Seven Starts – Choose Wisely

We have now played 10 weeks, and things are clear – pitching is VERY important. Not only do you need to make sure you can get seven starts out of your roster, but you need to choose the RIGHT seven starts.

Take us for instance – we acquired Colby Lewis, Mike Leake and Collin McHugh in the last couple of days and saw Anthony DeSclafani make his season debut. Add that to Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Kennedy and Michael Pineda and that is seven starters. We also have Robbie Ray and Chase Anderson as insurance.

We had to make tough decisions to choose just seven of the 13 starts our rotation had this week. Unfortunately, we picked nearly all the wrong ones.

Lewis was brutal on Monday, with a 14.5 point start, but rebounded nicely on Saturday with a 43 point day. Unfortunately, by Saturday, we had used up all of our starts.

Leake was even worse in his first start of the week, posted 7.5 solid points. But wouldn’t you know it, on Sunday he pitches a 49.5 point gem, that we could not use.

McHugh was just brutal on Thursday, failing to complete four innings and earning just 6.5 points.

DeSclafani’s debut wasn’t great, as he earned just 4.5 points.  The only run scored was on a solo HR, but he allowed 11 runners to reach base in six innings, walking three with just 2 strikeouts.

Zimmermann went negative on Wednesday night, as the Blue Jays hit two home runs off him in less than 5 innings. It was the first time Zimm went negative all year.

Kennedy was at his worst, allowing four home runs to the White Sox and posting a season low -34 fantasy points.

Pineda was our only good pitcher that counted this week, earning 72 points across two starts. However, we only saw 32 of those points from his first start.

We missed out on a 53 points gem from Anderson and a 59 point night from Ray.

Needless to say, it was a tough week.

On a more positive note, here are the top 10 pitchers through 10 weeks and the graph shows their weekly point totals.

spTop10

Jon Lester is the only pitcher in the top 10 to have had a negative week.

Clayton Kershaw has been the weeks top pitcher three times, while Jose Fernandez has done so twice.

Despite being the 2nd best pitcher in the league through 10 weeks, Johnny Cueto has two of the lowest weekly point totals among the top 10 pitchers.

TC (Cueto, Strasburg), IL4W (Syndergaard, Quintana) & TBD (Kluber, Bumgarner) each own two of the top 10 starters.

Trade: The Foundation | Capital City Ironmen

The Foundation sends: SP Brandon McCarthy ($3), RP Trevor May ($2), 2017 1st Round Pick, 2018 1st Round Pick
Capital City Ironmen sends: SP James Shields ($28), 2017 2nd Round Pick, 2018 2nd Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts: This was always kind of the point of getting James Shields back in my Johnny Cueto trade: to flip him later for a little something extra.

It’s easy to say now that the White Sox have acquired him, but I really wanted to deal Shields before he got traded in real life. The Chicago rumors made me nervous. That ballpark plus the DH does not seem like a great recipe for one of baseball’s most HR prone pitchers dating back to the start of 2015. Among qualified starters, Shields is seventh-worst in HR/9 at 1.40 over that time period and in terms of total homers allowed, he’s surrendered 42; only Max Scherzer and Hector Santiago have allowed more.

EDIT: ZiPS just got updated and Shields’ FIP went from projected 3.73 rest of season to 3.98 with the move to Chicago.

Admittedly, the return was lighter than I would have hoped. I would’ve liked to get back one more piece, preferably a cheap major leaguer, but I just couldn’t find a piece that fit and, frankly, the market for Shields’ services was not very robust.

What makes Shields valuable is that he throws a ton of innings, thus recording a lot of outs and points. He got totally blasted in his last start and was pulled after 2.2 innings, but that’s the exception. Usually even if he’s off, his manager will leave him out there for six or seven innings. In fact, he’d gone six or more innings in his first 10 starts before that last stinker. He scored 25 or more fantasy points in eight of those starts. He’s also thrown 200+ innings in nine straight seasons and is on pace to make that 10 in a row. His floor is quite high.

Brandon McCarthy is mostly just a flier, but I should note that for their careers, McCarthy and Shields have comparable FIP, xFIP, BB/9, and HR/9 rates. Over their last 30 or so starts, McCarthy’s numbers have actually been better across the board. Shields still projects better though, given how he hogs innings and McCarthy likely won’t pitch deep into games coming off injury (which is a whole separate risk component altogether). I’m just hoping McCarthy spends the rest of 2016 recovering and is in a spot to contribute in 2017 at a much cheaper salary than Shields.

