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March 16, 2011

Fantasy Focus

NL-only Draft Results

by Marc Normandin

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Yes, yes, I know: no one cares about my fantasy team. But since this is an NL-only experts league I participate in over at CBS Sports as a representative of Baseball Prospectus, it seems fitting that you get to read about it. Scott White, Al Melchior, Derek VanRiper, Erik Siegrist, and many others are in this 12-team league (the full auction results of which can be found here). In a nutshell, I’m pleased with how my team turned out in my second year in the league, but there are a few picks I made where I wish I had listened more to my own advice.

Sadly, CBS does not list the exact order that players were selected for this auction, so I can’t give you the blow-by-blow team-building experience—instead, we’ll do this by position. I will tell you that this standard 5x5 roto league seemed to suffer from inflation early on, as some players went for prices that seemed exorbitant—they were clear “stars and scrubs” team model prices, and that’s not my style, so I bowed out of almost all of it. Because of this, I was able to scoop up bargains at a few positions (especially pitching spots) in the middle and toward the back end of the auction, but I still had to deal with dollar days and ended up with a massive hole at first base (though, thankfully, FAAB allowed me to plug that particular problem a few days ago).

I’ll list the price I paid at auction followed by the price the PFM suggests for this format. (This draft occurred before the PFM was available for 2011.) As for league rules and categories: AVG, R, RBI, SB, HR, W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP. 12 teams, NL-only. C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, Util, P, P, P, P, P, P, P, P, P, seven bench spots (selected in a reserve draft post-auction).

Catcher—Carlos Ruiz ($10, $8), Ramon Hernandez ($4, $4): This was the second time I was able to pull off a productive catching duo in this league without spending a lot of money in the process. (Last year I had Buster Posey and Ronny Paulino for a combined $7.) I paid a little extra for Ruiz, but there were more significant overpays than this at the position, so I was comfortable with it. I’m not a huge Hernandez fan, but this beat paying Jason Castro similar money (and that was back when he had two working legs).

First Base—Eric Hinske ($1, $3): I know. I know!  You weren’t there, though! You don’t know what it was like! Ike Davis went for $22! Carlos Lee cost $20 and the buyer didn’t even get a second set of knives for free to sweeten the deal. I decided to settle for Brad Hawpe, who ended up going for $2, but my draft window hiccuped and my own $2 bid was rejected. Luckily, this draft occurred before Russell Branyan had a job in Arizona, so I directed my FAAB funds to him and have an actual first baseman now.

Second Base—Kelly Johnson ($22, $21): Having someone who hits like Johnson at second—and for an acceptable price—helped to push my decision to not overpay for a first baseman. Thanks to some injuries, I ended up with Brooks Conrad as a starting second baseman for about three-fourths of the 2010 season, so this is a swell change of pace.

Third Base—Ryan Zimmerman ($34, $21): I didn’t want to be left without any upper-level talent, so Zimmerman was one player I decided to splurge on. As I mentioned in the third base rankings, the projection for Zimmerman strikes me as low, so in my head this isn’t as much of an overpay as it appears to be. (It is an overpay, though.)

Shortstop—Yuniesky Betancourt ($4, $11): I wasn’t proud of having to settle for Betancourt, but shortstop is a mess, the league doesn’t use on-base percentage, and he’s moving to an easier division, league, and park. The PFM thinks I got a pretty good bargain here.

Middle Infield—Edgar Renteria ($3, $5): Again, I’m not happy with having to settle for Renteria here, but let’s take a moment to reflect on my 2010 roster, where a mid-season acquisition of Angel Sanchez turned out to be a positive for me.

Corner Infield—Garrett Atkins ($1, -$0.18): This was a problem, but thanks to the Branyan acquisition, Hinske can now slide in here, removing my negative-valued friend from the lineup.

Outfield—Carlos Gonzalez ($44, $34), Jay Bruce ($29, $23), Logan Morrison ($16, $13), Marlon Byrd ($9, $16), Scott Hairston ($1, $0.50): Gonzalez was the other player I knowingly overpaid, but that’s a decision I am more than comfortable with. My love for Jay Bruce is well documented. I thought I overpaid for Morrison by a bit, but the pick that immediately followed was that $20 Carlos Lee bid I mentioned before. Marlon Byrd is underrated as per usual, and Scott Hairston, if he can steal some at-bats from Beltran, will be a pretty good fifth outfielder option.

Utility—Jerry Hairston ($1, $2): Picking up Hairston gives me some flexibility in the lineup, in case Renteria doesn’t play in Cincinnati as often as we are projecting him to.

Starting Pitchers—Tommy Hanson ($20, $17), Hiroki Kuroda ($13, $12), Madison Bumgarner ($11, $10), Anibal Sanchez ($12, $4), Ryan Dempster ($7, $11), James McDonald ($4, $7): I immediately regretted the Hanson pick, but the PFM—which has kind of a meh projection for Hanson thanks to just 169 innings—is telling me I’m not crazy for this pick. Kuroda and Bumgarner are both quality pitchers in pitcher's parks, and I drafted them at value. Dempster is another guy who is always underrated (and almost always on my teams). James McDonald should be much better than a $7 pitcher, though Pittsburgh might lose 15 games for him and ruin my plan. PECOTA doesn’t like Anibal Sanchez, but I would bet that I’m closer to his value than the PFM by the end of the year.

I have no serious ace here, but I don’t have a single weak starter who will hurt my rates. Not having that kind of drag on your overall numbers is worth passing up an ace for if you have other places in mind where you can spend your money wisely (see: my outfield).

Relief Pitchers –Craig Kimbrel ($12, $15), Aroldis Chapman ($4, $7), Chad Qualls ($1, $1): I’m a big Kimbrel fan, and even if his WHIP is high, the PFM doesn’t seem to think it’s going to cut much into his value. Good thing, too, as he’s my only actual closer. I considered dealing him for help elsewhere and punting saves, but between his strikeouts and the other teams in the league lacking multiple closer options, it makes more sense to hold on to him in the hopes of stealing a point or two in the standings. Chapman may end up as the closer at some point, or could convert to the rotation (which does not seem to be in the Reds' plans). Either way, the PFM is projecting just two saves for him, but $7 in value. With his expected numbers, that’s a better deal than I would get on a dollar-days starting pitcher. Chad Qualls is here in case he bounces back as I expect him to—with Petco as his home park and a long history of success behind him, he seemed like a solid way to spend one of my last dollars until I can find another starter or a second closer.

Reserve Draft: Jeff Keppinger, Mike Fontenot, Jim Edmonds, Max Ramirez, Ryan Webb, Micah Owings, Aaron Cunningham: Keppinger and Fontenot were selected to bolster those middle and corner infield spots. Edmonds was supposed to spend time as my fifth outfielder if Hairston didn’t get at-bats, but he has retired. Ramirez may end up in the majors this year, and if he hits, I’ll have a place to put him. Webb is probably third in line to be the closer in Florida, but if Qualls didn’t work out for me, I could slide him into that final pitcher slot. Owings was picked solely because he may play first base for the Diamondbacks a bit—yes, I was that desperate for an extra corner infielder. Aaron Cunningham won’t see much play unless Ryan Ludwick ends up traded, but for my last pick on a 30-man roster, I could have done much worse.

What do you think? Picking up Branyan filled my most obvious area of need, and I could use a second closer, but I think this is a solid roster, and I’m more confident about this team’s chances than my previous one.

Thanks to CBS Fantasy Sports for inviting me to return to the league for a second year.

16 comments have been left for this article.

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