The format for LEEG is extremely challenging. It is a 15 team expert league that mirrors NFBC format. We start 14 hitters (including two catchers), 9 pitchers, and have 7 bench spots with no DL. Free agent acquisitions are completed by weekly FAAB bidding every Sunday night. 15 teams with 30 roster spots each is about as deep as you will see outside of AL/NL only leagues, so every final roster will have a few holes.
As the defending champ from the inaugural season, the pressure was on to prove that last season was no fluke. My success last season was built around a solid draft, but mostly due to striking gold with a few waiver adds. Josh Harrison, Steve Pearce, Carlos Carrasco, Santiago Casilla and Neftali Feliz were all key acquisitions that sparked my team to a comeback win. With the competition being so stiff, I was hoping that more of the heavy lifting would be done at the draft table this year. It is difficult to rely on landing multiple top 100 free agents in a league this deep.
Here is the field for year two of LEEG:
Pick 1: Ron Vackar of FantasyAssembly.com and @VicariousSports
Pick 2: Chris McBrien of DMFantasyBaseballPodcast.com and @cmcbrien
Pick 3: Kyle Soppe of RotoExperts.com and @unSOPable23
Pick 4: Jon Williams of AdvancedFantasyBaseball.com and @bigjonwilliams
Pick 5: Chris Garosi/Scott Barzilla of TheFantasyFix.com and @chrisgarosi/@SBarzilla
Pick 6: Kyle Braver of RotoBaller.com and @kbraver
Pick 7: Greg Jewett of TodaysKnuckleball.com and @gjewett9
Pick 8: Doug Anderson of FantasySportsNetwork.com and @rotodaddy
Pick 9: Robert Burghardt of TGFantasyBaseball.com and @RBurghardt
Pick 10: Tommy Landseadel of FantasyAssembly.com and @tlandseadel
Pick 11: Robert Langevin of Razzball.com and @Smokey_Loogy
Pick 12: Ray Kuhn of RotoProfessor.com and @Ray_Kuhn_28
Pick 13: Timothy Kolar Previously of RotoBanter.com and @Thelastpoint2
Pick 14: Tim Finnegan of FakeTeams.com and @TimFinn521
Pick 15: Devin Jordan of DavidGonos.com and @devinjjordan
The cardinal rule in any draft is to remain flexible and not get too locked in to a specific plan of attack. In a room like this one with 15 sharks, flexibility is even more vital. In this article, I will go through each of my selections pick by pick. I will share with everyone what I hoped would happen, and then tell you how it actually went down.
Phase 1 – Rounds 1-6
In this phase of the draft, I am always looking to acquire the best value on my draft board regardless of position. There is no such thing as need in the early rounds. Getting too locked in to drafting specific positions can cause you to leave value on the draft table. Remember that maximizing value with each pick is the key to a successful draft.
Round 1, Pick 10 – Anthony Rendon (2B, 3B)- I love Rendon, but I was hoping that one of the elite first basemen would fall to me. When Carlos Gomez was selected at 6, I started to get my hopes up a little. Alas, Miggy went 7th, Abreu 8th, and Encarnacion 9th. Rendon was a nice consolation prize and I love the fact that he is eligible at second and third.
Round 2, Pick 21 – Robinson Cano (2B)- This is a tough spot to pick from. After the top 15 or 16 players, there is very little value difference among the next tier. There are some high risk plays and some safer ones, but there was no obvious choice here. With Felix and Scherzer already gone and Sale dinged, SP was not a viable option with this pick. The players I considered here were Hanley, Cano and Posey, since we are starting two catchers. I opted for the safest choice in Cano.
Round 3, Pick 40 – Buster Posey (C)- Before the draft, I was hoping to land one of the top 8 pitchers or George Springer with this pick. Mad Bum was the last of the aces taken by Doug Anderson at pick 38 and Springer went to Greg Jewett at 37. I could not believe it when Posey fell all the way to pick 40, so I had a fairly easy choice here. I am not a big fan of taking catchers early, but Posey is a value at pick 40 in a 1 catcher league. In this format, where guys like Josh Phegley are every week starters, the advantage gained by landing Posey is tremendous. Please note that I did not list Posey as being 1B eligible because paying the premium to draft him and then playing him at 1B would be equivalent to amputating your own leg. Don’t make that choice.
