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Saturday 21st Oct 2017

It is very rare for top minor league prospects to be called up to the big leagues in April – even rarer since Kris Bryant arrived in Week 2 and this week both his Cubs prospect mate Addison Russell and one of the Mets’ top hitting prospects, catcher Kevin Plawecki, have arrived in Week 3.

In NL keeper leagues, of course, both Plawecki and Russell are likely owned, but players in redraft leagues or NL leagues without minor league prospects should see which of these players fit their needs this year best and then decide on how much they can afford to bid. And be sure the prices won’t be cheap.

Let’s take a look at them individually and see if I can translate what to expect both on the field and in the bidding.

Addison Russell arrived in Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija trade from Oakland. The 21-year-old shortstop from Pensacola, Florida was drafted out of high school as the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft. I saw him play briefly that summer with the Athletics rookie league team in Arizona and immediately moved him to the upper echelon of AL prospects.

In three minor league seasons, Russell has averaged .300 with double-digit home runs and stolen bases, although you have to know that he only had 217 at-bats in 2012 (the year he was drafted), and 258 at-bats in 2014, when hamstring problems cost him half the season. So perhaps the 2013 season, when Russell had 429 at-bats in 107 games at High-A Stockton, deserves more weight. Yes, it was in the hitter-friendly Cal league, but that year he scored 85 runs with 17 home runs, 21 stolen bases and 60 RBI while hitting .275 with an OBP of .377.

Behind those numbers is above average athleticism, very quick hands, and good power for his age. While I think he would be fine as a major league shortstop, there have been some questions about his range and arm, but he is very accurate, so I think he would have been fine. But he won’t be playing shortstop this year, as the Cubs had the foresight to have him play some second base at Triple-A Iowa. The injury to Tommy La Stella and the slow start by Arismendy Alcantara will see Russell deployed at second base for the Cubs this year and potentially longer depending on the development of Javier Baez and Alcantara, or the Cubs need to eventually trade Starlin Castro.

So while he would be even more valuable in OBP leagues, I think you will still get a good batting average with double-digit homers and steals. Unfortunately, that will translate to a FAAB price of greater than half of your league’s yearly allotment (whether that is $100 or $1000).

Kevin Plawecki is likely a lesser known commodity in your leagues, although the 6’2”, 225 lb., 24-year-old catcher is the New York Mets' best hitting prospect according to MLB.com (third best according to Baseball America). Plawecki was also drafted in 2012 (the first supplemental pick) but out of Purdue University, hence the difference in age.

The one word I see used most to describe him as both a hitter and a catcher is "solid." He is a very good receiver and game caller behind the plate but does not have the great arm of some catchers or catching prospects. As a hitter, Plawecki has averaged .295 with eight home runs and almost 60 RBI in three years across five levels. In fact, his 2014 season split between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas was his best with the bat with a combined .309 average, 11 home runs and 64 RBI. His mature bat out of college has translated well as he has also averaged a .372 OBP in the three minor league years (thus my preemptive $3 grab Sunday night in the Tout Mixed Draft league).

The only thing we don’t know with Plawecki is how long Travis d'Arnaud will be out with the broken hand, and what will happen to him after that. In mixed keeper leagues, I would be less worried about that because there is always a trade possibility. Still, his short-term value is very high and I think his FAAB cost will be $100-200 for teams starved for production from their backstops, especially the d’Arnaud owners.

Note that both Russell (#2) and Plawecki (#47) were highly rated in my NL list for Mastersball’s 2015 Minor League Prospect lists.


Last Tuesday evening, 15 baseball writers gathered online to draft their teams for the 2015 Mixed League Draft. Since I lost the 2014 title on the last day of the season to Roto Rob’s Tim McLeod (we were tied after Saturday and I lost points while Tim gained some so I lost by 2.5), Tim had the first pick of draft spots and chose 1.01 and thus Mike Trout.

Since this is a 5x5 league with on-base percentage replacing batting average, Todd has Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt and Giancarlo Stanton all ranked the same for projected earning, so I chose 1.03 so I would have a choice of either Goldschmidt and the remaining outfielder or of the two outfielders. If I chose #4, I would still get one of the three but I wouldn’t have a choice.

So after Brent Hershey of Baseball HQ chose McCutchen, I took the top first baseman Goldschmidt. Now the long wait until 2.13. Sadly, all of my primary targets were taken so I jumped on Houston’s second-year outfielder George Springer, who with OBP replacing BA, takes a huge jump in the rankings. That was the easy part. Now I was hoping that one of the remaining top shortstops – Ian Desmond or Jose Reyes, or Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre would make it around the turn. No such luck – all three along with SP David Price were gobbled up by Brent and Tim. Could I have reversed the picks? Who really knows, but Springer is projected to earn ten dollars more than any of those players and I wanted maximum stats from my first three hitters. At 3.03, the best hitter available was Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, and while I might not do it in BA leagues, his projected OBP of .382 with 25 home runs was enough to put him on my team. Yes, with the hopes I would squeeze first basemen for my competitors.

My plan for the 4/5 turn was to take the best starting pitcher available and perhaps one of the best remaining outfielders or Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon. Gordon went earlier in round 4, so I took Jordan Zimmermann at 4.13 and waited to see if Yoenis Cespedes or Kole Calhoun would be there in round 5. Well, along with Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke, they were drafted in front of me so I decided to jump rankings again because Matt Harvey was not making it back to 6.13.

