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March 31, 2014

My Model Portfolio

Two Aces

by Doug Thorburn

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Process:
I tend to go with something resembling the stars-and-scrubs approach, mostly because I think that it's possible to identify “scrubs” who will be productive. It's no secret that I have an attachment to arms, and I always make a point to secure a pair of aces in my fantasy leagues, whether draft or auction.

The knock against pitchers is that they always get hurt, which tends to depress their value, and the injury-risk makes it all the more important to have two top-end guys at the top of my fantasy rotation—if one gets hurt then my season is not necessarily down the drain, because ace no. 2 can carry the weight. So my staff is top-heavy, after which it's time to go dumpster-diving, and I take great joy each fantasy season in identifying the cheap pitchers who will ascend to the next level. Oh, and sucks to closers—they are way too volatile to trust in a league where rosters are locked on Opening Day, so I'll just go ahead and aim for victories in the counting stats of Ks and Ws while sacrificing saves. My calculator says that two 15s and a 1 supersede the worth of a sixth-place finish in three categories, and the draft-and-lock setup changes the game in this case.

Hitters:

C

Matt Wieters

$10

1B

Albert Pujols

$20

2B

Jedd Gyorko

$8

3B

Pablo Sandoval

$5

SS

Everth Cabrera

$12

CI

Allen Craig

$14

MI

Ben Zobrist

$10

OF

Mike Trout

$46

OF

Yasiel Puig

$17

OF

Josh Hamilton

$12

OF

Mark Trumbo

$9

OF

Brett Gardner

$9

UT

Matt Adams

$6

UT

Christian Yelich

$4

Total

$182

I tend to drift toward categorical extremes as opposed to the supposed “five-category guys,” and my reasoning is simple: I know that Gardner is gonna steal bags, and I know that Trumbo is gonna hit bombs, but I can't know for sure that players like Rios/Pence/Venable are going to display equal doses of both skills in order to make an impact in those categories. Outside of the top-dollar guys, the multi-tool players could easily slip in either category, due to a wounded oblique, a busted hammy, or the possibility that 2013 was an outlier (*cough* Pence *cough*). Trout is the exception, which is why he is a must-own in this “Dream Team” format—the Angelfish is a five-category player on a historical level, and his impact in those categories makes him worth the heavy investment.

I'm also putting trust in his teammates that they can bounce back, and there is huge profit potential from a now-healthy Pujols and a Josh Hamilton that is just one year removed from a 43-homer season—it admittedly helps that they will frequently have Trout in scoring position in front of them. My draft actually started with the low-budget options such as Gyorko, Yelich, and Panda—players that will put up numbers for bargain basement prices. All told, I think that I have the five offensive categories well-covered, though my team is skewed towards risk/reward over stability; such has been my strategy for the last 15 years of fantasy ball, so I'm not about to change it up now.

Pitchers:

P

David Price

$21

P

Felix Hernandez

$21

P

Jordan Zimmermann

$14

P

Julio Teheran

$6

P

Shelby Miller

$6

P

Sonny Gray

$5

P

Jeff Samardzija

$3

P

Corey Kluber

$1

P

Lance Lynn

$1

Total

$78

Few pitchers can match the four-year run of dominance exhibited by Hernandez and Price, and given the volatility inherent in the position, I felt it was a no-brainer to secure these aces at very reasonable prices. Jordan Zimmermann is a personal favorite (he earned the highest mechanical grades of any pitcher in the 2014 Starting Pitcher Guide), and his modest strikeout rate is easy to excuse on a roster that is structured to stockpile the counting stats on the pitching side of the ledger.

After that it was time to go dumpster-diving, and this year's crop offered several options of various intrigue. Julio Teheran is a monster who screams value at six bucks, and though the shape of their 2013 season was vastly different, Shelby Miller offers virtually the same value at the same price. Sonny Gray may not be a workhorse, but I really like what he delivers in ratios, and he is statistically off-set by Jeff Samardzija—the two of them could combine for 400 innings of 3.50 ERA baseball with a reasonable WHIP and a strikeout per inning, all for a combined cost that equals one Michael Wacha. Kluber and Lynn were easy pickups as guys who will just add to the counts without killing the ratios, and the plan is for the top-heavy staff to buffer any potential WHIP infection via the Lyn-ber virus.

Doug Thorburn is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Doug's other articles. You can contact Doug by clicking here

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