivers on my board. Who knows maybe this wouldn’t be a group that would draft Ryan ahead of not only his ADP but also the other quarterbacks in the middle tier.

No such luck there as Ryan was the very next pick.

The end of round six saw Tony Romo still there while Peyton, Eli, and Rivers had been drafted since my last pick. With the guy behind me already with Stafford, I knew I could take a running back with my 6.11 pick and then get Romo with my next pick (THIS is the advantage of either completing your own draft board or using the one in front of your draft or available on line (at least on stats.com drafts). The available running backs were McGahee, BJGE, Donald Brown, Hillis and Benson. I was pretty happy with that and while I took Brown then Romo, I might have gone RB/RB there if good old #12 hadn’t taken Benson – but at least I had two solid running backs and would be able to add more later.

While there is a lot of value in giving you an entire recap of each pick the article would be very long and some just want to see the team, but feel free to ask me about the rounds/picks/choices in the FF Forum on the message boards. But one interesting draft question and one observation.

When I was drafting at the 8/9 turn I was talking on the phone with my partner in “Captain Morgan” – Greg Morgan who writes Masters of the NFFC/NFBC column here and is one of the most successful fantasy players in the country and I asked him what he thought was an appropriate round to draft the injured Jason Witten – the risk of him missing the first game or getting hit again and needing an operation which would shelve him for the rest of the 2012 season mitigated by getting him much later than his sixth round ADP. I would have drafted him to pair with Graham with my next pick because then when healthy I could have one of them in my flex spot. That didn’t materialize as he was drafted at 9.10 as TE1 by a team who immediately took Dustin Keller with their next pick.

The observation from this draft is that I again saw too many drafters wasting valuable picks in rounds 10-16 in a twenty round draft picking DSTs and kickers – EVEN if you are right and that is not likely as there is so much turnover in defensive scoring from year to year – you are letting your competitors gain a big advantage in the RB and WR they add for depth and upside. Trust me you can’t possibly think your team is great and you don’t need upside reserves in the 11th or 12th round – wait until at least the 17th or 18th round to take your DST (okay 17th if you are going to use a DSTBC) and then you can take a kicker in the 19th and one final upside lottery pick in the last round.

Okay here is the MastersBallers team (with byes) and some comments:

QB – Tony Romo (5) & Sam Bradford (9)

As long as Romo is a top ten quarterback and there is no reason to think he won’t be, he could really stand alone on a roster but an early Week 5 bye had me grab Bradford (the Rams host Arizona that week). Had I been able to add a complimentary QB I might have just in case both Austin and Bryant have injury problems at the same time and Witten has further problems.

RB – R. Bush (7), D. Brown (4), Redman (4), P. Thomas (6), K. Hunter (9), & Ballard (4)

Even waiting on my first running back I have three starters (at least for the first three weeks) plus Thomas who is always playable. Hunter is just another Gore injury from increased carries and Ballard is a backup for Brown.

WR – Welker (9), Green (8), S. Johnson (8), D. Moore (5), Collie (4), R. Cobb (10), & Quick (9)

Very strong group here and likely where my Flex play comes from most weeks*. Yes I know Collie has yet another concussion, but as my WR5 in the 13th round an easy risk to take. Cobb is a tremendous receiver and just an injury/trade away from a lot more targets from Aaron Rodgers. Quick is an excellent rookie receiver who I think has a good chance to be productive for the Rams (the type of pick I was alluding to instead of taking your defense or kicker four or five rounds too early).

TE – Graham (6), Olsen (6), & Dickson (8)

I fully expect Graham to lead all tight ends in scoring this year and like last year be on a par with WR in the 3-7 range. Olsen is one of a handful of tight ends who could easily take the step from rankings in the 15-18 range to being a Top 10 scorer (take his numbers from last year and add them to Jeremy Shockey’s and see what might be very likely).  Should that be the case * he could easily be a flex play in several weeks based on byes and matchups. And yes that bye was a big mistake – I was going to take Jared Cook (another from the possibly ascendant group) – and the guy right before me took him so I clicked on Olsen knowing that there would be a secondary run on tight ends – and there was but Olsen shares that Week 6 vacation with Graham, forcing me to either add a third TE late or have to spend precious FAAB dollars before Week 6 to get a replacement. At least Dickson is a starter with some upside himself.

