Introducing the 2011 THT Readers League

In light of the positive reception (and insanely inflated prices) for the Hardball Times Fantasy League, composed of 11 experts and one fan, I thought it might be interesting to see how a league of 14 THT readers (selected on a first-come, first-served basis) might unravel.

Perhaps the league should have mirrored the THT Fantasy League and had 12 (rather than 14) participants so that player-price comparisons would have been easier. Or, the league might have been 11 fans versus one of us THT guys, but hindsight is 20/20. I know that, with six competitive (five cash) leagues to my name this year, I am personally tapped out of leagues, and many of my fellow THT-ers expressed similar sentiments. Additionally, I felt a 14-team league would be more challenging and fun for the type of person the league was intended to attract: the competitive and adventurous type. Perhaps next year, if the year one experiment goes well, I’ll make the THT Reader League a better mirror of the THT Fantasy League.

The THT Readers League is not, or it least it was not intended as, a money league. However, an interesting idea was proposed by one participant: The winner of the league this year should get an invite into the THT Fantasy League next year. Perhaps so; in any case, fan input as to league dynamics for next year would be greatly appreciated in the comments.

Before getting into the roster details, let’s get into the league parameters. Each of the 14 teams has one each of catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, corner infielder and middle infielder, four outfielders, two utility men, three starting pitchers, two relief pitchers, four other pitchers and five bench slots, plus two disabled list spots. There is a 162 games-played limit and a 1,500 innings pitched limit.

Many of the league’s participants were auction virgins and surprised by the duration of the auction. I have previously cautioned about properly budgeting time for auction drafts (they tend to last between four and six hours, depending on how deep the rosters are, how many players are in the league, and whether you are drafting on ESPN (max bids kill the time clock and bid times can be adjusted) or Yahoo (you must wait the full draft period per nomination, irrespective of a unbeatable bid)), but have little mercy for anyone not in an Ottoneu league (it took us three different days, spending 3.5 hours per session, to complete the draft). Still, it’s humorous to receive comments from THT Reader League participants such as this one: “whoever set up our reader’s auction league is clinically insane. 14 teams, 27 roster spots. 3 hours in, we’re 50% done.” For the record, I set up the league.

Knowing the parameters, that leaves only the rosters:

Name: Jacob Rothberg (Commissioner)
Team Name: Bautista Bombs!!!
Number of years playing fantasy: 11 or 12
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 12
Amount of cash left on table: $6
Best $1 pick: I’d go with Bedard. I think a $2 Polanco might provide value.

C: Geovany Soto ($13)
1B: Ryan Howard ($35)
2B: Brian Roberts ($9)
SS: Hanley Ramírez ($46)
3B: Chase Headley ($4)
CI: Adam Dunn ($32)
MI: Plácido Polanco ($2)
OF: Ichiro Suzuki ($24)
OF: Vernon Wells ($9)
OF: Travis Snider ($5)
OF: Austin Jackson ($4)
UTIL: Scott Rolen ($1)
UTIL: Jim Thome ($1)
SP: Chad Billingsley ($13)
SP: Brett Anderson ($8)
SP: Josh Beckett ($9)
RP: Francisco Rodríguez ($11)
RP: Matt Capps ($2)
P: Phil Hughes ($4)
P: Hiroki Kuroda ($5)
P: Aroldis Chapman ( $5)
P: C.J. Wilson ($4)
BN: Logan Morrison ($2)
BN: Edinson Vólquez ($3)
BN: Edwin Jackson ($1)
BN: Erik Bedard ($1)
BN: Bud Norris ($1)

Name: Ben Greenbowe
Team Name: The Whale
Number of years playing fantasy: 10
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 5
Amount of cash left on table: $1
Best $1 pick: John Buck (only $1 pick)

