My Most Rostered: The 12 Players Most Likely to be on My Teams

After a couple of years cutting back, I have a total of 13 teams this year – seven Ottoneu, one other keeper, one dynasty, and four redraft. I am running 10 of those on my own and three I am working with a co-manager. Across those teams, I have 471 players rostered, including 257 unique players. Of those 257 unique players, there are 12 who appear on at least five of the 13 rosters or at least four of my seven Ottoneu rosters.

These 12 players can be divided into six types and they are types I am looking for every season, which is why I end up with so many of them.

The Low Cost, High Upside Starting Pitchers
Framber Valdez – Five Ottoneu rosters, six total rosters
Domingo Germ├ín – Four Ottoneu rosters, seven total rosters
Yusei Kikuchi – Two Ottoneu rosters, six total rosters
Building a pitching staff is hard. It has been even harder the last few years, when there are so few arms you can rely on. As a result, I spend a good chunk of my off-season looking for guys who I think can provide me top-of-the-rotation results for back-of-the-rotation prices. Last year, one of those guys was Framber Valdez and, as a result, I found myself keeping him in almost all of my Ottoneu leagues. The one non-Ottoneu league where I roster him is a dynasty league that had its initial draft early this off-season, before he was hurt. At this point, his value for 2021 is hard to determine, but he was a guy I targeted as an upside play, hoping he could help solidify some weak rotations. I went on a Framber shopping spree in late July/early August of 2020, adding him to four rosters on July 23, 24, 25, and August 4. I traded for him in another league in December 2020. The key for me was that if he was no good, I had spent almost no capital on him; but there was the possibility that he would anchor a pitching staff.

This year, Domingo German was that guy for me. 13 innings, 17 K, and just one walk in Spring played a role, but so did the fact that he had shown flashes of talent in the past. He had some good minor league seasons and some good stretches in MLB. Previous flashes coupled with some recent signs of breaking out is one profile I am looking at for this type. The other is a change I can buy into.

Kikuchi fits that second mold. His velocity exploded last year and so I was in on Kikuchi during the off-season, cautiously optimistic that his velocity gains would hold and his results would follow. In league one, for example, I acquired a $5 Kikuchi in a January trade, along with $5 Eric Hosmer and $3 Trevor Larnach, for $15 Charlie Morton and $5 Willi Castro. Kikuchi’s peripherals (3.30 FIP) hinted that there was more there than he had shown. His high spring velocities sealed the deal for him and he became a primary target for me in redraft leagues.

Grabbing low-cost SP with upside allows me to be a little risky with my rotation. I feel more confident spending on bats, and so many of my rotations look like what I have in Ottoneu league one: Framber Valdez, Pablo Lopez, Yusei Kikuchi, Mike Minor, German Marquez, Kevin Gausman, Aaron Civale, JT Brubaker, Michael Wacha, and none cost more than $8. Is that rotation a league-winner? I doubt it. But I built an excellent offense, can churn through some of those guys to find breakout SP, and then can make a trade for an ace when the time is right and I think that rotation might be a league-winner.

Others who could be in this space: Jordan Montgomery, Elieser Hernandez, Logan Webb.

The Low Cost, High Floor Starting Pitcher
Mike Minor – Three Ottoneu rosters, five total rosters
If you are going to gamble on the upside SP, you need some floor as well – guys you can count on for solid innings, even if you don’t expect them to turn into an ace you might keep on your roster for years. Mike Minor is that guy for me this year. After a great year in the Kansas City bullpen in 2017, Minor has posted 4.43, 4.25 and 4.64 FIPs as a SP, missing only a handful of starts total over those three seasons. In a year six-man rotations and innings limits are going to be the norm, Minor is a guy who might actually eat some innings and shouldn’t kill your stats in the process. Add in a bounceback to velocity of 92+ after sitting closer to 90 last year, and he’s a low-cost safe piece for a rotation.

Others who could be in this space: JT Brubaker, Sean Manaea

The Low Cost Closers
Craig Kimbrel – One Ottoneu roster, five total rosters
Gregory Soto – Two Ottoneu rosters, five total rosters
These guys have something in common besides being listed here – they are both far more likely to be on my non-Ottoneu teams. That’s because I bought them in my 5×5 leagues or other leagues where save are a category. While saves matter in Ottoneu points leagues, they don’t matter at all in 4×4 (two of my seven Ottoneu teams are 4×4) and they are only moderately more valuable than holds in Ottoneu points leagues. As a result, I dislike paying for saves in Ottoneu.

Maybe that has left me jaded about paying for saves anywhere because even in 5×5, I find myself looking for cheap sources of saves rather than paying up for the elite guys. This year, I had a long list of targets, but these two stood out, mostly because both were better than people give them credit for in 2020.

As I noted in my Bold Predictions:

Through two outings last year, Kimbrel had gone just 1.1 IP with 0 K, 4 BB, and 2 HR allowed, throwing 96.4 mph. Hi FIP was 33.94, and that might understate how bad he was. The rest of the way? 14.0 IP, 28 K, 8 BB (still too many but he walked 0 in September), and 0 HR allowed, for a 1.12 FIP (2.36 xFIP, if you think that 0 HR allowed is flukey). He was throwing 97.

Kimbrel has top-tier closer talent, top-tier closer pedigree, and pitched most of 2020 like a top-tier closer. But he was coming at a steep discount.

