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RotoAuthority League Update: Draft Recap

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 3 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

Hello, all! My name is Andrew Gephardt, and I’m a proud participant of the RotoAuthority League. Each Monday this season I’ll be analyzing waiver wire acquisitions and trades as well as general trends and strategies from the league. For this first post, though, I’d like to review the league’s snake draft that took place this past Thursday. Full draft results can be found at the link at the bottom. Accordingly, here in order of draft slot are the 12 teams that make up this great league:

1. Team Name TBD

Previous Finishes: N/A

Strength: Pitching

Weakness: Power

Our first newcomer to the league clearly had a plan in mind when he followed up the 1st overall pick of Miguel Cabrera with three consecutive elite starting pitchers: David Price, Felix Hernandez, and Yu Darvish. In addition to those aces, this team currently without a name later grabbed quality arms in Alex Cobb, Jordan Zimmermann, and Anibal Sanchez. The bullpen is also strong with closers Fernando Rodney and J.J. Putz to go along with top setup man Kenley Jansen. In short, on paper this looks to be the top staff in the league. On the offensive side, though, this lineup may struggle to compete in HR and RBI. With the speedy Elvis Andrus and Ben Revere as well as the solid but unspectacular Marco Scutaro and Jon Jay, this roster has quite a few slots that will provide very little power. It is worth noting that this owner places great value on positional scarcity, as he had just one outfielder after 14 rounds. Overall then, the pitching staff may be so dynamic that this team could be a strong contender all season long.

2. Reedy

Previous Finishes: N/A

Strength: Speed

Weakness: Batting Average

Another newcomer to the league, Reedy clearly has an affinity for multi-category contributors (and rightfully so). In fact, one can make the case that his first six picks – Ryan Braun, Dustin Pedroia, Yoenis Cespedes, Paul Goldschmidt, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jimmy Rollins – all have the potential to go 20 / 20. The one drawback to this offense may be a low AVG with Ryan Howard, Curtis Granderson, and Tyler Flowers all likely to provide negative value in the category. It is interesting that this owner chose to wait until the very end of the draft to take his two catchers. The staff may not have a true ace, but Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke certainly possess the skills to finish the season as top-10 pitchers. With just a lone true closer on the roster, Reedy may have to speculate for saves on the waiver wire; however, Ernesto Frieri and Kyuji Fujikawa are among the best bets of any current setup men to lead their MLB clubs in saves. In summary, Reedy has put together a balanced roster that should be competitive.

3. E-Z Sliders

Previous Finishes: N /A (2012 Silver League Winner)

Strength: Batting Average

Weakness: Saves

Yet another newcomer to the league, E-Z Sliders began the draft with young studs Mike Trout and Justin Upton. Should either of those outfielders underperform this season, though, this owner skillfully balanced the risk profile of the offense with a long list of boring but undervalued veterans: Aramis Ramirez, Martin Prado, Paul Konerko, Josh Willingham, Adam LaRoche, and Jayson Werth. This isn’t the most exciting group on paper, but it’s all about production – not name value – in fantasy baseball. The pitching staff, however, does have some names with high ceilings in Alexi Ogando, Matt Harvey, and Marco Estrada. Like Reedy, E-Z Sliders have just a single closer in Huston Street, although Frank Francisco and Vinnie Pestano may very well seize the roles for their respective clubs. While the bulk of this roster is composed of steady and reliable players, E-Z Sliders swung for the fences in the endgame with Julio Teheran, Adam Eaton, and Andrew Cashner. Given that there is always significant roster turnover over the course of a season, this is the right philosophy. To recap, while this roster may lack the upside of some others, it stands as one of the most likely to not crash and burn. In a league that gives the boot to the bottom 4 owners, there is certainly something to be said for that.

