By Brian Walton
While many of us compete in multiple leagues, we have our favorites as well as our mandatories and of course, our priorities.
For example, my favorite format is the XFL, Xperts Fantasy League: 40-man rosters including 15 keepers that can include any breathing individuals. A live auction draft at Halloween time and a snake draft at the end of spring training set up the league. A weekly transaction deadline and a once-a-month free agent period make a challenging and diverse format.
We all have our local leagues. My brother-in-law, who is not a good commissioner and almost never wins, still counts me among his league-mates. Family considerations are important and besides, I owe him. He is the one who got me into playing fantasy ball two decades ago. I check this league only about once per week to set my lineups and still usually finish in the top three or four primarily based on the strength of my draft. It was also the ideal format to work my oldest son into playing for the first time. Knowing he can now beat my brother-in-law regularly is more than enough for me.
Meaning of Gast
In terms of leagues most important, Tout Wars is on top. Winning an industry league with the visibility of Tout in 2009 was huge for me. Of course, now the goal is to repeat.
One challenge as I see it is finding the winning formula and adjusting it each year to reflect changing environments. All things equal, we return to where we have been most comfortable.
In the XFL, one could technically have as many as 17 farm players, though that is impractical. Still, when I invest in the future, about half of the time in recent years, I go where I know -- the St. Louis Cardinals. In my full-time job, that system is where I spend my time. In fact, as I am typing this, I am on an airplane returning from the organization's extended spring training camp in Florida.
Though my Mastersball cohort Don Drooker loves to jab me that he owns Shelby Miller and not me, I have contended in the XFL for years with Cardinal Adam Wainwright joining Justin Verlander at the front of my rotation. I added both players as minor leaguers.
I foolishly waited a year too long to nab Oscar Taveras coming off his Midwest League Most Valuable Player season, but did draft his then-Class-A teammate in Trevor Rosenthal.
Last year, when he was still in High-A, I added another Cardinals fireballer in Carlos Martinez, now in the majors. I am still not sure how the two will end up, but my best guess right now is that Rosenthal will eventually be in the rotation with Martinez closing. Incumbent ninth-inning man Jason Motte will be free agent-eligible following the 2014 season.
I drafted another Cardinals prospect, second baseman Kolten Wong, a year ago. With Matt Carpenter playing well for St. Louis, the urgency to get Wong to the majors is lessened. If David Freese's shaky start to the season at third continues, however, the door might still open for Wong, who is doing well in his Triple-A introduction.
There, among his teammates, is 2012 first-rounder Michael Wacha. I selected the talk of Cardinals camp this spring in the first round of our XFL spring draft. While the big right-hander has an ERA right at 2.00 in his Pacific Coast League introduction, his FIP is over 4.25. His strikeouts are low and his walks are up in comparison to his rookie 2012.
As a result, when the Cardinals needed major league bullpen help, they added Martinez (and soft-tossing control artist Seth Maness). When they needed a starter, they called up lefty John Gast. Wacha's time should come later in the season, perhaps similar to how Shelby Miller debuted last September.
In Tout, it is just the opposite. In my self-defined most important league, an NL-only format, I did not own a single Cardinal until a $1 flyer on injured Chris Carpenter taken last week.
Taveras ($6), Wong (reserve) and Wacha (reserve) were taken on draft day, but not by me. Others were content to use one of four bench spots on speculation for when these prospects would be called up. I would have drafted Rosenthal, but his value was artificially high on draft day due to the then-recent news of Motte's injury.
I had my eye on Martinez with a feeling the Cardinals would promote him from Double-A. Unfortunately, it happened before the next Sunday night Tout transaction deadline. Assuming Martinez would log good strikeout totals, but would not close or even see heavy bullpen work, led me to make a small bid, only that was trumped by another.
At the time of his call-up, I wrote on my Cardinals site about Gast, the organization's minor league Pitcher of the Month in April. His 32 consecutive-scoreless-innings streak set a Memphis Redbirds team record. Still, his fastball velocity is only average and I suspect his eventual long-term home is in the bullpen.
Yet, I overlooked the here and now. Gast's first start was to be in the most ideal of conditions -- at home against a weak offense in the New York Mets. One of my fantasy-playing compadres here at Mastersball was surprised I did not grab Gast for a buck for that start alone.
Given I am second to last in NL Tout in wins, a Gast play would have been a good idea. Yet, I let my "insider's" view of his ultimate destination affect my immediate actions this week. Not smart.
In all fairness, it was not a great win, though. Gast threw five shutout innings before he ran out of gas and his defense let him down. Four earned in six frames makes for an easy-to-calculate 6.00 ERA for the night.
Still, while Gast is unlikely to be a league-breaker, it is indicative of a broader matter that I need to address.
It is not the first time I felt that I have been guilty of "knowing too much" about these players -- strengths and weaknesses -- and perhaps make too many assumptions about playing time and future performance. Now, I need to take corrective action.
We are in an environment in which the information available to us is virtually unlimited. Sometimes, it will undoubtedly be better just to trust one's instincts and take prudent risk.