I have always been drawn to that line "there is more than one way to skin a cat" when it comes to winning at fantasy baseball.
Now, I have to admit I have never really thought of one way to skin a cat beyond the obvious, and co-habiting with no less than four felines, the whole idea would at best be frowned upon. Still, the metaphor works in the fantasy baseball environ.
You can punt categories, or go LIMA or Lambada. There is "stars and scrubs," along with what I have always called "the Randy Bush theory."
In fact, it is hard to win without embracing some sort of overall team vision and plan.
Of course in keeper leagues the possibilities seem to increase exponentially, partially by virtue of the number of prospects and chances, and partially because of the number of positions, and finally because of the number of owners in a given league.
But somehow, in my Scoresheet set-up - the Murphy League - which drafted last Saturday, I always walk away thinking half the league is chasing rainbows. Or, to go back to our metaphor, not skinning anything at all.
For sure Murphy is a deep competition, being a mixed format, with 24 teams selecting 28 players after freezing eight. In fact, we freeze a "soft" eight, meaning teams that choose not to keep the maximum number of freezes select the "cast-offs" until all 24 squads have eight, and then a serpentine draft begins, last-to-first, and back around, depending upon finish the previous season. (I actually picked in the 23rd spot Saturday, having made it to the league World Series last year.)
Now, I do understand coveting prospects in every way shape and form, and I even understand keeping one or two from year to year. In fact, I froze Mike Moustakas in the Murphy League over the aging Michael Young, a move that surely looks hopefully to a successful future rather than an actual successful past.
Furthermore, with 27 rounds of picks, clearly taking some chances with the future must be part of any strategy, for my team is built around Clayton Kershaw, whom I got as a minor leaguer and now anchors my rotation along with Roy Halladay. My #3 starter is Shaun Marcum, whom I picked up in exchange for Jose Tabata a couple of years back.
And, in case you had not noticed from my top three starters, strong pitching is essential in the head-to-head simulation format Scoresheet provides, and a lot of my 2011 strength was also rooted in having Josh Collmenter, Dillon Gee, and Zach Britton - all prospects when I picked them - in my rotation.
Since we can only freeze eight, however, I had to toss Britton, Gee, and Collmenter back in the pool, along with Young and Michael Cuddyer, meaning they would be gobbled up by someone other than me (which they were, in fact Young and Cuddyer were selected numbers 12 and 13 overall).
But, the #1 pick on Saturday was Yoenis Cespedes, something somewhat questionable by my view, but at least a player who will be a major leaguer this year. However, Cespedes is also a player who has never logged a major league at-bat, and right now the Athletics outfielder might be equivalent to Erubiel Durazo: not a bad player, but hardly one worthy a first pick out of the subsequent 648 players drafted during the eight hour melee.
Similarly, Manny Machado was selected in the first round, and Nolan Arenado in the second, after Mike Minor.
Now, again, these guys are all fine prospects, but gambling such a high selection on any of them in the free-for-all draft with any hope of being competitive this year seems crazy. For instead of Machado, Jimmy Rollins was still out there, and instead of Minor, Jhoulys Chacin, Ricky Nolasco, and Alexi Ogando were available, and instead of Arenado, Chase Headley was still in the pool.
Now, I am not saying that Ogando or Nolasco or Chacin, Rollins, or even Headley will be a key to victory in 2012, or even 2013, but I can also say pretty safely that neither Machado no Arenado will either, and chances are Minor won't as well.
The thing is, there are still plenty of rounds to cop prospects. For example, I got Kyle Seager (#12), Nathan Eovaldi (#14), Leonys Martin (#15), Jedd Gyorko (#22), Matt Adams (#23), Derek Norris (#24), Robbie Grossman (#25), and Tim Beckham (#27) all, and still put together a starting eight, with a couple of DH possibilities, along with six starting pitchers, a closer, and left and right handed set-up men.
Now again, I am not claiming clairvoyance or any special genius beyond those of my opponents, though I can also say I do have a decent enough track record.
But, I do remember the words of my old mate Pete DeCoursey, who used to say "if I start nine regulars and you don't, I will take your lunch money every day of the week."
I guess Pete must know a thing or two about skinning cats too.
Hey, now you can get me on Twitter @lawrmichaels!
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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.