K – Garrett Hartley (6)

DST – Buffalo Bills (8)

I certainly like the team although I know some readers will not without a STUD RB or STUD QB. Let’s see how it plays. I will be glad to add piece later in the year to see how this team fares. For now use the information and even the mistakes to make your draft better.

In keeper leagues it is trade season. Trade deadlines vary from league to league –some as soon as the All Star break, some in early August. So a team in my AL keeper league sends out this email…..

"I am going to trade Austin Jackson (5D10) this week. As I promised several of you, I am making a league wide announcement to invite all interested. Please email all offers by Friday.

 All offers are acceptable (dump offers/player offers/minor leaguers/draft pick upgrades)

I will look at all of them

If you have multiple offers submit them

 If you don't make an offer, don't bitch to me later, you had your chance."

 Really have to love it on two counts:

1) He gave everybody in the league fair notice

2) He put them on notice about bitching when he trades Jackson to the team right behind them

 Actually this should really be standard procedure for any teams that are “rebuilding” (yeah I know some of you like to say dumping but that shouldn’t be the intent or description). Give everyone in your league a chance to exchange offers with you – it makes the trades better for you and fairer for the league.

 On the other side of trade negotiations be fair with your league mates. You don’t hold up one guy for a king’s ransom for one trade and then turn around and trade an equal player(s) to someone else for much less.

 You should also be careful about trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip – if you have a fair offer on the table you have discussed with the other team and then at the last minute ask for “a little bit more”.  You should get what you really deserve….

 “Sorry bud I traded X to another team. See you next year”

 And ending up holding the players whose contracts are expiring this year and getting nothing for them.

If you watched the Cubs on Monday or looked at the box score today you noticed Ryan LaHair in right field. That was not a mistake, as manager Dale Sveum notified LaHair that he would be playing right field for the foreseeable future.

That move occasioned one immediate move as RF David DeJesus moves to CF and Tony Campana et al find room on the bench. We will have to wait for the other shoe to drop but really the date it will happen is the only thing in question. The Cubs are expected to call up 1B Anthony Rizzo at some point this week or next.

Rizzo is batting .364 with 23 home runs for Triple-A Iowa in the Pacific Coast League. And while GM Theo Epstein says the Cubs are sticking to their “plan” for Rizzo, he doesn’t say what that plan is/was or absolutely say the young power hitting Rizzo, whom he knew as a Red Sox prospect when both were in the Boston organization, is close to a call-up. Full circle got Rizzo traded to San Diego last year and then from San Diego to Chicago this year where he was re-united with Epstein as his GM.

So along with Rizzo, we wait. Meanwhile, fantasy players are either trying to trade for Rizzo or figuring out how much FAAB to bid on him whenever the young slugger arrives.

"Through the course of a long season, you find yourself with stretches when things don't go your way. You battle through those things. In the end, you're better for it."

Those comments could be made by any fantasy baseball player. They could just as easily be made by any major league player and were in fact from the mouth of Texas Ranger all-time hit leader Michael Young responding to a question about coming out of a “slump” over the weekend.

But remember when your roto team loses twenty points over just two weeks what Young said – and at this point that we are still “early” into the season.

Early you scream? Well yes, while we are two months or one third into the games to be played, the counting numbers in many categories are still very tightly bunched, so you will often see a loss of several points in say strikeouts on a given day. The answer of course is that with those points still reflecting several teams within eight or nine total strikeouts, your loss could just be because you had no starters going yesterday while everybody in your sub group had one or two. Or that you all lost some points because the team at the bottom of the group had Chris Sale and Drew Hutchison pitching yesterday and that is what 24 strikeouts will do.

It’s just that usually it takes more than one or two days to get that many strikeouts.

As further proof of the tight bunching in many categories starting this week in the AL LABR league I was in second place with 74.5 points, but more than ten points behind ESPN’s Nate Ravitz who was leading the league. Well my aggressive lineup play of pitching Nate Adcock for a good two start week severely damaged my ERA and WHIP, and I dropped four points in the standings and dropped to sixth place.

