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Friday 26th Aug 2016

Season-long fantasy baseball is at the halfway point, the NBA and NHL seasons and incoming player drafts are over, and NFL training camps are just around the corner. No wonder there are already fantasy football drafts taking place almost every day.

A big part of preparation for many fantasy footballers is mock drafting, which is a quick and easy way to learn both this year’s player pool and how other drafters rank players. I think mock drafts are worthwhile for just those purposes early. But, later in the summer, the only mock drafting that should carry any stock is drafting exactly the same number of rounds with the same roster and lineup limits as the events you will be playing, and with live bodies (not someone who has an hour on their computer at lunch and then gets up and leaves or goes on autodraft).

Last week, I was invited to participate in the Fantasy Football Toolbox Expert Mock Draft which would be drafted with the exact same rules as the Fantasy Football World Championship (FFWC) which is part of Scout.com’s fantasy division. (Note: the FF Toolbox has free rankings and cheat sheets that are very good.)

The draft would be an 18-round affair where each team starts 11 players each week as follows: QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR/TE/Flex/Flex/K/DST with full PPR scoring in place.

Here is how my draft went along with the comments we were all required to contribute to the article about this draft. 

1.06 A.J. Green, WR, CIN – Maybe a bit early for Green, but he is a stud who often produces monster games and has a great relationship with his veteran quarterback. Just two years ago, he was a top five PPR WR, and if I do the math, my team scores more points with Green and a running back at 2.07 than if I take Todd Gurley or Adrian Peterson first and a WR in the second round.

2.07 Jamaal Charles, RB, KC – Charles, despite the occasional injuries, is exactly the right back for a team that can get to the playoffs and put up big points. I will try and land Charcandrick West in later rounds to cover the injury weeks (but hope they don’t happen).

3.06 Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN – Thomas did not have a great year in 2015 for many reasons, but he has admitted that and is set to prove his place this season among the top wideouts in the game. That said, I might have taken Eddie Lacy here had he lasted one more pick.

4.07 Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI – Fitz rebounded last year and I think he will have another excellent season with Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians getting him the ball. The other choices at this pick were either running backs who won’t put up as many points as Fitzgerald or reaching for a QB or TE.

5.06 Jeremy Langford, RB, CHI – The choice here was a starting running back over my first tight end and I chose Langford over Latavius Murray. Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen were also available, but I felt neither would repeat last year’s success, and if not available next round, there would still be other very good TEs left on the board.

6.07 Ryan Mathews, RB, PHI – Just missed on Olsen here, but if Ryan Mathews can stay healthy, I think he will be a solid RB2. Or, for my team, a play in a Flex spot most weeks.

7.06 Delanie Walker, TE, TEN – I really like Walker and I think he will continue to be a top target for Marcus Mariota. Must admit though I was hoping either Travis Kelce or Coby Fleener was still there for me to take.

8.07 Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN – Diggs was excellent once he made it into the Vikings starting lineup last year and I fully expect him to take another step up the WR ranks this year. Teddy Bridgewater will look for him downfield often.

9.06 Vincent Jackson, WR, TB – I was hoping Torrey Smith would be here but missed by just two picks. Jackson, however, will be a major target for the improved second year throws of Jameis Winston.

10.07 Rishard Matthews, WR, TEN – Matthews has great skills and just needs a full-time opportunity to be a good WR3. I think his new team will give him that chance and he will prosper with the Titans.

11.06 Darren Sproles, RB, PHI – Sproles is not only a good PPR running back but does give me some Ryan Mathews insurance. And, a few return touchdowns when he is in my lineup will be a bonus.

12.07 Philip Rivers, QB, SD – Undervalued each year, Rivers always puts up his yards and touchdowns. Face it: The Chargers have to throw to win or stay in most games and it is nice to have Keenan Allen and even an older Antonio Gates to grab a lot of those Rivers throws.

13.06 DeAngelo Williams, RB, PIT – I was surprised that DWill fell this far, especially past the LeVeon Bell owner. Even with Bell healthy, Williams will get enough carries to be useful in a pinch or great run game matchup.

