After a few year layoff from any blogging/writing projects I decided to jump back into it, and in celebration of doing so I looked at multiple fantasy baseball sites in order to find one that matched my love for the game and my love for building a winning team. Having never played anything but single season fantasy baseball, the entire concept of mixing the right amount of veterans with developing prospects in order to win a league championship over multiple seasons just screams out “PLAY ME!”, and after reading over the rule set at Ottoneu I purchased a team for $10 in an open league ran by former Hardball Times and now Fangraphs writer Craig Brown.
Instead of the traditional 5 x 5 rotisserie scoring format, Ottoneu uses a different standard in creating a 4 x 4 format that grades out players much more in tune with their abilities moreso than the teams they are playing for. Standard leagues use statistics like RBI’s, Average and Stolen Bases as a part of their rotisserie scoring, though if you examine what these stats represent you’ll likely come to the conclusion that these are slightly above worthless when examining a player’s worth. Players on bottom-dwelling teams will have significantly less chances to drive in runs than sluggers on top teams though could be a significantly better hitter. A speedster that steals 40 bases is a huge contribution to a fantasy roster, but if he was thrown out 20 other times did he really provide any real value to the team? And did the steals lead to Runs?
Ottoneu’s standard 4 x 4 scoring on offense is Runs, Home Runs, On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage; while for pitching is ERA, Strikeouts, WHIP and HR/9. All eight of these statistics I feel accurately contribute to each player’s contribution to their teams more accurately than the traditional scoring set.
My primary resource used during the 12-team, auction-style draft was Fangraphs Projections, which supplies not only their projection of a player but also from a few other reputable sources. On a typical player card you can expect to have quick access to projections by Bill James, Marcel, Rotochamp and ZiPS. Being that I failed to pay particular attention to the Hot Stove League, I also used ESPN.com’s MLB Players search and MLB.com’s in case I missed any of the obvious injuries in spring training. For minor league talent I used projections by Minor League Ball by John Sickels and used information from MiLB.com for player news.
My strategy going in was to essentially purchase players under their average market value, with not necessarily splurging on a mega-star but acquiring two upper tier starters on both my pitching staff and offense. Given my absolute junkie-status in future stars, I had a few players I absolutely had to have and I tried my best to not overpay on a prospect to the point where they weren’t really worth their keeper value when they actually are accumulating stats. Finally – I don’t like drafting Reds. A lot of fantasy owners load up on their favorite players, but I just do not like to do that because of the double hit I take for when the Reds lose and my player does bad. Silly, I know, but that’s unfortunately how I play that out. That said, my draft:
Overall I am pleased with my team, though there are at least two other teams in the league that I like a lot better. Being that this is my first go in this type of format, I imagine I’ll stick with this similar team for a while through injuries versus the typical plug and chug mentality of acquiring stats at all costs. For this reason I concentrated on acquiring infielders that could serve in utility roles during injuries, and I grabbed a few pitchers that were listed as SP/RP. I left $33 worth of cap room to acquire players during the season, but I filled my 40-man roster so will need to eat any salary that I cut during the season – meaning basically it is going to take a lot for me to cut anyone over $1 in value.
Catchers: Matt Wieters, Orioles ($19); Kurt Suzuki, A’s ($6); Devin Mesoraco, Reds-AAA ($1)
Going in I had visions of nabbing an under-valued Carlos Santana or Geovany Soto, but when they ended up going for $36 and $25 I just couldn’t pull the trigger on the bidding. Instead, I grossly overpaid for Wieters after watching all of the upper-tier C’s fall off the board. I had Suzuki valued at $8, and in an attempt to drive him to that price I got caught throwing in a late bid – I guess I could do worse. As far as Mesoraco – I know – I just said I do not like to draft Reds, but I really feel this guy is going to do well in the Major Leagues with his ability to get on base and hit for power.
Draft Best Values – Mike Napoli ($17); Chris Iannetta ($10)
First Base: Ryan Howard, Phillies ($38); Billy Butler, Royals ($13); Yonder Alonso, Reds-AAA ($1); Brandon Allen, Diamondbacks-AAA ($1)
Ryan Howard is the plague in fantasy baseball it seems. In every mock ESPN draft I did he was amongst the last of the elite 1B’s selected, his value never matched the average and for the most part people only bid on him to a safe point to where they relinquished doing so in favor of the people who actually want him. After a down power year I guess I don’t blame them, but I really feel he comes back this year. In Butler I was very pleased to get him where I did, though with the price he went at I began to wonder if he had blown out both ACL’s that very day. He hadn’t, and his average value was only $14.50 so apparently I see more in him than most. Alonso – ya, a Red (but not for long) is a Top 10 hitting prospect and Brandon Allen is lots of walks and power in the desert.
