This is my second year participating in the My Model Portfolio competition, which means I attempted to learn from last year’s missteps and to employ a better overall strategy. In 2015, I single-handedly coughed up the title due to Kyle Lohse’s self-immolation on the mound in Milwaukee. Other poor picks included Erick Aybar, Michael Cuddyer, Brandon Moss, and Danny Santana. In other words, I erred when I opted for “safe” players, rather than players I actually liked.

Lesson learned. Without adding up the cost, I cruised Mike Gianella’s auction values and selected guys about whom I felt good at the given dollar amount. My experience in fantasy auctions helped give me a feel for the monetary distribution of a $260 squad, which meant it wasn’t completely blind, but I ultimately decided to stick with the bats that I gravitated toward in my first go-round. I changed almost no one.

I went a bit overboard on my pitchers in my first go-round. Chris Archer and Wade Davis were in my “original” squad, but I was roughly $25 over budget. I ultimately downgraded from Davis to Kimbrel (who is stellar in his own right) and from Archer to Moore. I ended up being a couple dollars under the maximum $260; however, I didn’t see any marginal upgrades that I loved, which makes sense given my initial strategy.

So, yeah, I was planning to violate the no. 1 rule of auction drafts by not maxing out my budget. Then, the news of Will Smith’s knee injury broke over the weekend. I switched gears to Robbie Ray, who I think can have a modest little breakout this year, and used the money to upgrade to Adam Eaton. Hit the Jackal Switch.



Yan Gomes



Chris Carter



Dee Gordon



Nolan Arenado



Ketel Marte



Danny Valencia



Devon Travis



Charlie Blackmon



Mookie Betts



Denard Span



Adam Eaton



Stephen Piscotty



David Peralta



Jonathan Schoop


$197 (75.8% of budget)


Noah Syndergaard



Craig Kimbrel



Carlos Carrasco



Patrick Corbin



Clay Buchholz



Robbie Ray



Matt Moore



Nathan Eovaldi



Vincent Velasquez


$63 (24.2% of budget)


One thing I’ve realized when working with auction values is that speed often inflates dollar amounts more than other skills. It’s why Billy Hamilton, for example, squeezed his way into the four-star tier in 2016 despite being objectively bad at baseball. That played a part into my choices, especially at the high end with Dee Gordon, Charlie Blackmon, and Mookie Betts.

On the pitching side, I love Noah Syndergaard, Carlos Carrasco, and Patrick Corbin. That’s about it. Those are the guys I wanted no matter what. I filled out the rest of the roster around those three arms with a few low-cost arms that have solid upside. I’ve written a lot about Eovaldi, so that’s not surprising, but guys like Matt Moore and Vincent Velazquez have huge arms and high breakout potential.

Quick Notes:

C – Yan Gomes ($12): Too many people are overlooking Gomes due to an injury-riddled campaign. The dude can hit and should threaten the elusive 20-home-run mark at the catcher position.

1B – Chris Carter ($4): Much like Adam Lind last year, the Milwaukee Brewers offer great power potential for fringe everyday first basemen. Fantasy owners shouldn’t undersell the fact that Carter’s new club should be able to overlook his obvious flaws and give him 500-plus plate appearances.

2B – Dee Gordon ($32): Speeeeeeeeeeed for days.

3B – Nolan Arenado ($31): I believe Manny Machado and Arenado are two of the premier hitters in the league. I opted for Arenado because he cost less.

SS – Ketel Marte ($4): I’m hoping for 20 stolen bases and a .270 batting average from the Mariners’ new everyday shortstop. Any home runs are gravy.

CI – Danny Valencia ($2): He’s a dude who retooled his swing in Toronto and had one of the highest average batted-ball velocities in all of baseball in 2015. He’ll transition to a less hitter-friendly ballpark, but I believe the power spike we saw a year ago was legitimate enough.

MI – Devon Travis ($2): In January, I said that I’d be drafting Travis in multiple drafts. The shoulder injury depresses the cost, but he’ll be in a wonderful situation once he returns.

OF – Charlie Blackmon ($28): Stolen bases plus Coors Field is a fantasy owner’s dream.

OF – Mookie Betts ($33): He does everything well. My only quibble is that Mookie isn’t his legal first name.

OF – Denard Span ($6): As mentioned above, speed plays well in this format and he’s finally out of Washington. Expect his stolen base totals to return to the 20-plus range.

OF – Adam Eaton ($16): One of my favorites from a year ago, who outperformed expectations despite being downright horrendous for the first two months.

OF – Stephen Piscotty ($8): Piscotty isn’t a power-speed guy that will jump off the page, but I adore him as a hitter and the Cardinals often help these kind of hitters bring it to the next level.

UT – David Peralta ($13): He finally has a clear path to 600 plate appearances in Arizona. He’s one of the uncommon outfielders who could hit 15-plus homers with double-digit stolen bases and a .300 batting average.

UT – Jonathan Schoop ($6): As they have with many of their younger players, the Orioles handled Schoop’s development rather poorly. The club rushed him to the bigs and his lack of quality approach doomed him. Things appeared to turn a corner in the second half last year, hitting .283/.307/.461 after the All-Star Break, and he could easily hit 20-plus homers.

P – Noah Syndergaard ($18): He touches a-hundo. He also struck out over a batter per inning and posted a mere 5.1 percent walk rate last year.

P – Craig Kimbrel ($18): I’m not going to go wrong with one of the best relief pitchers in recent memory.

P – Carlos Carrasco ($16): The only three starting pitchers with a lower cFIP than Carrasco are Kershaw, Sale, and Arrieta. He’s good.

P – Patrick Corbin ($5): I adore Corbin. His velocity showed no ill-effects from his Tommy John surgery, and his command didn’t disappear. In essence, he appears to still be the same guy who posted a 3.41 ERA over 208.1 innings in 2013. I like that guy.

P – Clay Buchholz ($2): I still think the 2014 season was an anomaly. He’ll get injured, of course, but I’m hoping for 100-plus innings of above-average production.

P – Robbie Ray ($1): The lefty experienced a two-mile-per-hour velocity increase on his fastball. His swinging-strike rate jumped to nine percent. For a modest investment, I think he’s a safe bet to return a few dollars of profit.

P – Matt Moore ($1): Too many people have forgotten about the flamethrowing lefty, due to his Tommy John surgery and the rust that normally accompanies a return to the mound. By all accounts, his stuff has returned this spring, which bodes well for his future success.

P – Nathan Eovaldi ($1): Just read this piece.

P – Vincent Velasquez ($1): Whether it’s out of the bullpen or in the rotation—and it appears that he’ll break camp as a starter—Velasquez has the potential to post gaudy strikeout totals. He showed that in 2015 and already has 16 whiffs in 14 innings this spring. I’d probably work better for me if he pitched in the bullpen, where he could avoid many of the developmental speed bumps that young starters inevitably face, but he’s a solid bet to outearn his $1 price tag out of the rotation.