Now to the league. Our league consists of 20 teams, mixed pool, and we have $300 for a slow auction. The structure is H2H Categories (8x8-BA/OBP/SLG/HR/RBI/R/SB/H & W/L/K/HD/SV/ERA/WHIP/QS). Some might find these categories redundant, but I've found them to work quite well, and I enjoy leaving traditional stats in a fantasy league. As for the redundancy, these categories ensure that players like Juan Pierre and Adam Dunn are still valuable. It makes for a LOT of different types of strategies for roster construction.
These are big rosters, too. We have 30 man rosters, with minor leaguers. Minor leaguers cost $0, and I won't go into the rules stipulating keeping them, but they're fairly liberal. So the young player pool is beginning to dry up now after 5 seasons. The positions are: C-1B-2B-SS-3B-3OF-UT-5SP-4RP-12 BN-3 DL. Depending on trades and strategy, some teams have as many as 13 minor leaguers, or as few as 0. They can be moved up mid season, but are subject to contract after that, so we might not even see Matt Wieters or Elvis Andrus in the player pool this year! Keepers are subject to contracts in the form of the original salary they were bought for, plus $3 per year of contract. For example, I got Adam Lind in 2009 for $9, and signed him to a 2 year contract, giving him a salary of $15 for both 2010 and 2011. We are allowed 6 major league keepers. Here it goes, beginning with the keepers:
Yovanni Gallardo - $7 (only 2010)
I traded for Gallardo in the offseason in a multiplayer trade. At $7, Gallardo is an enormous value in our league. For a context of things, Felix Hernandez will probably go for $40+ this year. I've explained how much I love Gallardo in past posts, so I won't go into it here.
Ricky Nolasco - $7 (only 2010)
Nolasco came to me in a trade with Gallardo, while I gave up some minor league assets and Andre Ethier (on a 2 year contract for $15). I don't trust Ethier to keep up huge power, and we recently put in a maximum IP per 2-week session, so I'm expecting a small increase on middle level starters in the auction. I wanted to make sure I have a good base of pitching before going forth. Plus, having 2 200K guys for under $15 is quite a bargain. Nolasco will bounce back this year.
Josh Beckett - $25 (only 2010)
Usually, I wouldn't keep a pitcher at $25. However, Beckett is at value (for our league, Last Player Picked has him as a $25). Like I said with Nolasco, I wanted to enter the draft with a good pitching base, and 600 K's for less than a top tier pitcher would go for in the auction is well worth keeping. Considering one team has Lincecum ($10 keeper) and Halladay ($35), I think it's safe to say I should hang on to some strikeouts. Lincecum and Halladay are 1-2 (and that team also has Longoria for $19 for the next 6 years, Hanson at $10 for 3, and Gordon Beckham and Kyle Blanks at $0 still as minor leaguers!), but I'm happy with my 3 pitchers as a base of my staff, which ESPN has ranked as the #13, #16, and #19 SP overall. In a 20 team league, that's pretty solid.
Garrett Jones - $1 (only 2010)
We also have option contracts for players, in which they can be kept for only one season for the salary they took in the previous year. This was the case for Jones, who I picked up off the waiver wire just before he went crazy. While I don't expect Jones to be a starting 1B, he's probably a $16 value in our auction, and you can't go wrong with a $1 keeper that, even with regression, could be looking at a .270-30-95 season with 15-20 SB. Plus, I can have some flexibility with OF and 1B eligibility.
Juan Pierre - $5 (only 2010)
Pierre was another option contract for me, and it wasn't an easy choice. While I think he could flirt with 50 to 60 SB's, he's someone that could honestly take a toll on my other hitting categories. Last year, I got Pierre in auction for $5, as I usually don't like spending big money on the likes of Crawford or Sizemore. As a bench player, Pierre was a monster for me, and now I don't have to target stolen bases in the auction too much. Perhaps a risk averse move by keeping him, but I don't think this can really hurt my team, as my only other keeper options were Randy Wolf ($9), Ted Lilly ($14) and Huston Street ($14). Rotating Pierre and Garrett Jones with my DH's should keep his power deficit in check, while giving me needed stolen bases when that category is close for the session.