Draft Best Value – (maybe) Justin Morneau, Twins ($24)
Second Base: Ben Zobrist, Rays ($16); Neil Walker, Pirates ($12); Chase Utley, Phillies ($12)
I realize I am high on Zobrist, but being 1B/2B/OF eligible helps keep me off the waiver wire and using cap money to replace injured players. Walker is one I think could be exceptional and perhaps my everyday second baseman, that is until the return of Utley. I realize he is hurt, but I’m hinging on the fact that he isn’t done for his career. With Robinson Cano going for $36, Dan Uggla going for $30 and Dustin Pedroia going for $29 I don’t mind the $2 cap increase on Utley and his production even if he doesn’t come back until next year.
Draft Best Value – Rickie Weeks, Brewers ($12)
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez, White Sox ($12); Juan Uribe, Dodgers ($3); Grant Green, A’s-AA ($1)
Troy Tulowitski and Hanley Ramirez both went for $48, after that it was scarce. Jose Reyes somehow went for $22, Derek Jeter got $17, Stephen Drew fetched $16 and Starlin Castro went for $14 but in the end I went with Ramirez despite his low OBP for his power in the middle. As a catch-all backup in the same vein as Zobrist I got Juan Uribe who can play 2B/SS/3B, and my prize SS in waiting is Green who has 20+ HR power though has had some issues with strike zone management. Perhaps a younger Ramirez? At rate, definitely cheaper.
Draft Best Value – Going with Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks ($16); perhaps Jed Lowrie, Red Sox ($9)
Third Base: Casey McGehee, Brewers ($12); Brent Morel, White Sox ($1)
I probably overvalued McGehee considering some of the prices other 3B’s went for, but I’m comfortable with jumping on the preseason bandwagon where we all talk about how good they are going to be this season. Evan Longoria went for $51, David Wright for $41 and Alex Rodriguez went for $37…I got McGehee for $12 and was happy. Morel has a good enough glove to get him MLB time already, but has some OBP issues that he balances out with good power. Joe Randa, basically.
My Favorite Pick – Pedro Alvarez, Pirates ($20)
Outfield: Jason Heyward, Braves ($35); Nelson Cruz ($26); Hunter Pence, Astros ($15); Adam Jones, Orioles ($6); Carlos Beltran, Mets ($6); Jason Kubel, Twins ($5); Angel Pagan, Mets ($1); Ryan Kalish, Red Sox-AAA ($1)
I went a little crazy with Heyward here, but with a self-imposed rule of not being allowed to bid on Jay Bruce I wanted a good young outfielder. Honestly, with the exception of Ryan Braun going for $52 the upper-tier OF’s all went in the $30′s except for 1B/OF Adam Dunn who went for $49. Something tells me that a lot of OF’s go back into the draft each year. Cruz was more than I wanted to spend but wanted HR’s, Pence is the type of 5-tool guy I like having and Adam Jones reminds me a lot of Eric Davis, which puts him right below God in my book. Kubel is a great option when he’s facing RHP’s and Pagan is a starter who won’t hurt me when he’s filling in. Beltran was just cheap enough to fit in after all the money I sank into the first 3 players.
Draft Best Value: Carlos Quention, White Sox ($17 – if he stays healthy); Colby Rasmus, Cardinals ($22 – could be huge)
Starting Pitchers: Mat Latos, Padres ($26); Zach Greinke, Brewers ($26); David Price, Rays ($24); Dallas Braden, A’s ($6); Mike Pelfrey, Mets ($1); Homer Bailey, Reds ($1); Marc Rzepczynski, Blue Jays ($1); Tanner Scheppers, Rangers-AAA ($7); Simon Castro, Padres-AAA ($1), Jordan Lyles, Astros-AAA ($1)
In my opinion my haul contains 2 could-be greats with Price being slightly below them but entirely could be better than both Latos and Greinke. I miss starts right away with the first 2 but I think they’ll be worth the wait throughout the rest of the season. Dallas Braden was the last pitcher left I figured couldn’t hurt ERA/WHIP averages, and Pelfrey and Bailey are simply Hail Mary’s. Bailey is out of options and has a ton of talent, and if he doesn’t pan out I’ll pay it. Rzepczynski lost his starting bid and is back in the dugout; and my rookies with Scheppers, Castro and Lyles could turn out to be good or completely average.
Draft Best Value – No idea. King Felix went for $60, Lincecum went for $51 and Halladay went for $41.
Relief Pitchers: Heath Bell, Padres ($8); Brian Wilson, Giants ($7); Johnathan Broxton, Dodgers ($5); Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox ($5); Frank Francisco, Blue Jays ($1); Dan Cortes ($1)
Obviously with Saves not being a statistic worth any merit in this league the closers do not carry a high price tag. That said, I think most relievers were more top end because I saved a lot of cash elsewhere that freed me up enough to do so. I got 5 guys who strike a lot of people out and can be dominant, though I will start Wilson and Francisco on the DL. Dan Cortes has been assigned to the minor leagues and who knows if his 99 mph fastball will ever touch the bigs.
So 40 men, $367 giving me $33 to finish the season on. I will profile the rookies likely in the near future because it is honestly driving me crazy not to.