March 26, 2014
My Model Portfolio
A Loaded Outfield
On Friday, Mike Gianella released his latest mixed league Bid Limits, which spurred an idea from Bret Sayre called Model Portfolios, wherein the fantasy staff (and anyone else on the BP roster who wants to participate) will create their own team within the confines of a standard 23-man, $260 budget. The roster being constructed includes: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, OFx5, UTx2, and Px9 along with the following standards issued by Sayre:
We will track these teams throughout the season to see how everyone fared. Below is Paul's offering, along with an explanation of how he assembled his crew.
I stayed out of the superstar tiers but still came away with a strong crew. Betting on Pujols and Hill rebounds offers a lot of value upside while I see more strong work on the horizon for LuCroy and Carpenter—a pair of 2013 breakouts. Carpenter will have a tough time repeating his MLB-best 126 runs, but his batting average and on-base skills are legitimate, and that offense isn’t going to implode, so another triple-digit mark in runs seems reasonable.
I prefer to bet on the potential of Utley staying healthy (at least, relatively) for one more super-season in a format like this as opposed to more of a WYSIWYG option like Brandon Phillips or Martin Prado (both $8). If Utley does suffer a big injury, replacing him won’t be a backbreaking challenge in a 12-team mixed league, so why not go for the potential of greatness with a sub-$10 price tag?
This is where I’m looking to make my big impact. There wasn’t too much flash in the infield, but the outfield is loaded with boom/bust candidates. Harper is obviously the team’s centerpiece. He doesn’t have the transcendent fantasy season yet, but his 21 HR/14 SB average in just 128 games over his first two seasons (27/19 pace in 162 games) shows the tantalizing upside.
Heyward has the big season on his ledger (a 27/21 gem back in 2012), but a couple of fluke injuries (appendectomy, broken jaw from HBP) limited him to just 104 games last year. He’s still just 24 and loaded with potential, but it’s not like he hasn’t shown plenty of actualization, too, with a career .292 TAv in 2,168 PA.
Cespedes struggled last year and still went 26-80. Injuries have bitten him each of his first years in the majors as he’s played just 264 out of a potential 324 games, but a pair of 20-80 seasons give him a relatively high floor. Replacing an outfielder is even easier than finding a middle infielder in a mixed league format, so this is another reason to bet on the potential 30-100 season that a season of health could yield.
Martin still offered a good bit of value despite a sub-700 OPS last season thanks in large part to 36 stolen bases during his first full season of playing time. He has a deep set of tools that portends even more power than his eight homer output, but he’ll need to improve versus lefties to maximize his upside. The improved Rangers lineup offers more opportunities to score and drive in runs. He will likely be batting ninth which bodes well for the former as he sets the table for Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, and Prince Fielder… until they all get hurt in the next six or seven days like the rest of the Rangers. There is also potential for Martin to work his way up the lineup with improved performance; lots to like here for a 10-spot.
Brantley is essentially a glue guy. He doesn’t do any one thing brilliantly, but he contributes solidly across the board, yielding a very strong player whose skill set is often overlooked in the shallower (10-12 teams) mixed formats.
Lowrie is a bit of Utley insurance, and he’s also a perfectly adequate player for a utility spot. He isn’t exactly the model of health himself, but he did play a career-high 154 games last year and so the plan going in is that he could cover an Utley injury and then I’d be able to pick up the best available player as a replacement.
Bret mentioned just holding to current eligibility requirements when constructing your team, but that doesn’t mean we can’t anticipate potential changes for guys and there is a real shot that Martinez earns catcher eligibility before Memorial Day which only adds to his value. I’d be plenty happy with him even if he only remained a UT/1B (the 1B portion doesn’t really change the equation any in my eyes whereas adding catcher would undoubtedly boost his value, even in a 1-C league) for the year as he put up an excellent, but overlooked 2013. He was batting below .210 through May 20th with just a pair of homers and ended at .301 and 14. The Tigers offense lost some punch with Prince Fielder leaving, but isn’t exactly going to be inept, either.
Total cost of offense: $187, 72% of my budget
I’m sure this staff is a big surprise to anyone who read the Starting Pitching Guide this year—a surprise on the level of Josh Johnson starting the season on the disabled list. There is plenty of projection within this staff, but I’ll reiterate again that I’d rather bet on the big potential upside in a league where viable replacements will be readily available if necessary.
Cole and Cashner are two of my big breakout picks for 2014. Both arrived as trustworthy assets last year, but I think they take a jump up into the upper crust of those first two tiers this season. Cole simply got better as the season went along capping it off with great work in the playoffs. Cashner did the same sans the playoffs, closing out with a 2.14 ERA in the second half and ramping up his strikeout totals with exactly seven punchouts in six of his final seven starts. I think both offer strikeout-per-inning potential.
Bailey and Teheran were both great last year and I expect more of the same in 2014 while seeing a clear path for each to improve as well. Bailey’s improved his skills year over year as a major leaguer and despite a career-year in 2013, he was saddled with an unfortunate 11-12 record. You can’t predict wins, but it’s not a stretch to suggest that he deserved better. Meanwhile, Teheran was my NL Cy Young pick.
Lynn and Kluber are my low-dollar gambles. I love both. If you’re following the Darkhorse series, you’ve already seen my love shine through for Lynn and both get a mention from me in the categories yet to come.
I went with three closers here. You need at least that to really contend in a 12-teamer and while you don’t necessarily need them out of the auction, you can save yourself the energy needed to acquire them off the wire or via trade in-season by securing them on draft day. I opted for that in this hypothetical situation because the prices were too nice to pass up. Robertson and Reed also bring big strikeout upside to supplement my starters (though I didn’t take any Jordan Zimmermann-esque low-K guys). Speaking of the Darkhorse series, I have something upcoming on Reed within it.
Total cost of pitching: $73, 28% of my budget
Given a conservative projection system like the PFM, I was pretty happy to see that I really only came up short in homers. The 28 is a real gap, but I’m strong in speed and saves so I could flip those for some power in-season. Sure I’m also 17 runs, 41 RBIs, three stolen bases, and two batting average points off the pace, but those are negligible to me and easily made up.
The pitching fared well, too:
The wins are where the PFM’s conservatism really shines through, but that’s because you can’t predict wins with any great deal of accuracy as I mentioned earlier. As such, none of my guys topped 12 in the PFM. I’m quite confident that at least one of these guys notches more than 12 wins and in fact I’d bet on at least one getting into the high-teens. Heck, even putting them all at 14 with three apiece from my closers puts me at 93, well within the target range. Anyway, falling short there—even well short—is the least of my concerns.
I’m a good bit away on ERA, but that’s because only one of my starters is projected to land south of 3.62 (Cole at 3.32) and two of them are north of 4.00 (Teheran at 4.18 and Kluber at 4.77). Needless to say, I disagree with those, so I don’t really think I’m in any sort of ERA trouble.
The strikeout miss isn’t concerning given that only a pair of my starters topped 150 and none hit 180. I hit the WHIP projection despite the PFM’s conservatism and Kluber’s 1.45. And I crushed saves by going for three set closers from the jump.
We will of course see how this team actually does, but I’m confident that it will be quite successful. This exercise is particularly interesting since it’s essentially a draft-and-hold and so injury risks will be punished and you’re better off going with a strong health record to win this particular exercise, but I played it how I would if it were a real league, not completely within the confines of this no-moves format.
Feel free to put your team in the comments.