Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XIII

Welcome to our 29th edition of the FDH Fantasy Newsletter, as we continue to bring you weekly fantasy sports updates in addition to our usual content on FantasyDrafthelp.com. In case you missed it, here are the previous issues: Volume I, Issue I (September 4, 2008), Volume I, Issue II (September 13, 2008), Volume I, Issue III (September 19, 2008), Volume I, Issue IV (September 27, 2008), Volume I, Issue V (October 4, 2008), Volume I, Issue VI (October 11, 2008), Volume I, Issue VII (October 18, 2008), Volume I, Issue VIII (October 25, 2008), Volume I, Issue IX (November 1, 2008), Volume I, Issue X (November 8, 2008), Volume I, Issue XI (November 15, 2008), Volume I, Issue XII (November 21, 2008), Volume 1, Issue XIII (November 30, 2008), Volume 1, Issue XIV (December 7, 2008), Volume I, Issue XV (December 14, 2008), Volume I, Issue XVI (December 20, 2008), Volume I, Issue XVII (December 28, 2008), Volume II, Issue I (January 3, 2009), Volume II, Issue II (January 11, 2009), Volume II, Issue III (January 20, 2009), Volume II, Issue IV (January 24, 2009), Volume II, Issue V (January 29, 2009), Volume II, Issue VI (February 8, 2009), Volume II, Issue VII (February 17, 2009), Volume II, Issue VIII (February 23, 2009), Volume II, Issue IX (February 28, 2009), Volume II, Issue X (March 8, 2009), Volume II, Issue XI (March 15, 2009), Volume II, Issue XII (March 21, 2009)In this week's issue, we bring you a special report from FDH Managing Partner Rick Morris that was gleaned from a baseball draft and an auction he participated in over the weekend.

The Most Important Factor – Value – Can Take Very Strange Forms

By Rick Morris

Mike Aviles for $44? Outfielders being taken in the first three rounds of a draft? Readers are doubtlessly asking: where has Value Fanatic Rick Morris gone and what have you done with him?

Well, I’m still right here, ready to break it down for you after a great weekend of roto baseball franchise-building. I participated in my non-keeper, 12-team, 5X5 roto head-to-head league, a group I’ve belonged to since 1993 and I also went through a silent auction for my 20-team, 5X5 roto head-to-head long-term keeper league. I’ve been in that league since 2001 and still have a few players from that first auction, inasmuch as you can keep players for up to ten years.

Now, everybody who knows anything about FDH knows that we preach value above all else when constructing a fantasy franchise, regardless of sport. It’s absolutely fundamental to our philosophy. By the way, while I’m linking like a madman, you need to check out, if you haven’t already, the only guide you’ll need for fantasy baseball this year: FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFTOLOGY 2009.

It’s for that reason that I would argue that moves such as the ones above need to be made – if you determine that value is leading you in that direction.

Let’s examine the context of each of them, starting with the eye-popping bid on Aviles. Now, in this 20-team league, I generally enter the auction with only a handful of needs and I usually have a good amount of money to apply to each. I am fortunate that my core includes several $1 players acquired at the very outset of their pro careers, such as Justin Verlander, Grady Sizemore, B.J. Upton, James Loney and Jonathan Broxton, as well as other players similarly acquired early on for well below market value (i.e. Victor Martinez for $4 and Zack Greinke for $12).

[SIDE NOTE: Dollar values in this league are actually 50% higher than the ones listed here, but have been normalized to reflect the “$11 average” that most roto players follow. Our league values even minor-league prospects at the $11 average, leading to the fact that our dollar figures generally have to be normalized for people to understand the context of the league.]

This year, I needed to add one or two starting pitchers, a starting shortstop and backups at second base and shortstop. Overall, the crop of available players was as weak as I’ve ever seen it in my nine years in the league and there was a ton of money available for owners to spend, so we were all going to end up spending much more than we would like to fill holes.

I landed Derek Lowe for $34, giving me a pretty good “front four” in my rotation with Verlander, Grienke and Myers. Subsequently, in the $1 draft portion of the event, I also added Jose Contreras and Carl Pavano (whose selection was predicated by my declaration that "if my favorite team can dumpster-dive, so can I!").

But I still needed a shortstop, very badly in fact. Here were the only options that were at least minimally acceptable: Aviles, Miguel Tejada, Orlando Cabrera and Edgar Renteria. That was it! And my calculations, nine teams needed to fill holes at that position. I was screwed – or was I?

