- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Take a Chance on Me: A Pretty Good Run of Bargains in Ottoneu

If you change your mind, I’m the first in line. Honey I’m still free; take a chance on me” –Abba

A very popular fantasy football radio show on Saturday mornings uses these lyrics — often sung by different artists or even Andy Bernard from The Office — to open up a segment on players to take a chance on for that week’s action. In fact, the headliner on the show is Paul Charchian, a fantasy football legend in Minnesota and quite frankly, probably across the United States.

When I was invited to the Fangraphs Staff League II in Ottoneu, I quite honestly had no idea what to expect. I didn’t expect an eight hour, two day draft. Neither did my wife. I didn’t really understand fantasy auctions all that well, so I just went ultra-conservative, like I do in fantasy football auctions as well.

But it worked. My team was almost entirely constructed of ‘take a chance on me’-type players, because I couldn’t convince myself to pay $30-plus for any pitcher, and offensive players’ value was still off the charts even as budgets dwindled. My biggest mistake was not making a list of players I truly coveted, with slot allotments and a backup plan in place. See, there’s one thing I like to think I do well: I know exactly what players I like and don’t like. By virtue of my intense, yet sporadic research, I get a pretty good idea of who I like and don’t like, and whom I think could blossom into a good player given a change of scenery, an expanded role, or just growing into their skillset as a player.

And to my credit, I was in first place for probably something like 75 percent of the season. I relinquished first about a week before the season ended — innings pitched limits did me in — but I managed to stay close and finished in third in a league I never felt I had even a slight chance to compete in.

With all of this in mind, here’s who I feel I did well to ‘buy low’ on (w/ rest of team separated by line):

3B Chase Headley $5
2B Jose Altuve $4
SS Andrelton Simmons $2
3B Chipper Jones $1
OF Josh Willingham $9
OF Jason Kubel $8
OF Ben Revere $3
OF Yoenis Cespedes $8
C Wilin Rosario $3
SP Shaun Marcum $8
SP A.J. Burnett $5
SP Homer Bailey $8
SP Jonathon Niese $9
SP Ivan Nova $2
SP Johan Santana $6
SP Jake Westbrook $1
SP Michael Fiers $3
SP Carlos Villanueva $1
SP Zach McAllister $1
CL Steve Cishek $1
CL Glen Perkins $3
CL Huston Street $4
CL Rafael Soriano $5
CL Craig Kimbrel $12
C Jesus Montero $17
C-1B Joe Mauer $20
1B Joey Votto $48
SS Jose Reyes $46
SS J.J. Hardy $16
OF Jay Bruce $26
OF Lorenzo Cain $3
OF Oscar Taveras $1
OF Bryce Harper $18
IF Miguel Sano $4
IF Xander Bogaerts $2
3B Lonnie Chisenhall $4
SP Jon Lester $28
SP Christian Friedrich $1
SP Anibal Sanchez $14
RP Drew Storen $4

So basically, I had 24 pickups in which I was proud of the value I received. The 16 on the bottom were either fair value or worse, I figured, and I put all my prospect pickups on the bottom because you just never know. I think Taveras at two bucks will work out, but we’ll see. Keep in mind not all of these players were acquired via the auction, but also during in-season free agency.

With Headley, I was just hoping for decent 3B value. I either hoped he’d get traded out of PetCo, or that he’d be a nice platoon partner with Chisenhall, whose season never really got going due to injuries. I waited far too long to nab a 3B — I thought — so I was a little worried about how that would work out. Needless to say, with Headley an MVP candidate, it was pretty good. I grabbed Altuve about the same time, essentially thinking/hoping he’d be a decent option at the keystone. I’d say he was at least that, with 33 stolen bags and enough extra-base pop to make him a pretty good asset at second. I was also pretty proud of a couple of Braves I picked up during the season, as Chipper had a pretty nice farewell tour, and I think Simmons could do well to replace Reyes and/or Hardy quite cheaply.

I had a good feeling about pairing a current Twin and a former Twin in the outfield. The park in Arizona is a lefty launchpad, and I’ve always liked Kubel’s swing. Similarly, Willingham was going to a park that was more accommodating than O.Co for RH power. Both worked out nicely, as Willingham single-handedly helped change the perception of Target Field — he could probably hit the ball out anywhere, based on this season — and Kubel did his share of damage despite still only being a decent player overall. Still, I couldn’t have even reasonably expected 65 homers from those guys. I also put some eggs in my basket with Cespedes, whom I figured came at a reasonable enough rate and carried a good risk/reward ratio as a result. With Revere, I figured there was a good chance he’d play quite a bit, and if he did, he’d at least carry a healthy batting average — check the contact rates — and would steal a pile of bases. I’m still waiting on him to find some gaps. He’s certainly strong enough to — he’s quite a physical specimen — but for now we’ll have to be happy that he just puts the ball in play and runs like a demon. For Rosario, I just wanted some insurance for Mauer and Montero; Jesus continued to be lousy, and Mauer stayed healthy and I found that two catchers really weren’t necessary. I’ll probably ditch Montero and keep Mauer and Rosario in that event.

On the pitching side, I figured cheap was the way to go, with guys like Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw racking in $40ish bucks, as I recall. For one of those guys, I was able to nab Sanchez, Bailey, Burnett, Niese, Nova, and Marcum, which I felt was a pretty good haul. Marcum didn’t stay healthy, and Sanchez initially struggled when he moved to the AL, but I’d certainly rather have that sextet than Cliff Lee, for instance. My waiver pickups tended to be quite successful as well, as I grabbed Westbrook to help stem the tide when I looked to be having a midseason slump, and McAllister, Fiers, and Villanueva all seemed to be projectable enough arms to hold value for the season. I toyed with the notion of also adding Scott Diamond, but thought better of it. Johan was pretty good while he was in there, but as has been the case the last couple of years, that wasn’t often enough.

On the reliever side, I was pretty sure Perkins would overtake Matt Capps for the closer’s role, and it didn’t take a whole heck of a long time for that to happen. I didn’t think Soriano would be so fortunate, but I guess that worked out for me. I sort of felt like I overpaid on Kimbrel, but now I couldn’t be happier. Cishek was a midseason pickup, so I can’t get too up or down about that, and the same thing goes for Storen, whom I’m hoping regains the closer’s role in full next season. There could be a lot of save opps in the nation’s capital next year. But Street was the pickup I was most proud of. Not only was he absolutely nasty, but I got him for a really good price. As I researched him, I figured the move from Colorado to San Diego would be excellent for his value. But honestly, his skill set is perfect for PetCo. The tons of whiffs and amazing K/BB ratio play up everywhere, but his HR rate in spacious San Diego is a good pairing. I’m very excited to keep him around.

On the flip side, there were some pretty obvious boneheaded moves on my ledger for this season. Neither of my shortstops really panned out, and as I noted, Montero regressed rather than progressed. I have no regrets about my prices on Votto, Mauer, Bruce, Taveras, Sano, Harper, Bogaerts, or Sanchez, but they just weren’t crazy deals to write home about. Right now I’m about $40 over budget before arbitration, so I may have to get somewhat creative to get under budget for next season, but I think I’m up for the challenge.

I’m up for ideas, suggestions, and critiques as well. What did I do well, or poorly? What should my strategy for next season be?