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Process

In a redraft auction setting, I rarely invest in any player at a top-of-the-position price. I’m just not a believer that the premium paid for the perceived best player at any given position accurately reflects the probability that he actually out-earns the alternatives, and much less that he does so by the margin required to substantiate the price difference.

Is Mike Trout atop my board? Of course. He was last year, too, when he was topped by Pollock, Harper, and Blackmon. Cain, Cruz, Marte, Cespedes, Braun, and Betts all finished within $5 of Trout. I’m not willing to pay a $5 premium to get him over all other alternatives. He’s the most likely to finish atop the position, yes. But in any given year, I’m not at all confident that he’s going to beat the field to the extent his price tag implies he should. Another way to put it is that there is more overlap in the range of outcomes between Trout and the reasonable other threats to the top spot than is reflected in their respective prices.

This isn’t a commentary on Mike’s or anyone else’s specific bid values. It’s an observation that, in my opinion, the market underestimates year-to year volatility at the very top and is willing to pay too rich a premium for a comparative advantage that is exaggerated.

So, that leaves me with a pile of money to spend on second-tier players, where there are sometimes bargains and sometimes upside plays on potential breakouts, but mostly just fair prices for solid, stable production. I like to gather as many of them as I can. I don’t employ a strict hitting-pitching split. I generally don’t pay top dollar for closers. I shy away from players whose range of outcomes is relatively extreme, i.e. hitters who can’t hit and pitchers who can’t throw strikes.

Roster

C

Buster Posey

27

1B

Eric Hosmer

20

2B

Ben Zobrist

6

SS

Xander Bogaerts

21

3B

Maikel Franco

17

CI

Pedro Alvarez

5

MI

Francisco Lindor

17

OF

Justin Upton

24

OF

Gregory Polanco

18

OF

Stephen Piscotty

8

OF

Delino Deshields

7

OF

Marcell Ozuna

4

UT

C.J. Cron

3

UT

Jake Lamb

1

TOTAL $

178

TOTAL %

68.5%

P

Corey Kluber

19

P

Noah Syndergaard

18

P

Dallas Keuchel

18

P

Patrick Corbin

5

P

Erasmo Ramirez

1

P

Nathan Eovaldi

1

P

Dellin Betances

9

P

Jake McGee

8

P

Arodys Vizcaino

3

TOTAL $

82

TOTAL %

31.5%

Conclusion

I like the balance of this team. Then again, I should seeing as how I just picked it from market prices with no competitors driving prices up or sniping my targets. The offense has five-category balance with several stable second-tier producers, a few young players with room for growth, and speed or power specialists to plug the gaps. The three-headed monster at the top of the rotation allowed me to fill in the back end on the cheap. If there’s an area of concern, it’s the bullpen. I’m used to that feeling.

Quick Notes:

C – Buster Posey ($27): I’m willing to buck everything I said above for Posey, a player I own everywhere I can get him. The argument for buying this position’s top talent is not just about skill, it’s about volume. He hasn’t registered fewer than 595 plate appearances since 2011, and his 2015 total was 65 more than the next-closest option. That provides opportunity for counting stats, of course, and magnifies the batting-average advantage Posey has over the rest of the crowd.

1B – Eric Hosmer ($20): The market is always timid on batting average-first players who rely on the vagaries of contextual stats to pad value. I’m not.

2B – Ben Zobrist ($6): I’m content to bargain shop at second base this season and don’t have a strong preference among several options in the $4-8 range.

SS – Xander Bogaerts ($21): Xander’s reign as top shortstop earner will probably end just as soon as it began but I like this price. Mid-teens power won’t come unless he starts hitting the ball in the air a little more. If he does, there’s potential for a windfall here.

3B – Maikel Franco ($17): His stellar rookie season was unfairly overlooked because of other historically great debuts. I was bullish on Franco before his monster spring and confirmation bias made Franco an easy selection.

CI – Pedro Alvarez ($5): One of the last spots I filled and I needed power. Camden was a perfect landing spot. 25-plus homers is a cinch with regular playing time.

MI – Francisco Lindor ($17): Top five shortstop in 2015 despite playing in fewer than 100 games. Yes, the power will back up but 12 homers plays fine at the position and there’s potential for three-category impact. I’m a big believer.

OF – Justin Upton ($24): Seven-year averages: 148 games played, 89 runs, 25 home runs, 80 RBI, 16 steals, .275 batting average. Mark the production down in pen.

OF – Gregory Polanco ($18): Steals and runs can support this price by themselves while we wait for the power to arrive.

OF – Stephen Piscotty ($8): Piscotty’s been a popular pick so far in this series. I must be on the right track.

OF – Delino DeShields ($7): This feels a little like cheating because the speed guys always come out higher on pure valuation than the market is willing to pay on draft day. Still, I like DeShields as one of only a small handful of players that could swipe 40.

OF – Marcell Ozuna ($4): Got back on track in the second half after his exile to Triple-A. Stock is primed for a big rebound.

UT – C.J. Cron ($3): As with Alvarez, this was one of my last spots to fill and I went looking for cheap power. He hit .285/.325/.507 with 15 dingers after earning a regular gig in late June.

UT – Jake Lamb ($1): Was down to a buck after signing everyone else up and Lamb was my favorite of the $1 options. He earned $3 in his rookie season despite missing time and playing through an injury. There’s more power coming and he won’t be a zero elsewhere.

P – Corey Kluber ($19): He earned more than this last season despite winning only nine games and pitching in front of an atrocious defense for half the season.

P – Noah Syndergaard ($18): Last chance to buy him in the teens.

P – Dallas Keuchel ($18): Doesn’t need to repeat 2015 to earn this but bump in swinging strike rate across all pitch types, groundball heavy approach, and durability make an approximation of 2015 possible.

P – Patrick Corbin ($5): Another popular pick among our staff. Velocity came all the way back post-TJ. Solid ratios and mid-rotation earnings are on the way even if he doesn’t give us a full workload.

P – Erasmo Ramirez ($1): It seems nobody believes in Erasmo’s 2015, which makes him one of my favorite bargain bin buys of this draft season. His swinging strike rate was just outside of top-20, one spot better than Strasburg. There’s upside in the strikeout rate and if the gains in walk and groundball rates are real, this is an easy profit.

P – Nathan Eovaldi ($1): I had $1 to spend and I needed a starter. Eovaldi threw a ball 102.5 miles per hour last year.

P – Dellin Betances ($9): This is a straight up value play. Betances earned $20 last season. The path to profit isn’t clear, so you have to trust the skill and the innings count. In a hypothetical world where we play this out, he’s a ratio stabilizer in case my $1 starters and budget relievers don’t work.

P – Jake McGee ($8): My first crack at this had Jeremy Jeffress here. News broke on Will Smith since then, so I’ll be a gentleman and not take the cheap gain. The cost of chivalry is an additional $6 expense, plus the roller coaster of owning a closer on a bad team that plays half its games in Coors.

P – Arodys Vizcaino ($3): The Braves shouldn’t waste any time trading a 39-year-old Jason Grilli once he re-establishes his health and effectiveness.