C: Miguel Montero ($7)
1B: Billy Butler ($21)
2B: Chase Utley ($19)
SS: Rafael Furcal ($10)
3B: Pablo Sandoval ($15)
CI: Casey McGehee ($12)
MI: Gordon Beckham ($8)
OF: Josh Hamilton ($37)
OF: Colby Rasmus ($17)
OF: Delmon Young ($13)
OF: Ryan Raburn ($8)
UTIL: Derek Lee ($3)
UTIL: Mike Aviles ($3)
SP: Gio Gonzales ($11)
SP: Max Scherzer ($15)
SP: Ian Kennedy ($2)
RP: Brian Wilson ($14)
RP: Heath Bell ($14)
P: Carlos Zambrano ($3)
P: Tim Stauffer ($2)
P: Gavin Floyd ($2)
P: Joe Nathan ($8)
BN: Danny Espinosa ($4)
BN: Juan Rivera ($3)
BN: Alcedes Escobar ($1)
BN: John Buck ($1)
BN: Joel Hannarahan ($6)

Name: Malone1020
Team Name: The Usual Prospects
Number of years playing fantasy: 8
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 5
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: Gotta be Bedard. Rolen was a close second, but with Safeco Field armed with those outfields, Bedard has the upside to produce top-30 value. Considering they’re both huge health risks at this point, Bedard has the higher productivity ceiling.

C: Buster Posey ($22)
1B: Justin Morneau ($24)
2B: Dustin Pedroia ($29)
SS: Stephen Drew ($14)
3B: Michael Young ($16)
CI: Paul Konerko ($14)
MI: Kelly Johnson ($15)
OF: Adam Lind ($13)
OF: Adam Jones ($9)
OF: Michael Brantley ($1)
OF: Domonic Brown ($1)
UTIL: Ian Stewart ($7)
UTIL: Ryan Ludwick ($1)
SP: Cliff Lee ($38)
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez ($23)
SP: Mat Latos ($19)
RP: Brad Lidge ($3)
RP: Brian Fuentes ($1)
P: Luke Gregerson ($2)
P: Jordan Walden ($1)
P: Wilton Lopez ($1)
P: Kevin Slowey ($1)
BN: Kyle Drabek ($1)
BN: Rick Porcello ($1)
BN: Julio Borbon ($1)
BN: Mike Minor ($1)
BN: Brandon Belt ($1)

Name: Tom P
Team Name: The Clowns
Number of years playing fantasy: 6
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011:5
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: A.J. Burnett. Rebound plus Rothschild effect could be a nice boost

C: Brian McCann ($20)
1B: Mark Teixeira ($34)
2B: Ben Zobrist ($14)
SS: Alexei Ramirez ($21)
3B: David Freese ($4)
CI: Jake Fox ($1)
MI: Yunel Escobar ($10)
OF: Drew Stubbs ($23)
OF: Nick Swisher ($16)
OF: Brett Gardner ($14)
OF: Curtis Granderson ($14)
UTIL: Chris Young ($19)
UTIL: Matt Joyce ($1)
SP: Tim Lincecum ($35)
SP: Francisco Liriano ($19)
SP: Jaime Garcia ($3)
RP: Sergio Romo ($1)
RP: Bobby Jenks ($1)
P: A.J. Burnett ($1)
P: Ivan Nova ($1)
P: Edward Mujica ($1)
P: Mike Pelfrey ($1)
BN: Jose Lopez ($1)
BN: Andruw Jones ($1)
BN: Daric Barton ($1)
BN: Seth Smith ($2)
BN: John Jaso ($1)

Name: Kevin Watson
Team Name: E for Effort
Number of years playing fantasy: 11 or so (although I was in a league in 1990 when I drafted Cecil Fielder coming back from Japan. But I also drafted Jeff Ballard as my No. 1 pitcher)
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 4
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: A.J. Pierzynski, I guess. I made a point of having enough money to not make many $1 buys. Half the managers were unable to bid in the last seven or eight rounds because they didn’t have enough in reserve.