14.07 Charcandrick West, RB, KC – Thankfully, I landed West here to handcuff Charles. West was very good last year for the Chiefs and will be again if needed by them (or me).

15.06 DeAndre Smelter, WR, SF – Everyone has to take some shots on players who might play up and this was mine. Smelter was drafted in the 4th round last year by the 49ers but was coming off a knee injury and was inactive all year. However, the 6’2”, 226 lb. receiver out of Georgia Tech has big play ability and a solid chance to end up as a starter opposite Torrey Smith.

16.07 Arizona Cardinals DST – I think the Cardinals will be an improved DST for FF purposes. Adding Chandler Jones to sack opposing quarterbacks is the first and most important reason; second would be the addition of Tyvon Branch in the secondary. A full season of play for Tyrann Mathieu would certainly help as well.

17.06 Chris Boswell, K, PIT - Boswell may have inherited the job due to the failure of others, but he did a good job and a full season with the Steelers offense will put him in the top five kickers this season. By the way, you don’t have to wait until your last pick to take a better kicker, especially in an 18-round format, as there will always be some other players worth grabbing.

18.07 Chris Thompson, RB, WAS – Thompson is a great pass catcher out of the backfield and should be right behind Matt Jones on the Washington depth chart. He has ability, and should get more playing time if Jones falters again this year.

In early March I participated in the Tout Wars online draft league: a fifteen-team league that uses on base percentage (OBP) instead of batting average, but otherwise is the standard 5X5 categories employing twenty three starting players.

But I made my first pick before that as the league lets the players have their preference of draft slot based on last year’s standings. So Adam Ronis who won the league last year had first choice and picked 1.03 (presumably because he didn’t care which one of Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, or Bryce Harper he would get and he would get an earlier second round pick). That allowed Rudy Gamble, second last year to draft first, and Patrick Mayo, a transfer from the TOUT X league to draft second.

I finished 4th in this league last year but my preference card was 3-2-1-8 so I will draft eighth. Sure I would have started with one of those three players, but after those three and Clayton Kershaw, there is a pack of players that are pretty close in terms of projected value, and frankly I thought I might be able to get either Anthony Rizzo or Andrew McCutchen at 1.08 and then have a much earlier second round pick. But there are other reasons I like to draft in the middle of the order (assuming I am comfortable with the first round players). First I won’t wait as long between picks each round. Second I find that especially in industry leagues, drafters may be reaching some for either a player they really like who they know won’t be available with their next pick. That means there is often some players who on my rankings fall below where I would draft them or think they should go.

I wanted my first few hitters to have a very high OBP and I wanted to choose hitters for the most part that would have double digit HR and SB. Obviously you can’t do that with catchers but I wanted to try and avoid the one trick stolen base ponies – especially in the outfield. I would take two very strong hitter in the first two rounds, likely taking my first starting pitcher in the third, but might delay until the fourth if there was a compelling hitter there and the first pitcher run was not well under way.

So how did that work out?

Well I did get McCutchen at 1.08 – really wanted to start with Rizzo but he went fifth. In the second round I took Justin Upton – strong OBP (100 points higher than his BAvg), with 25+ HR and double digit SB. (Perhaps I should have taken Jose Abreu for a few more homers and stronger R/RBI, sacrificing the steals and some OBP)

With four SP taken in front of me in round three (Kershaw going at 1.07 and Scherzer at 2.15) I decided to jump in and take Corey Kluber for the strong strikeouts and good ratios and the hope the Indians can get him some more wins this year.

It didn’t cost me in hitting as my projected third round hitter was still there at 4.08 so Brian Dozier who certainly fit the HR/SB plan was my pick, despite a lower OBP which I think will be offset with 100+ runs. Unfortunately there was a heavy run on first basemen with eleven taken in the first four and a half rounds. I didn’t make a panic pick there – Byung-Ho Park has the projected numbers and the power I needed but I would have preferred to take him later but he was my pick at 5.08

The drafters in this league were doing a very good job, pretty much across the boards so there were going to be compromises made and educated guesses as to when to fill each hole. And it was a very fast draft which didn’t give much time for sorting your queue or options. I won’t give every pick a paragraph but list the round numbers after each player selected, so here is the drafted starters and then reserves.

