Articles of Configuration

Maintain Your Draft Momentum PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 04 April 2015 00:00

If you are like me, you are much closer to the conclusion of your spring draft season than the start. In fact, in my case, my first draft was way back in early November, and for that league, the XFL, or Xperts Fantasy League, we have already held our second, auxiliary draft. I am down to just one local league draft remaining.

At this point, it is natural to be focused on your remaining drafts, or if they are complete, to enjoy the pleasant distractions that the early spring weather is offering in many parts of the country - but please, do not lose focus now.

You spent days and weeks readying for your drafts. You have your teams – and are likely pleased with them. Well, you shouldn’t be.

Now is not the time to sit back. Instead, take the initiative to sit down and carefully and objectively analyze the roster you assembled on draft day. Do it – right now!

OK, where are its strengths and weaknesses? What positions do you need to address? Be honest, please!

Do not only consider the obvious needs – starters who are opening the season on the disabled list. Also evaluate your reserves. Do you have someone to slot into the infield in the case of an injury, for example?

Keep an eye on the timing of announcements by MLB clubs of players actually being placed on the disabled list. The moves can be made at any time, even retroactively, but not all teams act at the same time. Some may wait until their own opening day. And of course, your stats provider cannot and will not reflect such a move until it is actually made.

Most leagues have some kind of disabled list. Maybe yours has only a spot or two or perhaps your leagues are like Tout Wars, with an unlimited DL. Either way, you should establish a plan to backfill those spots immediately.

For example, take my National League Tout roster. I bought into the Jaime Garcia optimism for $4 and also took Homer Bailey for $12, knowing full well I would not get an opening day start from the latter.

The Cardinals placed Garcia on the DL this past week, while the Reds are still waiting to officially make the moves they have already announced, including Bailey. So, Garcia can also move to the Tout DL and a replacement can be added but Bailey may take up a roster spot for another week.

Why this is important is the real reason I am writing this story. You should already know when your league’s first waiver period begins, but if you don’t, stop reading this right now, go and find out. I will still be here. I promise.

No matter when your draft was held, MLB teams have since made changes that either impact your fantasy roster directly or created opportunity for you to secure additional upside players for your squad.

Now is the time to strike to fill those roster gaps you have identified, because if you don’t, someone else in your league surely will.

Perhaps you are short of speed. Likely when you drafted, no one in your league had even heard of Odubel Herrera. Now the rookie has become the starting centerfielder in Philadelphia with a chance for 20+ steals.

Players undrafted in many leagues are receiving the opportunity to join major league rotations, too. Take St. Louis, where there had been a spirited three-way battle for one rotation spot as recently as a week ago. Garcia’s injury and the decision to send impressive prospect Marco Gonzales to Triple-A has since completely cleared the way for Carlos Martinez’ starting berth.

Or take Arizona, where veteran Trevor Cahill was dealt away to Atlanta to create a rotation spot for top prospect Archie Bradley.

These are just a few examples that quickly come to mind from literally dozens of late-breaking situations that have come to pass across MLB in the last few days.

Yet, I understand that not everyone has the time to keep up on all these moves. Here is a tip on how to check quickly for up-to-date information on who has jobs and who doesn’t.

The folks at, formerly MLB Depth Charts, maintain a handy grid of starters, bench players, rotations and relief corps for all 30 teams, as well as which players appear to be DL-bound.

A quick scan of that grid can help you quickly identify new names, who should become possible acquisition targets.

Remember, now is the time to act. Maintain that momentum from your draft. Be aggressive. Make the moves to try to close your gaps in your very first transaction period and good luck this season!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at and Follow Brian on Twitter.


Last Updated on Saturday, 04 April 2015 10:43
The Waiting is the Hardest Part PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 00:00

Along with my Mastersball colleagues Lawr Michaels, Todd Zola, Rob Leibowitz and Zach Steinhorn, I participated in the Tout Wars industry league drafts this past weekend in New York City.

The annual events, with four drafts spread over a two-day weekend, include American and National League-only drafts, a mixed league auction and a new format based on the monthly games introduced by last summer.

My enjoyment of the evening festivities in the Big Apple, catching up with long-time competitors and friends, are self-truncated due to the reality that the National League draft, of which I am a part, occurs last, on Sunday morning.

That offers a second challenge for me, which is being patient. Waiting until the final day, after the other three drafts are on the books, is tough.

As it turned out, being patient was a requirement for me once the draft finally began as well. My general approach is to spread the wealth, in which I keep spending on any individual player below $30 and often cases $25, in order to acquire a more balanced team and hopefully, one that is more injury resistant.