4. Smell the Glove

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 1st, 2009 – 6th, 2010 – 5th, 2011 – 12th, 2012 – 11th

Strength: Saves

Weakness: Starting Pitching

Finally, a returning owner! Smell the Glove is run by Tim Dierkes, creator of MLB Trade Rumors. Who knows, maybe that site will become popular one day! After winning the league in its inaugural season, Tim finished in the middle of the pack for a couple years but then has struggled recently. (As Commissioner of the league, Tim is exempted from being kicked out of the league, and frankly that’s how it should be.) Now that I’ve drafted with Tim for 5 years, I have a good feel for his general draft approach. He values positional scarcity and multi-categorical production, and this year was no different. After Round 5 Smell the Glove already had a player at each infield position. As usual, Tim also selected several hitters who should contribute across the board in David Wright, Ian Desmond, and Alex Rios. While the bulk of his offense reflects his basic drafting principles, Tim did chase upside late to fill out the bottom half of his offense more so than in years past with talented players who have yet to put everything together like Dexter Fowler, Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter, and Domonic Brown. If there is a hole on this roster, it is the starting pitching. Jeff Samardzija, Derek Holland, and Lance Lynn all have some downside in the WHIP category with their shaky control. On the other hand, the strength of this roster lies in the fact that Tim has 4 legitimate closers. In a league in which it is a daunting task to grab a closer from the waiver wire, Smell the Glove has trading leverage. Overall then, I think Tim bounces back from his recent struggles.

5. Men With Wood

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 8th, 2009 – 4th, 2010 – 2nd, 2011 – 1st, 2012 – 5th

Strength: Pitching

Weakness: RBI

Aside from Smell the Glove, Men With Wood is in rare company as there are only 2 teams that have survived since the league’s inception in 2008. I can say with full confidence that this owner knows how to manage a fantasy squad, as he’s finished in the top 5 for 4 straight years (including a title in 2011). Men With Wood started the draft with 3 players at their peak and capable of $35 seasons in Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, and Ian Kinsler. The majority of this roster is then filled out with players who could take their fantasy games to another level. Ike Davis, Desmond Jennings, and Salvador Perez all have the potential to be top-50 picks entering 2014. Meanwhile, Josh Rutledge and Todd Frazier are popular sleepers with top-5 upside at their respective positions. The one shortcoming to this roster may be in the RBI category, as many hitters bat at the top of the order. When it comes to pitching, in the past this owner has shown an affinity for elite closers, and that trend continued this season. After grabbing the electric Aroldis Chapman in Round 5, Men With Wood wisely selected Sergio Romo and Joe Nathan in Rounds 10 and 11 before the inevitable closer run began shortly thereafter. The starting pitching lacks depth but should be strong with anchors Gio Gonzalez and Chris Sale. All in all, if I were forced to pick a favorite simply based off the draft, I’d go with this squad.

6. Forty 2 Twenty 4

Previous Finishes: N/A

Strength: Power

Weakness: Batting Average

Our final newcomer to the league, Forty 2 Twenty 4, put together an offense with some question marks to go along with a staff that has the potential to be lights out. On the offensive side this squad should be fine in HR and the counting categories. From Edwin Encarnacion and Anthony Rizzo on the high end to Josh Reddick and J.J. Hardy on the low end, this offense has no shortage of power. Despite the 1st round pick of Matt Kemp, however, this roster probably needs a pure speedster to go along with Ben Zobrist and Brett Lawrie. The BA category may also pose a problem, as Danny Espinosa and catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Russell Martin can really do some damage. Where this roster really shines is on the pitching side. First of all, the staff is led by the reliable and durable combination of Clayton Kershaw and C.C. Sabathia. Then, Forty 2 Twenty 4 also has a pair of elite closers in Jonathan Papelbon and Rafael Soriano. Ultimately, the 2 picks that could make or break this squad are Jon Lester in Round 9 and Tim Lincecum in Round 11. Should these former aces return to their previously elite levels, this team should dominate the pitching points. Accordingly, Forty 2 Twenty 4 is more likely to cash or get booted from the league than to finish in the middle of the pack.