C: A.J. Pierzynski ($1)
1B: Kila Ka’aihue ($4)
2B: Howie Kendrick($7)
SS: Tsuyoshi Nishioka($5)
3B: David Wright ($41)
CI: Juan Uribe ($3)
MI: Miguel Tejada($2)
OF: Matt Holliday ($36)
OF: Jason Heyward ($24)
OF: Corey Hart ($16)
OF: Angel Pagan ($9)
UTIL: Michael Cuddyer ($5)
UTIL: Marlon Byrd ($1)
SP: Zach Greinke ($21)
SP: Clayton Kershaw ($27)
SP: Shaun Marcum ($14)
RP: Joakim Soria ($14)
RP: Huston Street ($7)
P: Jeremy Hellickson ($6)
P: Madison Bumgarner ($4)
P: Javier Vazquez ($3)
P: Jorge de la Rosa ($2)
BN: J.C. Arencibia ($2)
BN: Chris Coghlan ($1)
BN: Garrett Jones ($1)
BN: Hong-Chih Kuo ($2)
BN: Koji Uehara($2)

A comparative study on an unwritten rule of baseball.

Name: Nick Matuschak
Team Name: Cabrera Cab Service
Number of years playing fantasy: 7
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 2
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: Derek Holland, but my best value pick would be Denard Span for $2

C: Kurt Suzuki ($2)
1B: Prince Fielder ($38)
2B: Chone Figgins ($8)
SS: Troy Tulowitzki ($45)
3B: Edwin Encarnacion ($3)
CI: Aubrey Huff ($8)
MI: Reid Brignac ($1)
OF: Andrew McCutchen ($27)
OF: Andre Ethier ($25)
OF: Vladimir Guerrero ($12)
OF: Dexter Fowler ($4)
UTIL: Denard Span ($2)
UTIL: Freddie Freeman ($3)
SP: Justin Verlander ($22)
SP: Roy Oswalt ($17)
SP: Clay Buchholz ($11)
RP: Leo Nunez ($3)
RP: Brandon Lyon ($3)
P: Jhoulys Chacin ($6)
P: Matt Garza ($2)
P: John Danks ($4)
P: Kevin Gregg ($4)
BN: J.J. Hardy ($3)
BN: Wade Davis ($2)
BN: Magglio Ordonez ($2)
BN: Gaby Sanchez ($2)
BN: Derek Holland ($1)

Name: The Braves Fan
Team Name: Slamma Jamma
Number of years playing fantasy:8
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 4
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: I’ve got plenty of nice $2 picks. Best $1 pick may be Josh Willingham since he’ll bat cleanup for a revamped A’s lineup (that’s if he manages to stay healthy). Maybe Kyle Farnsworth if he keeps the closer job.

C: Carlos Ruiz ($1)
1B: Joey Votto ($41)
2B: Ian Kinsler ($26)
SS: Starlin Castro ($16)
3B: Jose Bautista ($27)
CI: Kevin Youkilis ($35)
MI: Ian Desmond ($7)
OF: Mike Stanton ($24)
OF: Coco Crisp ($7)
OF: Michael Morse ($5)
OF: Manny Ramirez ($6)
UTIL: Chipper Jones ($4)
UTIL: Josh Willingham ($1)
SP: Yovani Gallardo ($18)
SP: Jered Weaver ($21)
SP: Ervin Santana ($3)
RP: Rafael Soriano ($2)
RP: Daniel Bard ($2)
P: Brett Myers ($2)
P: Derek Lowe ($1)
P: Kyle Farnsworth ($1)
P: Ryan Madson ($2)
BN: Travis Wood ($2)
BN: Jake Peavy ($2)
BN: Carl Pavano ($2)
BN: Johan Santana ($1)
BN: Freddy Sanchez ($1)

Name: Tom
Team Name: The Second Mouse
Number of years playing fantasy: 8 (baseball: 4)
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 3
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: No one stands out but Ibanez is reliable

C: Carlos Santana ($20)
1B: Albert Pujols ($50)
2B: Neil Walker ($10)
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera ($6)
3B: Danny Valencia ($1)
CI: Kendrys Morales ($17)
MI: Jhonny Peralta ($2)
OF: Nelson Cruz ($29)
OF: Nick Markakis ($15)
OF: Torii Hunter ($7)
OF: Juan Pierre ($7)
UTIL: David Ortiz ($7)
UTIL: Will Venable ($2)
SP: Roy Halladay ($38)
SP: Dan Haren ($18)
SP: Ricky Nolasco ($7)
RP: Francisco Cordero ($5)
RP: Fernando Rodney ($3)
P: Scott Baker ($5)
P: James Shield ($4)
P: John Lackey ($1)
P: Brandon League ($2)
BN: Raul Ibanez ($1)
BN: Aaron Harang ($1)
BN: Jon Rauch ($1)
BN: Mike Adams ($1)
BN: Rafael Betancourt ($1)