With Trevor May, I’m just hoping something changes and the Twins convert him back into a starter. That seems unlikely though. He’s currently sporting a 13.67 K/9, so if not a starter, he could be a cheap RP option that strikes a ton of guys out. The price to find out what his future holds costs nothing but a RP spot, which I’d been mostly funneling guys in and out of anyway.

The main thing was getting the picks. Once my team decided to suck this year and I embarked on rebuilding, part of my strategy was to stock up on the highest picks possible. I tend to think picks are valuable but likely overrated, especially in baseball. This isn’t football where your rookie running back will start and make an impact from Week One. In baseball, prospects take time. But I’d rather have superior draft assets than not, and with my fifteen minors spots mostly accounted for, accruing picks is my only real means of adding cost controlled talent in the future.

For Jordan, the cost to add a stabilizing starting pitcher really wasn’t too much. To date, his team has lost the second-most points to HR allowed (interestingly, first place Team Canada has been stung the most), so Shields doesn’t necessarily fix that. But there’s a ton of positive regression due for the rest of his staff, so what Shields will really be doing is cutting down on having to use dice roll starts. That means not being backed into a corner where Aaron Blair, James Paxton, or Mat Latos has to be deployed.

Trade: TBD | Who’s Your Haddy?

TBD sends: SP Kyle Gibson ($7), CF Lewis Brinson (minors), SP Amir Garrett (minors), 2017 2nd Round Pick
Who’s Your Haddy? sends: SP Jacob deGrom ($64), SP Steven Wright (FA), 2017 4th Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts: Man, where to begin?

I guess it makes sense to link to the Johnny Cueto trade from over the weekend, because I think he and deGrom are close to the same guy. deGrom costs $4 more and is younger, but Cueto has the longer track record and is having the better season (by like 10 points/start) so far. For the sake of argument, I think we can just call them equals.

In that light, this trade comes up a bit short for Haddy, I think. Cueto netted a viable replacement for him in James Shields, two top-25 prospects, and a 1st round pick. deGrom brought back an okay starter in Kyle Gibson, who isn’t better than Shields but does cost $21 less, but he also tossed in Steven Wright so it kind of nullifies getting back Gibson. He also gets a top-15 or so prospect in Brinson (9th in our draft), and a top… I don’t know — 75? — prospect in Garrett (he went 83rd in our draft), plus a 2nd rounder. Compare that to the Cueto return. I guess what I’m saying is, deGrom appears to have been sold at less than market value. Anything can happen with prospects. Who knows? But that’s how I see it today.

For Haddy, I think getting back the blue chipper Brinson is a big deal. I know TBD was reluctant to deal him at all, but if you want big time pitching you simply have to be willing to part with big time pieces. TBD’s been shopping their $10 Max Kepler for pitching for a while and the writing there just appeared to be on the wall. No one’s paying $10 and a premium pitcher for Kepler, without the cost control benefit of other prospects, to sit in their minors.

Brinson is a great get though. I’m less sold on Garrett. Baseball Prospectus ranked him 77th, Baseball America has him 73rd, and MLB.com slots him in at 65th. Rankings aren’t gospel and we should all probably discredit them more than we do, but Garrett’s the second piece here, right? He just doesn’t seem like a big enough Player B in a deal to land deGrom. A lot of the scouting reports I’ve read of Garrett say he could end up in the bullpen and if that happens, that’s a big loss for Haddy. There’s certainly upside if he sticks as a starter, but it’s a risky profile.

As I mentioned, Wright and Gibson more or less cancel each other out. I’d rather have Gibson personally, but both guys are just rotational filler.

I think, just like Haddy’s other deal, I come away feeling like a piece is missing. I try to look at picks less as rounds and more as where the pick will be, and in my deal for Cueto I got what is likely the 14-16th overall pick. Team Hydra’s 2nd rounder could realistically end up being 17th-20th or so, in which case the two picks are essentially the same. Never the less, I think Haddy should’ve pried a 1st away instead of a 2nd. I think that’s a small price for TBD to pay to get deGrom on their roster and for Haddy, every extra asset helps.

TBD looks so much stronger after this deal. The benefit of trading minor leaguers is that it does nothing to weaken your team today, so essentially TBD added deGrom without giving anything up (there’s a word for that, I think it starts with an “f,” but I can’t think of it; maybe I’ll peruse our Slack chat to see if anyone’s used this word?). That’s big. Aside from Madison Bumgarner, TBD’s pitching was kind of a mess, so this really helps to stabilize that. It seems possible that we look back at this trade in September and credit it for thrusting TBD into a postseason spot.

