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March 31, 2014

My Model Portfolio

Yes, I Paid for Trout

by Wilson Karaman

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Mike Gianella recently 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 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. Below is Wilson’s offering, along with an explanation of how he assembled his crew.

I very rarely play in any kind of auction format and have none on my plate this season, so this was a pretty exciting exercise for me. I also have yet to experience the pleasure of owning Mike Trout in any league or format, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to figure out a way to shoehorn him into my budget this time.

The pitching ranks are swollen with relatively cheap upside arms this year, and I figured I’d be able to put together at least a potentially top-flight staff on the cheap while saving enough cap space to invest in the big man, and I was able to clear juuuust enough room to get it done. I tend to approach auction drafts by splitting my team needs into three sections: the infield (including CI and MI slots), the outfield and utility slots, and pitching. And I’ll generally aim to keep spending roughly equal between the three sections. I knew I would be targeting Trout, and thus likely to need a little bit of extra wiggle room to prop up a top-heavy outfield. But I was very pleased overall that I didn’t have to skew my margins too significantly, and I was able to put together a team that I think, at least on paper, looks quite strong.

INFIELD ($90, 34.6% of budget)

I set out to keep my infield spending to about one-third of my total budget and basically accomplished that feat while fielding what I expect to be an outstanding infield with solid versatility. I like Perez as a strong batting-average play capable of bumping his home runs up into the mid-teen range this year. He’s also likely to be among the league leaders in games caught, meaning another 500-plus-plate-appearance season from him can be expected, and that volume helps his strong average play that much bigger.

Hosmer is one of my favorite players this season, and I was happy to see him listed for that relative bargain of a price. He allowed me to go slightly larger than I was anticipating at CI, and I was equally thrilled to see Abreu sitting there for $10. Obvious caveats given nobody’s seen him in a game that counts yet, but I love this guy’s swing and approach, and I think he delivers some of the best return on investment at that price of anyone in the game.

Altuve and Cabrera give me elite speed up the middle, and Altuve’s stock rose that much more in my eyes with the news that he’ll start the year hitting cleanup for Houston. I don’t expect him to end the season there, but even for the short-term the move will offer him a chance to bolster his RBI total into the league-average range, which is a nice bonus. And Carpenter as a source of batting average and runs was a no-brainer for me at $14. The added versatility having him and Prado on my team will allow in terms of CI/MI/2B/3B coverage if and when an injury-related need arises is another nice bonus.

OUTFIELD and UTILITY ($96, 36.9% of total budget)

We can argue all day on the merits of going top-heavy, and as someone schooled in the Bill Belichick model of middle-class roster construction, I’d probably end up arguing stridently against the strategy I just took here. I’m taking my greatest risk in entrusting two young, unproven players—albeit ones with significant upside—to round out one of the more important parts of my roster. Would three $17-18 players instead of one at $46 and two from the bargain bin be more likely to produce a better return? In the majority of situations, probably. But at the same time I think I can cobble together a coherent argument that the cost-certainty of Trout’s elite production in all five categories is an exceptional circumstance. With the head-start I get from his production it gives me some leeway to absorb underperformance by one of the two of Yelich and Arcia, but probably not both. I like both of those guys, and I’ll take my chances.

I’m also expecting big things from Heyward and Myers, and any work they do in over-performing their own projections gives me that much more rope for the other two. I like Trumbo’s added versatility to my lineup, as he’d be able to step in at both first base and outfield, and I like the yin-yang balance of V-Mart to offset Trumbo’s drag on my batting average.

PITCHING ($74, 28.5% of total budget)

Sure, it’d be nice to have at least one veteran starter with a more established track record to anchor my rotation. But given the injury attrition inherent to all pitchers and the likelihood of finding at least league-average replacement help in a league structure like this I’ll roll the dice with a staff that features a higher degree of risk/reward. I think Cole’s one of the best pitchers in baseball by the end of this season, and another year like 2013 from Cobb will push him into borderline-elite territory as well.

Teheran legitimately broke out last year, while Miller and Gray both showed glimpses of their frontline potential. I still don’t get the lack of love for Corey Kluber this offseason. His peripherals were outstanding last year, and his ERA’s going to look a whole lot different this year if he keeps pitching the way he did. As a $1 no. 6 starter, he’s gold. I have the potential for a league-leading staff here, but the degree of variance in possible outcomes would probably lead any league in its own right. No guts, no glory though, right? I debated a seventh starter, but ultimately I decided to try and build up a cushion of saves out of the gate in order to give myself greater flexibility for in-season adjustment.

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

2 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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jfranco77

Love the pitching. How does the fact that almost everyone else took Billy Hamilton change your approach to steals? If Hamilton tanks, you're golden, but if he doesn't, then you're probably behind all those Hamilton teams even with Altuve and Trout and Cabrera in tow.

Mar 31, 2014 07:43 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Wilson Karaman
BP staff

See, I think I've done a pretty good job to at least remain competitive even with the Hamilton teams out of the gate. Per PECOTA my squad projects to around 170-180 bags as is, and I see >10 upside to Myers' 5 bag projection and possibly another 10 on top of Heyward's projection of 12. I might not win steals outright against a Hamilton team, but with the diversity and depth of speed on my squad I think I can make the case that I'll be one of the stronger squads on the bases. And worst case scenario, I can trade in my Trumbo UTIL spot for a guy like Leonys Martin or my V-Mart for an Aoki type to give myself an in-season boost on the (relative) cheap.

Mar 31, 2014 08:11 AM
 
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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article My Model Portfolio: Tw... (03/31)
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Fantasy Article My Model Portfolio: Th... (07/22)
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