Last weekend, I had the privilege of representing Rotoworld in the Tout Wars AL draft. It is an honor to draft with and compete against the likes of Jason Grey, Ron Shandler, Matthew Berry, Lawr Michaels, Mike Siano, Jeff Erickson and the rest of the Touts. It is even a greater honor to call these Touts friends. Ok, enough with the sappy stuff. What appears below is a self-critical analysis of Team Rotoworld. I hope this gives you a tidbit or two of strategy or player information that will help as you trek off (either physically or through cyberspace) to your fantasy drafts this weekend.
The Strategy: Tout Wars is an extremely deep league with 12 owners bidding on AL players only. Given the depth of pitching and lack of top talent hitting, Rick Wolf and I (in our tenth year of partnership) set out to land some big bats early and get into the clubhouse while others battle (and hopefully overpay) for lesser hitters. I have no fear spending big early in a league where the competitors are so good that there is NO CHANCE any player will slip through the cracks.
The Wolf/Colton Fundamentals: Rick and I wrote up a one page cheat sheet designed to make sure we do not repeat some mistakes of previous years. Here a few snippets from that list.
Do not spend big on players without a track record. See, Borbon, Julio 2010 (that was just dumb, I admit).
Do not spend big on players unless they are in their prime (in other words, no aging players for big bucks unless they are superhuman and named Mariano).
Make sure our top starters have strikeout potential (i.e., no big money on Braden, Cahill, Bucholz types).
T in SMART stands for Team, so when in doubt chase players on good teams who will score and win more than say, hmmm, the Indians.
Avoid major investment in players returning from injury. Yes, I know there is profit potential if other owners are downgrading players like Kendrys Morales or Justin Morneau. However, Rick and I are not willing to bet the whole season on injury rebounds.
C: Kelly Shoppach $2 and Jeff Mathis $1. The budget had $4 here so we actually saved a buck. With Shoppach set to play only against lefties (he kills them), he could easily hit 10+ dingers with an average that will not hurt us (.286 last three years against LHP). As to Mathis, the room laughed when I rostered him and of course Matthew Berry landed the best zinger. We shall see. Last year, Mathis was hitting .324 through April before he got hurt. He is hot this spring. For a buck, there is good upside there. If the turns back into, well, Jeff Mathis, then he will be waiver-wired.
1B: Mark Teixeira $30: Tex is money in the bank. He is in his prime, plays for an offensive machine in NY and should improve on his average in 2011. Given that Gonzalez went 33 and Cabrera 35 (both with questions about injury or off field issues), this one is solid.
3B: Evan Longoria $33: We would have paid 35 or even more. In our view AL 3B falls off of a cliff after ARod and Longoria. Bautista has no track record, Beltre is always hurt in non-contract years, Reynolds hit .198 for goodness sake, and it goes downhill from there. So, we locked in a strong, prime of career, solid track record player who still has upside.
CI: Chris Davis $3: Yes, he has crashed and burned before (a lot), but he is hot again this spring, is only 25 and could well be traded. In deep league end games, buy big upside for low dollars. Davis is that kind of guy (plus, I got kudos on this one from Matthew Berry, after the Mathis dig, so I have that going for me.)
2B: Sean Rodriguez $14: Admittedly, this was a bit of an overpay. It is not completely clear what role he will play, how often, etc. However, there were a number of reasons to gamble. SRod will be 10+ hr and sb even part time, has hit .300+ at every level, is at that age where players take the next step (26), and the other 2B not named Cano were overpriced. See the oft injured Ian Kinsler at $29 for evidence.
SS: Yunel Escobar $15: Yes, he had a bad year last year. However, Toronto is a better place to hit than Atlanta, Yunel had strong years in 2008 and 2009 and should hit second in Toronto. This will turn out to be a very good buy at a very weak position.
MI: Carlos Guillen $2: He is always hurt, but even if he plays 70 games, we get more than 2 bucks worth.
First Tier OF: Crawford $38, Rios $26; Adam Jones $21: The budget was to go get three prime of career outfielders with some power and good speed at $85. Hit that nail right on the head. Last year, these three combined for 59 HR and 88 SB and a composite batting average of around .290. Nothing is certain, but this trio – all in great hitter's parks on good offensive teams and all in their prime -- should be fun to own.
Second Tier OF: Melky Cabrera $3; Podsednik $3; Gregor Blanco 1: I love the "Melkman". I admit it. I do not care that every writer but me says that he will lose his job to Lorenzo Cain. They are wrong (Franceour is the one who will lose his job). Melky came to camp in great shape and is red hot this spring. People forget that Melky is only 27 and has been in the big leagues a long time. He will outproduce $3 by a lot. Scotty Pods at $3 was just what was left so I really had little choice. However, he has stolen 69 bags over the last two years, so all is not lost. If he gets 300 AB and 12 SB, I have already profited. As to Blanco, he is out of options and I figured he will either be Melky insurance or get cut and land somewhere he could play.
First line Starting Pitchers: Beckett $17; Floyd $10; Edwin Jackson $10: The budget was $40 for three quality starters. Mission accomplished. I know there are those who do not believe in Josh Beckett but I do. Yes, his surface numbers were ugly last year. However, the injury was not arm related, the strikeout rate was still very high and had Tito not left him in to get pummeled by the Yankees a few times, his ERA would have looked a whole lot different. Edwin Jackson was just great after teaming up with Don Cooper in Chicago (77K/19BB). He will return more than $10 easily. Gavin Floyd is not a sexy pick, but every year, the numbers are there (though there were many Tums consumed along the way).
Second line Starters: Pavano $5; Hochevar $2; Duchscherer $1. Ok, I admit it, I have never liked Carl Pavano (but what Yankee fan could?). I also admit that I went 5 because I thought Rick really liked him (I was wrong). However, he did pitch 221 innings with a 3.75 ERA and 1.19 WHIP last year. If he only throws 180 with a 4.20 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, he is still worth more than $5. As to Hoch and Duch – they are low money upside. Duch is always hurt but if he throws 75 innings, it will be profit for team Rotoworld. As to Hoch, there has to be a reason he was number 1 overall in the amateur draft. Is this the year he shows why? I do not know but it was worth $2 to find out.
Relievers: Valverde $20; Crain $1; Balfour $2: The worst part of the draft for me was having to bid $20 on Valverde. It was just too much. Yes, I had him ranked fourth in the AL closers behind Mariano, Soria and Papelbon (remember, I don't buy injuries like Nathan and Bailey and don't pay big for lack of track record like Perez and Thornton). Given that Perez and Thornton were $19 (and thus would have cost me $20 if I bid again), so by that score, Valverde is not crazy at $20. What makes this a bad price is that Soria and Mo went $24 and those were just better deals. I should have known better. As to Crain and Balfour – Crain is the top righty in a pen with two lefties who lack closing experience so he could vulture some saves and Balfour is behind the ever injured Andrew Bailey and the downsliding Brian Fuentes. Good chance there will be 5-7 saves for each.
Bottom Line: This is a good team but with holes (like everyone else has in such a deep league with great fantasy players). We followed a plan and budget almost to the letter. Now, the question is how good was the plan? That will not likely be answered until at least the dog days of August.