Last season, I was a part of the FanGraphs Experts Ottoneu League. As there wasn’t a prize and I was in three other leagues, my team fell into disarray pretty quickly and I missed a bunch of opportunities to add good players in the midseason. I finished in 10th place with a team largely deserving of said finish. Therefore, when I heard there would be payouts of $600/$300/$100 for the top three places this year, I had mixed emotions. Payouts for a league I don’t have to pay into? Awesome. But my team sucked, meaning I had a lot of work to do in the auction.
The reason my team didn’t do well is, naturally, because I drafted a lot of bad players. Ottoneu gives players ample chances to make sweeping changes midseason — trading or picking up prospects, acquiring chips to trade in the offseason. But instead I just let it sit, and as such I only had 14 players worth keeping, one of whom was a $63 Albert Pujols. I threw him back knowing I needed a big budget to work with in the auction. As such, I kept the following list:
$26 David Price
$24 Chris Carpenter
$18 Heath Bell
$15 Craig Kimbrel
$12 Danny Espinosa
$9 Alex Gordon
$8 Yunel Escobar
$7 Chris Sale
$4 J.J. Hardy
$3 Nyjer Morgan
$3 Jason Kipnis
$3 Seth Smith
$2 Miguel Sano
$2 Kyle Gibson
Not much there. A couple of solid starters, a cheaply effective middle infield, a locked-in if slightly pricy bullpen, and some platoon outfielders. The only real gem in this list is the cheap Alex Gordon, who I was somewhat ribbed for when I drafted him at $7 last season. So I headed into the draft lacking real stars and needing to add a lot of talent at a lot of positions. Luckily, I had an ample $266 (as well as the arbitration coupon on Jacoby Ellsbury) to work with.
I usually like to get one of clear top-10 or top-5 players (i.e. Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols or Ryan Braun), but they each priced themselves out of my range quickly, going for $65, $66 and $62 respectively. So I hung back, picking off second-tier stars to build up some backbone for my lineup. First it was a $32 Ryan Zimmerman, who gave me a fairly priced but actually good option — something that’s key for building this team back into relevance — at third base. As the bigger stars flew off the board — Justin Upton for $58, Jose Bautista for $60 and Matt Kemp for $62 as well as the aforementioned trio — my bankroll just grew in proportion to the rest of the field, even with my early purchase of Zimmerman.
My $266 to start with was already among the top three in the league at the auction. By the middle stages, I was one of two clear hammers. This let me fire a few big bullets in the middle of the draft. Those bullets: $29 Stephen Strasburg, $28 Matt Moore (future value and present value) $42 Jacoby Ellsbury (thanks to the coupon), $40 Andrew McCutchen (the last $40 player of the draft, second-to-last $30 player), $15 Drew Stubbs and $29 Brian McCann.
This, along with Price, Gordon and Zimmerman will form the core of my new team. Will it be enough? As good as Ellsbury is, there might not be a guy that would typically go in the first round of a mixed-league draft. It could easily struggle with batting average and power, but it’s big on steals and should be big on runs as well.
That salvo (as well as a $6 John Mayberry popped in between) left me with just $43 to fill out the rest of my roster, which had a couple of big holes: a starting first basemen (barring Mayberry) and back-end pitching, of both the relief and starting variety. It quickly became apparent closers were out of the question. Few were even available, and those that were went for a huge premium. Brian Wilson went for $23. Sean Marshall and Joe Nathan went for $16. Kyle Farnsworth went for $17. Matt Thornton and Greg Holland went for $10. Even Matt Capps went for $12. With 19 roster spots to go and Kimbrel and Bell already on my roster, I had to let them go.
I would find my first baseman with my last double-digit purchase, and he is by far my biggest risk: $10 Adam Dunn. There just wasn’t any value remaining at first base, and so I had to take the chance. With John Mayberry as my only backup at the position, it will be tough going if Dunn doesn’t pan out. If he does, however, it will go very far in solving my power problems.
The starting pitching search went a bit better. I picked up Chad Billingsley for $4 (how the mighty have fallen), Jair Jurrjens and Roy Oswalt for $3, and Edinson Volquez, Chris Capuano and Paul Maholm for $1. Nothing too special, but Volquez is intriguing given how well Aaron Harang fared after a move from Cincinnati to San Diego, and Oswalt could be hugely valuable if he comes to a contender at midseason and felt like a cheap chance I needed to take. This group should provide some solid innings behind my top four of Strasburg, Moore, Price and Sale if used smartly.
I also grabbed one more reliever — Mike Adams, who I presume will be the second-in-command behind Joe Nathan in Texas. Marlon Byrd and Wilson Betemit became my last $1 position players — under the radar players who serve purposes in extremely deep league. Betemit in particular could be very valuable with the third-base qualification if he plays — he hit .285/.343/.452 last season playing in two pitcher-friendly parks.
A whopping 480 players come off the board in an Ottoneu draft, making the player pool at the end typically bereft of useful major leaguers. With the help of Chris St. John’s excellent list of the 185 consensus top prospects, I grabbed three top-40 guys with my last $1 picks: Archie Bradley (29), Matt Harvey (31) and Gary Brown (34). I’m not sure if they’ll be worth keeping — Bradley in particular is probably too far away from the majors — but I hate leaving roster spots empty.
Is this a first place team? Honestly, I don’t really think there’s enough elite talent. But the team appears to be in much, much better shape than it was at this point last year and certainly than it was going into the draft. I know a few other drafters were unhappy with how their auctions went. Hopefully I made enough of a dent with my big stack of cash to make a push into the top three this year. If I can get some batting average, I feel I’ll be strong enough in the other categories for that push to become a reality.
Agree? Quibbles? Where did I miss? Where did I hit? Let me know. I’m itching for some feedback.