So that was the base of my draft but you don’t want to hear every decision, so here is my team, along with the draft spots.

C – John Jaso (11.03) and Chris Iannetta (15.03) – Perhaps not the power from other backstops but both with very good OBP which would allow me to have enough ballast to draft some riskier picks in later rounds.

CI – Goldschmidt (1.03), Matt Carpenter (9.03) and Freeman (3.03) - Lots more OBP help.

MI – Marcus Semien (8.13), Ben Zobrist (6.13) and Brandon Phillips (23.03)

OF – Springer (2.13), Mookie Betts (7.03), Leonys Martin (13.03), Michael Saunders (17.03) and Anthony Gose (20.13)

UT – Adam Lind (21.03)

Reserves – Luis Valbuena (24.13), Jose Peraza (25.03) and Norichika Aoki (26.13)

SP – Zimmermann (4.13), Harvey (5.03), Tyson Ross (10.13), John Lackey (19.03), Jarred Cosart (22.13)

P – Aaron Sanchez (14.13) - I like him whether he is starting or closing in Toronto.

RP – Fernando Rodney (12.13), Tyler Clippard (16.13) and LaTroy Hawkins (18.13)

Reserves – Luis Severino (27.03), Alex Colome (28.13) and Joe Kelly (29.03)

I like the versatility with Zobrist eligible at 2B/SS/OF, Semien at 2B/3B and will add SS, and Luis Valbuena at 2B/3B. That will allow several different lineups. Peraza, when he arrives in Atlanta, will provide a lot of stolen bases and if I don’t need them, allow me to trade for something I might need.

On the pitching staff, I like the strong NL lean of the starters and perhaps having extra saves to trade at some point.

Yes, as you can tell from my comments above, it is a trading league. It is also a league with unlimited DL slots and the ability to DL an active player and replace with a reserve during the week if necessary.

I will post some updates throughout the season but I'm always glad to answer questions here or in the MB Forums.

On Saturday night, after scoring the Mariners 11-7 win over the White Sox, I drove downtown to participate in the LABR AL auction against 11 other stalwart writers. The full results are not publishable until USA Today’s Leviathan issue hits the newsstands in two weeks, but I can share my team and observations for those of you getting ready for AL redraft leagues.

As I put together my draft plan on Friday, I wanted to take advantage of two known elements of this industry auction league – early overspending and late bargains in the end game. One way to do that would be to stay out of the early battles, saving enough auction dollars to win the midgame battles. BUT there is one pitfall to that strategy that you should watch for very early – someone else, or even worse, two other competitors trying the same approach. That will lead to some very tough bidding wars over players who don’t deserve them.

So as the bidding started, I watched it go to 60 dollars overbid before it stalled and then went back up to over 90 dollars above projected values. And that is not just my opinion. Lenny Melnick of RotoExperts.com, who was one of the commentators on the Sirius/XM broadcast of the auction, pointed out the same thing. But while most of the early nominations were drawing those high bids, I noted with curiosity that Rotowire’s Chris Liss was not winning any battles, strange since he is usually a Stars and Scrubs bidder. In the early going, I wanted to get players at or slightly below their projected value only if I though they have a good shot to earn more.

Always on the lookout for a bargain, I still wanted a solid core of hitters, so early on I rostered Hanley Ramirez at $30 because shortstop is thin and if you pass on a chance in an AL league to get Ramirez or Jose Reyes, then you may have to fight for one you want or settle for a lot less production late in the auction. Then I got Houston catcher Evan Gattis for $24 – again willing to go a little higher for the home runs at that position. In my opinion, there are just three top hitting AL catchers and Gattis came up before Salvador Perez or Yan Gomes.

We had a couple of rounds in now and the only player Chris Liss had rostered was David Ortiz. There were others with money but they were actively bidding. Ominous sign (well maybe he had heard my Saturday morning interview with Fantistics on Sirius/XM where I had said he was a hot bidder).

So I got back in before the two teams with more money got active and bought Tigers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler for $21. That turned out to be a magic number for me as I added new Seattle fly chaser and power hitter Nelson Cruz for that price (a little under where I thought he should go) and then Yan Gomes for the same price (a dollar or two high but it gave me two outstanding backstops for a two-catcher AL-only league). I pulled back at that point, waiting for prices to go down a little, hoping for bargains but trying to get a few more players before I waited for the end game. At the pizza break, Liss had only two players and $216 left to spend and I doubted he would find enough to overpay on but he would have the hammer until the end game.

So here is my roster, with prices:

C – Gattis (24) and Gomes (21)

CI – James Loney (8), David Freese (6) and Luis Valbuena (4)

MI – Kinsler (21), H. Ramirez (30) and Josh Rutledge (4)

OF – Cruz (21), Danny Santana (16), Dalton Pompey (11), Kevin Kiermaier (7) and Jake Marisnick (2)

UT – Justin Smoak (2)

Reserve Draft – Mark Canha, Ryan Ludwick and Billy Burns

SP – Masahiro Tanaka (15), Anibal Sanchez (14), Danny Duffy (7), Joe Kelly (3), Alex Colome (2), 

       Jarrod Parker (1)

P – Aaron Sanchez (8) Will he be SP or RP? Either way, he will be worth more.