Jordan’s thoughts: I’m actually going to disagree with Bailey here some. I think Haddy got a good price for deGrom here. I know he references his own trade with Cueto, and he’s not wrong in what he got. But, I am not sure that trade exists a second time in this market. I think Bailey got more value for Cueto than he should have, and this deal looks more in line with where I had players valued in my head.

TBD needed this piece and did pay a significant price to get it done. Brinson is a known quality prospect. Garrett less so, but I’m higher on him than Bailey was above. Garrett in 7 AA starts this year is killing it. I’d be shocked to see Garrett not climb those arbitrary lists that Bailey references.

Bailey references that there’s a piece missing. I’m not really sure. Brinson was one of the top minor league qualified prospects in our league, Garrett is a solid prospect worth paying attention to and we’ve both written about Gibson before in how he can be useful.

I actually like this trade for both teams. If you’re TBD you needed the ace capable pitcher. If you’re Haddy you need these assets. I think its a win win for both sides.

Trade: Team Canada | Capital City Ironmen

Team Canada sends: SP James Shields ($28), SS J.P. Crawford (minors), RF Aaron Judge (minors), 2017 1st Round pick
Capital City Ironmen send: SP Johnny Cueto ($60), RF Michael Reed (minors), 2017 3rd Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts: Reviewing my own trade again!

First things first: after dealing away Miguel Cabrera and Sonny Gray, I was content to sit back for a while and hold my pieces for a bit. But Team Canada and I had sent a few offers back and forth for Cueto, and then a deal very similar was proposed to me that made me change my mind.

I’ll keep this succinct because I write about my team plenty: I love Cueto. He’s a top-10 starting pitcher and at $60, he’s one of the best values n the entire league. He pitches in arguably the most favorable park in baseball and in a league where half the league is rebuilding. He’s awesome.

But I viewed this deal as essentially saying this: the difference between Cueto and Shields is $32, two top-25 prospects (Crawford was taken 6th and Judge 27th overall in our inaugural minor league draft), and a first round pick (likely late, because Team Canada is really good). To me, the gap isn’t nearly that big, so the deal just made too much sense.

In Shields, I get a pitcher that chews up innings and keeps my team competitive in the short term. Even at $30 next year, he’s worth keeping. He’s also worth something in trade, so Cueto could keep giving in that regard too.

Michael Reed is an interesting prospect for Team Canada to get back, but I had picked him up from free agency not too long ago, so it’s not as if he was highly valued within our league.

Jordan’s thoughts: This is why we’re in a dynasty style league. Given the format, which it likely to be under discussion next year, it is not hard to understand the pressure to sell here. Bailey was looking at 1 win and 5 losses before coming back and winning in week 6. Even with the week 6 win, he stood a extreme long shot to get into the top 4. When you’re left with two options, spend to attempt to give yourself some better sliver of a chance, or sell to setup for 2017, I think he makes a reasonable call.

Standing pat for Bailey, who before both of his trades stood with the “5th” best projected line up, really was not an option. It was already under performing, he lost two pitchers to injury, and its still only 5th best. Just four make the playoffs. Bailey got back four huge assets for Cueto. Judge and Crawford may or may not make an impact in 2017. The chance that either do is enticing. The first round pick here does not project terribly well, but it has some value.

I really like that Bailey got back Shields here. Shields the last two years has floundered some, but this season Shields has regained some promise as a reliable starter. This means Bailey got back someone he can keep for a reasonable price, or sell yet again. Fun stuff.

For Team Canada, they paid one hell of a price for Cueto. Canada is in the drivers seat to get into the Championship Bracket and added a big piece to that ride. Cueto will certainly be a big help, but this price that Canada paid is extremely aggressive. You have to like it for them, the prospects can be replaced.

The first big “sell”…

Yesterday, I pulled the trigger on a 14-piece trade that could succinctly be described as the first “sell” move of 2016. That is to say, the first trade aimed toward improving a team in the future more so than the present.

The deal, agreed to with the Preseason Double Stuffs, is outlined and analyzed by third parties right here.

First things first: though there are a bunch of pieces in this trade, many of them are superfluous. Some guys went to the Double Stuffs that would have been cut from my end to make room for new guys and I received one player back that they would have cut. In my mind, the deal was this:

I sent 1B Miguel Cabrera ($71), SP Sonny Gray ($49), SP Nick Tropeano ($1), C Carlos Ruiz (free agent) and a third round pick in 2017 for LF/RF Jorge Soler ($14), prospects CF Brett Phillips, CF/RF Ian Happ, 1B Cody Bellinger, and a first round pick in 2017.

