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The Market Report: Bottom-Filling a Roster in a Snake Draft League

A week from today the RotoAuthority League draft will take place, so this column will come to an end as I'll begin to analyze that highly competitive league each week instead. It's a 12-team league, and I drew the... well, 12th pick. In most years I'd be upset to learn that I'll be forced to draft from the turn; however, if I can't have a top-two pick this year, I'd actually prefer a later pick because I see little difference in the cluster of players being drafted around then.

We fret so much over the first few picks of a draft and perhaps with good reason. A bust in Round One is rather challenging to overcome. Then again, we really should be mindful of which players we're likely to draft in the later rounds even before we plan for the early rounds of a draft. By planning  how we'll probably bottom-fill our roster, we can know which positions and / or categories we need to address in the first dozen or so rounds of a draft. After all, there are always a few players we value significantly more than does the fantasy community as a whole, so we can practically pencil in those commodities before the draft.

Case in point, let's see how I'm likely to fill out the later rounds of the RotoAuthority League. We draft the standard 23-man roster slots as well as four Reserve slots. It's worth noting that rosters also allow for two DL slots. I'm a firm believer that you're not fully maximizing the utility of your roster if you don't have those DL slots exhausted at any given time. Accordingly, I'm likely to leave this draft with a pair of players set to begin the season on the DL so I can make a couple of free acquisitions after the draft. Maybe that means grabbing a reliever who could inherit the closer role upon his return, such as Jesse Crain or Kyuji Fujikawa; maybe that means stashing a pitcher like Derek Holland or Dylan Bundy due back later this season.

Given that bench slots are limited, I prefer to utilize them on pitchers rather than hitters. Even so, the endgame is a time to grab high-variance commodities that could break out. As such, I like the idea of grabbing a highly talented Minor League bat who could be up sooner rather than later, such as Oscar Taveras or Javier Baez. Next, there are always a couple pitchers any fantasy owner likes more than the masses. Ian Kennedy, Ivan Nova, Rick Porcello, Tyson Ross - these are just a few arms going outside the top 250 whom I'd be content drafting to fill out my staff.

Finally, you need to know the specific tendencies of your league if you're going to plan out how to bottom-fill your roster. In the RotoAuthority league, closers go fast and furious, and they're typically gone around Round 15, if not earlier. Sometimes I get in on the closer run; sometimes I don't. Whether I do or not, though, I make an effort to grab some highly skilled setup men who are next-in-line. Accordingly, I'm likely to grab a couple of lights-out setup men like Joaquin Benoit, Mark Melancon, Cody Allen, or Sergio Santos in the end game to (hopefully) pair with a couple of closers.

By doing this exercise then, I now know that I'll fill out the back end of my roster something along the lines of the following:

Round - Potential Draft Pick

21 - Joaquin Benoit / Mark Melancon

22 - Cody Allen / Sergio Santos

23 - Ian Kennedy / Ivan Nova

24 - Rick Porcello / Tyson Ross

25 - Oscar Taveras / Javier Baez / Kris Bryant

26 - Jesse Crain / Kyuji Fujikawa

27 - Derek Holland / Dylan Bundy

This exercise can even be extended into the middle rounds based on how you feel about the player pool relative to the fantasy community. For example, I know for me personally I'm relatively bearish on the trio of elite shortstops in Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Jose Reyes. In addition, Robinson Cano is unlikely to make it to me at pick 12 while Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia are unlikely to make it back to me at picks 36 and 37. Fortunately, there are several mid-level middle infielders I find undervalued this spring, so I can tentatively pencil someone like J.J. Hardy or Alexei Ramirez in Round 12 and then Howie Kendrick or Jurickson Profar in Round 14.

Along those same lines, I think the elite catchers as a whole are falling too late in drafts. I'm confident I'll use my sixth round pick on Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, Carlos Santana, or Wilin Rosario. Lastly, there are always specific players who, for whatever reason, are going much later than we personally would draft them. For me, those players this season include a pair of aging veterans hitting in the heart of good lineups in Carlos Beltran and David Ortiz. There's a very good chance I'll take one of these players when the draft snakes back to me in Round Seven. With this in mind, I can continue to map out my expected draft picks as follows:

Round - Potential Draft Pick

6 - Joe Mauer / Brian McCann / Carlos Santana / Wilin Rosario

7 - Carlos Beltran / David Ortiz

12 - J.J. Hardy / Alexei Ramirez

14 - Howie Kendrick / Jurickson Profar

Now there are always some surprises in any draft, and maybe a few of your targets will be scooped up before you can grab them. (This may especially prove to be true if you happen to write about your plans on a blog that every other owner in your league will read before the draft.) Even so, this mental process can certainly help to plan out the construction of your roster. For example, you may have noticed I have plans in place for middle infielders, but I didn't mention corner infielders. Well, it just so happens that I much prefer to use early picks on the elite options at both first base and third base.

So whom will I be targeting at the turn for picks 12 and 13? Well, my competitors can already read about my top 12, but I'll discuss that and much more in the RotoAuthority League Draft Preview next week.

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