But Ravitz’ category positions were also weathered and his dropping seven points actually puts me three points closer to him. Unfortunately there are now four other teams in between us.

Remember in some ways the season is still young. It’s a long way to September.

As we head into the Memorial Day Weekend we are just a few days from the end of the first third of the 2012 baseball season.

In many formats that means time for a serious look at your place in the standings and your roster. Oakland General Manager Billy Beane used to view April and May – the first third of the year as the time to see what he actually had on the field and based on that, make his plans for the rest of the season. If there is a chance for your team to contend, then you have to make a plan that will get you into contention.

Beane suggested that June and July – the second third of the season was the time to put the plan into place – call up players from the minors that might fill a need; trade from excess either on the team or in the system to fill a critical need; even cut or send down players who weren’t productive.

After those roster moves the team would be set up to make a stretch run in the final third of the season.

YOUR fantasy baseball team is not much different. Sure there are slightly different approaches in redraft or keeper leagues; in trading leagues or non-trading leagues. But the roster analysis has to start now. What are the categorical deficiencies; and How can you correct them? Be truthful in your analysis but don’t just look at the numbers for the first third of the year – you may be trending up in some categories and down in others so your splits by week/month are very important to look at.

The easiest thing is to deal from a clear surplus of stolen bases or saves. But even in the power categories remember there is a maximum number of points in the category – you don’t get more if you win the column by ten…or twenty….or fifty. It is better to get 11 points in HR and RBI in a twelve team league if giving up those two points will gain you more in pitching.

The earlier you can get your plan together and start re-structuring your lineup the more effect new players will have on your stats – three or four months of better production is obviously better than just two months. But you may also have more trading partners to choose from by making deals earlier.

What you will have to pay for your reinforcements depends on your league structure. My focus here would be primarily on keeper leagues because redraft leagues should be very restrictive if they even allow any trades – all you can do there is rearrange the deck chairs.

While you would like to acquire the hot bats don’t forget that historically reliable players who are off to slow starts will cost you a lot less, so while you may look to deal for an Adam Jones to fill a weak outfield slot it will cost you. But you may well get a Kevin Youkilis thrown into the deal or be able to acquire him cheaply from another team. Youk has just come off the DL and will be playing some first base as well as third base for Boston unless the Red Sox find a team who wants him.

Now is also the time you may be able to acquire a younger player who has talent but it is struggling enough to lower the price substantially. Eric Hosmer would be a great trade target if yours is a team that needs to roll the dice a little. You would never have pried him away from an owner in March or April but trading for him before he starts hitting again is a better proposition.

As a kid who loved baseball and lived in Los Angeles in the late 50's and early 60's my brother and I were big Dodger Fans. When school was out for the summer it was commonplace for us to go to sleep with the radio on with the voice of Vin Scully accompanying us to snoozeland.

We had one of those clock radios between the beds in our room that you could set so the radio would play for a set period of time before turning off automatically. Some nights we didn’t notice when the radio went off, already dreaming of our own hits in upcoming or future games; while on some nights I had to turn the radio back on if the game hadn’t finished and I was still awake.

Tuesday evening after a painful procedure earlier in the day I had to take some pain pills and hit the pillow early. So I turned on the MLB Network thinking I would hear a few scores and highlights before I turned the television off.

But an old friend greeted me – the network having switched to live coverage of the Giants at Dodger stadium and the dulcet tones of Vin caught me up on the game. Ryan Vogelsong, a pitcher on my XFL team was leaving the game in the eighth inning leading 2-1 but with the bases loaded. In came Javier Lopez to face the left hand hitting Andre Ethier. Scully not only described the Dodger’s Diamond Vision scoreboard showing Ethier hitting a grand slam home run from some earlier time but of course also noted that Lopez was the toughest pitcher in the National league facing LH hitters, holding them to just a .146 batting average over the past two years.

But Scully also weaves in a lot of personal information about certain players so last night his audience also learned that Lopez had a degree from Virginia University and that his wife had a doctorate counseling and psychology from the University of Tennessee.