RP – Dellin Betances (19) and Zach Britton (14)

Reserve Draft – Nathan Karns, Luis Severino and Martin Perez (DL)

An important note about reserves in LABR – they can be activated and reserved during each lineup period whereas players bought in the auction can NOT be reserved – they can be put on the DL but otherwise must be dropped if you can’t stand them active any longer. Also, LABR like TOUT has unlimited DL slots, so in Week 1, I can DL Parker and replace him and then if Colome loses the last spot in the Tampa rotation, I can reserve him and either get a new pitcher via FAAB or if Karns wins the spot, activate him. The same is true should Josh Rutledge not win the second base job in Anaheim – I could either reserve him if sent to the Minors or waive him and move Santana to MI and activate Canha.

Always glad to answer questions here or on in the MB Forums but I can’t reveal other prices until they are published in USA Today.

I participated in another NFBC 15-team, mixed, 5x5 auction league last week and while some of my purchases will be of interest, I think after several early auctions we can clearly see certain trends and pitfalls for you to put into your study notes.

As always, there is a lot of overspending in the early rounds of the auction. This was a private NFBC auction with 13 NFBC players competing with head honcho Greg Ambrosius and his first officer Tom Kessenich. A small money league with a lot of bragging rights on the line. (Listed as FEB 26 7:45 PM EST Auction w/FAAB, w/Greg & Tom if you want to read about it on the NFBC message boards.) So let’s take a look at the first two rounds of nominations and some of my brief comments.

Round One


M. Trout


Great player but a net loss


C. Kershaw


Usually goes low 40s


B. Hamilton


A few dollars less than projected value


A. Jones


Right on the mark


M. Fiers


Early attempt to steal failed


J. Bautista


Good buy – just a few dollars over


H. Bailey


A bet he regains health early


J. Altuve


Don’t pay for 2014 stats


P. Goldschmidt


Would like to get for a few pennies less


J. Reyes


Should be slight profit here


S. Strasburg


A tad expensive but could be worth it


A. McCutchen


You don’t want to go over $40


F. Hernandez


Reasonable but I don’t spend over $30 for P


G. Stanton


Ten dollars over projected value


A. Rendon


High 20s at most, 2B pool is deep

Round Two


J. Abreu


Highest I have seen on Abreu


T. Tulowitzki


Too much for part-time player


C. Kluber


We all love Kluber but he can’t earn that much


C. Sale


Good price if he is your guy (well before the injury)


J. Arrieta


A tad high unless he can take another step


Y. Puig


The potential is there but I wouldn’t pay that much


M. Cabrera


Only works IF he is healthy on opening day


M. Bumgarner


Just a few dollars over


A. Beltre


Only two top third basemen but lots below


Y. Darvish


This is a silly price for Yu and You


T. Frazier


Another over ten dollars over projected


C. Gomez


Another magical year? I will take the under


A. Rizzo


Price keeps climbing – will his HR?


J. Donaldson


Love Donaldson in Rogers Centre but high


R. Cano


Finally a decent price for Robbie

I bid on more than half those players but wouldn’t pay those prices. IF you can conserve your money, you will still have lots of good players to buy AND make a profit on most of them.

That doesn’t mean I won’t spend the extra dollar or two when there is a player I really need, as you will see, but staying at $30 or less is a better way to build a roster – you want all your hitters to have starting jobs so you can have more at-bats thus more counting stats than your competitors.

So here is my team:

C – Jonathan Lucroy (20), Salvador Perez (15)

CI – Adam LaRoche (12), Matt Carpenter (13), Adam Lind (2)

MI – Dee Gordon (26), Ian Desmond (27), Chris Owings (2)

OF – Yoenis Cespedes (23), Kole Calhoun (19), Austin Jackson (3), Dexter Fowler (2), Josh Reddick (4)

UT – Everth Cabrera (2)

SP – Sonny Gray (19), Tyson Ross (17), Doug Fister (9), Chris Archer (8), Jered Weaver (5), John Lackey (3)

RP – Mark Melancon (17), Koji Uehara (11), Tyler Clippard (2)

If you haven’t taken a good look at our position value sheet or the Tiers sheets, I suggest you do to see which positions are really lean and where you have more options. There are plenty of good catchers to roster this year. In my opinion, the problem position is shortstop, where the top end is just four deep with Hanley Ramirez and Ian Desmond at the top closely followed by Troy DL Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes. If you don’t want to bid what it takes to get one of those, you better find a few alternatives that you like and hope you aren’t in a bidding war for them. Almost all middle infielders this year will come from the healthier 2B pool.

Another thing to keep in mind when you make your draft plan is that the real bargains come in the end game when there are plenty of nice players at just TWO positions – outfielders and starting pitchers. (Yes, there are some nice setup relievers but you want to add those in reserve – i.e. free rounds or via FAAB, not in the auction.)

Look at my last two outfielders – Jackson is projected to earn $10 and I got him for $3 while Reddick is projected to earn $9 but only cost $4 (and he was my last player so I went all in to make sure there weren’t other bids). Similarly, Weaver will earn double digits, so a nice profit at $5, and Lackey could get there but certainly a small profit at $3 even if he doesn’t.

