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Monday 26th Jun 2017

One of the big questions facing fantasy owners in keeper leagues this week is what to do about Stephen Strasburg.

Should I hold or divest?

Chances are that most of his owners are going to ride out the storm and hope for the best. Other than the year-plus lost, Tommy John patients can come back even stronger than before due to better training.

While I have seen Strasburg pitch in person twice, first in the Arizona Fall League last year and in spring training this March, I was hoping to watch him up close facing the Cardinals again as I cover the four-game series in Washington this weekend. Alas, that is not to be.

It reminds me of a very difficult decision I faced in the XFL, Xperts Fantasy League, prior to the 2009 season. I had the first pick in the reserve draft and my primary alternatives were Strasburg or the Atlanta Braves’ Tommy Hanson.

I had seen Hanson the previous fall, again in the AFL, where he was Most Valuable Player. Needless to say, I had been impressed. Though Hanson appeared ready for the bigs, I knew he would be kept in Triple-A long enough to save a year of arbitration eligibility, likely for most of the first half of the 2009 season.

On the other hand, Strasburg still had a partial season of college ball remaining. Despite all the hype, his distance away from the majors was considerably greater, with more potential pitfalls ahead.

What shifted the balance was the fact that I thought I had a good chance of competing for the championship in 2009. Hanson could contribute in the second half while Strasburg would not.

When I announced my selection, if there was anyone among the other 14 owners who agreed with it, they didn’t speak up. There were plenty of critics.

Though I fell 3 1/2 points short of the league-winning 122 point total last season, Hanson did everything expected and more. The team of Strasburg’s owner finished 15th of 15. His roster obviously had other more severe problems.

Almost two seasons after I selected him, Hanson has contributed 19 major league wins, a 3.24 ERA and 257 strikeouts in 280 innings. For all the ink that has spilled about him, Strasburg has just five wins in his brief MLB career, not to mention an uncertain future.

In 2010, Strasburg’s owner has closed the gap between us, improving to seventh place, one spot and a dozen points behind me.

The jury is still out on the long-term ramifications of my early 2009 decision. The two pitchers’ keeper prices in this league will remain just three years apart for however many years into the future they are kept. In a +$3 league like the AFL, that should be a very long time.

I hope for the game of baseball that Strasburg recovers and enjoys a long and successful career. I really do.

At this point, however, I am glad I took the sure thing.


Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

With a column title like “Articles of Configuration”, it would only stand to reason that I am an individual who tries to closely understand the rules of each league in which I compete. I am not a lawyer, but more than a few of my competitors are.

While keeping on top of everything is an even bigger challenge when playing in varied formats, as many of us do, it still behooves one to be aware as possible. It also provides the opportunity to port the best ideas from one league to another.

When you find loopholes or areas in your league rules that could use clarification or improving, don’t wait until the off-season to take action. Document the issue and ensure it is logged for the period when changes are opened up for the next season.

To that end, I strongly recommend constitution changes be considered at the end of this baseball season, not the start of next. Sure, people are busy with football and the like, but far too often, good update ideas are forgotten months later, only for the root problem to be stumbled upon again the next year.

In Tout Wars, I am currently pushing for two rules changes related to free agent allocation budget (FAAB) reclaim. The basic concept is that when a player is deemed out for the season, his owner can receive a rebate for the price paid for him, whether at draft time or as a free agent, at the rate of 100 percent if injured before the break and 50 percent after. That money can be added to one’s current FAAB balance for use in bidding on free agents.

A problem in past years was the uncertainty of a player supposedly being “out for the year.” At times, players managed to return against the odds late in the season, yet their managers had already received FAAB reclaim and often had already spent the money. This risk was addressed in the Tout constitution two ways.

First, it was decided the player must be placed on the 60-day disabled list to be eligible for FAAB reclaim. Second, when the FAAB request is granted, the player is immediately returned to the free agent pool. If someone else wants to gamble on the chance the player might return to action later, he can bid accordingly.

