Year in Review: My First ottoneu Teams

Warning: This genre of post may not appeal to most readers. I don’t want to waste your time if it’s not your thing. Hereafter I’ll pull back the curtains to review of performance in two “expert” leagues: FanGraphs Staff leagues #1 and #2, both constituting my first foray into the ottoneu world.

This is about accountability, which is something I am, as some would say, “all about.” It’s really easy to parade your victories; it’s more difficult to advertise and own your losses, both regading overall performance (league titles and return on investment) and also player-specific analysis. I’m eager to remind readers I called a Jose Ramirez breakout in 2015 (and, again, in 2016, when it actually happened), an Austin Barnes “breakout” in 2017, and Luke Weaver and Madison Bumgarner implosions prior to 2018. What I decline to admit, though, is, in the posts to which I just linked, I declared I’d fade Justin Verlander hard in 2016, when he won 16 games with a 3.04 ERA, or that I thought Chris Davis might out-earn Giancarlo Stanton. Sometimes, The ProcessTM finds diamonds in the rough; other times, it mistakes turd-shaped rough for diamonds.

I can chalk those L’s up to a lack of experience and knowledge. I’ll readily admit some of my analyses from only a couple of years ago make me cringe. But I also know that even great calls can fall victim to variance or misfortune (which is why I refreshed my Ramirez breakout pick from 2015 for 2016, and my Barnes breakout pick from 2016 for 2017 — and, spoiler, probably again for 2019). Some losses are unearned, akin to a quality start with a bullpen implosion. Others are downright bad. But, I stand by them! I once believed them. It’s just how it goes.

It’s my first time doing this. Just figured it was high time to hold myself accountable and try to learn from my league-specific performances, both profitable and otherwise.

First, a word of advice, to myself and everyone: always, always make sure you understand the league rules and scoring format. The latter, I did well to equip myself with the point-scoring landscape; the former, I did not. At all. Like, this is not something someone should need to tell you, or I should need to tell myself. Yet here we are. Granted, I completely burned myself out in 2018 with mock drafts. This is not an excuse for poor performance — in fact, 2018 was a pretty solid year for me. But I took on way more commitments than I had planned to, many of them not real, drafted a bunch of teams in March, and ignored them through the first two weeks of April. It was neglectful and I regret doing it. I was able to recoup those self-inflicted losses, but only partly.

FanGraphs Staff #1

Finish: 3rd of 12
(inherited 9th place team)

Format: ottoneu, head-to-head, FanGraphs points (based on linear weights, which, if I’m not mistaken, is like weighting by wOBA)
Teams: 12
Draft: auction ($400 salary cap)
Bench: 23 players (40-man rosters)
Roster changes: daily
Limits: Unlimited weekly games started in 2018; 9 weekly games started in 2019

Notes: I inherited a 9th-place team with a really strong, mostly cost-effective core — Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Christian Yelich, Jacob deGrom, and Jameson Taillon — but not much else. But I was determined not to squander the core I inherited and leaned into squeezing every ounce of value from existing market inefficiencies rather than taking a passive rebuild approach by collecting prospects. After finding my focus in mid-April and cutting my dead weight through the end of the month, my team scored the 2nd-most points from Week 7 onward.

A small wrinkle: we voted to cap weekly games started, which previously had no cap and rewarded those of us with, like, 14 starters on our rosters. This will affect roster construction and salary allocation, but it’s hard to foresee exactly how that will look. I wish I hadn’t cut my $5 Anibal Sanchez share prior to the rules change, but I knew it might happen, so I can only blame myself. Such is life. Anyway, this should level the playing field for those in the league who declined leaning into the non-limit last year.

Draft highlights: Virtually none. It was certifiably a disaster, brought on by my lack of preparation.

Trades, in chronological order:

  • Send $12 Jon Gray; Receive $6 Patrick Corbin, $20 Kyle Schwarber, $7 Willie Calhoun, $6 Jakob Junis
    • I can probably stop here, as this was my marquee move of the season. I wasn’t as confident in Gray’s elusive upside as I was intrigued by the package put together. I won’t claim to have anticipated a Corbin breakout, but I loved early-career Corbin and was thoroughly intrigued by the strong peripherals he put together in the summer. I also liked the idea of a Schwarber bounce-back, although it came at a premium to cash in on it. And, at the time, I was very bullish on Calhoun, now significantly less so. Still, Gray for Corbin was exactly what I needed to propel my team from mediocre to contender.
  • Send $3 Ketel Marte; Receive $7 Kirby Yates
    • I bid up Yates during the draft, but being near the end of the draft, I hit my salary cap when the eventual winning bidder raised to $7. I liked the idea of a Marte breakout — fortuitous intuition, as it would turn out, given his sudden 14-homer outburst — but with Machado eligible at shortstop, I didn’t expect to play him much. Meanwhile, my relief corps was awful. No regrets; I was very bullish on Yates, and he did much more for me than Marte ever would’ve.
  • Send $5 Max Kepler; Receive $21 Carlos Carrasco
    • Our dear and departed Carson Cistulli couldn’t resist a cheap, German, quintessentially Cistullian outfielder, and I needed an ace. I also liked Carrasco at $21 beyond a win-now move, as I’ve retained him heading into 2019. My only regret here, but hardly a substantial one, is I think Kepler breaks out in 2019. He’s gaining steam as a sleeper this year, and rightfully so. Keep him in mind. I’m banking on him pairing his massive plate discipline gains with a power rebound.
  • Send $17 Christian Yelich, $4 Kyle Tucker, $3 Francisco Mejia, $3 Nick Senzel; Receive $16 Michael Brantley, $27 Nelson Cruz, $25 Craig Kimbrel, $8 Ross Stripling (and $85 loan)
    • I mortgaged my future in a big way with this blockbuster trade, but I couldn’t resist bolstering my roster so significantly for my playoff push. It absolutely killed me to ship Yelich, but I did my best to consider the kind of raise he’d receive during arbitration this offseason. Indeed, his salary is now $29 heading into 2019, whereas every piece I received incurred the minimum raise. Additionally, I tried not to marry myself to prospect glow. I am far less enamored than others are by Mejia and don’t see him being a big impact bat, at least not in ottoneu. Tucker was most painful, but neither he nor Senzel or locks to succeed.

In-season moves, for better and for worse:

Here’s how my roster shapes up for 2019, pre-draft. I’ll have tough competition with our Brad Johnson, PitcherList’s Nick Pollack, and the Athletic’s (and formerly FanGraphs’) Eno Sarris from the get-go. However, I do feel good about my odds; no other team scored more than five points per hitter-game and per pitcher-inning except for Eno, and my team outstripped his in both categories (5.30 to 5.17; 5.41 to 5.25).

FG1 Roster, Pre-Draft
Pos Name Salary
C Yadier Molina $3
1B Jesus Aguilar $3
SS Carlos Correa $24
MI Manny Machado $38
3B Nolan Arenado $37
OF George Springer $22
OF Michael Brantley $18
OF Khris Davis $16
UT Nelson Cruz $29
Bench Miguel Sano $16
Bench Alex Verdugo $6
SP Jacob deGrom $26
SP Carlos Carrasco $23
SP Patrick Corbin $13
SP Jameson Taillon $13
SP Kenta Maeda $10
SP Masahiro Tanaka $10
SP Ross Stripling $10
SP Michael Pineda $3
RP Kirby Yates $9
Prospect/DL Brent Honeywell $5
Remaining salary: $66

Three tentative draft targets per position:

FanGraphs Staff #2

Finish: 7th of 12
(inherited 11th place team)

Format: ottoneu, season-long, FanGraphs points
Teams: 12
Draft: auction ($400 salary cap)
Bench: 19 players (40-man rosters)
Roster changes: daily
Limits 162 games per position, for hitters; 1,500 innings, for pitchers

Notes: Did you notice both these leagues have a middle infielder (MI) but no corner infielder (CI) Weird. Anyway, I received this team in much more dire of straits: 11th of 12 the prior year with a “core” comprised of $37 Josh Donaldson, $16 Kenta Maeda, $11 Tommy Pham, and… that’s it. Also, the dynamic of this staff league is strikingly different from the other: whereas the other free agent pool was more plentiful with high-quality options (who would inevitably fetch high prices at draft/auction), this league’s draft felt like a wasteland. I wanted to replicate my approach of exploiting market inefficiencies, but I couldn’t without feeling like I was desperately throwing money at mediocre bats (which I, indeed, did). I made some good mid-season acquisitions here (although I botched one of my first ottoneu trades ever, as you’ll see shortly), enough to push me into 7th, which to me is a moral victory. But there was Grand Canyon-sized gap between me and 6th place. In other words, there’s a window for me to another step forward into contention in 2019, but I’m not holding my breath. 2020 seems more reasonable.

