Over the next few weeks, my goal is going to be to do my best to help prepare you for the upcoming ottoneu auctions. But today, with the keeper deadline still fresh on all of our minds (I will have nightmares if Matt Moore strikes out everyone in sight this year…), I thought I’d stop and take a look at where we are today.
As of Friday night at midnight ET, every team in the ottoneu universe is (or at least should be) down to 40 or fewer players on the roster and $400 or less in salary spent, and that gives us a chance to see who all of you deemed worthy of keeping.
We’ll start with the 4×4 leagues, since that was the original ottoneu format. I actually can’t just tell you who the most commonly kept player here was – 56 players tied for that honor. They are peppered with the usual suspects (Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, etc.) but the bulk of them come from two camps.
The first is players who were cheap before the season and broke out during it. Jose Fernandez, Julio Teheran, Domonic Brown, Matt Carpenter. The second group is top prospects that people hope will join that first group this summer, players like Xander Bogaerts, Jameson Taillon, George Springer and Oscar Taveras.
In the 5×5 leagues, only 38 players tied for “most kept,” and they came from the same sets, with one exception – no RP cracked the most kept 4×4 list, but in 5×5 there are a couple unsurprising names. Craig Kimbrel is probably the most obvious, but Koji Uehara, Casey Janssen, Trevor Rosenthal, David Robertson, Greg Holland, and Kenley Jansen all made the list. And other than Kimbrel, they all have something in common – there was a point last year that they could have been signed relatively cheap, but they now have closer roles all to themselves. If you find yourself building for the future, don’t skip out on bidding for relievers rising to (or potentially rising to) closer in the near future. Keep a close eye on undefined closer roles – if you can snag a $5 reliever in the auction and he runs with the ninth, you have yourself a very valuable asset.
SABR Points leagues saw more than 75 players tie for the most roster spots, but in FanGraphs Points, 24 rose above the rest. The interesting thing there is that Clayton Kershaw, who did not make the cut in either roto league, did so in both points leagues. Honestly, the owners in the SABR Points leagues may have made a mistake – SP just is not all that valuable in that format – but Kershaw was far and away the most valuable player in FanGraphs Points leagues last year and, for my money, should be the highest paid player in those leagues this year.
Speaking of highest paid, the table below shows the most expensive hitter and pitcher from each format, based on average salary kept:
|Format||Hitter||Salary||Overall Rank||Pitcher||Salary||Overall Rank|
|4×4||Miguel Cabrera||$54.64||1||Clayton Kershaw||$47.86||4|
|5×5||Miguel Cabrera||$61.67||1||Clayton Kershaw||$43.72||11|
|FG Pts||Miguel Cabrera||$57.92||1||Clayton Kershaw||$46.52||5|
|SABR Pts||Miguel Cabrera||$58.83||1||Clayton Kershaw||$47.33||6|
Sensing a pattern? Maybe a couple, actually. Clearly there is wide-spread agreement on the two most valuable fantasy producers, and clearly there is agreement on paying hitters more than pitchers.
Just below that, though, things get more interesting. If I asked you to guess who was the second highest paid player in these formats, I imagine most of you would go with a certain Angel whose last name rhymes with pout. But in two of the four formats, Mike Trout falls third, with Joey Votto sneaking in ahead of him. This is surprising to me, but I attribute it to the fact that there are probably quite a few Trout owners out there who had Trout for single digits two years ago and have seen his salary get bumped in arbitration the last couple years, but not to the point that he would be paid on the open market. By the way, to the SABR Pts team that owns a $22 Mike Trout – what are the other owners in your league doing?!
Finally, how about a quick look at the most expensive single contract in each format:
|4×4||Miguel Cabrera||$68||Clayton Kershaw||$67|
|5×5||Mike Trout||$102||Justin Verlander||$93|
|FG Pts||Mike Trout||$92||Clayton Kershaw||$65|
|SABR Pts||Miguel Cabrera/Mike Trout||$66||Clayton Kershaw||$58|
$102 for Mike Trout! A century man! That is 25% of a budget! It is also probably a huge mistake. Fascinating that Verlander passes Kershaw in highest 5×5 salary – when you move away from averages and look at outliers you get, well…outliers.
And we’ll end with a story and a caveat. Last year, in the heat of a championship chase, one of the owners in the original ottoneu league traded for a ton of top talent, including the $67 Kershaw you see listed in 4×4 above. By the 2013 trade deadline, he had Kershaw, a $60 Miguel Cabrera, $59 Justin Verlander, $49 Robinson Cano, $49 Prince Fielder, $45 Jered Weaver, $40 Buster Posey, $39 David Price, $37 Dustin Pedroia, $36 Matt Holliday and $33 Adrian Beltre. That is 11 players for $504.
Obviously he had to make a lot of cuts, but he kept Kershaw, Cabrera, Cano, Posey, and Price. Building a winning team when you enter the auction with $72 to spend on 27 roster spots is an uphill climb to say the least. But this owner let me know that his plan is to see what he can cobble together, but that he wanted to keep those five, particularly the top two, because of their trade value – the fastest way to rebuild, he felt, was to sell those players to the highest bidder for prospects and cheap talent.
I am sharing this not to advise for or against this approach, but to remind you that ottoneu salary data, like all data, is subject to all sorts of behaviors and interactions. Just because you see a $67 Kershaw being kept doesn’t mean an owner thinks Kershaw is worth $67 – but if keeping him drives up the prices of other SP and allows you to later trade him to someone desperate for pitching help, that could well be a win.
Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.