Right out of the gate, my decision to sell was really pretty simple: my team is last in record, last in points, and has two major injuries (Carlos Carrasco and Tyson Ross) that make digging out of that hole extremely difficult. If those two guys are healthy, I’m not selling yet (and frankly, my team is probably significantly better to the point that selling parts hasn’t even entered my head).

Our championship bracket allows only four teams in, so I saw my team as being in a deep hole five plus weeks in and needing to jump 12 teams to get into that bracket. That’s a tall order, particularly without the pitchers I mentioned before for at least a few more weeks (I’m not sure Ross makes it back this year, but who knows?).

When I ultimately decided to sell and set out to do so, I’m pretty sure I told everyone I spoke to that I wanted multiple pieces for any of my impact players. And my preference was to check multiple boxes. By that, I mean a minor league piece, a major league piece, a draft pick piece, and/or an auction cash piece. I didn’t need all four, but I wanted a multi-faceted return.

Without divulging private conversations, I can tell you that almost every team I spoke to was balking at that. Draft picks were being viewed at a premium and most teams seemed unwilling to offer more than one prospect in return.

The obvious question is: does waiting a while longer change that? If in the next month a contending team suffers a few injuries, do negotiations change? Probably. The flip side of that is, with Gray coming off three rough starts, he could conceivably just be broken and worth nothing in a month’s time. He’s suffered some velocity decreases recently and he’s a little guy, so that’s worrying. Personally, I think he’ll be fine. He’s a top-20 pitcher two years running and $49 for that type of performer is a bargain. But still, there’s a chance that he’s broken and the risk of waiting to find out just didn’t seem worth it.

Side note with regards to approaching Gray with trepidation: I don’t trust a word Billy Beane says and if Gray does end up getting traded this season, I think most logical destinations sting his value. Going to the Dodgers isn’t so bad, but the Red Sox? I don’t like that.

It’s also possible that a month from now, two or three other teams see the walls close in on their 2016 and enter the market. I’d rather just be the first buyer.

Anyway…

I look at this deal as getting five pieces back that check three boxes: minor league piece(s), major league piece, draft pick piece.

In Phillips, Happ, and Bellinger, I see three top-100 prospects — Phillips and Happ are, at least in my mind, top-50 types — that are relatively close to the majors. In our minor league draft, these guys went 25th, 57th, and 104th overall. MLB.com ranks them 29th, 72nd, and 97th on their prospect list. Baseball America says 57th, 87th, and has Bellinger way up at 54th. Lists are what they are. Take them or leave them, whatever.

I don’t need these guys this year, so not debuting until 2017 is fine. Coupled with my recent addition of Clint Frazier, it’s conceivable that I have an entire outfield in 2017-18 that costs essentially nothing.

The low cost of prospects and the freeing up of over $100 of budget is an added bonus of this deal. In that sense, I could argue that my fourth box, auction cash, was checked as well. The Preseason Double Stuffs are now well over budget for 2017, which means there’s $100+ worth of cuts floating out there. Look at the Rocky Mountain Oysters as well. That team is also well over budget for 2017. It’s too early to put too much stock in future budgets, I think, but what I’m getting at is, next year, I could have a shot at buying Miggy back, or at least buying back a few players that add up to Miggy because other teams will be in a position where they’re forced to make drastic cuts to keep those high salaried players.

As for Soler, he’s still just 24 years old and ZiPS/Steamer project him for a .322/.319 wOBA the rest of the season. Coming into the year, ZiPS pegged him for a .333 wOBA and 17 homers. Playing time is a major concern for him, obviously, but a player with those numbers is useful. Maybe he gets sent down to AAA to get regular at-bats, maybe he gets traded, who knows? I think he’s a gamble worth taking. As Jonny pointed out in reviewing this deal, if we did our auction a year earlier, Soler likely goes for $30-$40 based on his performance the year prior, age, and upside. I mean, Byron Buxton went for $32 and his wOBA at the major league level is .066 points lower than Soler’s (small sample size, I know).

The last piece coming my way is a first round draft pick which, if the season ended today, would be fifth overall. Of course, adding Cabrera, Gray, and even Ruiz to improve the catching situation a bit likely improves the Preseason Double Stuffs enough to worsen that pick — perhaps significantly. The pick could end up anywhere. Either way, I’ve now secured myself two picks in the top-16 and four in the top-32, so when our minor leagues expand by five slots, I’m in a more favorable position. (Aside: I’ve got a 3rd rounder that I’d like to attach a useful player to in exchange for a 1st or possibly 2nd rounder, so get in touch if that’s something that might interest you.)