I had established a budget by position for planning purposes, with a hitting-pitching mix of $182/$78. While I was not a slave to these values, I managed the two allocations separately until late in the draft. Prior to the draft, I had looked at a variety of combinations of about six different players at each of the 23 roster spots.

Given my self-imposed pricing limitations, I had expected to remain on the sidelines during the first five or six rounds of nominations. That almost was not the case as I wanted to test the market on young players with a throw of Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. I went to $19, but unsure how much farther the bidding might go, I stopped there, and Segura went for $20.

I did pick up some cheap speed early when a competitor nominated new Braves leadoff man Eric Young, Jr. Paying $8 was a fair price for his expected 25-30 bags. That also kept me from the appearance of having done nothing in the draft, though the external chatter, if there was any, did not bother me one way or the other.

My second acquisition was a player I had not specifically targeted, Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco. When the bidding slowed in the teens for a player I feel has a mid-20’s value, I got in. Polanco was mine for $19.

As the first break approached, the SiriusXM broadcasters singled me out from among the 12 NL Touts to come on the air to review the draft to that point. Perhaps my acquisition of players, which likely appeared slow to some, drew the attention.

As it turned out, I dulled many of those questions by spending over $80 in the last moments before the intermission, first gobbling up Marlins closer Steve Cishek for $16. With an improving Miami team, I think Cishek could approach the top tier of NL closers in value at a mid-tier closer price.

I also struck in the corner infield and outfield with a batch of low-20s players in Brandon Belt and Mark Trumbo ($23) along with Matt Holliday at $22. During the on-air interview, Rotowire’s Chris Liss questioned the Trumbo acquisition due to a low on-base mark. (Tout is an OBP format.)

I agreed that Trumbo is a drag in that category, but I also consider his 30 home run/100 RBI potential to be very real. About how many other NL players could we have that aggressive of a forecast? With a consistent .370-.380 OBP player in Holliday also safely on my roster, I felt I hadn’t sacrificed OBP terribly with Trumbo. I did avoid the Pedro Alvarezes the rest of the way, but accomplished one objective for this draft – which was to not get caught short on power – one of the league’s most precious commodities.

In 2014, I ended up with too much speed as my past concerns over the general inability to trade steals (and stolen bases) during the season were confirmed. Everyone seems to want to add power and strikeouts along the way, offering up speed and closers in trade. As a result, my lower-tier team finished with roughly two dozen more steals than the second-place team, a stat that I am not proud of.

In the middle of the draft, I dropped down into the teens for my acquisitions of the middle of the Dodgers’ infield in Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins for $19 each. Snagging Adam Lind, who in my view is like a Holliday-lite, for $17 completed my core offensive group.

I went cheap at third base with a $6 Jake Lamb, who looks to be the starter to open the season for Arizona, and backed him up with another third baseman also in a good position to earn a job in San Diego’s Will Middlebrooks at $5.

Behind the plate, I joined my $11 Daniel Norris with Welington Castillo at $2. In hindsight, perhaps I should have gotten Arizona starter Tuffy Gosewisch for the same price or went a couple of bucks more for another starter in Francisco Cervelli of the Pirates. My hope is that the Cubs will trade Castillo into a starting role elsewhere.

With the exception of the aforementioned Polanco, I had considered every one of my 14 hitters in pre-draft scenario planning.

The teens is where I wanted to be in pitching, as well. My focus was to acquire four upper middle tier pitchers with good strikeout totals to match up with closer Cishek. That was accomplished with Gio Gonzalez and Julio Teheran ($16), Francisco Liriano ($13) and Homer Bailey ($12) joining my roster.

As my fellow drafter Mike Gianella from Baseball Prospectus noted afterward, the average NL Tout owner spent $6.25 more on pitching above the NL LABR average. Of course, that was reflected in individual player prices, as well.

As the draft neared its close, I still had three pitching spots and two offensive slots to fill, but also had enough money to go $3 or $4 on several players. A wise strategy would have been to add the extra dollar hammer on a few promising starters, as my offense was already pretty well lined up.

Especially with Bailey starting 2015 on the disabled list, getting some additional pitching would have been smart. Instead, I filled my middle infield position with Brandon Crawford at $5. While that is a good pick in a vacuum, it left me with $1 selections the rest of the way.

More than any selection in my draft, that seemingly innocuous $5 spent on Crawford hurt, as it took away my bidding hammer. As I watched a series of desired hurlers go for a dollar more than I could spend, my agony was increased when I was able to snare a decent middle infield alternative, Dan Uggla, in the second reserve round. By then, the Crawford buy was already ancient history, but I was still feeling its impact.