Platinum readers will soon be able to see my 2015 auction plan.

Fantasy baseball auctions are FUN for lots of reasons. First, if there is a player you covet, you know you can have him on your team.

That isn’t great strategy, at least for the top players, BUT you want to have a team YOU want to root for, so especially in leagues where you want to have more fun, it is possible if you have great self-control. I am sure you have read about several different auction strategies, and I am not trying to deflate any of them, but no matter how you construct your roster, you should be looking to build profit into your selections.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have Mike Trout on your team, but if you pay $50 for him and he earns our currently projected $45 (12-team mixed), then you have your first loss. If you can sit on your bidding hand or mouse until later in the auction, you can still add a lot of profit to go with Trout.

Personally, I try and enter every auction not married to any specific player and looking for “value” when I can find it. Normally, I won’t spend more than low thirties for my best hitter or pitcher, trying to spread dollars across most positions in the beginning and middle of the auction, knowing that there will be great bargains, especially on outfielders and pitchers in the end game.

Let’s see how that worked in a mock auction draft that was put together by Rotoworld’s Seth Trachtman a few weeks ago that I participated in along with Lawr and Pasko. As you know, I am not a big fan of mock drafts, but with a very good cast of writers and analysts, I thought this would have some value, especially when I might face some of them in later LABR or NFBC auctions this spring. Because of some problems with the first site where we gathered, there were some minor problems with early prices but nothing that would seriously disrupt the validity of the total pricing.

I bought just a few players in the early stage of this auction – Carlos Gomez for $33, Jonathan Lucroy for $20 (pre hamstring issues), Ian Kinsler $21,  Todd Frazier $13, Wilin Rosario $12, Mike Morse $5 and just one pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka for $9.  So going into the middle of the auction, I had the most money left to spend with $147 and needed 16 more players. And I waited, looking to find players that would contribute to my team that were undervalued by my competitors or that they no longer had money to buy. That started slowly and then I was on a buying spree until I was back in the middle of the available funds and then I waited for the end game and specific players to fill the positions I had left, making lists for each.

Here is the final roster with prices paid and projected earnings.

Pos   Player Cost Proj
C1 - Jonathan Lucroy 20 29
C2 - Wilin Rosario 12 21
1B - Adam LaRoche 8 16
3B - Todd Frazier 13 17
CI - Evan Longoria 13 19
2B - Ian Kinsler 21 21
SS - Jimmy Rollins 9 13
MI - Daniel Murphy 8 17
OF1 - Carlos Gomez 33 35
OF2 - Mike Morse 5 7
OF3 - Matt Holliday 15 19
OF4 - Danny Santana 6 14
OF5 - Steven Souza 7 14
UT - Adam Lind 1 11
TOTAL 171 253

Some nice position flexibility there with Morse also 1B eligible and Santana SS eligible, and Lind 1B eligible.

SP - Masahiro Tanaka 9 11
SP - Julio Teheran 17 17
SP - Sonny Gray 13 17
SP - Tyson Ross 8 14
SP - Gio Gonzalez 9 8
SP - Jered Weaver 6 11
SP - Mike Fiers 3 5
CL - Kenley Jansen 15 16
CL - Dellin Betances 9 14
TOTAL 89 113

With two high strikeout closers in Jansen and Betances, it boosts the staff with some starters projected for lower strikeout totals (although none of those are really low).

So how did this do on my flexible 170/90 budget?

Despite moving some funds back and forth in the end game, I finished at 171/89.

The nine pitchers bought for $89 have projected earnings of $113.

The hitters bought for $171 have projected earnings of $253 (although Lucroy may take a small hit depending on how many games he misses and we still don’t know what Colorado is going to do with three catchers, so I expect Rosario to earn less (both if he stays a Rockie or if he is traded).

But as you see, while none of those are ridiculously low buys (Lind is always devalued and if brought up late, LaRoche is underpriced), most every player looks like he will add some profit and paying $260 for $364 of stats will win you a lot of leagues. In case you are wondering about those stats, here are the projected category totals:

HR - 262
RBI - 1009
Runs - 1089
SB - 177
BA - 0.272
Wins - 94
SV - 78
ERA - 3.236
WHIP - 1.151
K - 1386

And that is with an early (low) projection on Fiers for innings pitched. But all the categories are in line with the top 20 percent totals from the 2014 NFBC Rotowire Online Championship (12 team).

And auctions always have different ebbs and flows but are still always FUN.

The National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) has had quite a bit of success in running Draft Champion (DC) leagues in January and February as fantasy baseball players get ready for the high stakes leagues that will draft in March.

In addition to gaining a much better knowledge of the current player pool, one of the main attractions of these leagues has been the low maintenance level as the DC leagues draft 50-man rosters to use the whole season and there are no free agents added during the year, which saves a lot of time for those who are doing that weekly for their main event, online championship, and/or specialty higher stakes league every Sunday.

The DC leagues are also available at a variety of price ranges – starting at $150 and going up to $250, $400, $500, and even some $1,000 leagues. In most of these leagues, there is both a league payout for the top three teams but a very large combined prize pool with some of the entry fee for all DC leagues furnishing the $25,000 prize to the overall champion and paying out the top 22 finishers.

