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Rankings-Based Planning: Preparing for Year 2+ in ottoneu

Last week, I talked about the “no-plan plan”, the approach I use for new ottoneu leagues. But that plan isn’t nearly as effective for most players moving into year two or beyond. Some teams are rebuilding, starting almost from scratch, entering the auction with 30 open roster spots and $350 to spend, and for them, last week’s plan is a-ok.

But what about the majority who have 10-15 spots to fill and specific needs? I try to use my rankings to establish the holes in my team, assign dollars to fill those holes, and pick targets who I think can be nabbed for those dollars.

I’ll use the FanGraphs Experts League as an example. You can see my roster for that league here.

Now, it is one thing to say I have three MI and seven outfielders and so those spots are filled. But you don’t REALLY have five equivalent OF slots – you have an OF1, OF2, OF3, OF4, and OF5. And so using my updated rankings (which have not been published yet – I am working on it, I promise), let’s line up these players by their real position: the spots where I am actually comfortable using them.

Position Player
C1 Wilin Rosario
C2  
1B  
2B  
SS  
MI Howie Kendrick
3B Mike Moustakas
OF1  
OF2  
OF3 Allen Craig
OF4 Starling Marte
OF5 Nick Markakis
Util Ike Davis
Bench (2B) Dustin Ackley
Bench (SS)  
Bench (OF) Carlos Gomez
Bench (OF) Nick Swisher
Bench Dee Gordon
Bench Brandon Moss
Bench Matt Joyce
SP1 Jered Weaver
SP2 Mat Latos
SP3 Jordan Zimmermann
SP4 Shaun Marcum
SP5 Edwin Jackson
SP6 Corey Luebke
SP7 Chris Tillman
SP8 Julio Teheran
CL Joe Nathan
CL Ryan Madson
CL Casey Janssen
RP/CL Sergio Santos
RP  

First off, this list assumes that my prospects are not going to provide much value. I’m assuming that I won’t get much value from Jurickson Profar or Jedd Gyorko at MI, for example. Obviously there is a chance that I will, but I don’t want to count on that.

Next, you will notice that I have seven OF, but as far as I am concerned, I need an OF1 and an OF2. I actually think I have four starting OF (the three I have in the 3-5 slots and at least one of the other 4), because I think Swish and Gomez are above average #5 OF, but I don’t feel great about counting on any of those guys as a number two, let alone a number one.

Similarly, I have only one MI player in my lineup, with two others on the bench (plus my prospects). Again, I think I am a bit better off than the rankings state (I expect a bounce back from Kendrick and I think Ackley can be a solid MI option this year), but based on my rankings, I don’t have a top 12 2B.

Luckily, I am quite happy with my rotation. I think Zimmermann could be a number two in fantasy, and I think Marcum and Jackson are more 3/4 than 4/5. And I am very high on Luebke – I think he becomes a #3 quality pitcher when he returns. And while I need another RP, I am not too concerned about my pen right now.

With this roster, I have $116 to spend and nine spots to fill. The problem is, the guys I need are in short supply. If I want a true OF1, Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun are my only options. Next in line would be Justin Upyon, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and then guys who have question marks or concerns and are clearly not sure-fire top dogs – Nelson Cruz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andre Ethier, Hunter Pence, Dexter Fowler.

At MI, Hanley Ramirez is an option, but the next best SS are Alexei Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, and Danny Espinosa. Brandon Phillips and Neil Walker are the best 2B options.

At 1B, Pujols is out there, but then you are looking at the previously mentioned Gonzo, and Paul Konerko, Mark Teixeira and Eric Hosmer.

So what is a fella to do? Well, first, I think I basically have to get one of Pujols, Braun, Kemp, or Hanley. And I think I’ll likely focus on the OF. I think Davis could potentially play his way into a legit 1B option, and Profar or Gyorko could still help my MI situation. But let’s assume I set aside the $55-$60 (or more) it will take to get Braun or Kemp. What’s next?

I could drop $10-$15 or so on a non-Hanley SS and hope that free agent can join Kendrick and Ackley in a sustainable MI. I could use $20-$25 on one of those 1B options (not named Albert) to fill my 1B/Util slots with Davis. I’d still have $10 or so to grab a 5th RP (hopefully another closer), and then be left with $6-$21 to fill my final five roster slots, which would likely have to include a C, another SS, a backup 3B, maybe another bat, and a prospect or two.

The biggest risk is that with such a limited set of targets, I may have to be overly aggressive early to make sure I get one of those targets. My best case scenario is probably something like this:

$65 for Braun, $25 for Teixeira, $10 for Espinosa, and a handful of $1 flyers. Or perhaps it’s a $50 Pujols, $40 Upton, and a $10 MI.

The point of all of this, is that you need to know not only who you have, but what roles they fill. I “need” only one OF, but the OF I need is my top OF, not just any OF. And what I really need are three bats – an elite bat, a near or potentially elite bat, and a decent bat. And I need them to fit OF, Util, and SS.

The lessons here, I’d say, are as follows:

1) Take some time before your auctions to look at your roster this way and figure out who your targets should be.
2) Realize that an OF is not an OF and a 2B is not a 2B – you have to think about which position you feel your players can comfortably fill.
3) Don’t get too focused on position, but on talent. Yes, I need an OF and 1B, but if I get a premier 1B and a solid OF, that isn’t all that different from a premier OF and a solid 1B.
4) Pay close attention to who is available and where there is depth. I am torn between the second-tier OF and second-tier 1B, but deciding which set I like more will go a long way towards deciding how willing I am to open the wallet for Braun or Pujols or Kemp.