This year Paul started a new keeper league, with 20 active MLB players, 15 minors slots, and 5 bench players. The draft format was unique to me in that teams can take major or minor leaguers at any time. You can read more about Paul’s take in his post. I’m going to discuss my personal approach, things I would do differently in hindsight, and some general comments about the draft.
My approach was very much focused in the MLB camp. Do I like guys like Buxton and Correa? Yes. But there was no way I was going to pass up on a veteran MLB producer who was under 32 to get them. Some teams, and one in particular, went prospect crazy early in the draft, grabbing many players who are likely a few years away, or not yet producing above average results in their first taste of MLB life. The earliest unproven picks were Bogaerts in round 1, Machado and Profar in round 2, and Buxton in round 3. And one team took three of the four guys I listed. It’s possible the team with this strategy will dominate the league in 4 years, but that’s a long time to wait for your plan to hatch. Elephants’ gestation is two years, so even they would be tired of waiting by that point.
And of course, the other hot commodity were MLB players who were under 28 – these players were flying off the board, sometimes earlier than their current production warrants. Anthony Rizzo and Matt Moore in the 3rd round are examples of this for me: they have some talent now, and they may become even better, but their 2013 value wouldn’t warrant a pick that high.
Though I didn’t go super-young with my early MLB picks, having some guys in the 29-31 range will still carry my team for the immediate future, say 3+ years. Andrew McCutchen is only 27 and in his prime, with an improving lineup around him. Oh yeah, and he happened to win an MVP in 2013. Edwin Encarnacion in the 2nd round has monster power with a BA better than most sluggers, and he’s only 31. Madison Bumgarner was my 3rd round pick, and at 24 he’s passed Cain as the Giants ace. Yoenis Cespedes in round 4 might also seem like a bit of a risk, but I expect an improvement on his 2013 season, and he’s still in his prime at 28. Adam Wainwright is my oldest early player at 32, but in round 5 he’s an incredible value. Even if he declines quickly after 2014 for some unforeseen reason, he’s a huge boost to my “win now” attempt in 2014.
Nick Castellanos was my earliest prospect at round 8, but he’s a guy who should have the job in 2014 because he’s (hopefully) MLB-ready. It was the same thing with Jameson Taillon in round 12. I wanted my first prospects to be near the MLB level because there’s less chance of disaster striking. For example, Carlos Correa is still very young, and he’s still only in single-A. He’s at least 2 years away from the majors, and more likely 3+, so there’s a lot of time for him to fail to improve like he’s projected to, or get hurt.
After I’d nearly filled my active roster, that’s when I targeted prospects. My first truly long-term “gotta wait a while” prospect was Aaron Sanchez in round 17, and I like him because he projects to have a pretty high floor. Compared to the top-25 prospects, my selected prospects may have a bit more risk/uncertainty to them, but any MLB-average production is a win for me given the round in which I drafted them. If they don’t show any improvement in 2014, they simply won’t make my cut of 20 keepers. Besides, prospects are often a very big crapshoot, especially when it comes to getting above-average fantasy production within the first few years. I’ll take the slightly higher risk guys and hope that 3-5 pay off to be keepers for 2015, but most of my keeper slots are going toward MLB players; I’d estimate a ratio of 14 MLB, 6 minors at this point.
Looking back, I have no major regrets, but I would probably make a tweak or two. First, I’m a SP-happy manager, and I’ll always take a solid staff compared to overreaching to ensure I get a decent CI or OF when they’re flying off the board. Normally, 3 SP in the first 10 rounds isn’t that bad a ratio for me (Bumgarner in round 3, Waino in round 5, Ryu in round 9). However, far more teams chose to wait on pitching than I’d projected. I could have waited another round on Wainwright and likely picked him up in round 6 — or skipped him altogether to better solidify my hitting. Shin-soo Choo would have been the player who went later in round 5 that I would have considered taking instead of Wainwright.
My next alteration would be Allen Craig in round 6. I do think he’ll get back to 20 HR, but not much more than that. I also think he’ll continue to be an RBI machine, though perhaps not as amazing as he was last year. However, given he’s already 29 and is injury prone, I might have been better off grabbing Pence or even Kris Bryant, who went between my round 6 pick and my round 7 pick. (Okay, Bryant would be breaking my “wait on prospects” rule, but he appears well polished, and hey, I’m a Cubs fan.) Had I skipped Wainwright in round 5 for a hitter, round 6 would have been an opportune time to pick up a still-great SP: Greinke, Zimmermann, Shields, and even Taijuan Walker went in round 7.
Another alteration I’d make isn’t tied to any specific round: I ended up waiting too long to fill my MI slot. For a while I had a list of names I liked, and they kept surviving round after round. Then suddenly on a long swing back to me, they all went. Again, had I opted for only 2 SP in the first 10 rounds instead of 3, I could have taken someone like Andrus, Gyorko, Dan Murphy, or Starlin. As my MI queue dwindled, I became set on Neil Walker in round 17, but the team right before me took him. As it is, I ended up with Alcides Escobar at MI, but with Jed Lowrie as my primary SS I’m sure I’ll need Alcides at SS from time to time, meaning that even later in the draft I had to pick up another MI option for my bench, and it was getting really thin. I grabbed LeMahieu with the hope that Rutledge struggles again and DJ gets the most AB at 2B.
Results and Final Thoughts
I didn’t go for prospects early, and I opted to take veterans in their prime. There are only so many MLB players on the “top players under 25” lists, and if they were going a bit early compared to “older” players in terms of value, I was happy to take the best “win now” team while avoiding the much older elite guys like Cliff Lee. Like I said, I feel that a core group of players in the 27-32 range will still keep me quite competitive for the next few seasons. I can take gambles on some prospects or young MLB guys while retaining my proven veterans. When others zig, it’s best to zag to get the most value. Too many teams were targeting youth only on the dreams of building a 10-year dynasty. I’ll let them have that dream and compete for the the title for 2014-16. Here’s my team, along with age and round chosen. I chose 5th overall, and it was a snake draft. My MLB roster is in the chart, and I’ll simply list prospects afterward with the round in parentheses.
Minors: Jameson Taillon (12), Aaron Sanchez (17), Joc Pederson (19), Hunter Dozier (21), DJ Peterson (25), Rosell Herrera (26), Luke Jackson (28), Matt Barnes (29), Alex Colome (31), Jorge Bonifacio (32), Luis Sardinas (33), Jose Berrios (34), Erick Jagielo (36), Anthony DeSclafani (37), Ty Hensley (40)