So while these 50-round drafts have been very popular and still growing – there were 164 DC leagues last year and NFBC is ahead of that pace now with 84 full leagues - there are two things creating the demand for the new auction format. First, of course, you actually have more control in your initial 23-man roster – you could pay for both Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw if you were so inclined or any other combination you wanted to have as your team’s cornerstones. The second thing is that many of the NFBC drafters have not done auction drafts, only the serpentine drafts that the NFBC’s main event or online championship use. There were no auction leagues in the DC format last year and there have already been ten full ones with more to be added, so they may finish with 16-20 and should do far more next year when their online auction platform is ready. So this is a great opportunity for many to learn the auction format. For some, it may be ground work for their plans for the NFBC Auction Championship event that will be held in Las Vegas and New York in late March. This separate event with a $1,200 entry will pay $10,500 in league prizes but all teams in the 12-plus leagues will also compete for a $20,000 overall prize.

I participated in one of the $125 auction leagues on January 23 and thought I would share my roster from the $260 auction as well as my reserve selections drafted online later. In trying to keep this description at an easily readable length, I will give my starting 23-man roster with the auction prices (in parenthesis), and then a few notes about my reserves and then the final roster by position.

At the auction, I bought these starters:

C – Evan Gattis (20) and Devin Mesoraco (17)

CI – Eric Hosmer (10), Josh Donaldson (31), and Adrian Beltre (24)

MI – Ian Kinsler (21), Danny Santana (14), and Ben Zobrist (12)

OF – Kole Calhoun (16), Adam Eaton (5), Dalton Pompey (4), Coco Crisp (2), and Rajai Davis (2)

UT – Adam Lind (1)

SP – Max Scherzer (32), Doug Fister (10), Lance Lynn (8), Jose Quintana (5), Henderson Alvarez (2), Taijuan Walker (2), and Jarred Cosart (1)

RP – Mark Melancon (19) and LaTroy Hawkins (2)

This turned out to be a 179/81 hitting vs pitching split. The offense is very strong – numbers that would have been in the top ten of all teams in the 2014 event. The pitching has in my opinion a strong base but the projected numbers for just those nine would have been good enough to win a single league but would need to be very strongly supplemented for the team to have good enough category totals to contend for the overall championship.

Going into the reserve rounds, I wanted to get a third starting catcher and to supplement my pitching with several starters and hopefully another closer and/or some relief pitchers who might accumulate some saves. In the first round, I took Francisco Cervelli (in my opinion, you must have at least a couple extra catchers to survive a long season where backstops get nicked up – I usually prefer four if not five). With the next several picks, I worked on pitching, adding Joe Kelly and Vance Worley followed by Houston’s Chad Qualls, who figures to break camp as the closer (I will worry later about how long he holds the role). My fifth and sixth picks were Alexi Amarista, who not only qualifies at 2B, 3B and SS but also looks to be the Padres starting shortstop, and outfielder Matt Joyce, now of the Angels, who should get a large number of the DH at-bats in Anaheim at least against right-handed pitching.

Okay, here is the full roster by position with players who have multiple eligibility shown at the position they were drafted to play (but also in parenthesis at the other positions where I might deploy them). I thought this would give a better view of the overall depth of the hitters since I drafted more pitchers.

C – Gattis, Mesoraco, Cervelli, and Caleb Joseph

1B – Hosmer, (Lind), A. Rosales, (M. Canha)

3B – Donaldson, Beltre, (Amarista)

2B – Kinsler, Zobrist, (Amarista), Carlos Sanchez

SS – D. Santana, Amarista, (Zobrist)

OF – Calhoun, Eaton, Pompey, Crisp, R. Davis, Joyce, Jake Smolinski, Ryan Rua, Mark Canha, and Andrew Lambo

SP – Scherzer, Fister, Lynn, Quintana, Alvarez, Walker, Cosart, Kelly, Worley, Miguel Gonzalez,

Mike Foltynewicz, Tyler Glasnow, Martin Perez, Eddie Butler, C.J. Edwards, and Robbie Ray

RP – Melancon, Hawkins, Qualls, Tony Watson, Bruce Rondon, Darren O’Day, Dan Otero, Eric O’Flaherty, Shea Simmons, and Dale Thayer

That is probably more relief pitchers than Todd would like, but the number of injuries was devastating last year in MLB and more so in this format. In addition, all have some shot at adding at least a few saves. Simmons is a particularly nice sleeper for this in case the Braves do in fact trade Craig Kimbrel during the year as part of their rebuilding process.

As usual, I'm glad to answer questions here or in the Forums (where several other teams are listed).

I am going to show you the first six rounds of a recently completed NFBC DC draft and then put together the teams to see how they look.

15-team mixed, 5x5 with standard 23 starters, if you are not familiar with NFBC leagues.