Other than take a boatload of bad starting pitchers, after getting Jaime Garcia for $4 (I think he will be starting somewhere) and Jeremy Hellickson for $1, I had added setup men Pedro Strop and Jordan Walden to complete my nine arms.

My advice to you is this. Make sure you allocate some time to think about the end game, and specifically, your strategy in it. You cannot really prepare for this in advance, which makes it more challenging, other than perhaps to have a group of preferred $2-$3 pitchers and hitters identified. During your draft, there may not be time for a break at the right moment and with players being taken faster and faster in the latter phase of an auction, think time between picks is shortened.

Still, it behooves you to find a way to do take a brief step back. In this example, I should have realized my roster’s strengths and weaknesses and placed my end-game focus on pitching instead of beefing up an already solid group of hitters.

All in all, I believe I have a competitive offense and a very good pitching base. I ended up spending $180/$80 on hitting and pitching, but the overall higher pitching prices probably meant less average value for that $80. Looking ahead, I will put more emphasis in finding the 2015 version of a Jose Fernandez or two and whoever they turn out to be, to get them on my roster.

Now, the fun begins!

P.S. My team follows, with the link to all the Tout Wars rosters and winning bids. Good luck in your drafts and I hope you can glean some value from ours.


Derek Norris C $11
Gio Gonzalez P $16
Welington Castillo C $2
Julio Teheran P $16
Brandon Belt 1B $23
Francisco Liriano P $13
Jake Lamb 3B $6
Homer Bailey P $12
Adam Lind CI $17
Jaime Garcia P $4
Howie Kendrick 2B $19
Jeremy Hellickson P $1
Jimmy Rollins SS $19
Pedro Strop P $1
Brandon Crawford MI $5
Jordan Walden P $1
Mark Trumbo OF $23
Steve Cishek P $16
Matt Holliday OF $22

Gregory Polanco OF $19

Eric Young, Jr. OF $8

Will Middlebrooks DH $5

Jonny Gomes SW $1


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at and Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 08:03
Think Ahead About Potential Interleague Trades PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 21 March 2015 00:00

If you are like me, you are paying very close attention to spring training results as battles rage on for starting spots, rotation positions and in some cases, assessing how position shifts are working out.

Let’s take the Arizona Diamondbacks, for example. While early reports are that Cuban Yasmany Tomas is not showing proficiency at third base to put it mildly, a move to the outfield would only complicate an already crowded situation.

While prospect Jake Lamb could step in at the hot corner, that doesn’t help the outfield logjam. Without Tomas, the club already has five starter-quality outfielders in A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Mark Trumbo, Ender Inciarte and Cody Ross.

In the same division, the National League West, during the off-season, the new-look San Diego Padres loaded up on outfield talent via trade. New GM A.J. Preller became a household name in part through acquiring three new starters in stars Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton.

Those moves bumped last year’s incumbent starters to the bench in Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable. Will Middlebrooks should be on the roster, but there seems no room. Then there are prospects like Tommy Medica, Abraham Almonte and Rymer Liriano who will also apparently have to wait, making for a strong Triple-A club, at least.

Up the coast in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have some high priced talent with no place to put them. Outfielder Andre Ethier has at least three years to go on a huge contract with at least $56 million remaining, but has no place to play. Cuban infield signee Alex Guerrero’s contract states he does not have to be sent down to the Minors, yet there does not even seem a spot for him on Los Angeles’ bench.

The St. Louis Cardinals have injury questions with their rotation, but one of the healthy starters so far this spring is veteran Jaime Garcia. Despite his great stuff and good results in Grapefruit League action, the lefty could be the club’s number seven starter with youngsters Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales also looking good in the fight for the final rotation spot. It is difficult to envision the Cardinals paying Garcia $9.25 million to idle in the bullpen.

The Chicago Cubs have a quality starting catcher in Welington Castillo who has been displaced by trade acquisition Miguel Montero. Though Castillo is slated to make “only” $2.1 million this season, his value would be considerably higher to a number of teams with lesser starting backstops.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Against that backdrop - or would backstop be more appropriate? – consider it likely that as Opening Day approaches, some trades are coming.

There seems a better than 50-50 chance that if they occur, they will be interleague trades. The reason I say that is quite simple math. Of the 29 possible trade partners for any team, 15 are in the other league. The odds are tipped further in that direction since many clubs are very reluctant to even consider deals with division rivals for obvious competitive reasons.

So, where am I getting with this?

If you are like me and compete in a mono league with an early draft, the potential of these interleague deals occurring after draft day but before the season begins should be causing concern.