More importantly I listened to Lopez retire Ethier and Juan Rivera and then after a quick top of the ninth inning by the Dodgers Javy Guerra (pronounced Geera) went back out to retire the left hand hitting Tony Gwynn Jr. and James Loney before giving way to Santiago Casilla to face Juan Uribe to attempt to win the game – Vin forgot to add that doing so would seal the win for Vogelsong as well as get me a save for my several Casilla teams.

But all the fantasies came together quickly as it took Casilla only two pitches to record those wins and saves as narrated by the legendary Dodgers’ announcer. A sound I enjoyed once again.

And then I had to reach over and turn off the television and try and find some different fantasies.

 

Well after those trades I had some holes to fill.

You say you punted, so who cares? Well that is not the right way to play – for many reasons. Teams that are rebuilding still have an obligation to all the teams in the league to play the best lineup they can. Maintaining the integrity – or as much as possible – in all the categories is the right thing to do.

Beyond that, keeper leagues should have some mechanism to get every team to play as hard as they can throughout the season. In this league (as in several others that I play in) part of that incentive is that the highest team in the standings that finishes out of the money – 5th place in this league – gets the first minor league draft pick as well as the first reserve pick in next year’s draft. Well that could be VERY important and fits in perfectly with the idea of this team – rebuild it to be competitive as soon as possible.

You have likely heard people refer to two year plans. Some players think this means rebuild for two years and of course it is possible you have to do that but it shouldn’t be your objective. My punting any chance to finish in the money was dictated by injuries (I certainly wouldn’t have gone this route if Madson was closing to start the year) and by the fact that there were several teams in the league with fantastic freeze lists. My hope for 2013 is to be one of those teams.

Free agents you may collect may also be fine ten dollar keepers the following spring (Vance Worley, Darwin Barney; Paul Goldschmidt just to name a few from 2011). So you constantly try to mine the free agent pile for those AND for any potential closers – whether for this year where they can either gain you points or be more trade chips or for next year.

So after my trades I had two “zeroes” in my lineup (Matt Hague and Kyle Blanks) and wanted to replace them for last week. I may have overspent for the Cardinals CI Matt Carpenter - BUT keep in mind he has a clear road to playing time while Lance Berkman is out and neither Berkman or David Freese have been in the lineup every game. That means again he may be a trade chip or if the stars aligned perfectly maybe he is the first baseman in St. Louis next year (okay it’s a long shot but it’s also worth the try, as the old adage goes – if  you’ve got the slot, he’s worth the spot). So I did outbid a few of the competing teams with a large $234 of my FAAB. That took care of the corner slot and $15 more FAAB got me Matt Diaz for the outfield position.  I also spent $69 to roster Kyle Kendrick (yeah looked a lot better before Monday’s start) who will be starting for the Phillies while Cliff Lee is out.

Things were going fine – still maintaining a nice 6th place which realistically is probably the best I can do unless one of the contending five teams flips later and trades out. But again it means a lot to have that earlier minor league pick.

As the end of the week approached I was suddenly contacted by Team 5 who should have won the league last year after a brilliant draft. But team management just starts there and the owner was very negligent about free agent pickups to plug holes and also very reluctant to trade his minor league chips to improve his team. So he finished second on a year he was dealt the Championship. This year he agreed to let his minority partner help him with some team management (and he made a very nice albeit via a gigantic overbid to roster Tony Campana called up by the Cubs who has already delivered five stolen bases in part time play this week).  So they want Tommy Hanson to pitch for their team. Well I explain that will cost a significant amount since Hanson’s contract 15C13 is one of my best keepers for next year. Yeah he understands that and will deal their best minor leaguer – one Anthony Rizzo who will now have a much better hitter’s park when called up later this year. Long story short we are on our way to a deal….

When the “phone” rings and Team 2 is back having watched all their competitors in my cupboard last week and they have more injuries. AND they want Hanson and while I think they wanted to expand the deal I tell them I have another buyer so I will need something extra besides Brett Jackson who they know they will have to put on the table.

Well this is fun but ultimately I didn’t get to make the decision – Team 5’s majority partner wouldn’t trade Rizzo in what would have been a fantastic deal for them as I was going to include the Brewer’s shortstop Alex Gonzalez for their Rizzo and another player I liked.

