Fantasy Baseball: Tumbling Dice

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on December 28, 2010 @ 09:20:00 PDT

 


Skinning Cats

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been participating in a Scoresheet Mock Draft. The league itself is pretty deep, with 24 teams (though I believe just 16 rounds) and as set on the Scoresheet site, when our turn to select arrives, we have a full 90 minutes to make the pick (which is actually the name atop our queue, which we preset ourselves).

So, in addition to being deep, it is slowwwwwwwww. Though not excutiatingly so, as this league is outspoken, sending assessments to the rest of us. There is a bulletin board on the draft site, and another on our Yahoo! group site, and then there are e-mail threads, layer upon layer, with comments and responses. All three venues are actively updated, so the chatter between picks is as much fun as picking.

Baltimore Orioles C Matt Wieters
Wieters' pending breakout: Pricey?

Before you go, "Damn, I don't play Scoresheet. Why could this possibly matter?" bear with me for a few paragraphs, for irrespective of the format, a productive player is a productive player.

The teams in this mock are drafted as if this was a perennial dynasty league, though the actual number of freezes we would be able to keep, year-to-year, has never been declared. And, because the premise of the league is that it is a long-term keeper league, it is weird who values whom, under what circumstances, and why.

For example, I had the seventh pick, and I took Roy Halladay because a solid pitching rotation is critical in Scoresheet (and, Halladay is a first rounder in just about every format). The18th selection of the draft was Jason Heyward, not necessarily a bad selection, but arguably early, as in "Would Heyward be selected in the first two rounds of an NFBC-type draft?"

The answer lies largely in Heyward's age, power and on-base numbers, which are comparable to some of the great hitters all time relative to age, so the selection is easy to defend, let alone understand.

However, the #9 selection - two behind my Halladay pick - was Buster Posey (ahead of Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Felix Hernandez, Carlos Gonzalez, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Zimmerman, among others).

A fair amount of poffering and analysis, rhetoric and opinion follows each pick, and among the 24 would-be (for it is a mock, and we do not play the league out) owners, Posey being selected so high basically received high marks. In fact one drafter suggested he might have taken Posey as the #3 selection (he opted for Evan Longoria instead), and the general consensus was that Posey, with two-thirds of a major league season under his belt, was a great first round selection, and a "cornerstone to construct a team around."

I love Buster, and I see him a lot, and I think he is great. I also thought Matt Wieters was great (Wieters was drafted in the second round with the ninth pick in this mock, three years ago) and, well, there is surely setting oneself up to win and be competitive in three or four years, but, one also wants to be competitive in the coming season.

The first pick of the second round was Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana, and three picks later, Jose Bautista went (Bautista is plugged in at third), and for my second pick, 11 full picks later, I got Carl Crawford, who pretty much went sans comment.

The truth is, there are no right or wrong answers to just how to do this. I do believe in such a deep league, grabbing a guy like Heyward, who may well have 15 more good years ahead, over Crawford, who at just 28, with a new contract going to a great team, likely has at least five good seasons ahead is really moot, and nothing one should have to justify.

However, I have long wondered if the Buster Poseys and Carlos Santanas really do help in the long run, and for the answer to that, I turn to my bud Trace Wood (a two-time AL Tout Wars winner whose fantasy alter ego is "The Long Gandhi"). Trace and I play in the XFL (Experts Fantasy League), a setup that allows a 40-man roster, with 12 freezes during the offseason. In the league, we are allowed to keep prospects provided the player does not have 50 at-bats or 10 innings pitched, and prosects who do come up through the ranks of a team are bargains, starting with a $1 salary that increases by just $3 dollars a year in subsequent seasons.

In this league, Heyward was selected in 2008, and Posey in 2009, and I fully expect players like Brandon Belt, Bryce Harper and Eric Hosmer to be selected this March, with owners hopeful of a studly bargain.

Before this sounds like the best way to build a winner, consider Trace's words:

"...about 6 out of the top 100 prospects become $30 players and of those only half meet or exceed their price from the get go. I don't remember what the ratio was overall as to how often prospects pay off and by what margin. I think about a third eventually pay off for at least one year but the trick is holding onto them long enough to enjoy that one year. I think my conclusion was that one gains approximately the same benefit for the current year from taking prospects as $1 major leaguers, but there is a significant advantage gained by trading for other people's prospects once they've established themselves in the major leagues."

Kind of eye opening, no? And, actually building a team around prospects is not a bad way to go, it is just it often takes 2-3 years before all the pieces fall into place.

I can tell you that through nine mock rounds, I have yet to draft a catcher, though I did have my eye on Wieters this time, as I think he is due to break out. Apparently, I am not the only one, as Wieters - who has never had an OPS within 100 points of Asdrubal Cabrera's 2008 .799 mark - went with the first pick in the fourth round, to accolades from the masses.

Wieters may indeed have a breakout year in 2011, but for him that would mean a season like any of the years A.J. Pierzinski has assembled over the past eight years or so, which is good enough for me.

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About Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com

Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.

Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.

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