So where does my team go from here?

Offensively, a week from now I get Alex Rodriguez back and he slides into a UT spot, effectively replacing Cabrera in my lineup. He’s a lesser hitter, but I’m not sure the gap between them is going to be super noticeable given our head-to-head format. ZiPS says there’s a .042 difference in wOBA between them the rest of the way, which is significant but not disastrous.

My offense has a lot of similar, productive players — Nick Markakis, Corey Dickerson, Michael Saunders, Mike Napoli — that have made choosing a daily lineup difficult. I’ve had points on my bench instead of in my lineup a few times just from the coin falling on heads instead of tails, essentially. A fringe benefit now, I suppose, is having fewer choices and being able to just ride a core group of players. I’m only thinking of this now, it certainly wasn’t a driving force in doing a deal.

My pitching, which was supposed to be my strength, is probably going to suck, but it has sucked already anyway. As of today, I’ve lost more points to home runs allowed than any other team and I’m dead last in net pitching points by more than 100. Eventually Carrasco and hopefully Ross return and there’s a lot of positive regression due — the last I checked, my SPs’ HR/9 was somewhere north of 1.70 which just isn’t a thing that happens — but ouch.

Like I said, I do expect Gray to get it together, so not having him around when/if that happens will sting some. Tropeano would have been useful, but he was still likely a match-up play, as his 4.90 FIP and 1.71 HR/9 (with just a 13% HR/FB rate) alludes. And hopefully one or both of Blake Snell and Jake Thompson find their way into a major league rotation this summer anyway.

I’m also not sure at this juncture if there’s another big move in the pipeline. And by that, I mean whether or not Johnny Cueto ($60) or Joey Votto ($70) will get moved.

On Votto, I suspect he will not. He is available, but I never had it in my plans to purge both he and Miggy, so the offer would have to be compelling. He’s greed protected in 2017 by virtue of being one of the 30 highest paid players, so he’ll get his $2 raise to $72 and be perfectly keepable as an offensive anchor.

Selling Cueto, on the other hand, is a more likely option, if only because pitchers are pitchers and in the sense that they are all ticking time bombs, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for them to get closer and closer to going off on a roster that isn’t competing. But I really don’t like losing. I want to keep competing. With Cueto, who is the 7th best starting pitcher based on points per start as of this morning, my team can at least compete weekly, even if it’s futile in the grand scheme of things. Without him, my pitching floor is terrifyingly low until Carrasco comes back. And I’d absolutely love to have him back as a staff ace in 2017.

(So as I was looking up Cueto’s points, I noticed that he’s second overall in points for starting pitchers. He’s also started eight games, while most have started just seven. Anyway, Clayton Kershaw is predictably number one. He’s also started eight games. But get this: Kershaw has 128 more points than Cueto. 128! In the same number of starts! Jose Altuve is the top scoring hitter and he’s 113.4 points behind the Dodgers’ ace. My goodness, Clayton Kershaw is not of this Earth. He is so good that I am going to end this post that has absolutely nothing to do with him on a note about him.)

You Won’t Believe Who’s #6 On This Cool Spring Breeze List of Hot Sizzling Pitchers

A few days ago we focused on hitters that have been known to get off to a hot start, and today we will focus on pitchers that we have come to rely on in April, in each of the past three MLB seasons.

topAprilpitchers

Just like with the bats, there is an arm (or two) in this list that really doesn’t belong.

Let’s start with Anibal Sanchez – prior to the start of the 2013 season, the Tigers handed him $80 mil.  Looking at this list of pitchers, seems like that was a great signing.  However, the first number of his ERA has increased in each of his three full seasons with Detroit, up to 4.99 last year.

That being said, we are only worried about April here.  In 2013 he won three of his five starts and finished with an ERA of 1.34, 1.04 WHIP and a 41:9 K:BB ratio across 33.2 iP.  That accounted for 47% of his April points scored over the last three years.

Only Madison Bumgarner (48% ’13) and Johnny Cueto (48% ’14) had one year (month) be such a factor in them making this list.

The other pitcher that “doesn’t belong” on this list is Jeff Samardzija.

Bias aside, he is a good example of why counting wins in fantasy baseball doesn’t really make sense.  In April of 2014, Samardzija went 0-3 despite owning a 1.98 ERA across six starts (41 ip).  Actually, he is just 2-9 in early baseball.