Round 4, Pick 51 – Johnny Cueto (SP)- There were three players in my queue following my Posey selection. Nolan Arenado, Adrian Gonzalez and Cueto. When Arenado went at pick 41, I figured Gonzalez and Cueto would be soon to follow. Gonzalez lasted until pick 48, but to my surprise Cueto was still on the board for me. There is a sizeable gap between Cueto and the elite 8 SPs, but Cueto is a good bet to finish the season as a top 10 pitcher if he can stay healthy. I would have preferred a corner infielder here, but I was still happy to land Cueto.
Round 5, Pick 70 – Greg Holland (RP)- I loaded my queue with corner infielders, Dee Gordon and Jordan Zimmermann. Frazier, Pujols, Votto and Fielder all went at the beginning of the round, and Gordon was again stolen from me by Doug Anderson. Holland and Kimbrel were the best two players on my draft board and I opted to go with the closer who is supported by an elite defense and plays for a playoff contender.
Round 6, Pick 81 – Evan Gattis (C)- Hitters were flying off the draft board left and right, but for some reason, the catcher position was being completely ignored. I reached for Gattis because Lucroy is a little banged up and the Astros appear willing to play Gattis in LF. Although it is difficult to spend so much on the C position, I think the value was right on this pick. Being done with the catcher position so early will yield obvious dividends later on when everyone else is scrambling to grab catchers.
Phase 2 – Rounds 7-16
I this phase, I am still hunting for value, but I really start to consider my needs too. There is a definite balance between filling in holes and taking the best available player.
Round 7, Pick 100 – Jorge Soler (OF)- I wanted to go OF with this pick, but I am really not sure why I went with Soler. This was an impulsive move, and frankly a little out of character for me. There were a number of players available like J.D. Martinez, A.J. Pollock, Josh Harrison and Melky Cabrera who I had ranked higher. Don’t get me wrong, I like Soler’s upside, but I may live to regret this pick if he does not pan out as expected. Had I not taken Soler, Martinez would have been the choice.
Round 8, Pick 111 – Ryan Zimmerman (3B, OF)- Zimmerman is a player I am targeting in most drafts this year. He is eligible at 3B, OF and will be playing 1B this year for the Nats. Last season was derailed because of injury and I am expecting a full bounce back. There were many SPs who I liked, but none that I loved, so I never really considered anybody else with this pick.
Round 9, Pick 130 – Alex Wood (SP)- I needed to go with a pitcher here since I only had 1 starter and 1 closer. I wanted Arrieta, but he went just before my pick (Doug again). I was torn between Wood and deGrom, but I opted for the Brave in a close call.
Round 10, Pick 141 – A.J. Pollock (OF)- I was looking at pitchers and speedy OFs with this pick. I went with Pollock because my team needed more speed and I like Pollock’s ability to produce in all 5 categories. Going with offense here essentially locked me into going pitcher, pitcher with my next two picks. At this point, I had 7 hitters and 3 pitchers.
Round 11, Pick 160 – Michael Wacha (SP)- I needed pitching and Wacha was the best available. There is risk here considering he dealt with shoulder issues last season, but he was emerging as a legit fantasy ace before going down. Early reports out of camp are positive, and Wacha is every bit as good as Gerrit Cole if he is 100%. I never seriously considered anybody else in this spot. Thankfully everyone else was taking infielders and closers, or he never would have made it to me.
Round 12, Pick 171 – Andrew Cashner (SP)- My offense still lacked speed at this point and there were a number of SS options who are SB threats on the board. I was tempted to grab Alcides Escobar here, but with Jean Segura and Danny Santana also on the board, I liked my chances of one of them getting back to me. Cashner is a solid option in any format because of his ability to help in the ERA and WHIP categories, but his value is higher in weekly change leagues like this one than it is in K/9 leagues. He was an awesome value here.
Round 13, Pick 190 – Alcides Escobar (SS)- I was lucky here. Both Segura and Santana were taken and the two players before me each drafted MIs who did not fit my needs (Gyorko and Kang). I landed the speedy SS that I coveted a round later than I was prepared to take him. Score!
