Enormous Opportunities in the Ottoneu Grinding Machine

If you’ve for some reason been following my path as a fantasy baseball player closely, first thank you and secondly you might know I’m in the Fangraphs Ottoneu Staff League II. The league features some of your favorite writers from the Fangraphs family, including Scott Spratt, Brad Johnson, Jeff Zimmerman and more. David Wiers is in the league too.

For point of reference, here’s the league homepage.

As I’ve mentioned every now and then here and on Twitter, my fantasy baseball strategy is kind of bizarre. I guess I just get really weird about players I do and do not want, and don’t get into the politics in an auction of bidding a player up that I do not want just to price enforce. For me, with a finite number of roster spots and the odds you could wind up with a player you don’t want with just one false move, the risk just isn’t worth it.

For instance, if I’m totally out on Sonny Gray — basically just a name, so don’t read too much into it here — and he’s about to go for $15, I won’t bid $16 just to get him to $20, which I think is a more fair price. Instead, I think the strategy I employ is quite a bit less risky. Maybe it’s dumb, but I just throw guys out for the first number of rounds that I have no interest in, but I’m certain they’ll go for more than a buck. If I can get my league mates involved in spending dollars and using roster spots on guys I have no interest in, I might get a deal later. But even if I don’t get a deal, I at least get a bit more clarity as I clean up the draft board.

Someone way smarter than me will come around the comments and tell me it isn’t a viable strategy, and I’m OK with that. For me, fantasy sports are a gut-feel, my-own-research-based game that I don’t play in a way where I’m using super high level math or that sort of thing. For one I think there’s a point of diminished return and it’s not terribly far down the road, and two….I’m just not that smart and far too busy doing other crap.

Anyway, I’ve employed some form of that strategy in this league since it started. As I recall, I finished third in year one of the league — ran out of pitching innings with a decent chunk of September left and withered from first place — but have been relegated to also-ran status in the years since. In the 12-team league, I’ve finished third, sixth, 10th and fourth….but I feel like I’m primed to make a move this year.

Why? Well when we drafted this league from scratch — which takes eight hours, but is a lot of fun — I employed my initial strategy and also fell into a trap where I loaded up on youth. And in the years after my respectable No. 3 finish in the inaugural season, I’ve gravitated more towards youth than I have proven big league talent. League mates predicted it would be to my peril, and they weren’t exactly wrong. You don’t really want to “rebuild” after a solid year like I had, but like I said I’m not terribly bright and quite frankly just took too many minor leaguers that first year in the auction. In fact, last year I took a lot of flak because I came out of the draft with like $75 in auction bucks.

So it goes.

It has resulted in a pretty good roster moving into 2016, however. I’ve completely buried the lede here, but it’s a linear weights league. The one thing I really needed going into 2016 was closers, and I readily admit I paid an inflated amount of cash to grab a couple elite ones.

Anyhow, here’s the roster. Asterisks below denote players I grabbed in this year’s draft; everyone else was kept from last year:

C – Yasmani Grandal – $12
C – Devin Mesoraco – $11
1B – Joe Mauer – $3
2B – Brian Dozier – $9
2B/SS – Starlin Castro – $8
SS – Xander Bogaerts – $18
SS – Carlos Correa – $12
3B – Manny Machado – $23
3B – Miguel Sano – $11
2B/3B/SS/OF – Eduardo Escobar – $1*
3B/OF – Yasmany Tomas – $1*
OF – Bryce Harper – $51
OF – Gregory Polanco – $14
OF – A.J. Pollock – $12
OF – Byron Buxton – $12
OF – Desmond Jennings – $3*
OF – Aaron Hicks – $3
OF – Eddie Rosario – $1*
UTIL – Alex Rodriguez – $3*
UTIL – Jurickson Profar – $7*
UTIL – Byung Ho Park – $8*