Adam Lind - $15 - (2010 and 2011)
Adam Lind got me to the championship last year (with some help from FA pickups like Andrew Bailey, Randy Wells, Scott Podsednik, and Garrett Jones). I traded Bailey during the season in a deal for Mark Teixeira, so he wasn't an option, and traded both Pods and Wells in the offseason to get some minor league help. A lot of projections don't like Lind much yet, but LPP had him at about a $47 value for our league last season. His numbers seem pretty real, though his power jump was huge for a single season. Even if Lind gives me a .290-25-95 line, I've got a nice bargain for the next 2 years at $15. I just hope he plays OF enough this year to have eligibility there in 2011.
Jemile Weeks $0 (minor leaguer)
I'm low on minor leaguers right now because I used up a lot of my minor league assets last year to land Mark Teixeira and Andre Ethier last season. Unfortunately, I've had Adrian Gonzalez at $13 since 2007 and ended up trading him in the Ethier deal, too, since 2010 was the last year of his contract. I'm not usually a fan of hanging on to minor leaguers, and end up with late picks (which I've done well in) in our minor league draft. I traded Randy Wells and Kelly Johnson for Weeks this offseason, becasue I didn't want to be bound to KJ's contracted $14 salary ($7 penalty if I dropped him). While I lost Wells in the deal, I saved myself $4 (kept $3 of Johnson's contract) and got Weeks. Minor leaguers are very valuable at the trade deadline when teams begin dumping for the following season, so I'm hoping to package him up and get a nice player to run me to the championship again. For example, last season I was able to get Gavin Floyd and Stephen Drew for Kellen Kulbacki and a bunch of minor league picks. That was nice, considering my entire staff went on the DL at some point in 2009 (Peavy-Lilly-Slowey-Saunders...the list goes on). I needed Floyed to get me through the playoffs, and minor leaguers can be nice assets, even if you don't plan on keeping them for your own major league roster in FBAL.
MAJOR LEAGUERS IN AUCTION:
Below I have the guys I won in order of when I won the auction. There are multiple auctions going on at one time, which makes for a dynamic strategy. Here we go.
C - Chris Iannetta - $11
Iannetta could lose some time this year to Miguel Olivo, but I'm not sure it's justified. Iannetta struggled in some aspects of the game (and Olivo is a relatively solid defensive option at catcher), but his walk rate is far superior to Olivo and he's so young. Olivo was probably one of the best slugging catchers last season in terms of HR/AB, but Iannetta was right there with him. With an $11 salary, I'm obviously hoping Iannetta comes out of spring training strong and grabs hold of the starting spot for the Rockies. If not, I'll have to go to my backup. Given Iannetta's strong spring, the Rockies have to start rethinking a full platoon they claim to be planning for the two catchers. Luckily, I have both, and if I play my daily lineups right, could get a 30 HR and 90 RBI season from my catcher position. Not too bad.
3B - Pedro Feliz - $2
At this point, I'm wasn't sure what I'm doing about my 3B position. I snatched up Feliz early because he has a gig and, in full time at bats, can at least be rostered in a 20 team league. Doesn't come much cheaper than $2, and it's nice to have a bench player on my team early on. Remember that not all the top players are released in the first round, it's staggered throughout the auction, so care is needed when contemplating when values may come about. If you wait too long, you might run into problems. Feliz isn't a value here, but he can get me some numbers while my other 3B has an off day. That's important in H2H.
DH - David Ortiz - $12
Ortiz is on the downhill slope of his career, but that doesn't stop my team from being able to use a guy that could go .270-30-90 in a bad year. My valuations have him at $25, which I think is a bit high. However, it's not out of the question that Ortiz could put up numbers that deserve more than $20 in salary for this league. I'll likely play some matchups with him, and have him rotate in with Juan Pierre, Garrett Jones, and Vladimir Guerrero at my Utility slot to get a nice speed/power combo without hurting my average too much. My hope is that Ortiz comes hot out of the gate and I can trade him for some Saves or Middle Infield help. A nice value early on in the draft...though, he could bust at any second.
Interlude: You can see that my players above are NOT going to help my batting average. That's okay, as I plan on making it up later on in the auction. I've got plenty of money left.
RP - Aaron Poreda - $2
My first relief pitcher buy is an early flier. He could get some holds, and has shown promise in the past. He had a strangely high walk rate last year, and it could be that he was slightly injured or just still getting his bearings. Poreda is no superstar, but with the likes of Matt Thornton and Matt Guerrier going for 5x as much, I'm willing to take a chance here. It could work out, it may not. There's not too much lost with this buy, though his recent demotion is concerning and I might have to exchange him when waivers open up.