C – Welington Castillo (13) – will have close to twenty bombs

C – Francisco Cervelli (16) – strong OBP with at least a home run per month

1B – Byung-Ho Park (5) – looking for 30+ home runs and several steals

3B – Jung-Ho Kang (10) – should be a very solid contributor but will he miss time?

CI – Justin Bour (19) – twenty plus home runs

2B – Brian Dozier (4) – strong HR/SB combo who will score 100+ runs

SS – Ketel Marte (12) – leading off for Mariners and should be close to 30 steals

MI – Jonathan Villar (18) – 30+ steals, handful of HR and see reserves

OF – Andrew McCutchen (1) – OBP stud with HR/SB combo and strong RBI

OF – Justin Upton (2) – Comerica Field and Tiger lineup may increase projected numbers

OF – Joc Pederson (7) – much stronger OBP than BAvg with upside beyond 20/20

OF – Curtis Granderson (9) – another OBP choice plus 20+/10+

OF – Stephen Souza (14) – 20/20 with good OBP

UT – Mike Napoli (23) – again very good OBP with 15-20 HR in fungible position on roster

Reserves

Orlando Arcia (24) SS– Top Milwaukee prospect - very good hitter who should arrive in June

Martin Prado (27) 3B – In case I need an April replacement for Kang

Lonnie Chisenhall (29) 3B/OF – can cover 3B and OF and streaky power hitter

SP – Corey Kluber (3) – 240+ strikeouts and good ratios

SP – Johnny Cueto (6) – Great home park for Cueto

SP – Drew Smyly (11) – great ratios over lesser strikeouts – last tier 4 pitcher on the board

SP – Jaime Garcia (17) – pitches very well IF he can stay on the field

SP – Zack Wheeler (21) – headed for a DL slot in TOUT rules

SP – Lucas Giolito (22) – highest upside of all the prospect pitchers and on better team when he arrives

CL – Jonathan Papelbon (8) – excellent tier 2 closer on winning club

CL– Santiago Casilla (15) – Giants should win a lot of games this year – hopefully he is closing all year

CL – J.J. Hoover (20) – has the job for now in Cincinnati

Reserves

Tanner Roark (25) – replacing Giolito

Adam Conley (26) – okay to take starters on Marlin – they play a lot of games versus PHL and ATL

Bartolo Colon (28) – holding the place for Wheeler and still effective

Not sure my OBP held up and weaker than I would like in RBI, but very solid HR/R/SB

Strong in Sv, ERA, and WHIP and wins will come with steaming but the low strikeouts could be a problem if Giolito not up early and Wheeler is delayed.

With Arcia and Giolito likely manning two of my bench spots it does mean I am going to work with just four reserve spots, but I am fine with that for the upside these players should bring my team.

I am always glad to answer any questions here or in the Forums and you can follow along all year as Mastersball has very strong TOUT coverage.

What a long strange trip it’s been. True we could say that about every baseball season whether real life or for our fantasy teams, but it did seem both longer and stranger for my fantasy teams this year as well as for many MLB teams.

Too long in fact for a handful of major league managers who have already been let go or will have been by the time you read this, although frankly I never thought Matt Williams had the temperament to lead a major league franchise.

What about our fantasy teams? We can’t fire that manager. We can, however, attempt to improve both his drafting and in-season management. And by we, I mean you. But I am trying to help you with this column and Todd, Lawr, and all the writers here at Mastersball are here to help you. All year long – not just prior to your draft. Because in today’s fantasy environment, if you play in a league and want to win, whether you are playing for pesos or matchsticks, it should almost be a year round cycle.