While the 60-day DL criterion is clear and removes ambiguity, it is also arbitrary and often not used at all. Clubs cannot place a player on the 60-day DL until their 40-man roster is full. As a result, FAAB still cannot be reclaimed for many players despite them clearly being out for the season.

An example is Milwaukee’s Gregg Zaun, out since May following shoulder surgery that is not only season-ending, but also career-threatening. Because the Brewers’ 40-man roster has been and remains below the limit, Zaun has sat on the 15-day DL the entire time. That means no FAAB reclaim for his owner, me.

Further, as I noted above, the way the Tout rules are currently defined, an owner receives full FAAB reimbursement when a player hits the 60-day DL prior to the All-Star break, but only half thereafter. In my example, even though Zaun has been useless for almost the entire season, if he was to be placed on the 60-day tomorrow, I would receive only half my investment.

What I have proposed instead is to make the determination of the amount due based on when the player was first placed on the DL, but still not payable until such time he hits the 60-day DL. Initial feedback from the Tout Wars board has been positive regarding this proposed change.

Back to the arbitrary 60-day DL designation with another example, also close to home. When it became clear that misbehaving Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez injured his hand punching his father-in-law and would require season-ending surgery as a result, the club took immediate action.

Instead of placing K-Rod on the 60-day DL, where he would be paid, the team put him on the restricted list. Just as if he was on the 60-day DL, Rodriguez has been removed from the Mets’ 40-man roster.

Unfortunately for me but not surprisingly, the Tout constitution did not anticipate this odd situation. It states the 60-day DL is mandatory for FAAB reclaim, so I am out of luck getting anything back for losing K-Rod at this time.

I have formally recommended the restricted list be added to the FAAB reclaim wording in the Tout constitution for 2011 and beyond. It has generally been agreed among the Tout board that the K-Rod situation does fall under the original intent of the reclaim process.

It is doubly bad for me in that despite K-Rod clearly being injured and out for the season, I cannot move him to my Tout DL, thereby saving a roster spot. Again, the constitution’s wording is very clear about the disabled list, with no mention of restricted list.

Instead, I have to decide whether to burn one of my four reserve slots on waiting to see if K-Rod asks for an appeal and subsequently loses it. Then he would probably move to the 60-day DL. In that case, I could finally reclaim FAAB. On the other hand, if I waive Rodriguez now, I would lose all rights to potential future FAAB recovery.

To see the Tout Wars constitution, click here.

Remember to get those needed changes locked down now in your leagues and best of luck in your races the rest of the way!

Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.


Most people in the fantasy industry have traditional day jobs with baseball serving as a hobby and very important diversion in their lives. I was once there too, but in recent years have been able to make this game my fill-time employment. I wouldn’t trade it for almost anything.

Specifically, as it says in my profile below, my primary vocation is reporting on all things St. Louis Cardinals, from the major league club to the Venezuelan Summer League and everything in between. In fantasy, I have found that my increased level of knowledge of that organization actually keeps me from having many Cardinals on my various rosters.

For example, in National League Tout Wars this season, I own zero Cardinals. Rookie Jaime Garcia did join my squad to open the season, but I didn’t think twice about flipping him as part of a deal for needed offensive help in the form of Houston’s Hunter Pence.

One area where I go deep in terms of familiarity is in the area of Cardinals prospects. I have formally ranked a top 40 in the system for the last five winters and see just about every one of their seven US-based affiliates in person each summer, some multiple times. For example, just two nights ago, I was at Brooklyn’s Coney Island, watching the Cards’ New York-Penn League affiliate, the Batavia Muckdogs, take on the home Cyclones.

Though I am not learned on the Mets’ system, it was hard to not notice former major leaguer Greg Vaughn’s son, Cory. The 21-year-old is batting .313 with 11 home runs in 176 at-bats. Fellow outfielder Darrell Cecilliani, barely 20 years old, is batting .382 for the Cyclones.

