Week That Was: Team CTW’s Rights and Wrongs from 2014 FSTA Baseball Expert Draft

With the first official fantasy baseball expert league draft (FSTA league in Las Vegas) about a week and a half away, I thought it would be interesting to dig through the archives and see what team Colton and the Wolfman (Rick Wolf, Stacie Stern and me) did and why we did it.  Of course, at the risk of immodesty, we know how we did as we held off the great Ron Shandler to win our first FSTA (and 9th expert) crown.  Am I writing this column just to gloat?  While some would say it is not beyond me, there answer is no.  I do have a useful purpose.  As Viper tells Maverick in our theme movie Top Gun: “A good pilot is compelled to evaluate what's happened, so he can apply what he's learned.”   So, what did we learn?

Our First Pick:  Round 1 did not go well because we were not SMART.  We violated a critical Rule of Engagement and paid full value for upside rather than for a track record of performance.  Needless to say, Bryce Harper hardly lived up to his price.  We learned: Never ever leave your wingman; never ever violate the Rules of Engagement (which will be re-published in the upcoming Fantasy Alarm Draft Guide hitting the stands next month); and never ever pay full price for production that has never actually happened before.

Round 2:  On its face, our pick of Chris Davis in round 2 would seem to be equally bad.  Not so fast.  It was bad but not a disaster.  As we wrote last year:  “Many sites have Chris “Crush” Davis as a top 5-7 pick.  When it came time for team CTW to choose at 20, Davis was still there.  We pounced.  Even if Davis suffers a 40% reduction in dingers, he will smack over 30 for us.”  Davis was hardly great, but he hit 26 HR and absent the 25 game suspension, he would easily have reached that 30 HR mark.  We learned: if you get a big enough discount, your risk is reduced and you can go for it.  Davis did not kill it in 2014 but he did not kill us either.

Starting pitching:  The SMART system and Rules of Engagement say to grab young/in their prime flame throwers (national league preferred in mixed leagues) to form the majority of one’s starting staff.  All of Adam Wainwright (round 3), Jordan Zimmerman (round 6), Jeff Samardzija (round 14) and Lance Lynn (round 15) earned us a profit and staked us to a pitching lead all year.  We learned: the SMART system and Rules of Engagement do work.

Relief pitching:  Well it was a mixed bag.  We believed Joe Nathan to be reliable but we should not have.  The SMART system and Rules of Engagement both counsel against big investment in older players.  Yes, Mariano Rivera defied time but mere mortals do not.  Joe Nathan, as a mere mortal, did not.  On the other hand, by grabbing Jonathan Papelbon in round 13, we reduced the risk from Nathan so not all was lost in the bullpen.  We learned:  Age matters.  Older players get hurt more and drop off a cliff production-wise far more often than their prime age counterparts.  We also learned:  study the advanced metrics and not to look at only one metric.  Here is what we wrote about Papelbon a year ago “Note: for those predicting doom for Pap because of some reduced velo, take note that his k/bb ratio, FIP and BABIP all remained constant from 2012-2013 – years in which he tallied 67 saves and 10 wins.  The rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated]”.  And so they were.

Middle Infield:  Again, not so SMART – we did not pay enough attention to the scarce positions and ended up with a sorry shallow mixed league infield of Brandon Phillips, Asdrubal Cabrera, Martin Prado and Will Middlebrooks.  Only the late round lottery ticket of Dee Gordon and Prado’s rejuvenation in New York saved us from a truly horrific infield.  What we learned:  1) One cannot ignore scarcity even in shallow leagues such as the 13 team mixed FSTA expert league; and 2) if you do find yourself hurting at a scarce positions, prospect late on upside plays as they could erase mistakes.

End Game:  This is where we really shined.  The SMART system and Rules of Engagement both say grab upside late and avoid the no upside veteran bench fillers.  Check this out:  Melky Cabrera in round 26 (hitter with strong track record in his prime in hitters’ park); Garrett Richards in round 27 (pitcher with an average FB velocity of 95 and finally getting a shot at the rotation) and of course Dee Gordon in round 29 (game changing speed if he got the shot, which of course, he did).

Final Thoughts:  We need to stick to the SMART system and the Rules of Engagement.  Where we did, we scored.  Where we lost our way, we lost value and lost ground.  Our discipline will be tested soon.  Tune in to SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursday January 15 at 7pm ET to hear how the 2015 draft turns out.  With fellow Fantasy Alarm stars Jeff Mans, Ray Flowers, and Todd Zola, as well as all world fantasy baseball players such as Ron Shandler, Lawr Michaels, Steve Gardner and Chris Liss in the draft, team CTW will need to stay SMART and stick to the Rules of Engagement even more closely than last year if we hope to retain the crown.   Play Ball!