Traditionally, the months after the baseball season ends are for watching the playoffs, enjoying college and/or pro football, giving thanks for everything we have whether with family or friends or even alone at Thanksgiving, and then celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus for the rest of us in December. Then it is the new year and time to follow the MLB winter meetings and trades and getting ready for spring training and looking at new projections, whether you make your own, get them here at Mastersball or elsewhere.

But we have missed a fall event that is specific to fantasy baseball players, one that should both tie up our thoughts on the previous season and get us ready for Opening Day 2016. It is unique in both its location and baseball opportunity. First Pitch Arizona is held in Phoenix, AZ with 80-degree sunny days (yes, sometimes lower or grayer) during the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is the premier development league of major league baseball featuring top prospects from each organization (usually high A players but with some Double-A players and even some who were in the Majors for a brief time but need additional work without leaving the country for winter ball in the southern hemisphere. Incredibly, nearly 2,300 of the 3,900 players -- 59 percent -- who have played in the Arizona Fall League have made it to the Major Leagues, and 13 players have won the Most Valuable Player Award. Four players with AFL ties have won the Cy Young Award, and 25 have won the Rookie of the Year Award.

Last year, we saw highly regarded prospects Eddie Rosario and Dalton Pompey, who everyone thought would be in the Majors at some point last season. But we also saw Greg Bird, who no one projected to be with the Yankees but because we saw him in the AFL and saw the power (he led the league in home runs and runs), he was added as a minor leaguer by some but certainly was on the radar when he was called up to New York. This happens every year in the AFL. In 2011, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were in the same outfield for the Scottsdale Scorpions. In addition to several AFL games, you will also see the Fall Stars Game, the league’s All-Star Game, at Salt River Fields.

And you can talk to many writers or broadcasters you might never have the opportunity to meet. Both Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com will be at the AFL and Callis will be one of the speakers in an AFL Scouting report for conference attendees on Friday morning along with Blue Jays’ scout Kimball Crossley.

I could go on and on but the one thing I would tell you is that many of my friends, regardless of what level or leagues they play in, find the First Pitch AZ conference one of their favorite weekends of the year and wouldn’t miss it. If you come alone or with fantasy baseball friends staying at the host hotel – the Doubletree is adequate but don’t miss the opportunity to bring your significant other. In that case, I would suggest staying at a much nicer hotel like Talking Stick Resort, which is just on the other side of the freeway from Salt River Fields, or any of the excellent resort hotels in Scottsdale. Spa and shopping opportunities and great restaurants abound.

Here is a link if you want more information on the program > http://baseballhq.com/seminars/arizona.shtml

Come say hello to Todd, Lawr, Brian and I when you arrive.

 

Comrades Lawr Michaels and Don Drooker have already given you a recap of their bidding at the XFL draft held at First Pitch Arizona a few weeks ago. Here are a few comments on my efforts in that auction.

The Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) is a keeper league using a 5x5 format (with on-base percentage replacing batting average), a 23-player live auction draft in early November with a $260 budget and a supplemental snake draft in late March to round out the 40-man rosters.

So we have to start with my keeper list (if you want to see where most of those players came from my review of the 2014 auction is here) with brief commentary.

C – Russell Martin $23 (remember it is an OBP league so Martin is a top offensive catcher)

1B – Adam Lind $6 (solid power plus good OBP)

2B – Dee Gordon $11 (doubt any explanation required)

OF – Starling Marte $13 (ditto)

OF – Billy Burns $4 (2015 farm pick with great speed/R/OBP at a cheap price)

OF – Aaron Hicks $6 (obtained in a pre-draft trade with Ron Shandler for a March draft pick)

OF – Mark Canha $4 (2015 farm pick who also qualifies at 1B – value at this price but I think the second year player gets more at-bats in 2016)

P – Luis Severino $4 (2015 farm pick)

P – Santiago Casilla $6 (one dollar March supplemental pick last March)

P – Ken Giles $10 (Phillies closer was a 2015 free agent – 5+5 as keeper)

Farm players: Dominic Smith (1B, NYM), David Dahl (OF, COL), Jorge Alfaro (C, PHI) and C.J. Edwards (P, CHC)

Obviously, I had a lot of holes to fill in the auction but I had $173 to do it with – not the highest total but second of those with more than $150 available. Here are the players I bought, again with a brief comment.