In this week’s column, I have decided to call out a few of the hitting prospects in the Cardinals system you might want to consider for keeper leagues – or not. Since the big trades last summer that brought them Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday, the Cardinals lost five top prospects – a blow from which they have not yet fully recovered. As a result, this is one of the lower-ranked systems in the game. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good players.

Triple-A Memphis: Second baseman Daniel Descalso was a member of the Team USA medal-winning team last summer before under-performing in the Arizona Fall League. Before breaking his collarbone this summer, the 23-year-old drove in 52 runs in his first 76 games. St. Louis’ incumbent second sacker, Skip Schumaker, is below-average defensively. Though he is under contract for next season, Schumaker might be better as a super-sub, potentially creating opportunity…  Others: First baseman Mark Hamilton has a decent bat, but hasn’t shown proficiency in the outfield defensively. As a result, he won’t see any time in St. Louis with that Pujols guy around.

Double-A Springfield: Just 14 months after signing following his collegiate time at TCU, 24-year-old third baseman Matt Carpenter has a .917 OPS in the Texas League. He is second in average, first in OBP and third in OPS in the circuit.  The right-handed hitter has no one ahead of him in the system at the hot corner. Though it is too early for him to see his MLB debut this summer, Carpenter could put himself into the major league picture in 2011… Others: Drafted in 2005, toolsy outfielder Daryl Jones was the organization’s Player of the Year in 2008 and was in the AFL last fall, but his career has stalled… Shortstop Pete Kozma was a first-rounder two years ago out of an Oklahoma high school, but has 31 errors this season and is batting just .244, three points fewer than Jones.

A-Advanced Palm Beach: No sure MLB prospects here, but you might put outfielder Alex Castellanos on your watch list. The 24-year-old was the organization’s Player of the Month in July after hitting four home runs and driving in 16. His slash line was .348/.394/.663.

Unsigned: Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox, taken in the first round at number 25 overall, has been called the most polished hitter in the 2010 draft class. As an underclassman, Cox has considerable leverage in contract negotiations. If he joins the Cardinals, Cox will become their top hitting prospect with the ability to perhaps move as fast as former Cards’ first-rounder Brett Wallace, who is now starting in Houston two years after having been drafted… Texas high school outfielder Austin Wilson has first-round talent, but fell to the 12th round due to a perceived ironclad commitment to attend Stanford. The Cardinals have wooed Wilson and his family and are working hard to close the deal before the August 16 signing deadline.


Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

Last week in this space, I shared information about a few of the hitting prospects in the upper levels of the St. Louis Cardinals system. This time, we’ll look at hurlers who might come into your keeper league aperture down the road.


Triple-A Memphis Redbirds


The pitching staff of the Cardinals’ top affiliate is among the top-ranked in the Pacific Coast League. Their starter with the most potential is former Ole Miss righty Lance Lynn, taken in the supplemental first round two years ago. The big right-hander is a durable middle of the rotation type who has suffered through an inconsistent Triple-A debut this summer.


A player to definitely watch is reliever Eduardo Sanchez. Though St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin is under contract for one more season, it could be Sanchez rather than heir apparents Jason Motte or Mitchell Boggs who seizes the ninth-inning job for the major league club down the road. The hard-throwing Venezuelan right-hander should make his MLB debut in early 2011.


Double-A Springfield Cardinals


Righty Scott Gorgen posted a 1.17 ERA and a 42:17 strikeout to walk ratio through his first 46 innings before suffering an elbow injury. Remember the Cardinals’ fourth-rounder from 2008 to see if he can pick up in 2011 where he left off in 2010. The former Cal-Irvine star might also be a candidate to return to the Arizona Fall League is his rehab is successful.