Round 14, Pick 201 – Jake McGee (RP)- I wanted to take a reliever here, since my only closer was Holland. I was ready to grab Hector Rondon, but he went one pick before to Robert Langevin. My choice was between McGee and Santiago Casilla, so I opted for the injured Ray. Just be sure if you do take McGee to handcuff him to Brad Boxberger. Boxberger is good enough to take the job and run away with it. (Spoiler alert, I failed to land Boxberger).
Round 15, Pick 220 – Oswaldo Arcia (OF)- At this point, I only had two OFs out of 5 and I lacked both a 1B and a CI. I wanted to go back to the offensive side, but the three players I had queued up all disappeared (Pearce, Pederson and Souza). Since I have a pretty solid batting average base, I went with the power hitting Twin.
Round 16, Pick 231 – Austin Jackson, (OF)- I could have gone with either a hitter or a pitcher. I did not feel like there was a great CI value and there were half a dozen pitchers I wanted to draft. I decided to go with a speedy OF and Jackson was near the top of my draft board. This was were I would have needed to select Boxberger to lock him up.
Phase 3 – Rounds 17-24
This phase is all about need. Here I am filling out those last few starting roster spots with guys who I expect will earn enough playing time to make an impact. While I think I did a pretty good job finding values in the first 2 phases, these next few rounds are vital for building a strong team. Landing two or three players who emerge as core starters goes a long way toward long-term success. Last season, George Springer and Todd Frazier were two cornerstone players I was able to land during phase three.
Round 17, Pick 250 – Collin McHugh (SP)- Most of the pitchers I was eying were selected earlier in the round, but amazingly McHugh made it back. Had I opted for a pitcher in round 16, my decision would have been between McHugh and Boxberger. McHugh could be a one hit wonder, but at this price it is certainly worth finding out.
Round 18, Pick 261- Ryan Howard (1B)- I really needed a 1B and Howard has an everyday lineup spot. He managed to blast 23 HRs and drive in 95 last season and has reported to camp in the “best shape of his life”. I am hoping that he can get somewhere close to last year’s numbers, and if he does I will be very happy.
Round 19, Pick 280 – Jesse Hahn (SP)- Hahn was the top ranked pitcher left on my board and I still needed a couple of arms. Hopefully he can continue to pitch well in his new digs.
Round 20, Pick 291 – Danny Duffy (SP)- I was not thrilled with this pick. I went back and forth between pitching and drafting a CI. Most of the SPs left on the board were guys I would rather avoid, so I took a chance with Duffy. His 2014 numbers were definitely flukey, but I am hoping that he improves enough that he can still post useful rate stats. Duffy is a fly ball pitcher with an elite OF defense behind him, so he has a chance to beat his ERA indicators once again.
Round 21, Pick 310 – Michael Morse (1B)- Morse projects as an everyday player in Miami and he is capable of producing top 100 value if he can stay healthy. This pick could end up being a total steal if all goes right. Thankfully, my competitors were looking at other positions and Morse fell to me.
Round 22, Pick 321 – Bobby Parnell (RP)- This could end up being a wasted pick, but many expect Parnell to regain the closer gig shortly after he returns from last season’s Tommy John. Parnell had been in my queue for a couple of rounds and this seemed like the right time to move.
Round 23, Pick 340 – Michael Saunders (OF)- I needed a 5th OF and Saunders was the best available. Considering that other OF options drafted around Saunders were part-time players like Allen Craig, Scott Van Slyke and Travis Snider, I think I got a good deal here. Saunders is out for a few weeks to start the season, but he figures to be a large part of the Jays’ offense when he makes his return.
Round 24, Pick 351 – Pat Neshek (RP)- I needed a pitcher here, and I prefer to roll with a set up guy rather than draft a mediocre starter likely to crush my ERA and WHIP. Although I do not expect Neshek to win the Astros’ closer job, he is in the mix for it, so there is always a chance that he lucks into a few saves.
Phase 4 – Rounds 25-30
In the end game, these picks are all about upside. I do not expect any of these players to make a lasting impact on my roster, but it is a nice bonus if they do. These players are all discardable assets if a better option comes along.