So trade four was made, Hanson for MLers Brett Jackson (CHC), and Matt Lipka (ATL), an infielder that the Atlanta Braves decided was better suited for center field. 2011 was Lipka’s first full year in professional baseball (at age 19) and he didn’t show as much power as expected but did steal twenty-eight bases. If Lipka continues to develop as a defender, he may well grow into the power at that age. I can wait.

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Jackson on the other hand if you don’t already know is a likely 20-20 center fielder who I expect to see in Wrigley field later this summer. In a way adding a player to my future outfield is better than potentially having a third first baseman to go with Gaby Sanchez and Ryan Howard.

Another great outing by Joe Saunders and news that Wade Miley will stay in the Diamondbacks rotation helped the local baseball coverage and kept my place in the standings. Let’s see what we can find next week.

Part III – Reshaping the Roster

 

In Part II we looked at how I acquired this team in the auction:

C – Hanigan (6C12) and Ramos (8D11)

CI – Sanchez (10C13), Freese (8C12), and R. Howard (29D12)

MI – Dnl Murphy (2D11), Crawford (5D12), and Furcal (16D12)

OF – Heisey (5D10), Schierholtz (10F11), Ethier (34D12), Parra (6D12), & Venable (16D12)

UT – Alex Gonzalez (10D12)

SP – Hanson (15C13), Beachy (12D11), Delgado (5D12), Detwiler (5D12), Samardzija (8D12)

RP – H. Bell (22D11), Madson (2D11), D. Hernandez (1D12), & Brothers (3D12)

[Contracts D/drafted; F/free agent; or R/reserve are the year in which the player was rostered; C is the year a long term contract ends;semi-standard keep three years or give long term contract at +$5 per year]

In the reserve rounds I drafted:

Tyler Greene, 2B/SS, STL – put at second so I could move Murphy to CI putting Howard on the DL

Freddy Galvis, 2B/SS, PHL – some upside or lineup fix if I traded a shortstop early

Joe Saunders, SP, AZ – had good ratios first game out to use Week 2; and subsequently another good outing and a W in Week 3

Wade Miley, RP/SP, AZ – subbed in for Madson Week 1

Josh Lindblom, RP, LAD – subbed in for Week 1 when Detwiler didn’t pitch

I froze five minor leaguers (we pay $10 cash for each one retained to the prize pool but they are five dollar players when we activate them) – Jose Ceda, P, MIA; Nick Akins, OF, LAD; Kyle Skipworth, C, MIA; Ivan DeJesus Jr., SS, LAD; and J.C. Ramirez, P, PHL.

In this year’s minor league draft (held after the auction) I had the third pick – unfortunately but naturally the teams ahead of me took Trevor Bauer and Christian Yelich (sigh) so I went a little outside the box and took Brad Boxberger who came over to the Padres in the Mat Latos deal and looks to be the closer of the future in San Diego. I followed that up with Joe Panik, 2B, SF; Robbie Erlin, P, SD;  Scott Van Slyke, 1B, LAD; and Christian Bethancourt, C, ATL. The minor leaguers are a key part of rebuilding. You want the most impactful players you can get for the long term but in this league I don’t want them up in April this year which would force activation. IF Boxberger eventually closes for San Diego that will be huge – there aren’t many true closers you can identify early. Panik was the Giants first round pick last June and IMO is likely their second baseman next opening day (could also play at shortstop). Erlin along with Joe Wieland came over to the Padres in the Mike Adams trade and are two excellent young pitchers (in fact Wieland got the call up after this draft). Van Slyke (yes, son of Andy) is a power hitting first baseman who I think is getting closer and unless James Loney rediscovers how to hit the ball over the fence could be in Dodger Stadium by 2013. Bethancourt wowed everyone in the Arizona Fall League – unfortunately the power hitting catcher will have to wait for Brian McCann to retire or leave Atlanta as a free agent, or get traded to a new organization himself.

Okay the next order of business which I did the day after I drove back from LALAland was to email the ENTIRE league with a list of the players who were available in trade. The entire is capitalized because it is key – you never know who thinks there are competing and who isn’t. Maybe a team is off to a great start in the standings for the first two weeks and can’t see the forest through the trees. More important you want every competing team to realize they had a shot at these players. You don’t want to be the guy that just negotiates with one of your friends and leaves the other teams out in the cold. You also want to stimulate some early competition for the most sought after players.

