In my last column I mentioned briefly a very interesting auction draft I had on Wednesday, April 3. This was for an NL-only league – the Splendid Splinter league - an 11-team, 5x5 keeper league, now more than 25 years old.
I entered the draft with the following freeze list after rebuilding last year:
C – Wilson Ramos 8D11
1B – Ryan Howard 29D12
CI – Matt Carpenter 10F12
2B – Daniel Murphy 2D11
SS – Brandon Crawford 5D12 (promoted from FARM last year)
OF – Gerardo Parra 6D12
OF – Starling Marte 5D13 (promoted from my FARM on draft day)
OF – Yonder Alonso 5D12 (promoted last year)
P – Jeff Samardzija 8D12
P – Patrick Corbin 10F12
P – Wade Miley 10R12
P – Ross Detwiler 5D12 (promoted last year)
P – David Hernandez 1D12
P – Rex Brothers 3D12
So I would have $153 dollars to spend in the auction and I hoped to get one top tier hitter ($40+) along with a couple of good hitters in the twenties and then fill in the remaining slots. On the pitching side, I just needed to buy three pitchers but at least one closer was a necessity since neither Hernandez nor Brothers had assumed closing duties for their respective clubs. (Who knew the Diamondbacks would give an already aging J.J. Putz a new two-year contract?)
This auction was oversold – over 20 percent draft inflation – so I would have to pick and choose carefully on which players I battled for as well as trying to get money out of the other bid purses. There was one team with over $200 and two more with $175+. This also meant I didn’t want to go into the middle/late phase of the auction with too much money – there would be bidding wars on players not deserving of even uninflated prices if those three teams hadn’t spent most of their money.
I didn’t roster a player for the first round and was quite surprised in the second round when the bidding was stopping on Russell Martin at $7; I said $8 and won him. Martin and McCann were the only two decent catchers available in this draft (and McCann, injury and all, went for $17 later in the draft).
In the next round – too early for my tastes – Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura was brought up and I was very happy to win what turned into a two-team battle at $22. I think Segura was undervalued this year given that in addition to 30+ stolen bases, I think he will deliver a good AVG and maybe double-digit home runs.
A while later, I don’t have the exact order for the next player I rostered but I think it was Rafael Soriano, who I was glad to pay 21 dollars for as he was the best closer available and the Nationals will win a lot of games.
I now had $100 left but spent awhile gently nudging the better players brought up to extract two dollars here and four dollars there from my opponents when they were buying players not on my list.
I had hoped my next pitching buy would be a starter – but at the same time I was hoping it was quite awhile before Hyun-Jin Ryu was brought up in front of a Los Angeles draft table. In the meantime, Jason Grilli suddenly became available for I thought a bargain price of $15. Now I really needed to wait on Ryu and hope that if that failed I could find another good starter.
Having not been able to get one of the top hitters despite going to the mid to high forties chasing Votto, Tulowitzki and Kemp, I moved $10 off the top slot to add another $20 hitter. The best third baseman with Hanley Ramirez injured was Aramis Ramirez, and being able to move Carpenter to the outfield, I battled to get Aramis for $33 as I really needed the power.
Just after that, Jimmy Rollins was nominated, and while Segura had filled my MI, I had to go after the power/speed combo and play Rollins at UT for now with the ability to bench Crawford if he fails to hit. The other bidders were surprised I was in on Rollins and that I was staying in through the twenties but there wasn’t a better player for me at that point and I was going to at least try. And successful I was, getting him with my last bid - $29.
Now I was in a great position as I had $25 for just three players, needing one starting pitcher and two outfielders. But I still wanted Ryu, and the young Korean Dodger still hadn’t been nominated … so I waited.
(By the way, as I am typing this on Wednesday morning I am negotiating a trade to try and add Joey Votto in part because Aramis is on the DL for a couple of weeks but also to take my best shot at making my team a true contender in this league).
There were some pitchers going but I stayed the course and was pleasantly surprised that when Ryu was brought up he went for only $13, half of my remaining funds. Perhaps it was that the night before, in his first start, he had given up 10 singles to the visiting Giants. But I was unconcerned about that. He had only allowed one earned run and it WAS his first big league start in the United States (and he had a very nice second start getting a win). His pitching and training may be unconventional but he HAS swing and miss stuff and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he struck out 200 batters this year.
Little did I know at this point that what had really been a super draft for me so far – dancing between the more contentious battles, getting some good players for my team and a pitcher I really wanted along with not just one but two closers, would take a downward turn in a hurry. What should have been a great position, 12 dollars left for just two outfielders, turned into a nightmare as every decent fly chaser nominated was out of my reach, and believe me I was reaching.
The pre-draft favorite needed an outfielder as well, but their max bid was $8 so for awhile if there was an outfielder I wanted, I would either try and get to “Eight” before them or bid “Nine” after their eight. If I really wanted the player – Chris Heisey is the one I vividly remember but there were a few more – I would just go to “Eleven.” And I got nothing. Outbid every time. Obviously, this was before dollar days or even the late several but less than a handful endgame.
It was at least an hour (obviously not all the nominated players were outfielders).
And it wasn’t fun – at all. Finally, moving well into the middle of my second page (of two pages of Mastersball tiered rankings that I had modified for this particular league), I found an outfielder I could use and get. It cost me $4 to roster Andres Torres but at least he could add some stolen bases.
And now the last stage, trying to get a playable outfielder for eight dollars or less. Yes, I know it sounds easy. Surely there would be bargains at the end of the draft, and there were if you were in the market for a pitcher. But it wasn’t in my quest for an outfielder even when jumping to “Eight” several times. Finally, I landed Padre Chris Denorfia, although I needed to bid all eight of my remaining dollars to get him.
Well, no draft is perfect. But aside from the agony of the last few hours, I had fun and had collected a very nice team. And little did I know dessert was waiting.
No, not the fudge brownie ala mode I ordered (we draft in a back room at a local Denny’s). After the auction portion, the Splinter league drafts three reserve players (actually some teams draft more because for each injured player you have you get an extra reserve pick). I thought with my first pick I really needed to draft some saves insurance and since Mark Melancon was there at 1.07, I was glad to take him and back up Grilli. But the FUN was my second pick at 2.05 when I proudly called out "Didi Gregorius, shortstop, Arizona." I got a few looks before one of my opponents loudly objected. But Gregorius, on the Diamondbacks' DL, was in fact on the opening day roster, and much to the chagrin of my vocal opponent was thus a legal pick. One of my other opponents could only shake his head and say “Wow, nice pick.”
Sweeter than the fudgy brownie.