2B - Orlando Hudson - $5
Hudson is a nice value at $5. While he's not going to give me much power, he could add some slight speed, definitely help my batting average, and hopefully get me a good number of runs toward the top of the Twins order. The Twins have a better lineup this year, and with Mauer and Morneau hitting behind him, Hudson could be a nice addition to my team for a very cheap price.
SS - JJ Hardy - $12
A lot of people think I splurged on Hardy here, but for comparison, Jhonny Peralta went for $14. Hardy had a terrible year last year, and I suspect he'll rebound a little bit. He's in a nice lineup in Minnesota, and I can back up both Hardy and Hudson with Nick Punto or snatch up 3B starter Brendan Harris, which leaves me with more flexibility with my $$ instead of buying 2 separate backups for 2B and SS. If Hardy gives me a .265-18-78 season, I'll have gotten my money's worth. For a bit, I was a little upset with my buy, as Jose Reyes went for $40 (before the announcement of his Thyroid deally). I would have liked Reyes at $40, but not now.
SP - Kevin Correia - $7
People were going nuts on pitching, I assume because we now have maximums on Games Started for each session (18 starts in a 2-week session), and a minimum of 9 as well. That means that you need solid quality from your starters, instead of splurging on hitting and putting together a bunch of $1 guys with 30 starts a session going for the counting and RP categories. I expected a shift upward, but not as much as we saw early on. Correia had a solid season, and is my #5 starter (maybe #6). Considering Joe Saunders went for $13, and Kevin Millwood topped $15, I was happy with Corriea at $7 in the spacious Petco.
SP/RP - Colby Lewis - $7
Since this is a keeper league, I overpaid a bit for the upside in Lewis. He had Johanesque seasons in Japan, and while I'm not expecting that in MLB, his insanely low walk rate indicates he's changed since he was the 6.00+ ERA pitcher before he moved across the Pacific. If he gives me 10 wins and an ERA in the realm of 4 with okay strikeout numbers, he's worth the $7. If he ends up a RP, he'll likely have SP eligibility and having this on a team with starts maximums is helpful for the counting stats (as long as it's not ruining the rate stats). If Lewis can bring over what he learned in Japan, I could have a keeper on my hand. Don't worry, I don't have my hopes too high here.
RP - Matt Guerrier - $7
Since holds are a category, I snatched up Guerrier. My plan was to get Matt Thornton (like all my other leagues), but he went for $11. Looking back, I may rather have him at that price than Guerrier at $7. Holds are easy to come by, but Guerrier has a chance to snatch up some saves in Minnesota with the recent injury to Joe Nathan. Either way, Guerrier will be nice on my WHIP and should put up decent ERA numbers. He should also be one of the top Hold guys around.
RP - Brandon Lyon - $10
We had Jonathan Broxton go for $24, so I'm okay with putting $10 on Lyon. Having 2 closers is nice, but even 1 closer in a 20 team league can win you the category around half the time when he's matched up with some other solid relievers. Lyon had a great year last year, but don't expect him to repeat that. The Astros paid a ton for some reason, and aren't even sure he's going to play much of a closing role in the bullpen yet. I'm hoping for 30 saves and an ERA below 3.75 here...nothing special. I'm not a fan of spending big bucks on relievers, but I like to have a diverse crowd awaiting good matchups. Later on I handcuff my Lyon buy with Matt Lindstrom at a decently low price. Broxton, however, was tempting at $25, as he can strike out as many as a starter. I just couldn't pull the trigger on that one.
3B - David Wright - $64
Everyone in this league ends up splurging on a superstar. It's just the way things have gone the last couple years. If I don't follow, I'll likely be a bit behind in the hittering department, though with more depth overall. At some point, you have to have a big gun in your starting lineup. I expect David Wright to return to his normal form (or close to it) this year after abandoning the unbelievably stupid 'hit everything the other way' strategy. I don't think he'll hit 35 HR, but a .310-25-100-100-25 season is very possible. For $64, I sure hope it is at least. I have a feeling the problems Wright had with his strikeouts should be fixed this year as well, if he's planning on not allowing the ball to get so deep on him to take it to right field. Look for him to smack some inside pitches out of left Citi Field this year. If not, he pads my BA a little bit, which I need with Hardy, Ortiz, and Garrett Jones manning my lineup. With Jason Bay hitting behind him, he should see plenty to hit. Hopefully Beltran and Reyes come back quickly, and he gets plenty of RBI opportunities as well. Without those two, it could be another rough year to own Wright, even if his power comes back.