I know a lot of players who would tell you to wait – you would get more if you waited until June or July to make the trade. Trust me that is not the case, especially if you have several players you want to move. If you move a player or two in early trades you stimulate the OTHER teams because they don’t want to be left behind – you WANT them to want to make trades too. It may not be with your BUT early trading stimulates later trading. (If you don’t believe me keep reading and tell me I could have done better in June).

Even if you don’t make a trade right away you want an owner (hopefully two) to think about putting David Freese (last year of contract) or Andre Ethier into their lineup.

The same day I sent the email I got two responses. The first from a friend of mine who had a hole at 3B/CI and wanted Freese. The second was from the team that froze their entire team and they were also interested in Freese as well as Beachy (who I wasn’t eager to trade since he was a likely keeper for 2013 but he was the only starting pitcher who would generate the buzz aside from Hanson who I was not trading (at least not right now).

So Team 1 was a good trade partner because he had drafted Giants catcher Jesus Sanchez for $3 and my feeling aside from the fact that Sanchez can rake is that whether it is for some games at 1B or DH the Giants will have to play Posey at first base. In fact they may need to move him there for his psyche and to protect him and it is easier since Brandon Belt can play the outfield. I could trade him both expiring contracts – Freese and Hanigan and get Sanchez and a top prospect. In all transparency here Sanchez was actually an auction target of mine if I could get him cheap I thought he would be a decent C2 if I traded Hanigan this year and if not certainly next year, but when I bought Alex Gonzalez it inadvertently filled my UT spot.

Team 2 would be more difficult. First they want Beachy but they refused to trade one of their top prospects (they have Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Brett Jackson on their farm along with Gerrit Cole from previous years and would draft some nice players this year). Be firm with these types of teams – it’s all about finding common ground. What I told them was that they were welcome to keep all three “untouchables” they just wouldn’t win the league this year. After a few frank communiques back and forth that was put to rest but they wanted Ethier “thrown in”. Yeah and I want to win the next Powerball drawing. But they finally agreed they would give up Jackson (look if you know a team won’t deal a particular player – in this case Harper who they drafted three years ago while he was in high school, don’t beat it to death) and some additional prospects.

However as I pointed out to them – it would literally hand them the league and stifle further trading and make me the league Ahole. Of course they didn’t care but that is not how to do business - it’s a Keeper league – that means keeping the owners as well as the players. I certainly wouldn’t want someone to do that to me.

The following day I get an email from Team 3 and living in Los Angeles they think Ethier would look great on their roster (and he would). They also had an interest in Beachy but didn’t need or want Freese. They have some very nice prospects and they are generally good guys to deal with. So in the reply I told the partner communicating with me that I was interested in Starling Marte a very good hitting prospect (who can already play major league defense in the outfield) in the Pittsburgh organization. In fact if the Pirates had not just signed Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata to long term contracts and if Alex Presley wasn’t as good as he is, Marte might have broken with the club. Still some in their organization would like to bring him up soon – but where would he play? Not a problem, I don’t want him playing this year. So Team 3 would call me back on Sunday after the partners conferred.

Meanwhile I had to keep the other teams at bay and deal with Team 4 who now wanted to tell me that Ethier was overpriced but they had some interest in both he and Venable. Fine - an email to explain how I felt about Ethier and they were on the back burner.

Team 2 writes me back to tell me they won’t deal for any one guy they want all three. I tell the computer screen where it can hide THAT email.

A few emails to Team 1 and we have that trade almost done – I just have to decide whether I want Pittsburgh fly chaser and power hitter Josh Bell or Phillies SP prospect Trevor May. I decide overnight that I don’t mind getting both Pirate outfielders despite the playing time jam – Bell has the higher upside.

Sunday morning I complete the trade with Team 3 first – I trade them Beachy (12D11) and Ethier (34D12) for Yonder Alonso (5D12), MLer Marte, and a $3 Jair Jurrjens (3D11) who has a year left.

I email back the completed offer with Team 1 – Freese and Hanigan for Bell, Sanchez and I need a CI because our first FA bidding won’t be until next Saturday and he wants Freese in his lineup right away so he sends me Matt Hague (sent down by Pittsburgh a day later but that doesn’t bother a rebuilding team).