Draft highlights: Significantly better than the other Staff league, which, frankly, isn’t saying a whole lot. But:

  • $13 Michael Brantley
  • $4 J.A. Happ
  • $3 Yadier Molina
  • $1 Robinson Chirinos
  • $1 Kirby Yates

Trades, in chronological order:

  • Send $4 Keston Hiura; Receive $4 Todd Frazier, $5 Melky Cabrera
    • So, uhhh. This is bad. At the time, I liked Frazier as a stand-in at third base, and I didn’t expect Cabrera to get iced out in free agency (which is much more the CBA’s fault than his), as he was still a decent bat and would play up in a points format. Basically, I shipped a top-shelf prospect (to what is now Sheryl Ring’s team) for free. That’s the story of my first ottoneu trade!
  • Send $18 Michael Conforto; Receive $5 Eduardo Nunez, $17 Michael Fulmer
    • Also very, very bad. I let myself be blinded by my somewhat irrational love for Nunez, who I thought could steal another 25 bases and hit .300 in a super-utility role. Mostly, I really, really needed pitching, and Fulmer fit the bill as a somewhat-affordable mid-rotation arm in a league devoid of worthwhile draft options in this regard. This trade also sucked ass. I would like to chalk this up to feeling desperate to make a move — which, indeed, I was very impatient — but it was also just bad evaluation. I don’t think Conforto is all that cost-effective an option, but I’d still undo this move in a heartbeat.
  • Send $15 Yoenis Cespedes, $3 Corbin Burnes; Receive $21 Matt Carpenter
    • OK, OK, now we’re cooking with flames here. I stashed an injured Cespedes with the hope of flipping him to a team looking to rebuild; I ended up with way more than I could possibly ask for. Carpenter took a hit in salary this year, but he should perform wel above average the next couple of years and maintain multi-positional eligibility.
  • Send $11 Tommy Pham, $5 Derek Fisher; Receive $36 Edwin Encarnacion, $19 Starling Marte
    • This was purely a move to take on salary and talent. I think I sold a little low on Pham, but the trade went down just as he was starting to catch fire in Tampa Bay (which his peripherals were screaming would happen). Marte is good but simply doesn’t have Pham’s upside. As for Fisher, I like him, but I see him as a Domingo Santana type, which is to say: high-variance (high ceiling, low floor), with a higher probability of busting than some might care to admit.
  • Send $5 Jeimer Candelario, $3 Jesus Sanchez; Receive $5 Paul DeJong, $5 Ryan McMahon
    • Again, looking for decent MLB-ready talent. I like DeJong as a legitimate starting shortstop at a good price. Candelario is decent, maybe with a bright future but one on which I’m not willing to wait. It pained me to ship Sanchez, but I really liked DeJong and also McMahon — his inclusion definitely helped alleviate the sting. Now it’s just a matter of waiting until the Rockies deploy their farm-raised talent in a way that actually benefits the ballclub.

In-season moves, for better and for worse:

  • April 21: Add $1 Nick Markakis
  • April 24: Add $3 Trevor Cahill
  • June 14: Add $1 Zack Wheeler
  • June 15: Cut $9 Jonathan Villar
  • June 21: Add $9 Rich Hill
  • July 20: Cut $27 Jon Lester (allegedly part of my “core,” but I didn’t like him even before considering his inflated salary; but I was also in a position where I had to at least see it through)
  • Aug. 3: Add $15 Yoenis Cespedes, $8 Miguel Cabrera
  • Aug. 14: Add $1 Jeff McNeil (I’ve gone on the record absolutely loving the crap out of this guy, both prior to and <a href="after his call-up)
  • Aug. 29: Add $4 Garrett Hampson, $6 Nathaniel Lowe (high-quality AAA prospect stashes)
  • Sept. 5: Add my boy $1 Robbie Erlin

Looking at my roster now, I realize I forgot to finish my cuts (of $6 Wacha, $19 Braun, and $3 Tauchman… not thrilled by my forgetfulness). Anyway, here’s my roster headed into 2019, in much better shape than last year but still in need of tremendous help:

FG2 Roster, Pre-Draft
Pos Name Salary
C Yadier Molina $5
C Robinson Chirinos $3
1B Edwin Encarnacion $38
2B Daniel Murphy $30
SS Paul DeJong $7
MI Matt Carpenter $28
3B Josh Donaldson $39
OF Starling Marte $21
OF Ryan Braun $19
OF Michael Brantley $16
OF Nick Markakis $3
UT Miguel Cabrera $10
Bench Jeff McNeil $3
Bench Garrett Hampson $6
Prospect Nathaniel Lowe $7
Prospect Luis Rengifo $4
“Prospect” Mike Tauchman $3
SP Kenta Maeda $18
SP Zack Wheeler $12
SP Rich Hill $11
SP J.A. Happ $7
SP Hyun-Jin Ryu $7
SP Michael Wacha $6
SP Trevor Cahill $5
SP Robbie Erlin $3
RP Kirby Yates $3
Prospect Denyi Reyes $2
Prospect Nick Neidert $2
Remaining salary: $82

Three tentative draft targets per position:

Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 8-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's magazine (2018, 2019), Rotowire magazine (2021), and Baseball Prospectus (2022, 2023). Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.

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5 years ago

Well it doesn’t look like you’ll have to worry so much about that draft for FG1, eh? Killer team there. (On a side note, looks like you need to close some tags for this article to look a little nicer)