Soto is a totally different story – he doesn’t have the same history as Kimbrel, but until his last outing of 2020, he had an 11.51 K/9, 3.18 ERA, and 3.37 FIP. Not exactly elite reliever numbers but still very good. My bet was that he would win the Detroit closer job – he is quite clearly the most talented of the guys who were competing – and that he could repeat his 2020, which would be good enough to keep that job. Thus far, that has not worked out, but I am not giving him up yet.

Not paying for saves means I can pay for stats that come with less volatility and less reliance on manager behavior. So many people paid up in salary or draft capital to get James Karinchak this year, despite his manager saying he liked him in a different role. I get betting on talent, but when it comes to saves, role matters more. Given how fickle the role can be, I’ll find cheap closers or cheap potential-closers, and make trades or free-agent acquisitions as needed.

Others who could be in this space: Tanner Scott, Yimi Garcia/Anthony Bass, Nick Wittgren/Emmanuel Clase

The Ottoneu Relievers
Tanner Rainey – Four Ottoneu rosters, four total rosters
Mike Mayers – Four Ottoneu rosters, four total rosters
Victor Gonzalez – Four Ottoneu rosters, four total rosters
These three I don’t have on any rosters outside Ottoneu because, to be blunt, I am not sure they have much value outside Ottoneu. Most of my non-Ottoneu leagues value saves but not holds and none of these three are that close to getting saves. But all three bring some interesting value in Ottoneu points and 4×4 leagues. Rainey struck out 13.89 per 9 IP dating back to the start of 2019 and there is a path towards him posting his 2020 walk rate and his 2019 HR/9 and being a monster in Ottoneu leagues. Of course, he opened his ledger this year with a walk, a HR, and no strikeouts on Wednesday night, but I’ll be patient given the unique start to the season for the Nationals.

Mayers 2.19 FIP in 2020 is a good representation of his Ottoneu value and while his start to 2021 hasn’t been as good, he should start piling up K’s soon.

Victor Gonzalez was quietly brilliant in 2020, striking out 23 and walking two without allowing a HR. He’s also quite clearly the best LH pitcher in the Dodger bullpen, setting him up for plenty of hold opportunities. The beauty of these guys is they can pile up points but they are cheap enough that you can churn them if you need. If Rainey doesn’t show signs of a quick return to form, I can move on and I never invested the kind of capital it takes to get the elite closers like Liam Hendriks or Josh Hader, or even more well-known non-closers, such as James Karinchak or Devin Williams.

In addition to good rates and a solid path to holds, the other great thing to look for is guys who make a lot of appearances and pitch a lot of innings. Especially if you are carrying 7 or more RP, having guys who are highly likely to throw on any given day is a big boost, as you can use them more confidently, especially if they haven’t pitched in a day or two.

Others who could be in this space: Scott Barlow, Hansel Robles, AJ Minter, Tyler Matzek

The Previously Overlooked Bat
Alex Dickerson – Four Ottoneu rosters, four total rosters
Dominic Smith – Three Ottoneu rosters, five total rosters
Previously is a key word here, because these are both guys I kept on multiple rosters rather than drafting this year. Smith I mostly added in 2019, Dickerson in 2020. In both cases, I jumped on early performance improvements and haven’t looked back. This one is harder to predict moving forward – it is less about who you draft and more about who you see making adjustments and improvements as the season goes on, thereby raising their value. The key though, is to act early – buy the hot streak, ride it out, and then look to see if there is a real adjustment backing it up. If you wait to validate that there is a real adjustment, you are likely too late to buy in.

Others who could be in this space from last year: Jake Cronenworth, Wil Myers, Ty France
Others I am watching for this space this year: Josh Naylor, Willi Castro, Akil Baddoo, Kyle Isbel

The Prospect
Trevor Larnach – Three Ottoneu rosters, five total rosters
There are others who nearly made this list, but almost every year the top of my roster count includes a prospect that I am just higher on than the rest. A few weeks ago, this included three names – Larnach and the first two on the “others” list below – but I had to make some cuts and due to a combination of Ottoneu Premier League and a larger-than-normal rash of injuries on a couple teams, some of those guys had to go.

Larnach stayed, though. I think he will be up relatively early next year, if not sooner. He has strong OBP skills, and all five leagues where I roster him are OBP leagues. I think he can bring a ton of power. And I think that he is undervalued in fantasy circles because his prospect rankings are not elite – largely driven by questions about his defense. So far as I can tell, no one seems to question if he can stick in a corner OF spot (he apparently has the arm for RF), so I am not particularly concerned about how good he is in that spot, as long as he hits.

The key with prospects in Ottoneu is to not just blindly follow prospect rankings. A lot of elite fantasy prospects are speed guys or average guys, or both. A lot of elite non-fantasy prospects are great defenders. Sift through the lists, read the reports, and find the power and/or OBP guys who aren’t as highly regarded as some of their faster, slicker defending peers. Larnach is that guy for me. The other prospect angle I often play are guys who have bigger upside than their current rankings. I love seeing reports that say, “could shoot up the rankings” or “has top 25 potential” or something. Look for “next year’s top 50” type articles – those will tell you players who are relatively easy to get now but could explode in value soon – and if they don’t? You move on.

Others who could be in this space: Jordan Groshans, George Valera, Brennen Davis, Quinn Priester

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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Mario Mendozamember
1 year ago

Very useful article. I almost never read articles about other people’s leagues (I don’t even know what “main event” means) but this was excellent.

1 year ago
Reply to  Chad Young

I like what you did here not just listing names you’re high on but explaining the frameworks in which those names emerge for you.