Team 4 and I discuss minor leaguers and I send them an email offering Venable (16D12) for their choice of several of their farmhands and I need an outfielder to make this deal work, so how about Kyle Blanks who has hit the DL which will give Venable more at bats. They think this is eminently fair and deal three (Venable for Blanks (10R12) and MLer Raymond Fuentes who has stolen 40+ bases in both his minor league seasons) of the week is in the books. In fact those were the only three trades completed in the league but you can bet there will be more to follow.

Wonder how breakfast went down for Team 2 after the Commissioner’s email spelling out all the trades? They watched three competing teams get stronger and they didn’t plug any holes. True they have a great stash of minor leaguers to trade – currency of the realm in keeper leagues – and that will help them get better later in the year. But look at what I got in dealing with three teams and not with just one.

Option A – trade with Team 2

Freese, Beachy, and Ethier for MLers Brett Jackson, Jedd Gyorko, and either Jed Bradley or Zach Lee (we never discussed the third minor leaguer to be included and they would have had to include two scrubs, likely Shane Robinson and Chad Tracy)

OR

Option B – trades with Team 1 and Team 3 (combined)

Freese, Beachy, and Ethier for Y. Alonso (5D12), H. Sanchez (3D12), J. Jurrjens (3D11), M. Hague (10F12), and MLers Josh Bell and Starling Marte

IMO the MLers Bell and Marte will have more value than Gyorko and either pitcher, but even if you think those parts are even, measure Alonso, Sanchez, and Jurrjens vs Brett Jackson and decide which trade(s) you would have made.

Besides the league still has many months to play out before a Champion is crowned…..and several more trades to help me get ready to compete next year.

But that was a good first two weeks.

 

Part II – The Auction and Resulting Roster

Shortstop Brandon Crawford, SF, projected to be -$1 before the season but had hit very well in spring training and changed my mind as I decided to keep him at $5 thinking I needed to give him a chance and there would be tough battle$ for the available shortstops. Plus I would only need a MI in the auction.

Next two pitching prospects that have been on my “Farm” for several years. Ross Detwiler, the tall, talented LHP from Southwest Missouri State who I had seen pitch at college and hoped would be a good major league pitcher. Well that hadn’t materialized until late last year but he had survived several years of cuts. I would have cut him this year if he was pitching in the bullpen but since we had to wait before we drafted I knew he was going to be in the rotation and in fact he got his first win the night before our draft so I was happy to keep him at $5.

Randall Delgado on the other hand was a much higher rated prospect but had not looked good this spring (shows you how bad Julio Teheran had pitched) and only the injury to Tim Hudson had given him a chance. Still I believe in the arm and the long term potential so I kept him at $5 also.

Well keeping all three deleted my frozen profit – at least on the latest set of projections but I would need to take some chances in the draft so I took these three early. But they weighted heavily and in my last hours of prep for the auction I realized I was not going to contend unless things went perfectly and that wasn’t bloody likely.

So I decided to be ready to race or rebuild depending on how things opened but my gut said I would have to rebuild.

The one good thing is that you can go AC/DC – not musically but if the draft goes perfectly for you can eschew the late rebuilding plays and play for this year. If you don’t like what happens early then look for those rebuilding chips AND don’t forget to get a couple of very good players that contending teams will want to trade for later in the year. Notice I didn’t say STUD players. Sure you might get  Matt Kemp ($59+)), Ryan Braun ($54), or Hanley Ramirez ($42) BUT what would the market for them be when perhaps only one of the contending teams could fit him under the salary cap at those prices? You HAVE to keep that in mind.

Okay, gavel time. To quickly review I would need to buy a shortstop, a CI or MI (I could move Murphy), three outfielders and a utility player and three pitchers and had $145 to work with.

There was one other wrinkle before the auction started. One of the teams, actually the team that won last year (they had a good team but actually won because the team who had the best draft totally mismanaged their roster in respect to free agent pickups and trades and by the time they woke up it was too late) had frozen their ENTIRE roster! Something none of us had ever seen done before.  In fairness to them the marginal players that they might not have frozen likely couldn’t have been repurchased for their prices. Still in fairness to you it wasn’t a great freeze list – there would still be the potential for other teams to win the league.

