As much as I enjoy points leagues, I still have to have a few 5×5 staples, and one of them is a 15 team, 4 keeper roto league. I found myself drifting toward waiting on pitching yet again, even when considering I had 4 hitter keepers. Here’s a breakdown of my team and how my draft went.
Roster Setup and Keepers
It’s 15 teams, 22 player rosters, 19 active slots. We have one catcher, no CI/MI, but 4 OF and 2 DH. For pitching it’s simply 8 P slots. The lack of bench means it’s both easier and harder to stream SP. On one hand the lack of bench means you do get some turnover in the FA pool for lower end SP, and you may be able to find an opportune match-up for a 2-start guy. On the other hand, with 15 teams, 8 P, and 3 bench, most teams will carry 2-3 SP for their bench and have only 2-3 RP in active slots. Most of the quality arms get eaten up in the draft. But as most fantasy managers know, some good SP options always develop during the season, either through promotion or breakouts. As such, for the second league this year, I was prepared to wait a bit on pitching in the draft.
I had Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, and Adam Jones locked in as keepers for sure. Then I had a few decent options for my fourth keeper: Braun and Samardzija. However, I was able to trade Braun and a SP I didn’t plan to keep (Rick Porcello) for Ian Desmond. Braun has obvious risks though a still high ceiling. Desmond has some risk as well, but as a SS he’s a safer and more valuable play than Braun for me going forward.
Rounds 1-3: Solidify That Offense
I finished third last year, so I picked #13 in the snake draft. The best options were Carlos Santana (who could play catcher), Nelson Cruz, Gerrit Cole, Alex Cobb, or Carlos Gonzalez. I already traded away Braun because I don’t like injury risks as keepers, so I wasn’t going to take CarGo early in the draft for the same reason. Pitching is usually something I stock up on, but last year my staff was elite and I hurt for offense, so I opted to wait. That left Cruz in a bigger stadium, or Santana as a C who can maybe hit 30 HR and get his BA back up to .250. The fact that he could back up 1B and 3B for me if needed meant I went for Santana.
For my second pick, the SP were still on the board, but Cruz and CarGo went. I opted for Kole Calhoun because I can’t help but see big things for him moving forward. He doesn’t have a ton of speed, but 5 SB is attainable, and any more is gravy. Barring bad luck his BA should hold in the .270-.280 range because his contact rate held and he hits quite a few line drives. He maintained his HR/FB from 2013 (14% to 13%), though he hit fewer fly balls in 2014. If his FB% jumps up a bit again, he’s a lock for 20-25 HR. And he hits in a potent lineup even without Hamilton, so R and RBI will be solid.
A lot of players in my queue went on the long swing, and by the time my third pick rolled around, I wanted to jump on a high BA guy. The best option was Ben Revere, who isn’t great in OBP leagues but puts up a solid BA every year. As a bonus, he’s also one of the best base stealers in the game, with the potential for 40-50 SB. Some would argue he’s only a two-category guy, but his R totals are at least average, and again, it’s hard to pass on a guy who can create a third of your team’s SB and produce a BA 50 points better than the MLB average. I almost took Josh Harrison instead, because he could slot in as my 2B. You can usually find some source of speed later in the draft, with part-time guys like Rajai Davis and Jarrod Dyson, but I want full-time players, and the BA bonus from Revere was important to me.
Rounds 4-8: Pitching Time
In the next five rounds here, I only picked one hitter, Matt Adams in round 6, to back up the often hurt Encarnacion and to fill a DH slot with potentially 25 HR. Rounds 4 and 5 saw me pick my first two SP, Tyson Ross and Zack Wheeler. At the time I thought I was getting two underrated nearly #1 SP types. Now of course Wheeler is out for the year, but you can’t see TJS coming. With my round 8 pick I took Jake Odorizzi. My plan with SP was to get high-upside guys who may be able to find a new level in 2015. They were all pretty good in 2014, and I expected that they could at least maintain that level, but if I could get a bit of growth out of one or two of them, my staff would be in very good standing considering I didn’t keep any SP.