1.01    Mike Trout, OF
1.02    Giancarlo Stanton, OF
1.03    Andrew McCutchen, OF
1.04    Clayton Kershaw, SP
1.05    Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
1.06    Miguel Cabrera, 1B
1.07    Jose Bautista, OF
1.08    Carlos Gomez, OF
1.09    Jose Abreu, 1B
1.10    Felix Hernandez, SP
1.11    Anthony Rizzo, 1B
1.12    Adam Jones, OF
1.13    Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
1.14    Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B
1.15    Max Scherzer, SP
2.01    Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
2.02    Jose Altuve, 2B
2.03    Troy Tulowitzki, SS
2.04    Robinson Cano, 2B
2.05    Michael Brantley, OF
2.06    Chris Sale, SP
2.07    Ian Desmond, SS
2.08    Hanley Ramirez, SS
2.09    Josh Donaldson, 3B
2.10    Madison Bumgarner, SP
2.11    Starling Marte, OF
2.12    Stephen Strasburg, SP
2.13    Buster Posey, C
2.14    Ryan Braun, OF
2.15    Adrian Beltre, 3B
3.01    Bryce Harper, OF
3.02    Yasiel Puig, OF
3.03    Corey Kluber, SP
3.04    Corey Dickerson, OF
3.05    Aroldis Chapman, RP
3.06    David Price, SP
3.07    Jose Reyes, SS
3.08    Yu Darvish, SP
3.09    Billy Hamilton, OF
3.10    Albert Pujols, 1B
3.11    Justin Upton, OF
3.12    Dee Gordon, 2B
3.13    Victor Martinez, 1B
3.14    George Springer, OF
3.15    Prince Fielder, 1B
4.01    Kyle Seager, 3B
4.02    Freddie Freeman, 1B
4.03    Carlos Gonzalez, OF
4.04    Adam Wainwright, SP
4.05    Todd Frazier, 1B/3B
4.06    Craig Kimbrel, RP
4.07    Zack Greinke, SP
4.08    Kenley Jansen, RP
4.09    Brian Dozier, 2B
4.10    Greg Holland, RP
4.11    Jordan Zimmermann, SP
4.12    Nolan Arenado, 3B
4.13    Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4.14    Matt Kemp, OF
4.15    Johnny Cueto, SP
5.01    Cole Hamels, SP
5.02    Jason Kipnis, 2B
5.03    Ian Kinsler, 2B
5.04    Jonathan Lucroy, C
5.05    Yoenis Cespedes, OF
5.06    Hunter Pence, OF
5.07    David Robertson, RP
5.08    Chris Davis, 1B/3B
5.09    Dellin Betances, RP
5.10    Evan Longoria, 3B
5.11    Jon Lester, SP
5.12    Devin Mesoraco, C
5.13    Carlos Santana, 1B
5.14    Julio Teheran, SP
5.15    Joey Votto, 1B
6.01    Mark Melancon, RP
6.02    Nelson Cruz, OF
6.03    Matt Harvey, SP
6.04    Charlie Blackmon, OF
6.05    Gerrit Cole, SP
6.06    Jason Heyward, OF
6.07    Dustin Pedroia, 2B
6.08    Alexei Ramirez, SS
6.09    Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF
6.10    Trevor Rosenthal, RP
6.11    Cody Allen, RP
6.12    Christian Yelich, OF
6.13    Josh Harrison, 3B/OF
6.14    Starlin Castro, SS
6.15    Sonny Gray, SP

Well, as I remarked on the NFBC message board, this was a better group of drafters, as you can see with the picks, especially those in the first round and several in the subsequent rounds. But when we talk about picks, especially if all you saw was the above, we miss the context of how an individual drafter is constructing his team. So I thought it would be worthwhile to see how the teams look after six rounds.

Team 1 - Mike Trout, Adrian Beltre, Bryce Harper, Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, Sonny Gray
Team 2 - Giancarlo Stanton, Ryan Braun, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Jason Kipnis, Starlin Castro
Team 3 - Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Corey Kluber, Adrian Gonzalez, Ian Kinsler, Josh Harrison
Team 4 - Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Corey Dickerson, Nolan Arenado, Jonathan Lucroy, Christian Yelich
Team 5 - Paul Goldschmidt, Starling Marte, Aroldis Chapman, Jordan Zimmermann, Yoenis Cespedes, Cody Allen
Team 6 - Miguel Cabrera, Madison Bumgarner, David Price, Greg Holland, Hunter Pence, Trevor Rosenthal
Team 7 - Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Jose Reyes, Brian Dozier, David Robertson, Mark Trumbo
Team 8 - Carlos Gomez, Hanley Ramirez, Yu Darvish, Kenley Jansen, Chris Davis, Alexei Ramirez
Team 9 - Jose Abreu, Ian Desmond, Billy Hamilton, Zack Greinke, Dellin Betances, Dustin Pedroia
Team 10 - Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, Albert Pujols, Craig Kimbrel, Evan Longoria, Jason Heyward
Team 11 - Anthony Rizzo, Michael Brantley, Justin Upton, Todd Frazier, Jon Lester, Gerrit Cole
Team 12 - Adam Jones, Robinson Cano, Dee Gordon, Adam Wainwright, Devin Mesoraco, Charlie Blackmon
Team 13 - Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki, Victor Martinez, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Santana, Matt Harvey
Team 14 - Anthony Rendon, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Nelson Cruz
Team 15 - Max Scherzer, Jacoby Ellsbury, Prince Fielder, Kyle Seager, Joey Votto, Mark Melancon


One additional note I did an NFBC auction two weeks ago and have seen some other results and the first comment that I would make is that I still see some players - either on reputation or perceived potential that are overvalued. Here are a few:

Bryce Harper - projected earnings $16, going in the mid $20s
Yasiel Puig - projected earnings $21, going high $20s and low $30s
Giancarlo Stanton - projected earnings $35, going in the low/mid $40s
Joey Votto - projected earnings $15, going in the low $20s
Anthony Rendon - projected earnings $28, going in the high $30s ($40 in my draft)
Nolan Arenado - projected earnings $14, going in the high $20s
Stephen Strasburg - projected earnings $25, going in the low $30s

While money always flows more at the beginning of the draft, some of those seem excessive to me.