And try they did. So the 2nd place team had the first nomination and threw out a player they loved but whose contract had expired after 2011 – so what would Kemp go for – keep in mind we were drafting less than five miles from Dodger Stadium. Now this was a fun player for me. I had no delusion that he might go for a price low enough to have THE premium trade chip or that I could bid enough to get him to just enjoy him on my team and a player like Kemp if he were to succeed in going 50-50 could cover enough holes to help anyone win. Unfortunately one of the 50s was not his auction price as I help the team that nominated him pay $62 for his services this year.

Braun at $54 and Hanley at $42 were also first round nominations before it was even my turn. I needed a shortstop and with Hanley off the boards and Troy Tulowitzki ($45) and Jose Reyes ($36) frozen I decided to test the water and throw out Rafael Furcal. Furcal hasn’t been a premier fantasy shortstop since 2006 but he was reportedly healthy and off to a good start so I was slightly stunned to have the bidding stop on my $16 bid. Maybe they were saving their money for Jimmy Rollins but I knew he would go for more and he did, bought for $30 by one of the strongest freeze lists. (exactly what you want to note during the auction – WHO will be the buyers if you want to sell Furcal)

I was even more surprised when I landed Alex Gonzales for $10, which is about fitty cent for each home run the Brewer’s shortstop will hit this year but again if he is doing well and a contender has a week SS or MI slot I will waive his picture at them. And if I don’t trade him and he has a good year he may be a reasonable keeper at that price. Remember we are in a keeper league so there is 20-30% inflation each year.

Ryan Howard was definitely a player I wanted to buy. But I was not alone. Sure anyone would buy him for a low price, replace him with a playable reserve and then be glad to get him into the lineup in the second half of the year. I was more concerned with getting him at a price where he would be a reasonable keeper if healthy and hitting late this year or launching balls in spring training next year and again in an inflation riddled year I thought that was anyplace in the 20s. Sadly there were three other teams who were looking to play for next year in this year’s auction (which unfortunately can’t really be clarified until you are in the middle of the auction). Still I was not off my rocker to pay $29. Sure I would have liked to pay less but Howard is a difference maker – especially with the dearth in power from NL first basemen. So either he is blasting home runs later this year and someone wants to overpay for him or I decide next year how good a keeper he might be.

Even with that questionable purchase I have to tell you that if you are thinking you are likely rebuilding there is calm about the auction for you. You don’t feel pressed or nervous or agitated if someone else gets a good player. An amazing revelation in this draft.

There was one more player I wanted specifically to trade and I mentioned Andre Ethier earlier. I will presume you know that he is today second in the NL in runs batted in …….the only person in front of him is of course his teammate Kemp. I expect that to continue – not the second but a boatload of RBI's for the season. I was happy to pay $34 for him.

Now I had spent the majority of my budget but had a comfortable amount especially for the pitchers I wanted – a couple of very good arms who could close games next year (if not late this season). David Hernandez has a great arm and he is learning from a very smart pitcher……and J.J. Putz will not be back in Arizona next year so there is every possibility that Hernandez will close for the Diamondbacks in 2013.  Well worth my dollar.

Similarly I think Rex Brothers will close in Colorado next year and was happy to place a $3 bet on him. The last pitcher I got was to make sure I won the league scrabble championship – just kidding but there are several other good reasons to own former Notre Dame Quarterback Jeff Samardzija. And I was fine for paying $8 to roster him this year whether he is traded this year or competing for a spot on my freeze list next year.

The last couple of players I rostered were outfielders. Will Venable for a retail $16. But I expect him to have another good year and be a light trade chip. Gerardo Parra on the other hand is clearly the best fourth outfielder in the National League and just a thumb injury or a sprain away from more than the projected couple hundred at bats which is low considering he is the backup for Kubel, Young, and JUp and will not only give them days off but be a defensive substitution for Kubel in close games and any of them in others. Six dollars would make a nice price for him if he was a starter in 2013 – hell he was worth $17 last year and wasn’t a starter.

So there you have my auction results. The next chapter will give you my reserves and minor league selections and perhaps some early trade talk.

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