Name: DK
Team Name: Ninja Assassin Cano
Number of years playing fantasy: 4
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 4
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: Nothing special but for roto purposes I like a $1 Jesus Montero. If he gets called up around August due to injury or Martin trade, he could provide decent catcher stats for half a year.

C: Ryan Doumit ($1)
1B: Carlos Lee ($8)
2B: Robinson Cano ($39)
SS: Jimmy Rollins ($18)
3B: Evan Longoria ($36)
CI: Ryan Zimmerman ($32)
MI: Derek Jeter ($17)
OF: Bobby Abreu ($8)
OF: Jose Tabata ($7)
OF: Michael Bourn ($4)
OF: Jason Bay ($6)
UTIL: Rickie Weeks ($21)
UTIL: Carlos Pena ($6)
SP: Wandy Rodriguez ($10)
SP: Anibal Sanchez ($1)
SP: Bronson Arroyo ($1)
RP: Carlos Marmol ($18)
RP: Jose Valverde ($9)
P: J.J. Putz ($9)
P: Jason Motte ($1)
P: Tyler Clippard ($1)
P: Sean Marshall ($1)
BN: Yadier Molina ($1)
BN: Grady Sizemore ($2)
BN: Mike Moustakas ($1)
BN: Jesus Montero ($1)
BN: Kyle McClellan ($1)

Name: Billy Rehren
Team Name: Scrub’s Team
Number of years playing fantasy: 11
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011 : 7
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: I’m gonna go with Loney to have a really good year and contribute in multiple categories. Possibly Beachy since the commish is predicting him to be ROY. Smoak as well since he should be traded soon.)

C: Matt Wieters ($9)
1B: Mike Napoli ($13)
2B: Martin Prado ($15)
SS: Elvis Andrus ($13)
3B: Pedro Alvarez ($13)
CI: Sean Rodriguez ($3)
MI: Erick Aybar ($1)
OF: Carl Crawford ($41)
OF: Hunter Pence ($22)
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury ($16)
OF: Carlos Quentin ($12)
UTIL: Hideki Matsui ($1)
UTIL: James Loney ($1)
SP: John Johnson ($25)
SP: David Price ($20)
SP: Matt Cain ($14)
RP: Neftali Feliz ($13)
RP: Matt Thornton ($13)
P: Jonny Venters ($4)
P: Brian Matusz ($4)
P: R.A. Dickey ($1)
P: Kenley Jansen ($1)
BN: Jair Jurrjens ($1)
BN: Clayton Richard ($1)
BN: Brandon Beachy ($1)
BN: Justin Smoak ($1)
BN: Franklin Gutierrez ($1)

Name: The Teester
Team Name: Roto Rage
Number of years playing fantasy: 11
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 2
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: Mitch Moreland/David DeJesus. Moreland sounds trendier and sleeper-ish, but I actually like DeJesus to modestly outperform his dollar value since we’re in a 14-team league.

C: Jorge Posada ($5)
1B: Adrian Gonzalez ($45)
2B: Aaron Hill ($11)
SS: Marco Scutaro ($1)
3B: Alex Rodriguez ($43)
CI: Adam LaRoche ($3)
MI: Jed Lowrie ($3)
OF: Shin-Soo Choo ($32)
OF: Shane Victorino ($17)
OF: Carlos Beltran ($5)
OF: Rajai Davis ($5)
UTIL: Mitch Moreland ($1)
UTIL: David DeJesus ($1)
SP: CC Sabathia ($29)
SP: Chris Carpenter ($13)
SP: Ricky Romero ($7)
RP: John Axford ($10)
RP: Chris Perez ($8)
P: Trevor Cahill ($4)
P: Colby Lewis ($6)
P: Jordan Zimmermann ($4)
P: Jonathon Niese ($1)
BN: David Aardsma ($2)
BN: Peter Bourjos ($1)
BN: Cliff Pennington ($1)
BN: Desmond Jennings ($1)
BN: Dan Johnson ($1)

Name: Jason
Team Name : Thunder Down Under
Number of years playing fantasy: 8
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 3
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: Chris Sale. You can choose from 16 and none are bargains…due to time zone differences, Autodraft was my guide for most of the auction, and it blew my budget in the first six picks (and $4 on McLouth??)