Class A Quad Cities River Bandits


The Cardinals first-round selection in the 2009 draft, Texas high school right-hander Shelby Miller, impressed Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan in major league camp this spring. An uneven season has followed for the 19-year-old, the only true front-of-the-rotation talent currently in the system. Miller has fanned an eye-popping 110 and walked 27 in 84 1/3 innings, but has also been unable to go deep into games due to high pitch counts. Still, he was just named the top pitching prospect in the Midwest League by Baseball America so there is plenty of room to grow.


2010 draft


In the 2010 draft, the Cardinals selected pitchers with three of their top four picks. Including two supplemental selections to compensate for the losses of Joel Pineiro and Mark DeRosa last winter, St. Louis had four picks in the top 75. Only one of the three hurlers is signed and in uniform, but another has said he came to terms with the organization.


Seth Blair, taken 46th overall, was the Pac-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year for Arizona State. The 21-year-old right-hander has already reported to the Batavia of the New York-Penn League but has not taken the field. He is considered a safe, middle of the rotation type.


Texas high schooler Tyrell Jenkins, selected four picks after Blair, is the kind of high-potential prospect that has scouts drooling. Wooed away from a scholarship to play quarterback at Baylor, the 18-year-old right-hander, 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, has some growth ahead, but bears watching.


The Cardinals second-rounder, taken at number 75 overall, is right-hander Jordan Swagerty, a teammate of Blair at ASU. The draft-eligible sophomore has been a two-way player as a catcher and closer, similar to Robert Stock of USC, who the Cardinals took in the second round in 2009. Unlike Stock, who is struggling with the bat as a catcher in A ball, all indications are that if Swagerty signs, he will take the mound. With a profile as a potential big league reliever, Swagerty could move quickly through the system.


Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

Regular readers here could not avoid being pounded with my view that MLB All-Star recognition for the first half of each season only is something I feel is unfair. I recently proposed adjustments to the 2010 All-Star offensive rosters based on stats since the 2009 contest for both the American and National Leagues.

Realistically, I know that isn’t ever going to happen.

Then, this past weekend, we experienced one of the greatest events of the baseball year. The living Hall of Famers assembled in Cooperstown, New York for the 2010 induction ceremonies for Andre Dawson, Whitey Herzog, Doug Harvey and others, held on Sunday afternoon.

While MLB Network televised the ceremonies, they were competing against a full slate of games. Across MLB, it was a day just like any other.

I find that maddening and disrespectful to both the history of the game and the inductees themselves. I understand MLB is about making money, but why couldn’t they avoid holding games during the induction? All eyes should have been on Cooperstown on Sunday afternoon.

With the help of some spirited dialog among friends, these two issues of mine have been melded into what I believe is a viable plan that could address each. Following is a new proposal for Bud Selig and his cronies.

Have two breaks each season instead of one. Each break would occur at two month intervals, with the first coming at the start of June and the second at the beginning of August.

The Hall of Fame ceremonies would be held during the first break. Most importantly, the Hall inductees would get their day in the sun without in-house competition. This would even allow current field personnel the opportunity to attend if they so choose.

The second break would be the time for the All-Star Game. While the rosters would still not reflect an entire season’s worth of accomplishments, at least 2/3 of each season would be complete when the game is played.

A side benefit of the change in date would be that the non-waiver trade deadline could occur during this later break. This would enable many players changing teams to do so while regular season games are on a brief hiatus.

Another advantage would be a second, albeit short, rest period for most players. Having just come from New York where I covered the Cardinals-Mets series, I saw first-hand the number of beat up players suiting up every day. For St. Louis, Albert Pujols was limping, Yadier Molina has a huge bruise on his leg, Skip Schumaker had a sore arm from being hit by a pitch and the list goes on and on.

So that is my proposal. Two breaks - a dedicated spotlight for the Hall and a later All-Star Game to allow more time to select the best players.

This is the time each week when I explain how my story can be applied to fantasy leagues. I have to admit that part of the article is still a work in progress. Sorry about that, but I thought this idea was too important to let it pass without airing it.


Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.


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