Round 25, Pick 370 – Jose Peraza (2B)- Peraza has been impressing in Braves’ camp and he has a shot to start the season with the big club. Even if he opens up in the minors as expected, he should be in Atlanta within a couple of months. My team needs speed and Peraza brings exactly that.
Round 26, Pick 381 – Domonic Brown (OF)- Brown is just a season removed from a top 100 breakout season and he is still an everyday player in Philly. I am not expecting too much from Brown, but I am hoping for a few solid weeks of production as my team waits for Saunders and possibly Peraza too.
Round 27, Pick 400 – Patrick Corbin (SP)- I don’t know whether or not I will have the patience to stash Corbin until his July return, but if my team can stay relatively healthy I would like to try. Pick 400 seems like a good value for a pitcher who could post top 50 SP numbers in the second half.
Round 28, Pick 411 – Joe Smith (RP)- Smith is another solid RP who could net a few saves if (or when) Huston Street goes down. Smith is in my opening day lineup for now because I do not fully trust Duffy, and Smith won’t hurt me.
Round 29, Pick 430 – Jon Singleton (1B)- I am not a big Singleton fan, but the price was right here. Singleton slides into my UTIL spot for now, but he will not have a very long leash if he continues to hit on the wrong side of the Mendoza line.
Round 30, Pick 441 – Jesse Chavez (SP, RP)- Chavez is unlikely to be on my opening day roster, but I do think he has decent upside if he is able to break camp with a rotation spot. At this point, I was all out of ideas so I went with Chavez.
Update: I dropped Chavez for Daniel Norris on the first FAAB bid. I will hold Norris for awhile. Corbin or one of the relievers would be my next drop.
Here is my final roster:
C- Buster Posey
C- Evan Gattis
1B- Ryan Howard
2B- Anthony Rendon
SS- Alcides Escobar
3B- Ryan Zimmerman
MI- Robinson Cano
CI- Michael Morse
OF- Jorge Soler
OF- A.J. Pollock
OF- Oswaldo Arcia
OF- Austin Jackson
OF- Domonic Brown
UTIL- Jon Singleton
B- Michael Saunders
B- Jose Peraza
P- Johnny Cueto
P- Greg Holland
P- Alex Wood
P- Michael Wacha
P- Andrew Cashner
P- Colin McHugh
P- Jesse Hahn
P- Pat Neshek
P- Joe Smith
B- Jake McGee
B- Danny Duffy
B- Patrick Corbin
B- Bobby Parnell
B- Jesse Chavez
All in all, I really like my team. Every squad in this league has its fair share of holes, but I think mine won’t be too hard to fill. My team is as strong as any leaving the draft table, but I do have a couple challenges that will determine whether or not I can contend.
1) Can I find enough steals?
Although I lack one true elite power bat, I think my team will do quite well in the power categories. I am a little nervous about the SB category, but between Rendon, Escobar, Jackson, Pollock and Peraza, I hope I have enough to finish middle of the pack. In the other hitting categories, I think my team has a chance to be above average to very good.
2) Can I find enough saves?
My goal is to get over the century mark in the saves category. In a 15 team league, 100+ saves would put me in the upper middle of the pack. Holland should be able to get 40+ saves if he can stay healthy. After that, however, I have a lot of question marks. McGee and Parnell could each contribute 25-30, but they could also fail to overtake the early season incumbents if Boxberger and Mejia start off hot. Smith could get me 10 saves and I am hoping Neshek chips in a few also.
I could be in good shape here, or I could be in full scramble mode come June. Either way, I will be aggressively chasing saves with my FAAB bids.
3) Can my starters stay healthy?
I have a strong SP core, but none come without some health risks. If I am able to get 180+ innings from my top five starters, I expect to do very well in the pitching categories. If I am looking for free agents to replace injured aces, then my ERA and WHIP numbers could go from strong to mediocre in a hurry.
Although the draft did not go as planned early on, I think I was able to get good value with most of my picks. If I am able to address these three questions and my team can stay relatively healthy, then I like my chances to contend. Either way, I am looking forward to seeing how things play out!