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April 10, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

My American League Portfolio

by Paul Sporer

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I remember the days of being in just one fantasy baseball league. They were long ago; I was 12 years old and finally getting ready to take the reins of a team in the only fantasy league I ever knew: my mom and dad’s 10-team 4x4 AL Only league. It started in 1989 at my dad’s work with co-workers and a pair of wives (his and the commissioner’s… and don’t sleep on the ladies, they won five titles in the first decade of the league). The league has evolved since then, but it still exists, with me installed as commissioner and several of my friends filling out the remaining seven teams not already taken by me and my parents.

There was something kind of great about the one-league days. Having just the one team gives you a special connection to that roster of players, especially your keepers, if you have a base that was in place for several years. As I got older and realized how much I loved this game, I began to branch out. I don’t think I’ve been a one-league guy since age 16. Despite the charms of being in just one league, I take plenty of joy in participating across many leagues with their various formats, team counts, and player pools used.

As I get more and more involved with fantasy baseball, my league count continues to rise, and when some folks hear about how many leagues I’m in, they always ask, “Well don’t you just have everyone at that point?” There are 750 active players in baseball at any given moment, and I don’t play in quite that many leagues. I did, however, start wondering exactly what my portfolio composition looked like with my throng of leagues, so I decided to tally it up and see who I favor. I tend to have pet players, as I often break the cardinal rule of not targeting specific ones, but honestly, it has served me well. There are many ways to skin a cat, but you should just leave those dumb cats alone and play fantasy baseball.

I play in nine leagues that are either AL-only or mixed, thus giving me access to American League players, so let’s see which teams/players I favored the most this draft season (If the name is listed without a number in the parentheses, he is on just one of my teams).

Baltimore Orioles

This came as no surprise to me, as I felt Hammel was being overlooked because his breakout season was stopped short by a knee injury that limited him to just 118 innings. Combine that with the general feeling that the Orioles are going to fall off severely, and you have a bargain on your hands. McLouth cost next-to-nothing this year despite showing signs of life as the power-speed guy we saw in 2007-2009, so I took a shot on him in a trio of leagues knowing that he would be on the fat side of the platoon and kept away from lefties as much as humanly possible. No-Share Regret: The easy answer is Chris Davis, but I saw him hitting .235 this year, so that’d be disingenuous. I wish I had some Adam Jones stock—not just because he’s hitting .900 right now (actually, .500), but because I think there is a batting title in his future. 

Boston Red Sox

It hurt to see Lackey do this on Saturday in the midst of an excellent debut. Of course, this happened the pitch before, so maybe he knew there was trouble coming. I’m surprised neither the catcher nor the manager came out when they saw him wincing and swinging his arm around the pitch before he got hurt. It was diagnosed as a bicep strain, so I hope it’s nothing more. Elsewhere, I went for some growth stocks with the Red Sox, as I see both de la Rosa and Webster contributing down the line. Bradley was a prospect I had my eye on with an expectation of summer help. His huge spring only drove the price up in one league. Low-Share Regret: I wasn’t shut out from anyone I wanted on this club, but I wish I had more Lester shares. I think he is in for a great season.

New York Yankees

I can’t pretend that this was some response to the depressed expectations of the Yanks in 2013 as it’s simply not true. The simple fact is my Yankee portfolio is thin every year, as I believe there is a tax on their players that inflates their values because they are among the best teams every year and almost any league you are in will have at least one fan of the club driving up prices. No-Share Regret: I missed the boat entirely on Curtis Granderson, who used to be my favorite player when he was with the Tigers. My aversion to already-injured guys played a major role, but the discount was there to make investing wise.

Tampa Bay Rays

I’ve got six Rays hitters, which isn’t looking great early on, but at least I got their two best ones multiple times. Roberts’ flexibility and Escobar’s shortstop qualification combined with their cheap price to make them appealing targets late in leagues. Cobb became one of those super-sleepers that appears on so many lists that he has lost every shred of sleeper value and crept into overvalued territory, but I found a few spots where the price was right. No-Share Regret: David Price, for obvious reasons, but his cost was just a bit too high and/or I was looking for a different ace. 

Toronto Blue Jays

Guess who I think leads the Blue Jays in saves by season’s end? I also got an injured third baseman and a pitcher in High-A in two leagues. Needless to say, the Romero moves were done before the announcement of his demotion. Even I don’t like him enough to take him with the knowledge that he’s rebuilding himself from the bottom up in the minors. No-Share Regret: I think Melky Cabrera is going to have a nice season, so I would’ve liked to get onboard there. Perhaps I can pry him away from an impatient fantasy manager, though he did go 3-for-4 on Monday in Detroit.