Sonny GrayJustin VerlanderHyun-Jin Ryu and Aaron Harang each have two, 200 point Aprils in the last three years, but each had one year that prevented them for eclipsing 500 points.

2013
Remember when Yu Darvish was around striking out 13.7 batters per nine innings in April of 2013?

2014

Hey look, Adam Wainwright was the best pitcher in April for back to back years!

After just one pitcher reach 50 K in April of 2013, the MLB was falling in love with  Jose Fernandez, before Tommy John took him away, and saw Max Scherzer and Johnny Cueto have career years.

Stephen Strasburg also punched out 50 batters in April, but only lasted 34 innings – averaging less than six inning per start.

How did Nathan Eovaldi sneak in there?  The only other month he had an ERA below 4.00 was August, and still finished with an ERA over 5.00 after the All-Star Break.

2015

No pitchers struck out 50 batters last year in April, and only Clayton Kershaw and James Shields even struck out 40 batters – and neither made this list.  Kershaw had an ERA nearing 4.00.  Both pitchers only lasted 31 innings over five starts.

Remember that start to the season Aaron Harang had last year?  He finished April with a WHIP under 1.00, and over 3.5 K/BB.

Dallas Keuchel, Sonny Gray, Chris Archer and Gerrit Cole all gave fantasy baseball a great year and are going to have live up to HIGH expectations in 2016.

Some thoughts about my team…

A few days have passed since our auction draft and I’m still not settled on how I feel about my team overall. Some things I like, some I don’t.

So I’m going to write some words and think this thing through a little. Sometimes writing helps to clarify.

You can also read Jordan’s thoughts on my team here.

As an aside: you can probably tell by now that I don’t care too much about talking about my team publicly. Some owners are tight-lipped. Personally, I don’t think sharing my thought processes gives away any competitive advantage. If I have a thought that I think becoming public does compromise some advantage then, well, I just won’t share it publicly. Simple enough.

Thought #1: I kinda wish I hadn’t won BOTH Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera.

Coming into the auction, I hoped to get two cornerstone hitters and go from there. I did not plan for them to both play the same position.

To be clear, I love both these guys. I’m not upset that I have them. But I do wish I would’ve spent the cash — $70 went to Votto, $71 to Miggy — from one of these guys on a player from a different position. Like, say, Josh Donaldson ($68), Andrew McCutchen ($69), or Jose Bautista ($62).

In a vacuum, I’ll take Miggy or Votto over all three of those guys. But given positional need and roster flexibility, I painted myself into a corner taking two top tier first basemen.

Thought #2: Alex Rodriguez is kind of an obstacle.

I don’t think $21 for A-Rod is too much. Jordan looked at some values using the FanGraphs auction calculator suggesting A-Rod is a $1 player, meaning I overpaid by $20 and cost myself significant value. I think the calculator is wrong.

Zips has a .336 wOBA for A-Rod in 2016. Steamer is much cooler on him. According to Steamer, he’ll be only the 105th best hitter. Fantrax, whose projections aren’t worth much, has him as the 71st best hitter. He was the 31st highest scoring hitter a year ago in a renaissance season.

No matter how you slice it, this is not a $1 player. Truthfully, $21 probably is a few bucks too much, but that’s true of a bunch of players. David Ortiz, who is A-Rod’s mirror image in a lot of ways (age, risk, production, position eligibility), went for $30. At 40, anything can happen with A-Rod. But I feel like I’ll get good numbers from him.

The problem is, he’s a utility-only hitter. And one of Miggy or Votto is plugged into that other spot, which leaves my options slim. I tend to try to accumulate talent first and worry about lineup composition later, but in this case I wish I hadn’t.

Thought #3: Patrick Corbin and Nick Markakis are a couple of my favorite values.

I love Patrick Corbin. (You love him too, given all the inquiries I’ve had for him already.) In his only full season in 2013, he posted a 3.43 FIP. Last year, in 16 games coming back from Tommy John, he picked up right where he left off with a 3.35 FIP. Oh, and he improved his strikeout and walk rates. He got swinging strikes on his slider 24% of the time.

The risk with him is clear. He could get hurt again, the track record is short, and he could be on an innings cap in 2016. I guess his home park is less than ideal too. But he’s also just 26 and has posted the kind of numbers most teams will seek from their SP2 or SP3.

And for $16. Marcus Stroman, who I like a lot, went for twice as much. I’ll take my $16 Corbin over a $41 Michael Wacha or $30 Masahiro Tanaka, for example. Off-season fantasy darling Raisel Iglesias, who I also like a lot, went for $29. Corbin struck out about a batter and a half less per nine, but also walked fewer and posted better FIP, xFIP, and HR/9 despite a BABIP that was higher by .041. I’m not saying Iglesias won’t be superior (because “upside!” or whatever). But $13 better? All I’m saying is I like this particular player at his particular price.

