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March 29, 2016

My Model Portfolio

$30-Plus Players Need Not Apply

by Matt Collins

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Mike Gianella recently released his latest mixed league Bid Limits for 2016, which reignited an idea from Bret Sayre called Model Portfolios, wherein the fantasy staff 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 our fantasy overlord, Mr. Sayre:

We are using the mixed-league values.

You can use any player not on Mike's sheet for $1.

The scoring will be 5x5 roto, so we're not just picking the players who will return the most value.

Eligibility is kept to the positions applicable right now. No potential in-season eligibility is to be considered.

We will track these teams throughout the season to see how everyone fared. Greg Wellemeyer recently took a look at how last season’s Model Portfolios turned out.

The Process
As I look at the draft board this year, there are a few strategies that jump out for me. The first is that I’m staying away from the high-priced guys. This is something I do every year, trying to build my team around players in the $15-$25 range. It’s more of a personal preference than anything, as I tend to get more value from those guys and struggle to squeeze the necessary value out of a roster loaded with $1-$3 players. Looking specifically at this year, I am reversing my typical strategy on offense. While outfield and first base are usually the most loaded positions, I feel like the talent drops off relatively quickly this year. Conversely, I see a lot of cheap value available at the other positions. I’d expect the bulk of my money to be spent at 1B and OF. On my pitching staff, I’m looking to grab one of my top-10 SPs and leading my bullpen with the cheapest among Ken Giles, Zach Britton, and Cody Allen. I usually look for something around a 190/70 split between offense and pitching, but I try to be flexible.

The Offense

Position

Player

Price

C

Travis D’Arnaud

16

1B

Joey Votto

27

2B

Ian Kinsler

17

SS

Ketel Marte

4

3B

Justin Turner

5

CI

Wil Myers

8

MI

Cory Spangenberg

1

OF

Lorenzo Cain

27

OF

Justin Upton

24

OF

Gregory Polanco

18

OF

Shin-Soo Choo

15

OF

Ender Inciarte

9

U

Delino DeShields

7

U

Chris Carter

4

Total

182

So, I ended up spending a little less on my offense than I originally planned, but I’m still happy with the end result. I mentioned first base and the outfield at the top, so we’ll start there. I wanted to avoid the high-priced guys in the top-five at first base, but was happy to spend $27 on Joey Votto. His contextual numbers will take a slight hit playing in a poor Reds lineup, but he’ll make up for that with an AVG among the league leaders and 25-plus home runs. The potential for double-digit steals is just an added bonus.

In the outfield, I wanted to start with one of the power/speed guys, and Cain was a dollar cheaper than Starling Marte and Charlie Blackmon. Upton is one of my favorite values on the board this year, as he could be a four-category contributor with a huge contextual advantage playing in a potentially loaded Tigers lineup. I finished off with Polanco, Choo, and Inciarte. I see the first two having a good chance at outperforming their prices, and while Inciarte’s ceiling may not be as high, he’s a welcome help in steals and AVG.

From there, it was just filling out my roster with the values I liked the most. I left myself room for a couple more $15-plus players, and used that on Kinsler and D’Arnaud. The former is one of the safest players at second base, and like Upton should benefit from playing in Detroit’s lineup. Catcher is a strange position this year, and while I was tempted to spend on Posey or Schwarber, I decided to pay a mid-range price for the chance at a top-three catcher if D’Arnaud can stay healthy.

For my cheap options, I focused on solidifying my speed with Marte, Spangenberg, and DeShields, my power with Carter and Myers and my AVG with Turner. The end result is, in my opinion, an offense with a strong mix of power and speed as well as upside and safety. The strength up and down the lineup makes up for the lack of any true star presence.

The Pitching

Position

Player

Price

P

Stephen Strasburg

23

P

Garrett Richards

12

P

Drew Smyly

8

P

Jose Quintana

6

P

Wei-Yin Chen

4

P

Jose Berrios

1

P

Zach Britton

15

P

Sean Doolittle

8

P

Keone Kela

1

Total

78


Strasburg is the best pitcher available relative to his price, and I’m more than happy to start a rotation with him. We’re still waiting for all that potential to show itself with a magical full season, and I think there’s a real chance this is the year. It worked last year with Bryce Harper, so why not take a shot on another former first overall pick.

After going with Strasburg, I wrestled with taking another $17-$20 pitcher or filling out my rotation with more mid-range options. After finding Richards and Smyly at a combined $20, my decision was made. I’m very confident at least one of these guys will end the year as a solid SP2, and there’s a good chance both will. With Strasburg, Richards, and Smyly, my rotation core has big strikeout potential built into it with the ability to match that finish in ERA.

With my favorite high-ceiling guys in tow, it was time to grab a couple of my favorite high-floor pitchers in Quintana and Chen. I end up with many shares of the former every year, and with an improved White Sox lineup to boost his win total this could finally be the year the hype matches the performance. Chen doesn’t blow anyone away in any specific area, but should be a benefactor of a change of scenery this year. His strikeout rate should at least stay constant given his move to the National League, and more importantly he should see a marked improvement in home run rate moving from Baltimore to Miami. To fill out my rotation, I took a chance on Berrios, who I expect to be up relatively early in the season and have the highest ceiling of all the minor-league starters this year.

For my bullpen, Britton ended up being the cheapest RP among the three I mentioned at the top of this write-up. Building a relief corps around a pitcher with a double-digit K/9 and a historic groundball rate is a good start. Doolittle is one of my favorite buys on the pitching side, as he’s not far removed from being one of the best RP options in the game. Even in his small sample last year, his peripherals suggested he’s at least a viable fantasy option. He has a floor of a top-12 RP and should finish even higher. I suspect the Rangers will be looking for a new closer at some point this summer, and while some are enamored with Sam Dyson I’d rather take a chance on the stuff of Kela. Even if he doesn’t get the ninth inning, he’ll help me in strikeouts, which is all I can ask from a $1 buy.

Overall Takeaways
There are always pros and cons to using a strategy like this in which you avoid the top tier at every position. The biggest con is not having a sure-fire star to fall back on. The closest thing I have to that is likely Votto, and his team gives him a low ceiling in two categories. With that being said, I think I gave myself plenty of opportunities to have players who can emerge into that $30-plus range, both on offense and on my pitching staff. I’m very confident in my mix of high-upside youth and relatively safe veterans.

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

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Staff Picks,  Model Portfolio

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