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Here are the rules for the annual BP fantasy staff Model Portfolio challenge established by our fantasy overlord, Bret Sayre:

  • Dollar values courtesy of Mike Gianella’s standard mixed-league bid limits
  • 23-man roster: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, OFx5, UTx2, and Px9
  • $260 budget
  • Any player not listed on Mike's sheet is $1
  • 5×5 rotisserie scoring
  • The goal of the exercise is to construct the best possible team, not just identifying an entire list of low-cost 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. For example, you can’t put Kyle Schwarber at catcher.

The Process

I came in third place in the model portfolio challenge last year, primarily because of several low-priced veteran bats, a handful of profitable speedsters, and a gut call on a cheap Jose Quintana. I tend to assemble this roster from the bottom up, identifying which bargain basement value hitters I want to stock the lower tiers of the roster with before diving into the high-priced end of the player pool. I ended up shifting an additional $20 to the offense that I normally would have allocated towards someone like Justin Verlander as a co-ace. Instead, I’m hoping that my offense can carry me and that the gambles on the pitching side pay off. As Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

The Lineup

Position

Player

$

C

Gary Sanchez

$24

1B

Daniel Murphy

$22

2B

Dustin Pedroia

$12

SS

Asdrubal Cabrera

$13

3B

Justin Turner

$17

CI

Albert Pujols

$12

MI

Logan Forsythe

$4

OF

Mookie Betts

$41

OF

Christian Yelich

$21

OF

Billy Hamilton

$21

OF

Rajai Davis

$7

OF

Mitch Haniger

$1

UTIL

Yoan Moncada

$3

UTIL

Steve Pearce

$1

Total

$199

Gary Sanchez – I’ve articulated my strong belief on multiple occasions this offseason that all Sanchez has to do to justify his lofty price tag is hit for power in in the heart of the Yankee lineup. I’m not expecting the 24-year-old to provide anything more than a .260 average, but he has a realistic shot at 30 home runs and a boatload of counting stats this season. I would be hesitant to invest if he weren’t a catcher, but I think his realistic floor is much higher than most fantasy owners currently believe. Embrace the risk at catcher.

Daniel Murphy – How much more evidence do we need before we can all agree that he’s one of the best hitters in baseball right now? I debated going with Matt Carpenter for $16 at this spot, but Murphy earned $30 in standard mixed leagues last season. Even if the batting average slides back, he’s still a pretty safe bet to return this type of investment.

Dustin Pedroia – There is tremendous depth at the keystone this season, yet fantasy owners seem to be undervaluing a career .301/.366/.445 hitter, coming off a renaissance campaign in which he scored 105 runs and finished as a top 35 hitter in mixed leagues last season. Losing David Ortiz is a blow to the Red Sox offense, but Pedroia is still going to lead off in front of Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts. I think he’s going to be fine. Barring injury, which is a legitimate concern/factor, you can lock in 100 runs scored and a .300 average for the 33-year-old in 2017. Why he costs only $12 is a mystery to me.

Asdrubal Cabrera – The persistent knee issues remain an omnipresent concern, but Carbera hit more home runs (23) last season than he had in a single-season since 2011. The raw numbers (and Mike Gianella) tell us that he changed his approach to get more aggressive early in the count and started to hit more fly balls (didn’t everyone…) during the second half of the year. If those changes stick, he’s a nice source of power and batting average at a decent price in 2017.

Justin Turner – Dude. He’s awesome. What more do you really need to know? I don’t think 30-plus home runs are out of the question this season.

Albert Pujols – He gets underrated every single year because he’s clearly a shell of his former self. I was beating this drum last offseason and it’s getting a bit repetitive. If Pujols continues to hit for power behind Mike Trout, which he’s done every season since getting to Los Angeles, he’s going to be a solid fantasy asset. It’s really that simple. I don’t need him to be a superstar in this lineup, just hit for power.

Logan Forsythe – I’ve ended up with Forsythe in nearly every draft this offseason and there’s a reason for that. I believe he’s a perfect fit for the top of the Dodgers lineup. He has the talent to hit 15-to-18 home runs and score 80-plus runs this season. If 38-year-old Chase Utley could score 80 runs with a .319 on-base percentage leading off for Los Angeles a year ago, Forsythe should be able to eclipse that number easily. Sure, second base is extremely deep, but it’s still mystifying to me that more fantasy owners aren’t interested in him at a rock-bottom price.

Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich – The combination of dynamic hit tools and five-category production make Betts and Yelich some of the safest foundational pieces in fantasy baseball.

Billy Hamilton – You saw this one coming. If he continues to hit the ball on the ground and get on base like he did in the second half of last year, we could be looking at a 70-steal baseline.

Rajai Davis – We’ve drilled home the importance of stolen bases in the current fantasy landscape throughout the offseason, so it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is. He’s stolen 30-plus bases in seven of the last eight seasons and while his advanced age (36-years-old) amplifies the risk, it’s not like he costs an exorbitant sum on draft day. I’m worried there will be some steals overkill with Hamilton already on the roster, but it’s not like Davis brings nothing else to the table. He’s going to lead off in Oakland and has almost zero competition for everyday at-bats. There’s not as much risk as you think.

Mitch Haniger – I nearly went with Danny Valencia for this spot simply because we know what the floor (lefty-masher that has made substantial progress against right-handed pitching over the last two seasons) potentially looks like over a full-season. However, if you’re going to give me Haniger for a single buck, I’ll roll the dice. I’m not entirely sold on the 26-year-old outfielder simply because he changed his swing and tore the cover off the ball at Triple-A Reno last summer. I’m intrigued. He’s clearly going to be given an everyday opportunity, and the at-bats I’ve seen have been impressive this spring. PECOTA believes that he’s a low-20’s home run hitter with 500 plate appearances. Not bad for one dollar.

