Learning from the Players I Rostered Most

Prior to the season, I wrote up the 12 players (and more importantly, the six types of players) who appeared most often on my fantasy rosters. Those twelve guys, plus a few others I tossed out as “other names” in each category, were a mixed bag this year, and it is worth going back to see if there is anything we can learn from my successes and failures.

The Low Cost, High Upside Starting Pitchers
The guys I rostered here were Framber Valdez, Domingo Germán, and Yusei Kikuchi. I also suggested Jordan Montgomery, Elieser Hernandez, and Logan Webb as guys who fit the bill here. Mixed bag for sure – one legit ace emerged, a couple more solid SP, and some straight-up busts. Going forward, I still love Valdez and Webb, I will still roster Montgomery and Hernandez.

But the major point here was to focus on pitchers who don’t cost a lot but could become rotation staples for you. From that perspective, if you paid $30 total for those six SP, you did pretty well, especially if you churned Germán and Kikuchi. This has always been a staple of my roster building and it won’t change in 2022. The key is figuring out who those guys might be for next year.

I recently participated in an early mock draft at Pitcher List, and while that isn’t as deep as Ottoneu (12 teams, 23 rounds, 9 pitcher slots) and isn’t points scoring (5×5), there are some names that went late (James Kaprielian, Jameson Taillon, Daniel Lynch) or went undrafted (Alex Cobb, Garrett Crochet pending his role, Brady Singer) who I’ll be looking into ahead of the 2022 draft season, as they may fit the bill.

The Low Cost, High Floor Starting Pitcher
Getting a sense for how I build a rotation, eh? Mike Minor the guy I had on five rosters, and my other mentions were JT Brubaker and Sean Manaea. And again, quite a mix. Brubaker was bad. Manaea ended the year at 4.42 P/IP, which is more than just a high-floor, back-of-the-rotation arm. Minor finished at 3.84, which seems low, but really does represent an acceptable matchup guy. I was hoping for a floor closer to 4.00, given where Minor had been in previous years, but 3.84 was 78th among SP with 100+ IP and 44th among those with 150+ IP. Given he did get hurt and throw just 158.2 innings, he wasn’t the volume+floor play I hoped, but he didn’t kill me and he was useful when healthy.

That said, I think I am going to move off this category in the future. This year I was very concerned about finding enough innings, but I found it easier and more productive to stream guys rather than sit on volume guys who I never really wanted to use. At different times this year, I was able to use Kyle Gibson, Nick Pivetta, Chris Flexen 플렉센, Rich Hill, Steven Matz, Carlos Hernandez, and all were easily added and provided better per-inning numbers.

Basically, I don’t think I need to buy low-cost floor – it is too risky and comes with too little upside. I would rather buy low-cost upside (like the list above) and churn through pitching to find the innings I need.

The Low Cost Closers
This was less an Ottoneu group than a 5×5 or other-leagues-where-saves-matter group, but I had plenty of Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto on my teams. I also noted that Tanner Scott, Yimi García/Anthony Bass, and Nick Wittgren/Emmanuel Clase could be good adds for a low cost. And I think this panned out pretty well. Soto wasn’t bad, but because he never really held the job, you could ditch him to stream closers until you found someone who stuck. Kimbrel was a star until he lost his job. Garcia gave some solid innings and Clase emerged as a stud closer.

The key with closers is to always be ready to jump on whoever is next, and if you started off with Kimbrel, Soto, and Garcia or Clase, and then churned Soto until you landed on someone useful, this was a great spot to be in. I hate paying for saves (especially in Ottoneu outside 5×5, but really in any format) and I’ll be back at this again in 2022. I have no idea who those names will be, but I’ll be looking for guys who have the job and don’t cost much.

Based on that Pitcher List mock draft, I could see looking at Joe Barlow if he keeps the Texas job. I might gamble early in the off-season on Blake Treinen taking over in LA (his price will skyrocket if and when he actually takes over). And I like David Bednar if he holds onto the job in Pittsburgh.

The Ottoneu Relievers
In most Ottoneu leagues (all but 5×5), saves only matter a little, so finding low-cost relievers who can put up good numbers regardless of role can be a nice way to get cheap production. So when we hit Opening Day, I had Tanner Rainey, Victor Gonzalez, and Mike Mayers on four rosters each. I also called out Scott Barlow, Hansel Robles, A.J. Minter, and Tyler Matzek as guys who fit this category. This did not go as well for me.

Chad’s Most Rostered RP PPI
Player 2021 PPI
Mike Mayers 5.41
Tanner Rainey 4.43
Victor Gonzalez 5.95
Tyler Matzek 7.27
Scott Barlow 7.67
AJ Minter 7.48
Hansel Robles 6.17

If you took my advice and targeted those seven guys, there is a good chance you did fine, as three were very good and one was acceptable. But if you happened to focus on the three I focused on, you got the three who stunk. It happens.

The big lesson here is more reminder than learning – don’t pay for relievers in Ottoneu. Rainey, Mayers and Gonzalez were the three I wanted. And in many cases, I bid them up (maybe to $3-$5, not a ton, but more than $1-$2) to win them. In every case where I bid $3+ on those guys, I could have given up at $2, turned my attention to one of the other four, and done better. Plus, paying $4 or $5 often made me reluctant to move on quickly – paying that much turned them into a guy I believed in and bet on, rather than a random dude at the end of my roster. I know there is no reason for that and I should be even more willing to move on when there is money I can recoup, but I am not always as logical as I would like. I’ll be much, much pickier this year about RP I pay for vs. those I target for $1 at the end of auctions.

Some players currently under 50% rostered who might be on my RP list for 2022: Casey Sadler, Anthony Gose, Aaron Loup, Luis Garcia, and Luke Jackson.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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Sad to say, but despite how things ended up I don’t think one of my teams would have placed as well if it weren’t for the majority of the season efforts by Kikuchi and Manaea. I was starting to believe too heavily in them and was a bit dismayed when Kikuchi couldn’t hold it together. Sometimes one thinks those diamonds in the rough will make it a la Carlos Rodon and Anthony DeSclafani.

I’m with you on the low cost, high floor guys. Having too many of them don’t end up helping out some of the important numbers, and there’s no next gear to wait for. The draft results won’t look too pretty months into the season when some of those higher upside picks are complete disasters, but no one ever says “He won the league because he held onto Dallas Keuchel all year”.