C – Yasmani Grandal $15 (teens power with good OBP)

3B – Adrian Beltre $23 (good price for consistent quality production)

CI – Brock Holt $2 (great end game buy with multi-position eligibility)

SS – Erick Aybar $4 (value contributor even now in Atlanta)

MI – Ian Kinsler $19 (one of top middle infield producers every year)

OF – Hunter Pence $32 (auction price for one of the few power options available at OF)

UT – Evan Gattis $7 (had lots of options in the end game but wanted the power and had good OBP cushion)

P – Jaime Garcia $16 (decent price assuming completely healthy next spring)

P – Joe Ross $15 (I think the younger Ross cemented a rotation spot and proved his value last summer)

P – Drew Smyly $13 (had the option to keep him at $20 which I thought was too much but happy with this price in the auction)

P – Andrew Heaney $12 (will be fixture in the Angels’ rotation with upside over 2015 numbers)

P – Nate Karns $4 (an end game price I was very happy with for new Mariner SP)

P – Cody Anderson $2 (hopefully the right choice for my second end game pitcher)

Finding some nice bargains in the latter stages of the auction allowed me to spend only $251 of the $260 maximum (remember it is a keeper league so the prices do matter). That was a 67/33 hitting to pitching ratio which was possible due to the value of my three pitching keepers.

As mentioned in other columns, the next step towards completing our 40-man rosters in the XFL will be a 17-round supplemental draft in March. With four farm players among my keepers, I will have 13 picks to both add to my active players and likely add more prospects. Clearly, adding some extra power at CI or OF and trying to find a third closer and more starters will be the aim approaching opening day, but I think I have a very solid starting roster.

As always, I'm glad to answer any questions about my team or the XFL auction or rosters.

The National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) has just added a postseason contest for the first time, having run playoff contests in football for several years.

So whether your baseball season was not satisfying or gives you some extra money for another contest, or whether you just like playoff baseball and want a chance to win $25,000 on a minimal entry ($150), this is a contest that you may be interested in.

The contest is a points based contest with a unique scoring system that incorporates a multiplier if you pick a hitter or pitcher who survives the Wild Card and Divisional Series. You would then get twice the points he earns in the League Championship Series and three times his points if he plays in the World Series.

Each entrant picks 16 players for his teams, ten hitters (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, four OF, and a UT) and six pitchers who can be any combination of starting pitchers or relievers. Hitters get points for Singles, Doubles, Triples and Home Runs as well as RBI, R, SB, BB and HBP with a quarter-point deduction for each out made (at-bats minus hits). Pitchers get four points for a W or SV and one point for each K and IP with a deduction of one point for each earned run.

In the first part of the contest (WC and DV), you can have a maximum of three players from any team but must have at least one player from each team. In the LCS, the maximum grows to six players from any team but you must still have at least one player from all four teams. In the World Series portion, you must have eight players from each team. In all cases, you can keep players or choose all new players in each segment of the contest.

The contest will be limited to 400 entries and the awards will be:

1st Place - $25,000
2nd Place - $5,000
3rd Place - $4,000
4th Place - $3,000
5th Place - $2,000
6th Place - $1,500
7th Place - $1,000
8th Place - $900
9th Place - $800
10th Place - $750
11th Place - $700
12th Place - $650
13th Place - $600
14th Place - $550
15th Place - $500

If having a postseason fantasy team appeals to you, here are the relevant links:

RULES > http://nfbc.stats.com/baseball/leagues/ ... sp?id=1507

SIGN UPS > http://nfbc.stats.com/baseball/contest/ ... sp?id=1507

I think you will see a few Mastersballers there if you play.

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