7. Philly Cheez

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 6th, 2009 – 7th, 2010 – 3rd, 2011 – 3rd, 2012 – 7th

Strength: Batting Average

Weakness: Speed

Along with Men With Wood, Philly Cheez is the other team that has avoided finishing in the bottom 4 for 5 straight years. In today’s depressed run environment, this owner cleverly grabbed 4-category studs Joey Votto and Adrian Beltre in the first 2 rounds. Philly Cheez seemed to place greater emphasis on the BA category, later grabbing Adrian Gonzalez and Pablo Sandoval. While this offense should be among the leaders in RBI, it may struggle in R; after all, there are only a few players who hit near the top of the order. Without a pure speedster on the roster, I also have this team projected for only about 120 stolen bases. The pitching staff is interesting in that it is led by a pair of studs whom the sabermetric community loves to disparage in Matt Cain and Jered Weaver. It seems every year we read about how “lucky” this duo was the previous season, yet every year Cain and Weaver continue to outperform their ERA estimators. I’m as statistically inclined a fantasy owner as you’ll find, but I think it’s about time we realize there’s more to pitching than peripherals. OK, rant over. Another strength of this squad is the luxury of 3 true closers in Jason Grilli, Rafael Betancourt, and Chris Perez. Altogether, I like the staff more than the offense, but this is one of the top in-season managers in the league.

8. A Century of Misery

Previous Finishes: 2009 – 5th, 2010 – 4th, 2011 – 4th, 2012 – 3rd

Strength: Speed

Weakness: Pitching

I’m only making educated guesses as to the strategies of other owners in their drafts, but here’s a team for which I can tell you precisely what the owner was thinking. Why? Well, this happens to be my squad. As you can see from my previous finishes, I’ve never finished below 5th in this league; then again, I’ve only cashed once. On the one hand, I should probably embrace more risk and take a shot at winning the league. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to be booted from one of my favorite fantasy leagues. Quite the quandary. At any rate, my plan going in was to load up on offense. With daily pickups and roster changes, I’m fine playing the pitching matchups all season. I’ve actually gone heavy on offense for several years now in this league, and ironically I tend to earn more pitching points than hitting points. A key fantasy principle is to be honest with yourself, and I know I’m better at finding pitching gems on the waiver wire as opposed to breakout hitters. Long story short, I executed this plan, for better or for worse. I grabbed a hitter with every pick through Round 11. It’s a nice feeling to leave a draft not having to worry about half your squad, and I’m not worried about my offense. My offense is strong, as it should be given the investment. Wait, what’s that? There are 5 other categories? Oh yeah, that’s right. OK, so about my pitching staff. I certainly didn’t plan to take things to this extreme, but I was rather amazed at how rapidly pitchers were flying off the board. As you can see, I have just 5 healthy pitchers at the moment. 5! You might think I’d be in panic mode, but again you have to draft with your league settings in mind. This league has unlimited transactions. Rest assured, I’ll make over 100 pickups this season. Plain and simple, the success of A Century of Misery lies in how well I’m able to find pitching on the waiver wire. But enough about my squad…

9. Say It Ain’t So Cano

Previous Finishes: 2012 – 8th

Strength: Power

Weakness: Strikeouts

Say It Ain’t So Cano enters its 2nd season of this league, just barely avoiding the boot by finishing in 8th place last season. I actually really like what this owner did Thursday night. I have my team projected for the most points on offense, but I have this squad right behind mine. I mapped out a few rounds before the draft, and my targets for Rounds 1 and 2 were Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Ironically, Say It Ain’t So Cano ended up with precisely that same pair. In addition to the Rockies duo, this owner later grabbed more power sources at their peak in Jay Bruce, Ryan Zimmerman, and Carlos Santana. I’m a firm believer in loading up on power in today’s game, so I’m naturally going to like a squad that projects to be among the leaders in HR and RBI. While this staff is undoubtedly better than mine, the pitching will prove to be the difference in the fate of this roster, too. With Johnny Cueto at the top, the ratio categories may not be the problem; however, there isn’t really a strikeout artist on this staff. Then again, Say It Ain’t So Cano also has 3 true closers, so saves may not be an issue either. To recap, this roster should be among the leaders in hitting, so the key to finishing in the money will be the pitching.