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($1)
1B: Lance Berkman ($1)
2B: Brandon Phillips ($23)
SS: Jason Bartlett ($1)
3B: Adrián Béltre ($23)
CI: Chris Johnson ($1)
MI: Ryan Theriot ($1)
OF: Carlos González ($42)
OF: Ryan Braun ($45)
OF: Matt Kemp ($38)
OF: Jay Bruce ($22)
UTIL: Johnny Damon ($1)
UTIL: Matt LaPorta ($1)
SP: Ryan Dempster ($8)
SP: Brandon Morrow ($11)
SP: Brett Cecil ($1)
RP: Jonathan Papelbon ($13)
RP: Mariano Rivera ($15)
P: Chris Sale ($1)
P: Clay Hensley ($1)
P: Mark Buehrle ($1)
P: Phil Coke ($1)
BN: Todd Helton ($1)
BN: Mark Trumbo ($1)
BN: Nate McLouth ($4)
BN: Kerry Wood ($1)
BN: Barry Zito ($1)

Name: Dan Smith
Team Name: Prizefighter
Number of years playing fantasy: 3
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 5
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick: James McDonald I had to leave the draft early, so i was auto-drafted after my 14th pick

C: Joe Mauer ($32)
1B: Victor Martinez ($23)
2B: Dan Uggla ($27)
SS: Jose Reyes ($29)
3B: Mark Reynolds ($19)
CI: Ike Davis ($4)
MI: Eric Young Jr. ($1)
OF: Alex Rios ($19)
OF: Jayson Werth ($25)
OF: B.J. Upton ($17)
OF: David Murphy ($1)
UTIL: Nyger Morgan ($1)
UTIL: Cameron Maybin ($1)
SP: Jonathan Sanchez ($10)
SP: Daniel Hudson ($15)
SP: Tim Hudson ($6)
RP: Jonathan Broxton ($9)
RP: Andrew Bailey ($6)
P: James McDonald ($1)
P: J.A. Happ ($1)
P: Drew Storen ($5)
P: Evan Meek ($1)
BN: Ben Francisco ($3)
BN: Johnny Cueto ($1)
BN: Lorenzo Cain ($1)
BN: Scott Downs ($1)
BN: Dustin Ackley($1)

Name : Matt W.
Team Name : New Beef Order
Number of years playing fantasy: 19
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: 3
Amount of cash left on table: $0
Best $1 pick : My best was Jose Contreras. If Lidge’s injury lingers, Contreras could be a great $1 closer. Best from all $1 picks in my opinion? I’ll go with Derek Holland or Lance Berkman.

C: Chris Iannetta ($2)
1B: Miguel Cabrera ($46)
2B: Ty Wigginton ($2)
SS: Omar Infante ($1)
3B: Aramis Ramirez ($16)
CI: Luke Scott ($6)
MI: Alex Gonzalez ($1)
OF: Andres Torres ($4)
OF: Justin Upton ($30)
OF: Jason Kubel ($2)
OF: J.D. Drew ($2)
UTIL: Alfonso Soriano ($4)
UTIL: Tyler Colvin ($2)
SP: Felix Hernandez ($35)
SP: Jon Lester ($29)
SP: Cole Hamels ($22)
RP: Ryan Franklin ($5)
RP: Craig Kimbrel ($7)
P: Joaquin Benoit ($1)
P: Jake McGee ($4)
P: Jose Contreras ($1)
P: Alexi Ogando ($1)
BN: Alex Gordon ($2)
BN: Michael Pineda ($2)
BN: Tommy Hanson ($20)
BN: Ted Lilly ($12)
BN: David Hernandez ($1)

Who do you think has the best roster and why? Who were the best/worst picks?