Markakis, meanwhile, is just an old favorite of mine from his time with the Orioles. Four bucks for a career .291/.359/.429 hitter makes me happy.

Of course, the “upside” here is nil and the power numbers last year were sobering. He hit three home runs all year with a .080 ISO. But in 2013, he hit 10 homers with a slightly better .085 ISO. He had a 2.1% HR/FB rate a year ago. Of players with 500 or more plate appearances, only noodle bats Alcides Escobar, Ben Revere, and Angel Pagan got less of their fly balls into the seats. Escobar went for $3 and Revere for $6, for whatever that’s worth. I don’t think getting back to double digit bombs is unrealistic — I think it’s likely, in fact — and if he does that (and frankly, even if he doesn’t) he will be a very solid starting outfielder at practically no cost.

Thought #4: I left too much money on the table.

I came in $10 short of our $500 auction budget due to trades, then proceeded to leave $21 in my pocket at draft’s end. That was very stupid.

Here’s what happened: after starting slowly, I quickly piled up some big dollar players. My first three players cost me $70, $71, and $71. Then I added a $21 A-Rod and $60 Johnny Cueto. My next two players, Sonny Gray and Tyson Ross, were had for $96 total. That was my setup through the first 98 nominees.

From there, I hybernated. I eventually grabbed Martin Prado ($4) at the 179th nomination spot. Going 81 spots and almost two hours without adding a player is a long time. The wait was deliberate. My cash was much lower than most everyone else’s, so I decided unless a player I really coveted came up, I’d sit back and let other teams spend, hopefully opening some holes for me later.

It worked, but I failed to hit those holes.

I sometimes undervalue hitters and/or overvalue my own ability to squeeze points out of lesser hitters. That cost me. I just waited and waited, and eventually the players worth spending on ran out and I was left with $21. I feel a lot better about my offense today if I’ve got an Alex Gordon ($17) or Matt Kemp ($11) to plug in. Or I could have, you know, taken that extra $21 plus the $21 spent on A-Rod and allocated it better. That’s enough to have bought a Starling Marte, Robinson Cano, Yasiel Puig, or JD Martinez, just to rattle off a few.

Thought #5: I should’ve kept pushing for Max Scherzer.

This sort of rolls into #1 and #4.

I bid Scherzer up to $85, then he went to Ferns for $86. There’s no telling how high the bidding might have gone if I’d kept pushing, but I wish I’d found out. If I land Scherzer, I almost definitely don’t get both Miggy and Votto.

I’m also not totally comfortable with Carlos Carrasco ($71) as my SP1, though I don’t mind his price. In other words, getting Scherzer would’ve likely took me out of the market for one of the hitters, but not Carrasco. Penciling him in as my SP2 behind Mad Max would’ve been fun.

Thought #6: Speaking of Carlos Carrasco

Someone commented in the auction room after Carrasco went off the board that the winning bid was influenced by “hype.” To which I say: when a guy finishes as the 17th highest scorer on only 30 starts, the ninth best FIP, the fourth best xFIP, and the fifth best K/9 rate, the hype has some merit behind it. And he did all that with a high, unfortunate BABIP and elevated HR/FB rate.

I get the risks here. He’s gone over 100 innings in his big league career just thrice and has maxed out at 183.2. That’s on my radar. I won’t sleep easy knowing this. But he’s paid as a top 12-13 pitcher and all indicators are that, if healthy (a caveat that applies to every pitcher), he should produce right in that range.

Thought #7: I won’t have trouble rooting for my guys.

I don’t really believe in targeting players I “like” as in, hey, so and so is fun to watch on TV, so I should do something totally irrational to get him. It’s a tiebreaker for me when choosing between similar players. But I ended up coming out of this auction with a bunch of unheralded guys that I generally like beyond just fantasy stuff. Mike Napoli ($4), Nori Aoki ($1), Denard Span ($4), and Johnny Cueto ($60). The latter isn’t “unheralded” but I wanted to mention him so that I could link to that photo.

I remember a few years ago — I think 2011, but I’m not sure — I had Aoki on my MLB The Show team. Except I had no idea he was a real player. I thought he was one of the random minor leaguers or a fictitious rookie the game created. But he was awesome in the game. He was a slap hitter kind of like Ichiro, lashing line drives all over the place. He was fast, too. In video game baseball, I attempt a million steals. As soon as I realized he actually existed, I liked him even more and have been fond of him ever since.