What do you think?

In March, I will once again draft online in the Tout Wars mixed draft league. That is the league that I lost in 2014 on the last day of the season, so I really want to win it this year.

The league has a unique method of selecting draft spots. The 2014 order of finish is used with each player getting their first available choice of draft positions. So assuming the 2014 League Champion Tim McLeod (RotoRob.com) took the first pick and thus likely Mike Trout, should I pick second or move down, and if the latter, to which spot?

As a reminder, this is a 15-team mixed 5x5 league with On-Base Percentage (OBP) instead of batting average. So what draft spot would you take?

As we have seen in NFBC 15-team mixed drafts, the usual choices early in the draft would be Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt, and for some drafters, Clayton Kershaw. As I have stated before, while I do agree that Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game today and is as much a lock as any of the hitters to provide early first round value, I would prefer to take a top flight hitter with at least my first pick in the draft.

What I first wanted to check was how the change in the average category would affect projected value. Stanton gets a huge boost with his projected 385 OBP to jump in total value to the same $41 value as Goldschmidt, both just one dollar behind McCutchen. Stanton’s projected BA rank is 58th while he is 12th in OBP, so you can see the reason for the jump.

This worked well for me as I would rather be lower than second with negligible difference in value on the first round but an earlier pick in the second round. I settled on 1.03 versus 1.04, so on draft day, not only would I have a choice of either 1B or OF or between the two outfielders, but I would be protected just in case one of the three came limping out of spring training.

My choosing to pick third gave Brent Hershey of BHQ a chance to move up to second in the draft, so we will see what he does on March 10. There was also one interesting note as there were probably a few Tout drafters that would prefer to be at the end of the draft rather than in the middle, none more so than Anthony Perri (Fantistics Insider Baseball), who had the seventh choice of position and chose to draft in the last spot in the first round.

In last week’s column on draft prep for the NFBC, I gave you the first round from a 2014 main event league and asked you who you thought was still on the list this year in drafts so far.

That would mean cutting some of those and thinking about who would replace them in this year’s drafts. So let’s take a look at what those players earned last year and who is still a first round pick this season.

1.01  Mike Trout – earned $41 in 2014 and clear number one pick

1.02  Miguel Cabrera – earned $33 last year despite minor injuries; still a first round pick

1.03  Paul Goldschmidt – earned $20 but missed several months; still a first round pick

1.04  Andrew McCutchen – earned $34; a top five first round pick

1.05  Ryan Braun – earned $18

1.06  Chris Davis – earned just $4 in 2014

1.07  Carlos Gonzalez – earned negative $3 in injury filled season

1.08  Hanley Ramirez – earned $16

1.09  Adam Jones – earned $28; a late first or early second round pick

1.10  Clayton Kershaw – earned $40 despite missing a few starts; first round pick for some

1.11  Bryce Harper – earned one whole dollar

1.12  Carlos Gomez – earned $34; a clear first round pick

1.13  Robinson Cano – earned $25

1.14  Prince Fielder – earned negative $12 due to injury

1.15  Joey Votto – earned negative $7 due to injury

The top earners in the 2014 season were:

  1. Jose Altuve $46
  2. Mike Trout $41
  3. Clayton Kershaw $40
  4. Michael Brantley $40
  5. Felix Hernandez $38
  6. Johnny Cueto $38
  7. Victor Martinez $37
  8. Giancarlo Stanton $35
  9. Jose Abreu $35
  10. Carlos Gomez $34
  11. Dee Gordon $34
  12. Andrew McCutchen $34
  13. Miguel Cabrera $33
  14. Jose Bautista $33
  15. Anthony Rendon & Nelson Cruz $31

Here is what the current ADP is for NFBC (15-team, mixed, 5x5) drafts:

1.01    Mike Trout

1.02    Giancarlo Stanton

1.03    Clayton Kershaw

1.04    Andrew McCutchen

1.05    Miguel Cabrera

1.06    Paul Goldschmidt

1.07    Jose Abreu

1.08    Carlos Gomez

1.09    Felix Hernandez

1.10    Jose Altuve

1.11    Jose Bautista

1.12    Anthony Rendon

1.13    Edwin Encarnacion

1.14    Adam Jones

1.15    Troy Tulowitzki

Just outside the first round is Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo, and I am pretty sure he will be a first rounder as we get closer to the season. Kershaw is a personal choice first rounder – that is he certainly will earn the draft spot but some, especially this writer, wouldn’t trade the hitting stats of a first round pick for a pitcher – even one as great as Kershaw. But Felix Hernandez is certainly a second round pick at best, so I think Rizzo replaces him. And really outside the haze in Colorado, Tulowitzki shouldn’t be drafted in the first round either. I can’t argue against any of the others, although I think Jose Altuve will not only have trouble duplicating last year's numbers but the power deficit should also put him in the second round.