Yoan Moncada – I love to take a shot on an elite power/speed combination prospect in my utility spot every year. A year ago, it was Javier Baez, who turned a $11 profit. We know about the glaring risks in the 22-year-old’s profile, which include striking out at a nearly 30 percent clip in Double-A, to sometimes eating 85 Twinkies per week. Even with those variables present, Moncada possesses a fantasy ceiling unlike any other prospect in the game. Seriously, his immediate floor might be present-day Keon Broxton. For a minimal acquisition cost, I can roll the dice on a few months of major-league at-bats. Sign me up.

Steve Pearce – The 34-year-old hit a staggering .309/.411/.617 with seven home runs in just 81 at-bats versus left-handed pitching last season. He’s one of the premier southpaw specialists in the game at this point and has done enough against righties to be worthy of consideration for an everyday role. The move to Toronto, where there is minimal competition for at-bats in either left field or at first base, makes Pearce one of the most intriguing low-budget hitters to target this season. He’s a virtual lock to return a profit.

The Rotation

Position

Player

$

P

Yu Darvish

$24

P

James Paxton

$9

P

Sean Manaea

$8

P

Julio Urias

$7

P

Robert Gsellman

$6

P

Ivan Nova

$2

P

Francisco Liriano

$2

P

Alex Wood

$1

P

Joe Musgrove

$1

Total

$60

Yu Darvish – I always punt saves in the model portfolio selection process. There risk that a closer loses their job as a result of injury or ineffectiveness far outweighs the potential profit. The greatest return on investment is usually found in the sub-$10 bucket, which is where I’ve elected to sink the majority of my pitching dollars. We’ve talked all offseason about the importance of drafting an ace-caliber starter to anchor a fantasy staff and that’s exactly where I went with Darvish. The mammoth strikeout rate offers a reasonable floor and I like their odds of outperforming their reasonable draft day acquisition price. I got burned playing it safe a year ago (Wainwright, who returned a $12 loss). Therefore, I’m going for the strikeouts and the ceiling at the top of the staff. Given his recent health issues, Darvish is a major risk. However, I’m willing to swing for the fences and take a ton of risk with this staff and hope that the offense is enough to propel me to a title. This is the ultimate boom or bust pitching staff. You’ve been warned.

James Paxton – I’ve swung back and forth on the 28-year-old southpaw throughout the offseason simply because he’s the most trendy pitching “sleeper” in the entire industry. He’s gotten more ink in fantasy publications than an average week for President Trump in the New York Times. He’s probably going to make or break this staff and I’m willing to admit that right now. Slotting Paxton as my second starter could easily backfire, but if the injuries that have marred his career are truly in the past, Paxton could be an ace. He fired 171 total innings without any shoulder or elbow issues last year, so it’s not completely unrealistic that he could do it again in 2017. At the end of the day, I believe that Paxton has a greater shot of ascending to “ace-caliber” status than any other pitcher in this dollar range. Call me crazy.

Julio Urias – Sure, he’s going to start the season in the minor leagues, but you have to consider how well he pitched as a 19-year-old last year. I’m comfortable viewing Urias as a lower-cost version of Rich Hill in re-draft formats. I wouldn’t feel comfortable projecting either for anything more than 150 innings, but I think they can provide elite production when they are pitching. It really comes down to the combination of raw talent and single-digit acquisition price for me. At the end of the day, I want to bet on talent more often than not.

Robert Gsellman and Ivan Nova – A pair of my favorite low-cost, low-risk back-end fantasy rotation arms for 2017. While my confidence is based almost entirely on the skills they displayed down the stretch last season, they’re both guaranteed rotation spots to begin the impending campaign, and cost almost nothing right now. Sign me up.

Francisco Liriano – The 33-year-old southpaw was an unmitigated disaster with the Pirates last season. There’s no dispute there. Once he was traded to Toronto mid-season, a new pitching coach (Pete Walker) and old friend behind the plate (Russell Martin) enabled him to tap into his electric stuff once again. I’ve covered Liriano extensively this offseason, so I won’t open that can of worms again. Basically, he’s still striking out over a batter per inning and the control merely has to be marginal for him to remain effective going forward. The results have been extremely encouraging this spring and he’s going for almost nothing drafts. There’s zero risk at this price and the strikeouts alone give him a ridiculously high floor.

Joe Musgrove – He’s going to open up the regular season in the Astros rotation and could easily supplant either Collin McHugh or Mike Fiers with his performance right out of the gate. It’s a true command and control skillset that when paired with a decent strikeout rate, could provide double-digit value in a mixed league. He doesn’t offer the same type of ceiling as many other prospects like Tyler Glasnow or Blake Snell, but the present floor is exponentially higher.

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kvamlnk
3/28
I enjoy these Model Portfolio pieces. Would it be possible to get Pecota's Model Portfolio? I realize that it may be difficult to explain Pecota's "reasoning", but I'd like to see the choices and look forward to next year's retrospective.
MikeGianella
3/28
I could try to put something like this together. It would take time though...
kvamlnk
3/28
Yes, I suppose handing the assignment to Pecota probably doesn't work all that well. Still Pecota + PFM (1 catcher, 2 UT) would produce a spreadsheet. Perhaps much of the work could be automated.
bhacking
3/28
You should be arrested for Francisco Liriano at $2, he's looked good this spring and even a mediocre bounce back season will deliver positive value.
GeorgeBissell
3/28
I've been writing about that in my columns and talking about it on the podcast for a few weeks now...I've ended up with Liriano in a ton of drafts. I think the vast majority of owners see the downside and elect to stay away.