Thought #8: Please stay healthy, Corey Dickerson.

I didn’t actually mean to win Dickerson. I was sort of half bidding him up, half interested in him at a bargain basement price. But I accidentally clicked him for the $10 winning bid which, actually, you know, might end up working out quite nicely.

This is a guy with perpetual health issues who is obviously going from a hitter’s park so favorable that calling it simply a “hitter’s park” isn’t enough. His perceived value is way down. But he’s still just 26 years old and has posted some remarkable offensive numbers. Of batters with 600+ plate appearance since the beginning of 2014, he has the 23rd best WRC+ (133). Because park factors play so vividly in how Dickerson’s viewed, I used WRC+ because it’s a park adjusted stat. wOBA (.390), which is not park adjusted, ranks him 11th in all of baseball under those same criteria.

Neither Zips or Steamer expect him to continue hitting so torridly, nor do they expect him to play a full slate of games. Maybe both are true. Maybe I’m trying to talk myself into the player. I mean, Max Kepler, who has logged a grand total of seven MLB at-bats, went for the same price. Depending on your lens, Dickerson at $10 is a bargain.

Closing thoughts…

Overall, I expect this team to compete. But the path will be tougher than it should’ve been, and that’s my own fault. I’m excited for the challenge.

Not that in anyone in Grinders should or does care, but I took the salaries players went for here and applied them to my team in the Dy-Nasty league you’ve heard us mention on a few podcasts, which uses pretty much identical scoring. My 25-man roster over there went for $792 total here. I’ve got another seven guys in my minors there that were auctioned off here and aren’t included in that total.

The roster I’m starting with is going to require a lot more effort and attention on my part. The margin for error is smaller. My offense is going to require patience and caffeine, because while there are quality players all over (I can’t wait until those of you who are new to this depth/scoring start seeing the types of players that become valuable), it’s a unit about as exciting as flossing your teeth.

But navigating that stuff is part of the fun, and I doubt anyone is looking at their team post-auction and seeing perfection. Everyone has work to do. I’m ready to get started.

2016 Auction Review – Capital City Ironmen

Capital City Ironmen

cap

Here I am to take shots at the co-commissioner. Andrew who I know to be extremely shrewd, but I cannot help but wonder if Bailey got too cute during this draft. The pitchers are sweet. The hitters look great and I had similar aspirations going after a pair of no doubt sluggers, but there is likely just a few too many holes on this roster.

Hitters – Alright

The line up is clearly stars and scrubs. Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto are going to make sure each and every week your hitters are competitive. The catcher position is already punted, which can be okay. Jhonny Peralta could be the steal of the draft, but he’s not starting until summer. You can see the framework’s existence. Knowing this team left money on the table, on top of trading cash away to buy Blake Snell, there’s just a lot of work to be done here. The world is already low on guys like Corey Dickerson, Trevor Plouffe and Denard Span for reasonable reasons. This line up is a Cabrera or Votto season ending injury from being in uh-oh territory.

Pitchers – Very Good

Carlos Carrasco, Johnny Cueto, Tyson Ross and Sonny Gray are all tier one starting pitchers. Or at the very least capable of pitching as tier ones. But the pitching staff as a whole is not great for two reasons. First the bullpen is already short a player with nothing splashy. Second, Patrick Corbin is a great fifth, but Chase Anderson, Mat Latos and Nick Tropeano all are cheap attempts at being clever. Capital City may never need any of them, and Bailey would clearly prefer it that way.

Depth – Good

While it’s not great because CCI’s pitching depth is lackluster, the guys on the bench for hitters do play multiple positions. The roster flexibility will allow CCI to fill line up slots regularly on a daily basis. Those extra plate appearances will add up and will make the difference in a weekly match-up at least once this season.

Why 2016 would be bad… 

It is hard to bet on all the pitchers taking the year off. So in this case 2016 is bad if Miggy and Votto both finish outside the top 10 for first basemen. I love Alex Rodriguez as much as the next guy, but if you took the $21 spent on him and padded it with the cash left on the table you have basically any tier 1-2 hitter available. Whoops.

Why 2016 would be good… 

The two hitters and the four pitchers carry this roster into the playoffs and just run through everyone. With any amount of luck, between the top four, he’s going to get 1 maybe 2 with 2-starts each week. That means six starts between top tier starters each week. Filling it in with Corbin or Chase Anderson is alright at that point. The hitters are good enough to hold a regular baseline.