1B - Adam LaRoche - $11
Adam LaRoche gets overlooked a bit much in fantasy. While he's not an elite option at the corner, in a 20 team league he's more than serviceable. At $11, I get a dependable hitter who I know will give me at least .275-25-80. However, with the move to Arizona in a young and very solid lineup (assuming it continues growing this year), I could see him putting up some career numbers with a .280-30-95 line. Even ZIPS projects him for a .287-26-109 season (.363 OBP and .500+ SLG). We're getting into Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee territory here. Honestly, I expect a little more in the HR and a slight bit less in the AVG department than ZIPS. But hitting behind Justin Upton and Kelly Johnson (and in front of Mark Reynolds), LaRoche should have a great year. Usually a slow starter, he's been hot this spring. This could end up being one of the best values in the auction.
OF - Manny Ramirez - $37
Until the last second, I had Manny and Bobby Abreu locked up. Unfortunately, someone outbid me on Abreu and I was still in need of antoher pitcher. However, I'm happy with Ramirez at $37. While a lot of 'experts' have him ranked far down the OF list, I'm not so convinced he's on a monsterous decline. The guy put up 19 HR despite missing 50 games last year, and seems to have implied wanting another Free Agent contract after this year. While I'm not one to fully believe in the 'contract year' hype, Ramirez is one I could see this actually applying to. He's a hard worker, and when he gives his all, he's one of the best players in the history of the game. The lineup around him is very solid, and I'll be disappointed if he hits anything worse than .287-30-115-100 for me. Considering we had Denard Span go for a ridiculous $36 ($4 more than Abreu!!!), I'll take Manny at $37 without a second thought.
RP - Rafael Betancourt - $3
In our league, $3 is a great deal for a guy like Betancourt. I put him in with the likes of Matt Thornton, but with a better shot at getting some saves. He strikes out at a great click, keeps his ERA and WHIP down, and gets me holds. I suspect he'll be sitting at my RP slot all season with Guerrier and Lyon while I rotate in some others. If you're looking for RP help, don't overlook Betancourt, and keep him in your mind as another deep sleeper for saves if Street's other two backup closers can't cut it. Betancourt is starting the year slowly getting into throwing, as he's had a minor injury problem, but I'm not too concerned and the Rockies seem to be happy with his progress.
RP/SP - Robinson Tejeda - $4
Why oh why would I pay $4 for this scrub? Well, given our starts limit of 18 per session, having a RP eligible at SP can play an important role in maintaining leads in strikeouts and snaking extra wins. With Tejeda and Colby Lewis (assuming neither gets a starting gig), I might be able to have 2 extra pitchers in at all times. That's a huge advantage as long as they're not hurting your rates. Tejeda isn't Matt Thornton or Rafael Betancourt, but he strikes out more than a batter per inning and he's young. The Royals may give him a shot at the rotation out of spring training, but my hope is that he stays in the bullpen to strengthen his K-rate and probably his ERA and WHIP, since he can ramp it up a little more. Who really wants a starter that pitches for the Royals besides Grienke? Then again, he did thrive in his starting role toward the end of last year. But, the only reason I spent $4 is for the SP eligibility for a reliever. Hoepfully, that doesn't go to waste.
RP - Matt Lindstrom - $4
I was happy to grab up Lindstrom at $4. While he and Lyon aren't going to help my ERA or WHIP too much (unless Lyon gets another lucky year like 2009), I need Lindstrom to handcuff my only closer. Experts don't seem to be too sure if Lyon has a lock on the closer job, so it's important that I get Lindstrom here. With the fall of Joe Nathan and Huston Street, I could be looking at 3 or 4 different guys getting save chances (Guerrier included) instead of the 1 that I had planned originally. This is why I diversify my RP portfolio.
OF - Xavier Nady - $2
If Nady ends up with a job in Chicago, this could be an absolute steal. He was on his way to perennial All-Stardom before going out all of 2009 with the Yankees. He's better than Fukudome (I'm not sure about fielding, he's a bit below average while Fukudome is a bit above), and if he proves he's healthy, I think the Cubs should take a chance at him throwing up a .280-25-90 line in the NL Central. If not, I've got a nice platoon backup outfielder to go along with Garret Jones and Juan Pierre.