Some of my favorite picks and prices included:
$46 Hanley Ramirez (a pricey essential in my book, especially when Tulowitzki goes for $1 less), $4 Phil Hughes, $5 Hiroki Kuroda, $1 Bedard, $15 Sandoval (bounce back year, baby!), $3 Aviles, $2 Ian Kennedy, $4 Espinosa, $2 Gregerson, $1 Drabek, $1 Jake Fox (good cheap gamble), $6 Hellickson, $4 Bumgardner, $3 Encarnacion, $3 Leo Nunez, $5 Mike Morse, $2 Daniel Bard, $1 Mike Adams, $7 Torii Hunter, $36 Evan Longoria (usually goes for $42+), $8 Bobby Abreu (underrated 20/20 capable No. 3 hitting outfielder), $1 Mike Moustakas, $3 Sean Rodriguez, $11 Aaron Hill, $1 Phil Coke, $1 Mark Trumbo, $4 Mclouth (yes, I like him this year), $1 Omar Infante (Swiss Army Knife!), $6 Colby Lewis (a “classic THT pick”), and, the steal of the draft, $2 Michael Pineda.

Sound off in the comment section below.

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Jeffrey Gross is an attorney who periodically moonlights as a (fantasy) baseball analyst. He also responsibly enjoys tasty adult beverages. You can read about those adventures at his blog and/or follow him on Twitter @saBEERmetrics.
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harry mamis
harry mamis

Would you be willing to set up a second league?  sincerely, Harry Mamis

jeffrey gross
jeffrey gross

sorry, i’m done creating and joining leagues for the season, which has begun! Best of luck, however!

I don’t think it was mentioned above but we (the readers) decided on a 6×6 format and added OPS and K/BB as the extra categories. Some the top pitcher’s values seemed to be effected greatly by this. Jeffrey, what did you think of the prices for some of the elite players? This was my first auction and I was surprised that most of the first names off the board were not going at a premium. I was expecting Pujols to go for around 60, Hanley over 50, and Halladay over 40. Each of them have even more value than usual… Read more »
jeffrey gross
jeffrey gross

In a 14 tm league, prices tend to be a little more tempered…

Also sad face at the change from 5×5 to 6×6 🙁

Kevin Watson
Kevin Watson
I for one was not in favour of the switch to 6×6, but counted myself lucky that it came down from 9×8, so I wasn’t willing to jump up and down complaining. My feeling from the get-go was that asking managers to join a league and changing the settings after they’ve joined is just…strange. Likewise, I’ll have no interest in extending this into any sort of keeper league as has been suggested by some – that’s a decision that may or may not have affected my draft. Also, 6×6 makes things much less clear for a site like this to… Read more »
I can’t believe it was at 9×8 at some point.  Is that an April Fool’s joke?  I probably would have exited the league had I joined when those were the settings. All in all, it’s great to see baseball on tv and box scores on the web.  It also appears many pitchers, like Roy thus far, will enjoy throwing vs. the Astros most days/nights.  The Phillies might set a team K:BB record this year, eh? Mr. Gross – How often are you thinking of writing updates on this league?  Would you like any help in submitting updates/articles?  As the clear… Read more »
Jacob Rothberg
Jacob Rothberg
Yeah that 9×8 nonsense was, well, nonsense. Glad it came down. Having never really done an auction draft before, I feel ok about my roster, but I’m pretty sure i’ll do better on my next one. I just got way too conservative in the middle of the draft, and let a bunch of guys i wanted go, over a difference of a dollar or too, when i ended up with by far the most unspent money. I also got caught bidding up Soto and Howard, which really made me gun-shy after that. Even though Howard came at basically market value… Read more »
Jacob Rothberg
Jacob Rothberg

Also, I’m not sure why, but I think Hanley went way cheap. The prices paid for guys like Votto, Cabrera, and Tulo makes a $46 Hanley look pretty good.