Nope. With the benefit of my remaining bankroll, knowing that I didn’t have any other major needs on this team and knowing also that there wasn’t anybody else worth spending money on, I put in my shocking bid of $44 for Aviles – for one year, of course! The next highest bid in our silent auction was $27 – so technically, I committed an overbid and a severe one at that. I was aware that, of the teams still needing a shortstop, I had still had more money to commit to a bid. However, what sense would there have been if I erred on the cheap side? I’d have lost the best available shortstop – and also, let us not forget, a dual-eligible player!

Now, given that there are no long-term cap ramifications to this year’s deal for Aviles, I absolutely did not abandon the concept of value to put in that ridiculous bid for him. While I don’t expect much more than league-average production from him, the combination of the black hole of talent available at the position and the big piles of caysh that other owners still had laying around dictated that I err on the high side. I entered the auction with defined needs and I used my money to fill them in ways that I am convinced left my team exceptionally well-balanced. Because of the market distortion of so many superstars in this league being owned for $1 because they can be acquired as minor-leaguers and held for up to ten years, money sometimes has to be spent in ways that looks inartful but is actually effective. I am certain that this was one such instance.

My experience in the draft league was not as wild-looking as this one, but it was unusual nonetheless. I co-own that team, the Uncanny Red Tacos, with one of my high school buddies, a gentleman named Paul Pasek. We’ve owned this team together since 1998, with a pair of titles to our credit, and have been playing since we competed against each other in high school in the late ‘80s. We think very much alike and we always try to build our teams on balance.

Last year’s team was a perfect example of that. We had few if any weaknesses, going wire-to-wire to capture the #1 seed, only to get bounced in the semifinals by having our only really putrid week of the season at the worst possible time. But breaks like that can’t be controlled, merely bemoaned after the fact. To us, a vital part of achieving balance is to try to hit our targets at each position and acquire our starters and bench players according to the mandates of our rankings. Positional scarcity has always been of paramount importance to us, so the area we’ve been willing to wait on and potentially have to make up ground has always been the outfield. In fact, while driving to the draft, we talked about this notion and how we got Jermaine Dye and our outfielders in general fairly late last year.

But what happened? We ended up with the seventh pick in this 12-team draft. We always take the highest-available player on our board in the first round and that happened to be Josh Hamilton. We generally follow suit in the second round and that led us to Matt Holliday. In the third round, we ended up looking at Carlos Beltran, the 9th overall player on our board, and we concluded that we could not pass on his value.

So did that mean that we kissed off our needs at the thinner positions? We certainly had reason to fear that our gamble would come back to bite us in that way, but past experience told us that there were enough inefficiencies in this league that we could survive – if we could thread the needle sufficiently by jumping about hither and fro, scooping up values at different positions right before they evaporated.

Our fourth and fifth picks made us very happy, as we added elite catcher Geovany Soto and mashing first baseman Prince Fielder to the mix. However, by that time, all of the ace pitchers were gone – but I believe that our top three of Chad Billingsley, Justin Verlander (there’s that name again!) and Erik Bedard stands up to most others in the league (with the obvious exception of the gentleman who took Johan Santana and Tim Lincecum with the 12th and 13th picks!). Verlander and Bedard in particular were excellent buy-low opportunities, legitimate ace candidates a year ago who have fallen further in public esteem than is warranted based on their abilities and prior track records.

Aside from not landing a true #1 pitcher, we hit EVERY other target that we had! With Steven Drew at shortstop, Aubrey Huff at third base and Joakim Soria and Chad Qualls as our closers, we did not fail in our objectives anywhere else. Plus, with Jim Thome as our DH and such young studs as Pablo Sandoval and Matt Garza added for depth, we cleaned up in the middle-to-late rounds.

Additionally, our taxi squad picks worked even better than we could have imagined. This league uses the very cool “farm system” format, with a two-round draft of MLB teams following the 22-round proceedings. When you draft one of these organizations, you get the taxi squad rights to all undrafted players from that team and also their minor league affiliates. As such, we added the reserve rights to such players as George Sherrill, Melvin Mora, Adam Jones, Luke Scott, Anibal Sanchez, Andrew Miller, Cody Ross and Cameron Maybin!

Ultimately, in addition to the obvious “nards of steel,” what it took to accomplish what was probably our greatest draft yet was to have the pragmatism to prioritize our wishes. True, we wanted balance across our positions, but we realized that balance is just a tool to help you achieve value. In our moment of truth in the third round, we realized that we could not pass on a player in Beltran who had fallen a good two rounds lower than he should have. Even if we had fallen short in balance, we would have been insulated by that just a tad by the explosiveness secured by a third-round Beltran selection. Balance is great and almost always necessary, but nothing is more important than value. By chasing value, we set ourselves up to withstand a bit of imbalance. By achieving both the value and still managing to avoid any imbalance, we set ourselves up for something potentially great. If the one-week sample size issue doesn’t kill us again in August, the sky’s the limit!


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