2B/3B - Jeff Baker - $3
Because it's a keeper league, I thought I'd take a chance on Baker. Considering Mike Fontenot is a terrible baseball player, Baker could get a chance at a regular gig in the Cubs infield. He's not making much of a push so far, and Pinella likes the piss poor Fontenot right now, so that's a little disappointing. This former top prospect has done nothing but mash in the minors, and hasn't looked too bad in the MLB either. I'm curious what he could do with a full season's worth of AB's. Nothing special, just a flyer buy.
3B/SS - Brendan Harris - $1
I needed to make sure I had a backup for Hardy at SS. I don't see a problem with Hudson losing his job, but if Hardy stumbles out of the gate, look for Nick Punto to take some of his time. However, Punto is a worthless fantasy player, while Harris is only marginally worthless. Since Harris probably has the starting 3B gig with SS eligibility, I figured Harris was the better buy. Still contemplated grabbing Punto to back up Hudson and Baker at 2B, but then some clown bid $2 on him so I backed off.
DH - Vladimir Guerrero - $10
I must be crazy buying up 2 DH's, but I couldn't let Vlad go for $9. Considering he's in Texas, he could put up a VERY nice season. We're talking about the Rangers lineup, in Arlington (which Vlad absolutely loves). For $10, I'll take a chance on another DH hitting .300-25-100 in a stacked lineup. I know he was hurt last year, but we're still talking about Vlad. Given 500 AB's, he should excel in my lineup and I've got Ortiz to back him up. Plus, there's plenty of trade value for solid hitters, even if they are only available at the UT position. Having the ability to rotate Vlad and Big Papi into my UT slot for the combined price of $22 could result (if done right) in seeing a .285-30-100 type of season out of that roster place....or perhaps even better.
C - Miguel Olivo - $1
With Iannetta on my team, I had to snatch up Olivo. Now I don't have to worry about C, and for $1, I can't complain about having a possible 15 HR from a C on my bench. These two could put up 30 HR at my catching position this year.
SP - John Maine - $10
Given my Top 3 starting pitchers and the 18 start limit, I decided to finsihing my staff up with upside pitchers. It's likely I won't throw more than 12 starts a session (and there's a minimum of 9), which means I'll be playing the matchups with Maine, Lewis, Correia and Marcum (next player) until I know what to expect from them. Maine has a solid K rate, and should give me decent peripherals in a nice park at Citi Field. He's had some shoulder problems, but even 25 starts from Maine should be sufficient for my team in this type of league.
SP - Shaun Marcum - $10
See my explanation for Maine. Marcum is also coming off an injury, but the Blue Jays already have enough confidence in him to name him their Opening Day Starter. I'll take a chance here, and perhaps both of these pitchers end up being decent keepers for me in 2011. Last season, I snatched up Ted Lilly and Randy Wolf for a combined $23, along with Randy Wells off waivers. All season I hit a waiver wire gold mine (and we're limited to 16 waiver moves, barring pitcher injury, per season). I snatched up, in addition to Randy Wells, Andrew Bailey, Matt Diaz, Garrett Jones, and Scott Podsednik. These are the kind of players that make or break your team in a 20-team league. Hopefully, these last two buys will help to 'make' it.
SP - Dustin McGowan - $2
For my final roster slot, I grabbed McGowan at a nice cheap price. He was on his way to having #2 fantasy pitcher credentials before being derailed by injury. Both Marcum and McGowan have great upside, and if he stays healthy through the end of the season, he could be a nice guy to keep for 2011. Hopefully he doesn't lose too much on his K potential with the injury, and perhaps I have another RP with SP eligibility if Toronto decides he's not ready for a full time starting role yet. There's a lot of risk here, but I like the potential and the price.
I actually like this team better than the one I drafted last year. Ultimately, my 2009 team finished in 2nd place (losing to FBJ editor Eriq Gardner who has also written fantasy pieces for Hardball Times, Blooomberg Sports, and Sports Illustrated). He's currently the 3-year defending champoin, but the rest of the league seems to be catching up. He has another formidable lineup, but I'm finally out of his division after finishing in 2nd place in the division 2 years in a row. I expect that I'll have to deal Vlad or Ortiz, depending on the demand, for an upgrade somewhere else in my lineup. Hopefully I can wheel and deal like last year, and get lucky on the waivers again. None of the teams look particularly strong across the board, but there are a few teams that have some really potent batting lineups. Luckily, none of those guys are in my division this season. I've got 3 drafts left. One is an Razzball Commentor league (but regular style, not Razz style), and two leagues with some friends with some really strange roster and category settings. I'll also try to recap the rosters in this 20 team league.