Last time, I discussed the XFL, Xperts Fantasy League, and the use of prospects both as trade bait and to build a strong, low-priced keeper roster for the future. Because the format is so interesting to me, I am coming back to the league for another article.
The topic this time around is a discussion of which type of player to select with one’s first pick in a supplemental round of a keeper league.
As a refresher, the XFL is a 15-team mixed keeper league that features a 23-man roster auction-drafted in November in person and without materials other than MLB 40-man rosters supplied to all. As spring training comes to an end, an auxiliary, or stage two draft is held online to fill the other 17 roster spots. Any player can be rostered, so a portion of those 17 reserve spots are earmarked by owners for the selection of future prospects.
Being an annual attendee at Major League Baseball’s premier prospect showcase, the Arizona Fall League, offers me not only a great opportunity to learn about prospects, but to also see them in action.
Three years ago, I saw a young Atlanta Braves pitching prospect for the first time. His name is Tommy Hanson. I filed that name away for the winter and when he put together a strong camp the next spring, I decided Hanson was a player I wanted.
My finish the year before meant that under the rules at the time, I had the first pick in the stage two draft.
The problem? San Diego State pitching star Stephen Strasburg had come into baseball’s full and collective awareness that same spring. Further, he was not rostered in the XFL.
Should I take the player that could contribute immediately or the can’t-miss prospect still at least a year away?
I went for the more sure thing, albeit with a lower potential ceiling. Hanson is beginning his third season on my roster, still at just $7. To date, Hanson has delivered 21 wins, an ERA of 3.24 and almost 300 strikeouts.
Strasburg is also $7, but has delivered just five wins and 92 strikeouts to-date. His return from Tommy John surgery may still be months away. Over time, he may still have been the best buy, but so far, so good.
Last spring, I had the second pick in the supplemental draft as the result of having finished in third place the year before. That time, Bryce Harper wasn’t on the board.
For at least the second consecutive year, I grabbed a player on the cusp of the majors in shortstop Starlin Castro. The Chicago Cub had avoided prior selection as a minor leaguer partially because he is from the Dominican Republic and as such did not go through the annual June First-Year Player Draft.
Further, Castro had risen through the ranks so quickly that he did not appear on many top lists. He joined my roster a few days after his 20th birthday. After a month back in Double-A, Castro was promoted to the Windy City, apparently never to play a game in Triple-A.
I had the fifth pick in our 2011 stage two draft, held at the end of March. I hoped one of the three of Michael Pineda, Brandon Belt or Tsuyoshi Nishioka would fall to me. The common thread once again was a nearly-ready major leaguer that could contribute now as well as being a +3 player for years to come.
As one might expect, my peers had similar plans, so I settled for another player that also fits my criteria, Houston’s Jordan Lyles. Because the Astros pitching is so bad, they will call on the 20-year-old right-hander soon enough… and I will be ready.
During major league spring training, Lyles held opposing hitters to a collective .212 average and posted an ERA of 1.98. Still, a bit more seasoning at Triple-A isn’t a bad thing for a pitcher that won’t become legal age until October.
If Lyles appears in Houston this season and logs more than 50 innings, he will be a $4 player next year. If not, he will remain a farm system keeper, ready to contribute in 2012.
I bet I won’t be dumping the season then, either.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.