Do I draft a player if there is a risk of a trade that could knock him out of my league’s eligibility pool before he even plays a game? How much do I discount him because of the possibility?

Of course, the level of concern all depends on your league constitution.

Let’s use Tout Wars as an example. We will be drafting this weekend, at least two weeks prior to the season opener. The longer than usual gap has been created by a combination of an earlier draft and a later MLB Opening Day.

Here is the relevant sentence in the league rules, with the emphasis mine:

“Performance stats of a player shall be assigned to a Tout Wars team only when he is on the active roster of that team and on the active roster of a major league team in the appropriate league (or if in season he has been traded away from that league to the other major league).”

So, there is the rub. Exactly when does “in season” start?

The Major League Baseball schedule says Sunday, April 5. Yet, a common-sense interpretation would be to include the post-draft time in the period covered by the rule. In other words, one might assume that a drafted National League player dealt to an American League team on March 31 would still be NL-eligible this season.

In this specific example, a simple constitution change from “in season” to “post draft” solved the matter – but only because I brought it forward and my recommendation was quickly accepted.

Here is my general advice to you. Do not assume anything. Do not wait until you are stuck in a jam to find out how your league commissioner would rule on a gray area matter such as this and potentially cause broken glass in an ugly dispute.

After all, losing a $10 David Peralta in a trade to the AL before the season starts, for example, would be equally as painful as your $10 Zack Wheeler going down for Tommy John surgery. Instead, wouldn’t you rather know about this eligibility exposure before you decide whether or not to draft Peralta in the first place? (Sorry, I can’t help you if you own Wheeler!)

Understand that your situation does not have to mirror this particular one. There are many other potential rules murky areas waiting to be uncovered.

If you find one that could impact your draft, get the rule clarified up front. Don’t forget that once you do, make sure your constitution is upgraded to remove the ambiguity. Insist it be done right then, before it is forgotten. I have been in too many situations in which good intentions are ruined by poor execution, again leading to unnecessary and avoidable league strife.


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at and Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 March 2015 08:34
Winning When It Doesn’t Matter PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Sunday, 15 March 2015 00:00

The mock draft season is about over. In all honesty, I won’t miss it.

I know that many like participating in straight draft mocks to get a better feeling for the player pool and I get that. However, drawing any meaningful conclusions about player value from isolated mocks is a waste of time, in my opinion. For that, you may as well use ADPs.

It would be only an amazing coincidence if individual drafters’ behaviors in your own leagues would be anything like what you would experience in a mock. Not only is it a different group of people at a different time, but motivations can and do change when the end result is actually binding.

One type of player mocks that do see the light of day are the variety of “expert” mocks that are scattered throughout the winter and spring. I participated in my first one in November, to help a well-known site make its magazine publication date.

For me, at least, they continued up until two weeks ago, when I joined Baseball Prospectus’ mixed mock. Like in the earlier mocks, I participated to help out an industry colleague. To be honest, I did not pick up anything from doing it that altered my preparation for my own leagues this spring.

The leagues that matter most to me are in the auction format and as a result, I do pay some attention to the industry auction drafts. That is not necessarily because I am analyzing individual drafting behaviors, but more to see where my peers value players compared to my own prices.

This work allows me to look for potential gaps or for possible bargain areas in my own drafts. Do I have better insight on this player than others, or did I miss something important?

So, back to the BP mock. I would have let it pass like all the other mocks, except for a follow-on note I received. In it, my projected category points was reported as 120. Not only was that best, it was 25 points ahead of the second-ranked team.

That got my attention, punctuated by this statement.

“When it comes to draft difficulty though, nobody had it better than you, as you ended up with more value available to you than any other team.”

How I got there is only mildly interesting perhaps, but the bottom line should be our primary objective in any draft in any format – find values wherever they are and exploit them.

Of course, the challenge is to hit that moving value target. Where will it occur in this unique draft? How can I recognize it? How do I take advantage in the most optimal manner?

Well, as I read further, I understood how to beat this particular system to “win” the mock. I did not get it at the time, but I do now.

The way one’s value-chasing acumen was measured was through a comparison between when a player was selected and his expected position. Those who grabbed players who fell furthest in the draft would score better than those who were perceived to be “reaching” for players.

Heck, had I known it was that easy, I could have set it on autodraft. The system would always take the top-ranked player remaining on the board, optimizing my score.

In real life, though, no one would draft an important team in that manner. Instead, let it serve as a reminder that a mock draft is never going to be a fully satisfactory replacement for the real thing.