10. Brewsterville Bruins

Previous Finishes: 2011 – 5th, 2012 – 2nd

Strength: Pitching

Weakness: Batting Average

After losing the title by just a point last season, the Brewsterville Bruins will certainly not lack motivation to make a title run in 2013. By starting the draft with Prince Fielder and Jose Bautista, this owner loaded up on power early. The offense may ultimately hover in the middle of the pack due to some weak options like Adam Lind and Michael Young. Here’s another staff, though, that has a sky-high ceiling. Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright are as solid as they come, but the true steal of the draft may have come in Round 7. Sure, he’s moving to the AL East, and yes it’s rather challenging to project a knuckleballer. That being said, R.A. Dickey can regress rather significantly from last season and still be a good value at this price. Round 11 selection Brandon Morrow also has the goods to be a fantasy ace this season. The Brewsterville Bruins should be solid in the SV category with 3 closers whose skills may be not the best but do have long leashes in Jim Johnson, Joel Hanrahan, and Addison Reed. Overall then, the projections place this team in the middle, but here’s another very good in-season manager.

11. Gramma Nutt Crushers

Previous Finishes: 2010 – 1st, 2011 – 8th, 2012 – 4th

Strength: Power

Weakness: Speed

As you’ll see, our last two draftees were the most audacious of the bunch. A former champion, the Gramma Nutt Crushers, clearly had their eyes on the prize on Thursday. Bryce Harper is just 20 years old and has already displayed success at the Major League level. It’s virtually a lock that he’ll be one of the best players in the game for many years to come. Whether he lives up to the hype this season or not, this is the last year he’ll be available outside the top 10 in any draft until about 2025. It’s not a matter of if he’ll be a superstar, only when. I personally think the Gramma Nutt Crushers are a year early with this pick, but I wouldn’t put anything past this once-in-a-generation talent. If that pick doesn’t get the blood flowing, this owner came back with none other than Giancarlo Stanton in Round 2. Yes, after 2 rounds the Gramma Nutt Crushers owned the most hyped players in the game outside of Mike Trout. If that wasn’t bold enough, this owner came back in Round 3 with Craig Kimbrel. I actually think that Kimbrel is worthy of a pick that early; the fact remains, however, that after 3 rounds this owner had a pair of outfielders and a closer. With those early picks, the Gramma Nutt Crushers made it clear they want to win or finish in the bottom 4. You got to love that fearlessness. After those bold early picks, this owner did settle down to an extent. Even after Harper and Stanton, there is a ton of power on this roster from Billy Butler and Jesus Montero to Chris Davis and Will Middlebrooks. The pitching may not be stellar but should be solid. The staff is led by sabermetric darling Max Scherzer and last year’s breakout Kris Medlen and then filled out by steady options like Hiroki Kuroda. In short, I either see this team winning the league or not receiving the invitation back next year.

12. UP

Previous Finishes: 2011 – 8th, 2012 – 1st

Strength: Pitching

Weakness: Speed

Last but not least comes last year’s champion, UP. Here’s another owner who seems to have no concern for finishing in 2nd place. Drafting at the turn can be a frustrating experience, as you’re forced to wait 22 picks between each pair of selections. This owner decided to take matters into his own hands by drafting arguably the top 2 pitchers on the planet in Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander. Whether this was designed to start a run on pitching or this owner truly viewed that duo as the best available remains to be seen. The run on starting pitching really didn’t come until a couple rounds later, although most true aces were gone by the time UP got to draft again. Even more interesting than starting a draft with a pair of starting pitchers, however, was what this owner did next: UP drafted an outfielder in each of the next 5 rounds! Yes, after 7 rounds were in the books, UP didn’t have a single infielder. Talk about downplaying the importance of positional scarcity! To be fair, this outfield is loaded with power and speed from Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo, and Austin Jackson. Still, I’m very interested to see how this anti-scarcity draft plan works. With Strasburg and Verlander at the top, the pitching will be fine. In fact, if Round 12 selection Roy Halladay bounces, back, UP will run away with the pitching points. Depending on when he returns from injury, Round 16 pick Jason Motte may also prove to be a steal. Overall then, this offense doesn’t look great on paper, but who am I to criticize last year’s champ?

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