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As we’ve been doing for the last couple of seasons, this last week before the regular season begins, we are taking Mike Gianella’s bids and constructing as ideal of a fantasy lineup as possible. This is one of my favorite exercises of the year. You’ve seen a bunch of our writers build their own teams so far this week, and now I get to follow suit. According to Greg’s article last week, I finished fourth last year so I have a participation trophy to defend.

The Process

The hard part about doing this exercise is that Mike’s bid limits are just too damn good. I first scanned the list to see if any of the players I particularly like this year were undervalued as they often are out in the wild, and the bargains were few and far between. So I set out from the bottom of the list up to figure out how many single-digit players I was comfortable investing in. That would then dictate how many stars I was able to grab.

The Offense

Brian McCann

9

Houston Astros

C

Lucas Duda

5

New York Mets

1B

Kolten Wong

1

St. Louis Cardinals

2B

Carlos Correa

30

Houston Astros

SS

Josh Donaldson

28

Toronto Blue Jays

3B

Yulieski Gurriel

7

Houston Astros

3B

Chris Owings

1

Arizona D-backs

SS

Mookie Betts

41

Boston Red Sox

OF

A.J. Pollock

18

Arizona D-backs

OF

Kyle Schwarber

17

Chicago Cubs

OF

Odubel Herrera

17

Philadelphia Phillies

OF

Nomar Mazara

8

Texas Rangers

OF

Shin-Soo Choo

3

Texas Rangers

DH

Victor Martinez

3

Detroit Tigers

DH

188

To be honest, I didn’t go in with a particular amount I wanted to spend on offense, and this feels pretty light in dollars compared to my Tout Wars offense—which has quite a few overlapping names. In fact, I rostered six of these players on Saturday in New York.

Starting with the infield, there was very little chance I wasn’t coming away with Duda and Gurriel in this exercise—and they balance each other out pretty nicely. The enigmatic Met, who is, in fact, good, enters the season healthy and ready to put the memory of his disappointing 2016 behind him. He has as good of a shot to hit 30 homers as any single-digit player available in Mike’s bids. Gurriel, on the other hand, should hit for average and knock in a slew of runs. Grabbing two really solid endgame guys in Wong and Owings, who I think could be nice outperformers given that no one seems to be too into them this year, allowed me to go after Correa and Donaldson to fill things out. Both of these players are not too far behind the first wave of elite talent available in fantasy drafts, and they both came for a relatively modest combined price of $58.

The outfield is clearly led by Betts. The five-category stud shouldn’t take any steps back from his dominant 2016 that saw him become the most valuable player in mixed leagues. He may not have quite reached Mike Trout yet, but the $8 difference between the two was enough to sway me towards saving a few bucks. Next are the leadoff hitters coming off major injury. I’ve talked about Schwarber until I’ve been blue in the face multiple times this offseason, so I won’t bore you anymore with that. Pollock is a different story, though. He’s certainly had trouble staying healthy, but the Diamondbacks center fielder has been excellent while healthy since 2014 and even 100 games of him would return value at $17. Herrera is still undervalued because of his lack of prospect pedigree before breaking out, but he’s a four-and-a-half category stalwart, even if he doesn’t offer elite ability in any particular one. Rounding this group out with my own version of the Texas Two-Step was too good to pass up, as I like Mazara to take another step forward this year (I prefer him to Andrew Benintendi) and if Choo can just play half a season, he’ll easily be a $5 player.

The Pitching

Jacob deGrom

17

New York Mets

P

Garrett Richards

6

Los Angeles Angels

P

Kevin Gausman

6

Baltimore Orioles

P

Jon Gray

4

Colorado Rockies

P

Francisco Liriano

2

Toronto Blue Jays

P

Gio Gonzalez

2

Washington Nationals

P

Michael Wacha

1

St. Louis Cardinals

P

Seung Hwan Oh

18

St. Louis Cardinals

P

Cody Allen

15

Cleveland Indians

P

71

There was zero chance I was going to make it out of this exercise without someone to front my rotation, and deGrom was easily the best value in my book. He looks ready to resume his SP1 track at an SP2 price, at least here. The rest of the rotation is filled out with upside plays because why not. Safety is boring. Richards may not throw 210 innings coming off Tommy John, but he was most excellent prior to getting hurt and should resume being a $10-15 pitcher immediately in that park. One of these years we’ll see the true breakout from Gausman, and now that he actually has a true three-pitch mix, this year is as good as any to speculate on that. Gray gets the Coors discount here, and he needs it because it’s still awful, but he can overcome the extra BABIP and home runs to still be a very good SP3, even if I can’t sit him in tough home starts in this format. If you thought I wasn’t taking Liriano, you haven’t been paying enough attention to me. Do you not like me? Have I done something to offend you? Gonzalez and Wacha are both good enough to be endgame guys here. The former got unlucky last year, as his underlying numbers (including his DRA and cFIP) were both in line with his 2015, when he was a more desirable fantasy own. Also, Washington should be pretty good this year. Wacha was really good at one point and looks pretty close to his old self this spring. Take that for what it’s worth, but it seems to be worth more than a buck at this point. That said, it almost feels like cheating since my guess is that Mike will bump him up a buck or two in his next set of bids. Coming out Friday. Teaser!

I’ve been burned the last two seasons by going cheap on saves, and I’m not making that mistake again. By grabbing Oh and Allen, two of my personal favorites and top-five closers, I shouldn’t have that problem again. Of course, I’ll certainly have other problems that I have not predicted. The Final Boss not only has the best nickname in baseball, but he’s one more season from giving Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman a run for their money as the top closer in baseball. He was that good last year. Then there’s Allen, who was arguably better than Andrew Miller in the 2016 playoffs, and still somehow gets knocked down a buck or two because of job security. Miller isn’t taking over that job, barring an unforeseen implosion.

The Ending

I like the balance and the star power here, but how well I place come season’s end will be reliant on the end guys I took. If Wong and Choo bounce back the way I think they can, my offense should be really strong. If Gausman and Gray continue their steps forward, my pitching should be competitive—things would have to break unreasonably right for it to be really strong, but that’s pitching for you (unless you have Kershaw).

And now, we sit and wait. Fin.