In round 7 I took Cody Allen, my first closer. He’s a solid investment as far as closers go, and given that 8 other RP had already been taken in the draft, he was a nice value. I happily took him after Rosenthal (risky ERA and WHIP) and Betances (no guarantee to close — or repeat 2014’s greatness) had already gone.
Rounds 9-12: Add Some More Upside
At this point in the draft I was looking to add guys who have the potential to outperform their ADP. I felt that I had a solid core of keepers and early picks (curse you, Wheeler!), with stable projections for them. Now it was time to expand my risk factor. The players I added here were Steven Souza, Drew Smyly, Brett Lawrie, and Addison Reed. Lawrie is my 2B in this league, and though I don’t think he’ll return to the level of greatness we projected when he first came up, he’s still very solid as a round 11 pick. Health is an issue, but it’s possible to see .265 and 20 HR, and I’ll take that over guys like Prado, Utley, and Brandon Phillips, the next three 2B taken in the draft. Souza is the biggest gamble here, but he’s one of the hot, hyped players this preseason, and if he can go 15/15 with an average BA, I’ll be happy. Smyly was shut down last year to save on his IP load, and I don’t love him as much as some, but there’s no denying the talent he has, and in round 10 it was a nice value. Reed didn’t look great last year, but there are signs for optimism, notably his improved K/9 and BB/9. He had a touch of gopheritis and slightly unlucky BABIP, but if those normalize he could be a 40 SV guy with an ERA under 3.50.
Rounds 13+: End Gamers – Rocks, Risks and Speculators
I had the core of my team in place, and now it was time to add a bit of everything. I found Porcello still out there, and though his strikeouts are lacking, he’s proven he’s a solid and reliable arm. I took him without hesitation in round 13. Next was Carl Crawford, who showed signs of being half healthy and flashing fantasy relevance late in 2014. He’s another potentially high BA guy to pair with Adam Jones and Revere, which will hopefully offset the BA risk I have in Carlos Santana, and Desmond if he can’t turn it around. Next up was a likely closer for April, Brad Boxberger. With McGee out for a bit and Balfour having lost the job last season plus fighting an injury this spring, Boxberger seems the most likely option. I’ll grab a few saves early, and maybe he’ll hold the job all year. If not, I can simply drop him for another SP or the next closer in waiting. Chris Owings was a high risk but high reward pick for me, with his potential for decent power and good speed. He has to be healthy, but he could go 15/15, and he’s a backup for Lawrie at 2B. I figure between the two of them I can cobble together respectable stats for my weakest position. The last two picks on my team were Wade Davis and Jorge de la Rosa. Davis came much, much cheaper than Betances (who went in round 3) simply because he isn’t in line to close, but he had a better 2014 than Betances, and I see less regression for him anyway, though there will likely be some. Jorge was simply another arm with a decent ceiling that I could stash on my bench.
The Final Roster: Here’s my team in total.
C: C. Santana
1B: E. Encarnacion
2B: B. Lawrie
3B: J. Donaldson
SS: I. Desmond
OF: A. Jones
OF: K. Calhoun
OF: B. Revere
OF: S. Souza
DH: M. Adams
DH: C. Crawford
BN: C. Owings
P: T. Ross
P: D. Smyly
P: J. Odorizzi
P: R. Porcello
P: C. Allen
P: A. Reed
P: B. Boxberger
P: W. Davis
BN: J. de la Rosa
BN: R. Elias (replacing Z. Wheeler)
I really feel I drafted one of the most solid teams. My projected power and run production is greatly improved from last season’s team. I always find a way to get solid pitching stats in 5×5, so the focus on offense was key for me. My second DH spot and 2B may be weak if my guys can’t stay healthy (Crawford, Lawrie, Owings).
I won’t deny there are some pitching staffs that can beat me, but one team went so pitching heavy that there’s less talent to go around to the rest of us, and I think I’ll be in the top third in every category.
How do you think I did with my team?