The final paragraph of the draft wrap-up was this:

“Your best pickup of the draft was Phil Hughes, who was expected to have been selected in the 95th slot, but who you got with pick #133. However, you mixed in some (minor) duds as well, the worst of whom was Jedd Gyorko, taken 40 spots ahead of what his average draft position suggests.”

Now, that really set me off.

Here’s the problem, a system-caused quirk that I never would have accepted had this been a real draft. I did not learn until later in the draft that the software we were using had locked my third rounder, Todd Frazier, into first base, despite him being properly listed at third base when drafted.

So, I thought I had third base covered in the third, but here it was the 16th and it seems that I had no one at the hot corner. The way I discovered it was that I was not allowed to select Adam Lind as my corner infielder in the 16th. As I frantically tried to figure out why and with time running out, I had to take the next non-first base player in my queue, Gyorko.

We had been told by the moderator before we began that we were required to accept the player positions as assigned, so stopping the draft was out of the question.

As I continued to try to fix the problem for the next few rounds, more and more corner infielders were flying off the board. Giving up in the 20th round, I finally had to take the best third baseman available in Trevor Plouffe just to establish what the software considered to be a valid roster.

It was quite a step down from my original plan. Just another reminder that real drafts are superior to mocks in pretty much every way.

Here’s to the end of the mock season and the start of the real draft season!


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at and Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Monday, 16 March 2015 08:37
Balancing Compassion with Managing by the Rules PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Sunday, 02 November 2014 00:00

The primary slant of this column, which runs irregularly during the off-season, is fantasy baseball rules. I always reinforce points made with real examples. That is why I am back today.

The baseball world was shocked by the passing of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras last weekend. After fans all over the world dealt with the tragedy and unfairness of the loss of two young lives (Taveras’ girlfriend and the mother of their young son also died in the automobile accident), questions lingered in a fantasy context.

For those in keeper leagues, and especially in those in which multi-year contracts are involved, the untimely death of Taveras created situations not previously considered.

Before we get into the details, my personal philosophy is that when a new situation is encountered, a strict interpretation of the constitution should prevail for the current issue on the table.

However, if rules clarifications are needed going forward, they should definitely be made with an eye on the future.

Against that backdrop, here is the Taveras situation in the XFL (Xperts Fantasy League), whose 2015 draft was held Halloween night.

2015 keepers were due two weeks prior, giving league members prep time and organizers a window to prepare materials for our in-person draft, held in Phoenix, Arizona. As one would expect, Taveras was kept by his current owner, for $4.

After Taveras’ death, his owner contacted the league commissioner with a three-part request. He asked that Taveras be removed from his keeper list, the $4 returned to his $260 overall budget and that he be allowed to replace Taveras on his keeper list with another player.

The league constitution simply states that the freeze date is two weeks prior to the draft. No exception cases are noted.

Initially, the commissioner showed compassion, granting two of the three requests. Taveras could be removed from the owner’s keeper list, with the $4 returned to the owner’s budget.

However, it was ruled that the roster opening could not be filled with another prior to the draft. After all, each owner’s non-keepers had already been released into the draft-eligible pool. Still, Taveras’ owner would be allowed to fill the vacated outfield roster spot with a replacement during the draft with his full budget.

As has been the case traditionally, once the 15 league owners assemble to draft, a preamble to the festivities is a recap of rules changes voted in during the previous weeks. In addition, the Taveras ruling was divulged to the league for the first time, with a recommendation to allow post-roster freeze date exceptions in the future.

While there was remorse over the loss of Taveras and the impact on that owner’s 2015 roster, the majority of the room ultimately voted that the freeze date was firm and fair to all and that exceptions should not be made.

The commissioner then recommended that for this one case his initial ruling be honored, allowing Taveras’ owner to refill his roster spot in the draft.

Before a second vote could occur, Taveras’ owner made a stand-up move that entirely diffused the matter. He explained to all that he was uncomfortable with an exception being made on his behalf, given the majority of the league being against the spirit of such a move.

As a result, Taveras remains on his roster. However, when our March/April auxiliary draft occurs, our rosters will fill out to 40 players. At that point, ample replacements for Taveras will be available. Taveras could be dropped and his roster spot re-deployed as soon as the first of May. (The XFL has a monthly free agent draft.)

It appears that the league constitution will not require a change.

The commissioner, who always has a tough job in any league, initially ruled with compassion, but in doing so, granted an exception with which the majority of the league disagreed.

In this case, the system ultimately worked.

The message for you?

In your leagues, even if you are not in charge, do your best to foster meaningful discussion among league members on issues like these. In doing so, stick to the written rules as much as possible. If changes are needed, by all means, make them – to take effect for next time.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at and Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 14:36
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