Chicago White Sox

Duh-doy! Of course I got Ranch Keppinger in four leagues! If you’ve been listening to Towers of Power with Jason and me, this won’t surprise you at all. And no, I’m not bothered by his start to the season. For his power in this current offensive environment, I found Viciedo to be a great investment, even as a batting-average liability. He is only 24 and there is legitimate 35-homer power in that bat. No-Share Regret: While I wasn’t nearly as high on him as I was last year, I would’ve liked to have bought Chris Sale stock again, but I found his price just a bit too high compared to some other high-end arms.

Cleveland Indians

Santana and Swisher are two guys I’ve long been a fan of in the fantasy realm so they are often draft-day targets, especially since I play in multiple OBP leagues. American League catcher was deep, or else Santana might’ve shown up a couple more times. Cabrera is another guy I like, but I play in some lose-out leagues where guys dealt to the NL leave your squad, and if the Indians don’t contend for a while, he could be dealt, which led me to shy away. Low-Share Regret: I should’ve just taken Santana more often. He has the edge on a lot of catchers by playing first base on off days instead of sitting out entirely.

Detroit Tigers

Huge surprise: 11 guys from my favorite team, yet it’s not the highest count in the AL. I’ve been singing Fister’s praises since last year, and I tend to value him more than many others, so to see him land on this many teams came as no surprise to me when I was looking through the rosters. As someone who doesn’t usually dive headfirst into the save pool, I often speculate on high-skill middle relievers and I figured the Tigers’ bullpen would be in flux. No-Share Regret: I’d have definitely had some Victor Martinez shares had CBS not opted to remove his catcher eligibility. Playing several leagues there made taking him less desirable.

Kansas City Royals

Here it is: The most represented AL team in my leagues this year is the Royals. My penchant for high-skill middle relievers is paying some early dividends, too! One AL-only team has Hosmer, Gordon, and Perez on it, with Mike Trout as the centerpiece. I like that offense. Low-Share Regret: I wish I had Gordon on all nine teams in question. I love his game. Also, how did I end up with 12 Royals and zero Billy Butler representation?

Minnesota Twins

I didn’t pay for the big boys (Mauer, Morneau, and Willingham), and thus I wasn’t heavily invested in this team, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the dearth of impact players. Doumit is a nice catcher-eligible guy to have because he doesn’t play a ton of catcher. No-Share Regret: Willingham was huge for me last year so I regret not going back to the well.

Houston Astros

This is probably the least-surprising news in here, but the Astros are the least-represented AL team on the list. I’m sure that is the case for many multi-league fantasy managers. Equally unsurprising is my heavy Carter investment. No-Share Regret: Jose Altuve for obvious reasons: He’s good and he’s incredibly exciting to watch.

Los Angeles Angels

I found Callaspo to be completely overlooked throughout the fantasy community despite having a starting role on what everyone suspects will be a great offense. He made for a nice, low-cost corner pickup at the end of drafts and auctions. Though he doesn’t excel at any one thing, he does a bit of everything. Trout was a keeper in all three of the leagues where I got him, as I would’ve taken Cabrera with the top pick in just about any format. No-Share Regret: Ernesto Frieri is someone I believe in, but the lack of confidence in Madson really pushed Frieri’s price up. I still think a healthy Madson gets a shot at the role, though, so I wasn’t willing to pay full-closer price for Frieri.

Oakland A’s

Another club I’m heavily invested in, the A’s were one of four teams where I rostered 10 or more players across my leagues. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one hot after Cespedes as his price really jumped from January to March, and I waited just a round too long on multiple occasions. No-Share Regret: I believe in Brett Anderson’s talent, but not his health. His draft-day cost would lead one to believe he’s got a handful of 180-inning seasons under his belt, and I simply wasn’t willing to bet that he achieves his first such season in 2013.

Seattle Mariners

I came away heavily invested in my four favorite targets from this club. Unfortunately, Ramirez got hurt just before the season and was sent down to the minors to be on the disabled list there, but I still think he will easily return positive value for what he cost. I like Iwakuma even more, so I was chased him down in several leagues, too. Unfortunately, some league-mates knew how I interested I was in Iwakuma and decided to go a little too far with price enforcement, so I stuck ‘em with him. There is a chance he at least earns exactly what they paid, but I couldn’t afford to keep going. No-Share Regret: Like Price on Tampa Bay, Felix Hernandez is someone you always want, but sometimes the price is just too high to swallow.

Texas Rangers

Boy, those two names atop the Rangers list sure are surprising, huh? I had to get significant shares of both of these guys this year, and I was able to do so at a reasonable price in most cases, or at least a price I was comfortable paying. Ogando wasn’t nearly in as much demand as Darvish, of course. In fact, the Darvish bandwagon was mighty full–especially here in Texas—or else I may have gotten him in six of the nine eligible leagues (he was kept in three).  No-Share Regret: I love Adrian Beltre and I can’t believe I got shut out, but he was going around the same time as some of my favorite outfield targets, so I missed him.

I will be posting my NL Portfolio at PaulSporer.com next week, as I don’t want to bore you with my teams two weeks in a row. 

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

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