Here is what the second round currently looks like, again on averaging picks from this year’s drafts so far:

2.01 Anthony Rizzo

2.02 Michael Brantley

2.03 Buster Posey

2.04 Ian Desmond

2.05 Chris Sale

2.06 Jacoby Ellsbury

2.07 Robinson Cano

2.08 Madison Bumgarner

2.09 Hanley Ramirez

2.10 Josh Donaldson

2.11 Ryan Braun

2.12 Stephen Strasburg

2.13 Corey Kluber

2.14 David Price

2.15 Justin Upton

The five pitchers in the second round will likely fade as the drafting season continues but especially the late second rounders are understandable if they truly desire an “Ace” starter and pick a strong hitter early in the third and just didn’t want to lose their choice to one of the drafters behind them. I would also expect Max Scherzer to be drafted higher than all of those five starting pitchers with the possible exception of Sale.



I had mentioned last week that I would look at ADP this week but thought later that was putting the cart in front of the horse – that before we looked at draft positions and thus roster construction, we should spell out what you are trying to draft.

The generally accepted “target” level would be to try and finish in the top 20 percent of each category. Last year, there were 420 teams in the main event, so 84th in each category would get you 337 points or a total of 3370. That total would have finished in 11th place (10th was just a point more). You will obviously do better in many of the categories, so hopefully you have some upside, but it does validate our top 20 percentile aim.

Here is a comparison of those targets followed by the top mark in each category.

Cat 20% 1st
AVG 0.2674 0.2819
Runs 989 1115
HR 237 292
RBI 956 1121
SB 155 216
ERA 3.321 2.913
Wins 99 139
WHIP 1.191 1.067
K 1416 1588
Saves 90 163

The Main Event winners last year were Mastersball columnist Greg Morgan and his father Dale. Their total points were a very healthy 3643, more than 100 points better than the 2nd and 3rd place teams who had nice 3500+ totals.

But let’s look at the Morgans’ “Sons of Thunder” team and see how they did by category.

AVG 0.2776 416
Runs 1107 419
HR 247 376.5
RBI 1033 411
SB 186 410.5
ERA 3.278 358
Wins 106 383
WHIP 1.174 368
K 1503 401
Saves 50 100

They were so strong, especially in the offensive categories and with strikeouts, that they easily made up for the low saves total.

The reason you need to have the category targets in mind is so that you need to have a more balanced team because there is no trading and thus you can’t turn a surplus in stolen bases into points in any other category during the season. So you need to draft enough to try and finish strong in each category and then let your good and bad categories cancel out but still reach a competitive total score.

I will present current ADP next week but first, take this quiz – here is the first round from a 2014 league – Look at it and write down which players won’t be in the first round this spring and some other players you do expect to find in the first round.

1.01  Mike Trout

1.02  Miguel Cabrera

1.03  Paul Goldschmidt

1.04  Andrew McCutchen

1.05  Ryan Braun

1.06  Chris Davis

1.07  Carlos Gonzalez

1.08  Hanley Ramirez

1.09  Adam Jones

1.10  Clayton Kershaw

1.11  Bryce Harper

1.12  Carlos Gomez

1.13  Robinson Cano

1.14  Prince Fielder

1.15  Joey Votto

Teams could have won with several of those picks and clearly had an uphill battle with others. The winner in this league avoided Braun, Davis or Gonzalez because he picked tenth and Kershaw was still there for him.

First, let’s be clear that I am not talking about mock drafting. I generally find those a true waste of time. Unless you have a very dedicated group of drafters who will be quick and attentive and you are using the exact format you are preparing for – and you rarely get that in free leagues or mocks.

But there are several places you can find $100 leagues that are drafting in January and February. The National Fantasy Baseball Championship in fact has two different ones and each has different advantages and disadvantages. So let’s look at both of those draft formats.

The Draft Champions format is very popular for several reasons. First, these $150 leagues WILL make you much more knowledgeable about the mixed league player pool. And knowing the “inventory” of players is a key ingredient to success in mixed league formats – especially those with deeper rosters. These drafts are either slow online exercises that will take several weeks (hopefully you will do two rounds or better each day but many get bogged down) or “express” versions in which you will draft all 50 rounds in around five hours. The 50-man rosters (as opposed to 30 roster spots in the regular NFBC leagues) is because there are no free agent pickups throughout the season. The 50 players you draft early in the year are your only players for the six-month season. One of the benefits of these leagues is that aside from setting your lineup on Mondays and Fridays, there is no in-season work – no FAAB to grind through each week (which is one of the downsides of doing too many leagues).

The other option is to wait for the NFBC satellite leagues to start up in late-February. Here you will draft 30 players for a $125 team in a regular 15-team mixed league. You will then have FAAB to add and drop players each week during the season. In essence, this is a cheaper version of the main event leagues and much better preparation for those leagues. You will also get a better return on placing in your league as it only pays three places with the prize pool while in the DC format the league payouts are smaller because a portion of the money goes towards the overall winners (which is very difficult to do). Another advantage is that these drafts are much quicker – done in less than three hours.

Whichever you choose, these early leagues will really get you ready for whichever leagues you will be drafting in March or April. And there are no bots or players that will disappear after a few rounds.

Next week we will look at some early Average Draft Position data from these leagues.

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