Breakdown: Ideally I’d use some of my shortstop depth to go get a solid first baseman or another outfielder, but quite frankly I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I’ve rebuffed many offers — ask Brad — of guys trying to pluck one of them from me. But I just couldn’t help myself; hell yeah I’ll buy into a chance Profar is still going to be a beast at under 10 bucks. And who knows? Maybe Park gets into enough games at first base to be my guy over there? There are enough moving pieces here to have a good offense, I think. Especially when Sano gets outfield eligibility, because then I may be able to move Park to 1B and A-Rod to the utility slot. Or maybe Mauer bounces back? I don’t think it’s likely, but for three bucks I’ll try one more time. I’ll need a little post-hype magic in the outfield to really have a juggernaut here, but I think the team will hold its own. Having two good catchers is a luxury — and an unnecessary one at that — but I don’t trust either one’s health enough to move the other. In a league where Russell Martin is $21, Nick Hundley is $10 and Buster Posey a staggering $48, I’ll just go with it. I’d say this is a B+, maybe an A- offense.

SP – Gerrit Cole – $22
SP – Danny Salazar – $13
SP – Zack Wheeler – $12
SP – Andrew Heaney – $8
SP – Lucas Giolito – $8
SP – Garrett Richards – $7
SP – Shelby Miller – $6
SP – Kyle Gibson – $4*
SP – Julio Urias – $4
SP – Alex Wood – $3
SP – Phil Hughes – $3*
SP – Tyler Duffey – $3*
SP – Jose Berrios – $3
SP – Hunter Harvey – $3
RP – Aroldis Chapman – $27*
RP – Craig Kimbrel – $27*
RP – Glen Perkins – $11
RP – Huston Street – $8*
RP – Trevor May – $3

Breakdown: There isn’t a ton of substance here, but as the year progresses I can make some moves if need be, and that’s what I’m banking on. I like the top, and think Wheeler will still be nasty once he’s fully healthy. If he starts the season on the 60-day DL, that’s a roster spot for me as well. The muck in the middle is where I have a real chance to make hay; I’m a big believer in Gibson this year, and I think someone else will break through. Failing that, I have some youth to fall back on in Giolito, Urias and Berrios — three of the best pitching prospects in the game. I had to spend a huge chunk to grab the two elite closers I did — that’s a lot for Chapman even before figuring time lost, and I don’t know/doubt if I’ll get a roster exemption for him in the meantime — but that was really my biggest hole. In retrospect, I would have kept one or the other of the cheap Keone Kela/Liam Hendriks shares I had. Oh well. I’m torn — no pun intended — on what to do with Harvey. I don’t want to buy too much into the “Orioles pitching prospect” hype, but this isn’t just a few years we’re talking about here. Anyway, I’d say this is a solid B, with potential to move up quickly if someone like Miller, Wood or Heaney pops. I _LOVE_ Richards at that price.

Now in the interest of if you think I should drop anyone — Duffey comes to mind — these are the best hitters and pitchers available based on points earned last season:

Hitters:

Yunel Escobar
Melky Cabrera
Billy Butler
Chase Headley
Marlon Byrd
Cameron Maybin
Luis Valbuena

Starting Pitchers:

Edinson Volquez
R.A. Dickey
Mike Leake
Colby Lewis
Bartolo Colon
Ubaldo Jimenez
Yovani Gallardo

Relief Pitchers:

Travis Wood
Chris Young
Alex Colome
Brad Brach
Andrew Chafin
Ryan Vogelsong
Will Harris

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Do you think I have a shot to contend this year?

We hoped you liked reading Enormous Opportunities in the Ottoneu Grinding Machine by Brandon Warne!

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In addition to Rotographs, Warne writes about the Minnesota Twins for The Athletic and is a sportswriter for Sportradar U.S. in downtown Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com

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Matt Maison
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“Asterisks below denote players I grabbed in this year’s draft; everyone else was kept from last year”

Are you sure you don’t mean the other way around?